History of Wallasey Tramways

Wallasey Electric Tramways


Part Two

End Of The Trams

On July 11 1928 the Tramway Committee recommended that owing to the dangerous condition of the Seabank Road track, the S should be replaced by motor buses from 1 January 1929. The Seabank Road track had carried an intensive service of up to 36 cars on a mile route. The Council ratified the decision, with little opposition. There can be relatively few other examples of an undertaking abandoning its heaviest line first, and within a year the trams, no longer sustained by route S, were said to be running at a loss, whilst bus passengers had increased 300% since 1927. The trams were displaced by 18 lowbridge Leyland Titan buses, whose delivery was slightly delayed; the last tram ran on Saturday 19 January 1929, with departures from New Brighton at 11.27pm and from Seacombe to Victoria Road only (car 53) at 11.57pm. The poles and overhead were left intact with a view to future trolleybus operation, but the track from Trafalgar Road to Molyneux was lifted, starting in March 1930. Action was soon taken to widen parts of Seabank Road, as it was discovered that two buses had difficulty in passing each other at some points, On a number of occasions the buses had to be diverted to allow the disused track to be lifted.

The bus fares were again revised to coincide with the conversion of route S, penny stages being introduced on all bus routes except the express to Harrison Drive. Scholars tickets and parcel tickets were not continued on the buses, but after a series of complaints following their withdrawal, workmen's tickets were re-introduced at 2d single and 4d return if purchased before 7am. From 1 December 1930 the workmen's returns were issued as single fare, and by March 1931 their availability on both trams and buses was extended to vehicles leaving any terminus before 7.40am.

In the financial year 1927-28 the S cars had carried nearly 6,5000,000 passengers; in the financial year 1929-30 the number using the replacing buses had dropped to 5,9000,000. This was ascribed to changing travel patterns, the increased use of motor cars and the availability of combined bus/ferry fares at Egremont. The three remaining tram routes were the next highest carriers, with about four million each, followed by the Manor Road bus route at 2.5 million.

The track in Brighton Street, Falkland Road and along Warren Drive was now worn out and proposals were made during 1930 to curtail the tram service. The section of route P along Grove Road from Harrison Drive to Warren Drive was unremunerative, and might also have been abandoned but for its usefulness as a depot access line. The Corporation wished to serve Belvidere Road, the residents of which had been agitating for public transport since 1925, and curtailment of the WD tram route was delayed while Belvidere Road and Rolleston Drive were reconstructed for buses.

The date was set for 1 January 1931, but shortage of vehicles and non-completion of road works forced its postponement until 29March 1931, when the WD and P routes were rearranged as a Circular between Seacombe and Grove Road via Wheatland Lane, Liscard Road, Seaview Road, Grove Road and along the P route back to Seacombe and vice versa. A ten minute service was provided in each direction with a circular fare of 5d. Outbound cars in both directions showed "Grove Road" with "Only" blanked out, except on Bank Holiday when they showed "Harrison Drive", also without the "Only." All cars working to and from Grove Road via Poulton showed P, and via Liscard WD. The route mileage had been reduced to just over eight miles, but officially there were still 58 trams in stock. In practice most of the unrebuilt non-vestibule cars had been stripped with a view to their sale as huts or sheds.

Route numbers were allocated to the bus services from 1 January 1931, the former S having become 1. A new bus route 6 now ran from Seacombe and New Brighton, covering the WD between Seacombe and Mill Lane and again between Grove Road and New Brighton. The buses used Church Street in both directions. At about this time, the remaining overhead along Seabank Road was removed, but many poles survived for street lighting until the 1960a. Track lifting after the 1931 abandonment cost £19,000, including the laying of plain track at the former Warren Drive/Grove Road junction. Cars damaged in collisions were now withdrawn and cannibalised for spare parts and those still running looked unkempt and neglected.

