THE trams of Bradford are the focus of a new book which provides a glimpse of the city from the late 19th to mid-20th century.

Featuring over 40 images, Lost Tramways of England: Bradford is published by Graffeg as part of its Lost Tramways series, documenting how tram systems developed across the country, how they served and affected communities, and what possibilities there may be for reimagining them today.

Author Peter Waller, who grew up in Bradford as its trolleybus network gradually declined, has been writing about transport history for over two decades. He reveals more about his new book: “Almost 70 years ago, on May 6, 1950, Bradford witnessed the end of an era when it bade farewell to a form of transport that had been an ever-present facet of the city’s streets for more than 50 years. The tram had been part of people’s lives from the end of the Victorian era through two World Wars, providing an essential means of moving passengers in an ever-growing city.

The first trams in Bradford, horse-powered, operated along Manningham Lane in January 1882 and later that year the first steam-hauled trams appeared on the streets. Providing more power than horses, the steam engines employed were ideal in hauling passenger trailers up the various gradients out of the centre. Bradford was also to play host to one of the early experiments in the operation of electric tramcars when, in 1892, one of the pioneers of tramcar operation, the Halifax-born Michael Holroyd-Smith, operated a tram up and down the 1 in 13 gradient Cheapside.

The early tramways were all company owned; with the introduction of regular electric tramcars services - along the Bolton Road route - on July 20, 1898, Bradford Corporation began its first tramway operation. Over the next few years, as their leases ended, so the company-operated routes were taken over by the corporation and electrified whilst new routes were added. The last extension - to Crossflatts - was opened in October 1914. This took the system to its maximum extent, almost 60 route miles, and it was possible to travel on a corporation tram as far as places like Drighlington, Birkenshaw, Bailiff Bridge and Stanningley.

In June 1911 Bradford, along with Leeds, pioneered a new form of transport - the trolleybus. Whilst this type of transport was not to prosper in Leeds, it was ultimately to become dominant in Bradford. One factor in this was Bradford’s choice of a narrow gauge - 4ft 0in - as opposed to the standard gauge (4ft 8½in) adopted in Leeds (although this did not preclude operating a through service between the two cities for a decade - technical triumph). The Board of Trade, conscious of Bradford’s steep gradients and concerned that narrow-gauge trams might be more prone to being blown over in high winds, imposed restrictions on tramcar design. This meant that Bradford could not operate modern fully-enclosed trams, being forced to operate vehicles with open balconies on the upper deck. Initially the trolleybus was designed to complement the existing tram system but, following the conversion of the Allerton route from tram to trolleybus in November 1929, the corporation adopted a policy of tramcar abandonment in favour of both the bus and the trolleybus. By 1939, the once proud system had been significantly reduced and, had it not been for the outbreak of war in September that year, the final trams would have operated much earlier.

The Second World War gave trams a reprieve; two short sections, including the Undercliffe route, were revived, but lack of proper maintenance earlier saw two routes, Bailiff Bridge and Wibsey, converted to bus operation towards the end of the war.

Peace in 1945 saw a number of Britain’s tram operators reinstate their policies of the tramcar abandonment, although the post-war austerity meant that many soldiered on. In Bradford’s case the process of the final conversion commenced in December 1947. The long Queensbury route - once serving the highest tram terminus in the country - was converted in November 1949. The final route, that to Odsal and Horsfall Playing Fields, was to succumb on May 6, 1950 with the official last car, No 104, being suitably decorated for the occasion.

The closure ceremony in May 1950 was, however, not quite the end of the story. Although no Bradford tram was preserved when the system closed, the body of No 104 was transferred to Odsal Stadium where, for a number of years, it acted as a rugby scoreboard. Rescued in 1953, it was restored at Thornbury Works and placed on a truck acquired from Sheffield.

The first tramcar in Britain to be returned to its former glory following disposal, No 104 made a triumphant return to operation on the surviving track within the works on 21 July 1958. Drawing power from the overhead used to support the city’s extensive trolleybus network, No 104 made appearances regularly until 1963 and last ran in 1966. The tram can now be seen on display in Bradford Industrial Museum at Moorside Mills.

l Lost Tramways of England: Bradford is available at