Grimsby Corporation Tramways

History
Grimsby Corporation became a tramway owner and operator on the 6th of April 1925, when it took over the lines of the overhead electric, standard-gauge Great Grimsby Street Tramways Company within the municipal boundary, as well as a proportion of its tramcars.

The corporation acquired 4.39 miles of tramway, comprising a main line running from Welholme Rd in the west to the boundary with Cleethorpes in the east — where it met the tracks of the GGSTCo — with a circa one-mile branch line running south through Grimsby. The western terminus was situated outside the People's Park, from where the line initially an westwards along Welholme Rd before turning northwards along Bargate, Deansgate and Victoria Rd, then eastwards over the Docks Railway — via a crossing — to Riby Square; from here the main line continued eastwards along Cleethorpes Rd to the municipal boundary at Park St, whilst the branch line ran southwards along Freeman St and Hainton Avenue to a terminus at the latter's junction with Tasburgh St.

Although the corporation had had the power to take over the tramway in 1911 as a going concern, it chose not to do so, presumably because it had driven an extremely good bargain with the tramway company over a decade earlier, in exchange for its support for the Great Grimsby Street Tramways Act of 1900. By the early 1920s however, public feeling had very much swung in favour of municipalisation, the corporation serving notice on the company — on the 18th July 1921 — of its intention to purchase the tramway on the 21st July 1922. Powers were duly obtained on the 4th August 1921 to operate the trams, as well as trolleybuses, though not motorbuses, to which the GGTCo and others had successfully objected.

The purchase was however far from straightforward, the corporation only having the right to purchase the portion within its municipal area, the rest of the system, i.e., the lines in Cleethorpes (and the depot) remaining with the GGSTCo. The company had envisaged such a scenario in 1911 when the corporation waived its right to buy until 1922, and had, with great foresight, induced Cleethorpes UDC to postpone its right to buy until the 1st August 1930. The company thus had the upper hand in any negotiations on the price, as there was legal precedent for a municipal authority purchasing only a portion of a tramway, where it not only had to pay for the tramway within the municipal boundary, but also damage to the tramway company for having its system severed.

The tramway was in a fairly run-down state following the Great War, a situation which was compounded by the company's reluctance to invest in an asset that could soon be compulsorily purchased by the local authority. The state of the tramway played a major role in the corporation's valuation, so when the company offered to sell the lines (and a proportional share of the tramcar fleet) for £80,000 in 1922, the corporation turned them down flat. Matters inevitably ended up in arbitration, which not only took time and money, but ended with the corporation having to pay £24,000 more than the company had originally been willing to accept, and given that £80,000 was the GGTCO's opening offer, they probably would have settled for much less still had the corporation been willing to negotiate. The decision was binding, so no doubt there was some explaining to do in the council offices, as not only was the price exorbitant, but on top of that, a tramway depot had to be built, a large number of serviceable tramcars had to be obtained, and much track replaced.

The corporation took possession of its share of the tramway on the 6th April 1925, the company temporarily stabling the corporation's trams at Pelham Rd depot until such time as the corporation could build and equip its own depot, both parties also agreeing to inter-running between Grimsby and Cleethorpes.

The corporation had meanwhile sourced some replacement tramcars, buying 16 vehicles from Sunderland District Electric Tramways, which was closing, the first of which entered service in May 1925. The branch line along Freeman St was also a cause for concern, the foundations being inadequate for the marshy ground on which it had been laid; after due consideration, the corporation decided to replace the trams with trolleybuses, the last trams along the branch running on the 2nd October 1926, the trolleybuses taking over the next day.

After having unsuccessfully applied for powers to run motorbuses in 1921, the corporation was more successful in 1927, the first services commencing on the 2nd November 1927. The western extremity of the system — from the Old Market to Peoples Park — which the corporation had forced the GGTCo operate, despite the latter's contention that it continually made a loss, was now the corporation's problem, and on the 3rd June 1928, the trams were replaced by motorbuses. Motorbus operation was further expanded in 1934 by the purchase of the PTCo's Grimsby motorbus assets (buses and services).

Although the corporation was keen to replace the trams entirely, it was reluctant to purchase more new trolleybuses given the large debt it had incurred in acquiring the tramway. By late 1935 however, the remaining track between Riby Square and Park St was in such poor condition that further deferment was impossible and new trolleybuses were ordered. These were placed in service on the 22nd November 1936, interspersed with the trams, the last trams being withdrawn on the 31st March 1937.

Uniforms
Under corporation ownership, motormen and conductors were issued with single-breasted jackets with five buttons — bearing the full system title and municipal shield device (see link) — two breast pockets (with button closures), epaulettes (with button fastenings) and upright collars. The epaulettes probably bore an employee number on each side, whereas the collars bore an employee number on the bearer's left-hand side (in individual metal numerals) only, and system initials, 'G C T', on the right-hand side (in individual metal letters). The insignia were probably brass to begin with, but later on nickel (Grimsby Corporation Tramways buttons have survived in brass, nickel and chrome). Caps were in a military style with a tensioned crown (top) and these bore a municipal shield badge, again probably brass (initially), but eventually superseded by nickel.

Tramcar staff were also issued with double-breasted greatcoats with two rows of five buttons, epaulettes and high, fold-over collars; the collars did not carry badges of any kind, whereas the epaulettes probably bore an employee number.

Inspectors wore typical tramway inspector uniforms, namely: single-breasted jackets with hidden buttons (or more likely a hook and eye affair) with a slit breast pocket, and both pocket and jacket edged in a finer material than the main body; the collars were upright and probably bore the grade — Inspector — in embroidered script lettering. Caps were military in style with a tensioned crown (top), and probably bore the grade, again in embroidered script lettering, but on a hat band.

Further reading
For a history of Grimsby Corporation Tramways, see: 'The Tramways of Grimsby, Immingham and Cleethorpes' by J H Price; Light Rail Transit Association (1991).

Images

Motormen and conductors
Grimsby Corporation Tramways Tram No 56 and crew
The crew of Tram No 56, bound for Peoples Park, pose for the camera — photo undated, but given the smart condition of the tram, probably taken not long after 1925 when this vehicle was acquired from Sunderland District Electric Tramways. Author's Collection


Grinsby Corporation Tramways conductor 84
A blow-up of the above photo showing details of the conductor's uniform. The collars bear an employee number on the left-hand side (appears to be 84) and system initials ('G C T') on the right-hand side. The epaulettes also appear to carry an employee number.


Grimsby Corporation Tramways cap badge
Grimsby Corporation Tramways cap badge — nickel. Author's Collection


Grimsby Corporation Tramways conductor
Grimsby Corporation conductor — photo undated, but probably taken in the late 1920s or the early 1930s. It is not clear whether he was a tram, bus or trolleybus conductor, though no doubt the uniforms were the same. Unlike the previous photograph, his collars are unadorned. Photo courtesy of the Jill Smith Collection.


Grimsby Corporation Tramways staff funeral
A line up of GCT staff outside the Town Hall during an unknown formal occasion, possibly a funeral — photo undated, but probably taken in the 1930s. Photo courtesy of the Jill Smith Collection.


Grimsby Corporation Tramways staff
A blow-up of the above photo showing some of the motormen and conductors in their greatcoats; all the collars on show are plain, i.e., devoid of badges of any kind.


Senior staff
GrimsbyCorporationStaffFuneral? INSP
A blow-up of the parade above showing the inspector, who is wearing typical tramway inspector garb.