With the circular tram service now running via Wheatland Lane there were two routes running together every ten minutes betweenSeacombe and Liscard Village, but this rather wasteful arrangement was tolerated as a temporary measure. The replacement of the RL envisaged for late 1931 was delayed because of an accident in August 1931 involving one of the Corporation's six-wheel Karrier double deck buses in which a woman passenger fell through the floor trap onto the propeller shaft with fatal consequences. All eight six-wheel Karriers (six double deck and two single deck) were withdrawn from service and before they could be replaced the provisions of the Road Traffic Act 1930 took full effect and the backlog of applications for road service licences was such that the cars could not be withdrawn on the re-arranged date of 31 December 1932, as the licence for a bus service had not been granted by the Traffic Commissioners. In the event the last RL cars ran on Saturday 4 February 1933, leaving New Brighton at 11.15pm and Seacombe at 11.42pm.

With the abandonment of route RL, the remaining Circle trams terminated at the crossover in Church Road, and no longer used the track on the south side of Victoria Place leading to Seacombe ferry; the north side tracks had been discontinued in June 1932.The reasons in both cases was the reconstruction of the ferry terminal. Responding to a Government circular asking Councils to submit estimates for major capital projects which could alleviate unemployment, Wallasey Council had responded with a plan to rebuild Victoria Place and Seacombe ferry terminal for £107,000, towards which the Unemployment Grants Committee contributed £27,000. Started in 1930, the impressive terminal with its departure barriers on the south side towards which the vehicles reversed to stand in herringbone fashion was opened on 10 April 1933. It allowed passengers to transfer from the boat to bus under cover.

The bus service (No.14) which replaced RL tram at first ran to and from Seacombe only at peak hours; at other times passengers from Rake Lane changed at Liscard either to the WD car or the No.2 bus via Manor Road. Patronage along Rake Lane declined as dissatisfied passengers walked down to Seabank Road. Following complaints to the Traffic Commissioners, through running was introduced all day from 17 May 1933.

The tramway service now required twelve cars all day with six more at rush hours. All remaining unvestibuled cars were withdrawn, and while they were being dismantled in and around the depot an usual 'collision' occurred on 23 May 1933 when bus 55 was reversed into the body of No.23. On another occasion a depot man breaking up a top deck inadvertently sawed through the piece that held up the canopy on which he was standing, and fell into the pit; fortunately he was not seriously injured.

Inevitably, the buses did not show up well in fog, and there were several tram/bus collisions. In February 1930 bus 36 struck car 63 in Church Street and car 70 was hit by bus 20 in Victoria Road. In December bus 59 was severely damaged by tram 59 in a crash at the Victoria Road junction (bus repairs £120, tram repairs 25s.) In the dense fog that blanketed the town on 12 November 1933 the trams again proved their superiority over the buses, losing only 5.1% of their daily mileage against 23.69% for the buses. The last tram/bus collision happened on 4 October 1933. when car 60 damaged bus 76; both were returned to service.

The Final Day

Wallasey Corporation decided to operate its last trams on Thursday 30 November 1933. There was to be no ceremonial last car, and plans to revise the illuminated car were dropped. Throughout the last day, people made sentimental last journeys, keeping their tickets for posterity. 25 trams were available for use on the last day.

Fours cars lined up at Church Road crossover, Seacombe for the final departure at 11.57pm. No.57 preceded by No.63 was to return to the depot via WD, whilst 68 preceded by 67 was to travel via route P. No 68 would therefore be the last car to enter the depot, and became the official Last Car. The rostered driver was J.M McElroy, a former horse car driver, but for the last trip he handed over to E.T Davies who had driven the first electric tram 31 years earlier.

