Tuesday, 3 July 2018

When Stretford removed Chorlton’s tram track ...... municipal manoeuvrings and other tales

Now it seems bizarre that one local authority in dispute with another should take the drastic step of digging up a line of newly laid tram track, but it happened.  

Upper Chorlton Road, 1907, before the extension and the Stretford quarrel
In the winter of 1909 Manchester was in the process of extending a tramway from Brooks Bar to West Point along Upper Chorlton Road, part of which went through Stretford.

This stretch ran for just ten yards but because the Stretford Council had not been asked first, it fired off a flurry of blustering letters threatening to remove the track if Manchester continued.

And when the City laid the offending ten yards of rail, Stretford retaliated, informing Manchester “that a physical disconnection has been made” adding that, “the removed rails were placed behind the seat on the footpath leading to Chorlton-cum-Hardy beyond the [Stretford] district, convenient for reinstatement”.

The underlying reason had more to do with Stretford attempting to get a better deal for electricity it supplied to Manchester to on match days after United had relocated to Old Trafford.

The Bridge at Manchester Road, 1907
Nor was this the only obstacle the city encountered in extending Corporation trams to Chorlton.

Work on the line at Manchester Road was halted after the railway company objected  that the bridge over the railway line was too weak for tramway traffic.

The dispute was finally settled with Manchester paying nine-tenths of the cost of strengthening the bridge.

Such were the problems faced by the Corporation honouring its promise to the rate payers of Chorlton who voted in 1904 to join the city and thought they were getting a tram service.

These are those tiny little stories which don’t count for much in the great sweep of history, but are fascinating none the less.

Car 901 at the tram terminus, date unknown
As is the little known fact that from 1923 until the outbreak of the Second World War there was a facility for late night posting of letters on 14 Manchester and 7 Salford tram routes.

According to A.H. Kirby,  “A posting box was carried on the rear platform of trams timed to reach the City at about 9.30 p.pm; from mid December 1923, these cars were indicated by POST CAR in place of the route number. 

The Chorlton services selected were on route 13, departing from Chorlton due at Albert Square at 9.29 and on route 22 departing Chorlton and arriving Piccadilly at 9.30”, with more being added over the years.*

Car 277 on Barlow Moor Road with the cinema behind, date unknown
Now I thought I knew my Chorlton tram history but Mr Kirby has offered me a fascinating and detailed glimpse into how the trams came to Chorlton and their impact over the 39 years they rattled their way in and out of the township.

And I am indebted to Trevor James who having acquired the two editions of Tramway Review with Mr Kirby’s articles, and thinking of me, scanned and sent them down from Scotland.

I also have to thank Stenlake Publishing who bought The Oakwood Press which published The Tramways of Chorlton-cum-Hardy and gave me permission to reproduce four of the images from the publication.

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Pictures; trams of Chorlton from The Tramways of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, courtesy of Stenlake Publishing

*The Tramways of Chorlton-cum-Hardy – 2, A.H. Kirby, Tramway Review, Vol 18, Autumn 1989, No. 139, The Oakwood Press. Page 80

** Stenlake Publishing, http://stenlake.co.uk/?page_id=442

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