Watched by a small crows, Nos 57, 63 and 67 pulled away at 11.57pm, but No 68 blew hercircuit breaker, delaying her departure until the ferry clock struck midnight. Aboard were some 60 passengers including a handful of local enthusiasts together with the Mayor H.T Hall, the Chairman of the Motor Bus Committee (redesignated thus in April 1933), Alderman Storey, Alderman Panter Brick, the Town Clerk and the General Manager. The car wound its way through Poulton and Wallasey Village, passing small knots of people en route, and at Grove Road a score of employees boarded the car for the last half mile to the depot. A noisy well-behaved crowd surrounded the car at the depot entrance as photographs were taken, and finally No 68 disappeared into the depot for the last time. It was 12.40am on 1 December 1933.

The Circular service had been only a temporary measure, and was not perpetuated by the replacing buses, which reverted to much the same route as the original WD and P trams between Seacombe and New Brighton, route 16 via Church Street, Seaview Road and Warren Drive and route 17 via Poulton and Wallasey Village. There was some duplication with existing bus services, and several changes were made to these during 1934 to improve results.

For the next few months, the cars continued to move under their own power in the depot. The remaining trams including the workscar were offered for sale and were eventually acquired for scrap by Grahamsleys of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in March 1934. The Council refused to allow the firm to sell any of the bodies locally, which delayed their removal. The depot was finally cleared on 3 December 1934 after the bulk of the bodies had been sold to a dealer in North Wales who then resold them individually at £5 a saloon, many still surviving today. Some bodies from cars 1-40 were retained by the Corporation for conversion to bus shelters.

Some poles were uplifted and sold for £2 each, but many were retained to carry street lighting. Some track was lifted, and £600 worth of track, crossings and junction material was sold to Blackburn Corporation. However, the high cost of removal and road reinstatement persuaded the Council to leave much of the track in situ and covered over, to re-emerge subsequently during road resurfacing as reminders of the long-abandoned tramways.

The trams had carried a total of 430,724,689 people, earning £2,432,918 and operating 35,552,632 miles. Capital expenditure had totalled £311,151, comprising trams £69,610, permanent ways £169,302, overhead and electrical equipment £40,580, buildings and fixtures £23,242; the discrepancy between these totals presumably represents sale of assets. The Council resolved that the tramway liabilities should be transferred to the bus account and that the cost of removing rails and the unproductive debt on the track and electrical equipment would be paid out of the bus reserve fund. Total liabilities met from motor bus profits amounted to £111,000.

With the growth in motor car traffic and the opening of the Mersey road tunnel in July 1934, which included a dock branch close to the Wallasey boundary, the northern ferries suffered an irreversible loss of traffic in the winter months. Both closed down in October 1936, not re-opening until Easter, a pattern which continued until the outbreak of war in 1939 when Egremont was closed altogether as a 'temporary' measure; the pier was severely damaged in 1941 and it was never reopened. New Brighton soldiered on during the season and after the war it enjoyed a considerable revival, with boats operating every few minutes on fine days in the late 1940s and early 50s.

Faced by dwindling traffic and increasing problems with drifting sandbanks, the New Brighton ferry closed for good in September 1972, the pier being subsequently dismantled with the amusement pier. the cross-river luggage boats from Seacombe to Liverpool, reprieved because of the war, last operated on 31 March 1947, leaving only the passenger ferry. Wallasey Corporation's compact network of bus routes was absorbed into the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive on 1 December 1969, the familiar Wallasey primrose and cream giving way to a livery combining Wallasey's cream with Birkenhead's blue. Prior to handover bus route 17 (ex tram P) was withdrawn in 1965 largely without replacement, due to lack of patronage. Routes 14 and 16 (ex-RL and WD) survived virtually unaltered until 1986, still linking Seacombe ferry to New Brighton, though at lower frequencies. Route 1 (ex tram S) has been combined to form a through route to Birkenhead. Now. of course, renumbered as 101. The MPTE successfully introduced greater through working between Wallasey, Birkenhead and Moreton, with former Wallasey routes being extended to serve Hoylake and West Kirby, thus fulfilling the early ambitions of the old Corporation.