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The Tramway and Railway World 1902
see Plans Copelawhill here

When describing in these pages the electric tramway system of Glasgow shortly before it was inaugurated eighteen months ago, the car works and depots pertaining to the undertaking were only in a rudimentary state. They arc now, however, fully developed, and quite recently some improvements have been carried out. A brief description may accordingly be of interest. The ground on which the Coplawhill car works stand forms part of the lands of Coplawhill, near Eglinton Toll, on the south side of Glasgow, which have been the property of the Corporation for several centuries. The total area acquired by the tramways department was 27,683 square yards, and the price paid to the Corporation was 13s. 2d. per square yard. A horse car depot was built on one portion of the ground, while the car works were erected on the other. The latter have, of course, been considerably extended since they were erected in 1893-4 for the build­ing and repairing of horse cars. Some of the old stables are now used as stores. The exten­sions began at the time of the equipment of the whole of the lines for electric traction, and the works were equipped for building nearly the whole of the new electric cars required, and for subsequently keeping them in repair. The dimensions and arrangement of the different departments may be gathered from the accom­panying ground plan. From this it will also be observed that a small part of the area is occupied by an electric sub-station one of those which are distributed over Glasgow for the purpose of transforming and converting the high-pressure three-phase current to 500-volt continuous cur­rent before it is sent out to the lines.

The timekeeper's office is situated at the entrance on the south-east side of the works. The general stores are on the right, and in part form an exception to the rest of the buildings in being two storeys in height. These stores are in process of re-arrangement on an extremely good plan. The buildings are roomy and well lighted, and admit of the material being classified in bins, so that the contents can be readily seen by the storekeeper going round. These bins are numbered in accordance with a standard list of materials which the department has prepared, and which is being printed for use by all officials who are dealing with or accounting for material. So great is the variety of the materials required that this list will form a handbook of over 300 pages. Its use will prevent the trouble and confusion always found where different officials use different descriptions for the same things.

At the head office, stores ledgers are kept on the loose-leaf principle in which a separate account is kept for each article. The head office have thus a check on the handling of the stores. On the left hand of the entrance is the smith's shop, equipped with 16 smiths' hearths and two steam hammers. The blast for the former is supplied by a Root's blower, which is driven by a   15  h.p.   International   Electrical  Company's motor. Formerly the works were supplied with a 150 h.p. engine, but this has now been super­seded, and the whole of the power required is got from electric motors, which are driven by current from the electric power-station at Pinkston, in the north of Glasgow. All the forgings for the cars are made to template, and steel dies are made for everything that cannot be stamped with the steam hammer. The forgings are sent on to the machine shop, where they are marked off for machining.

This machine-tool and fitting shop is supplied with numerous machines, which give it quite the appearance of a small engineering establishment. Among them is a wheel-grinding machine by Messrs. Miller and Company, Edinburgh, for removing flats from wheels ; a wheel-boring machine by the Nilus Tool Company, Ohio; and a wheel press for pressing the wheels on to the axles. There are also planing, shaping, and slotting machines, lathes, drills, etc. The whole of these are driven by two International Com­pany's motors of 20 h.p. each.

Another large department is the saw-mill where the car bodies are manufactured and repairs of existing car bodies are carried on. This shop contains a good assortment of modern wood-working machines by which planks and spars can be rapidly reduced to the various parts required in the construction of the body of a car. Among the tools employed are two circular saws, two band saws, planing, moulding, morti­cing, and tenoning machines, lathes, and boring machines. The timber, after passing through the necessary operations, is sent on to the car building and repairing shop. A type of dry seat, designed by Mr. Ferguson, the rolling-stock superintendent, and extensively used on the cars, is turned out in the saw-mill. The principle is the same as that of the well-known seat com­posed of a number of narrow slats on edge with rounded faces and spaces between them. The Glasgow seat presents the same series of rounded narrow faces, but it is cut out of one piece of wood. Deep grooves are cut so as to leave the rounded faces. The bottoms of these grooves form a series of short inclined planes, meeting in couples, and at the lowest points holes are drilled right through. Thus the rain-water runs along the grooves and drops through the holes. Abundant space is given for the building up of car bodies, and for repairing them. The latter is the principal work going on at present, as all the cars required in the meantime have been built. The main repairing shop, which is over 700 feet long, is arranged at one end for conveniently, rapidly, and continuously carrying on the inspec­tion of cars. Sixteen cars a day are passed through. At the other end the annual overhaul takes place. So many cars are taken in at the beginning of a week, the bodies are taken off the trucks, the latter are dismantled, the springs are examined  and set up if  necessary, the  brake gear is gone over and new parts are added if necessary, and the trucks are painted. The motors are cleaned out, and their insulation examined, and the parts are assembled again. In the second week the cars go into the paint shop where they are touched up. At the begin­ning of the third week they come out and stand for a few days to allow the varnish to set thoroughly before they go back to their depots. This process goes on continually, as many cars being handled per week as enables the whole stock to be got over once a year.

This department is equipped with two 15-ton overhead travelling cranes, either of which can easily lift a car and swing it as desired. A small traverser is used for shifting cars from one line of rails to another. An ingenious arrangement, designed by Mr. Pollock, the foreman electrician, is in use for moving the cars on the rails. Trolley wires are not employed, but a flexible cable is led from the crane conductors. This cable terminates in a steel collar, which when required is hooked round the trolley wheel of a car. The car can then be driven from the controller, as the current comes from the crane conductor through the flexible cable to the trolley, and so on to the motors. One of the former stables is used as a shop for re-winding and repairing motors. Here a baking oven heated by gas has been installed for drying out the windings of the motors. Another department is devoted to brass repairs of the electric equipment. Here also is to be found a brass foundry where trolley wheels and heads and white-metal bushes for journals are produced. The paint shop is a large apartment heated by steam pipes. The paints are made up on the premises, and both paints and varnishes require to be of a special nature in order to ensure rapid drying. The lettering is done in aluminium transfers ; silver transfers would not stand because there is so much sulphur in the atmosphere of Glasgow. The whole of the buildings are protected by Grinnell sprinklers. The works have for some time been under the superintendence of Mr. John Whitelaw, who, however, has just gone to Edinburgh to carry on engineering on his own account.

The staff at the works is as under :



Iron Workers




Punch Repairers


Electric Fitters and Wiremen


Wood Workers














About 400 electric cars have been built by the tramways department in these works, and about 100 horse cars have been converted to electric cars. Additional cars are still under construction and conversion. These, with 80 cars which were built by English contractors, will bring up the total number of cars to 611. At their busiest, six new electric cars complete in every respect, were turned out of these works per week. The motors, trucks, and wheels were of course sup­plied by the makers of these specialities. The works are believed to be the largest and most complete of their kind owned by any Corporation. This very completeness leaves the less to be done at the car depots, for if anything beyond small adjustments or repairs is required the cars are sent to the works. There are two main car depots (in addition to about a dozen smaller ones which have been converted since the horse-car days). The two main depots, however, are new buildings erected expressly for nightelectric traction, and one is situated in the southern suburb of Langside, and the other in the northern outskirts at Possilpark. The Langside depot is the larger. The ground on which it is built extends to 14,747 square yards, and cost 6s. 10 1/2d. per yard. The building (see Langside plan here ), which is of brick, consists of one storey, and has accommodation for 200 cars. As will be seen from the accompanying plan, next to the entrance gate are situated the offices, stores, recreation room, kitchen, and lavatories, which are all heated with hot water pipes. Car pits, 4 ft. 6 in. deep below the level of the rails, run the entire length of the tracks. The cars in use are cleaned within the depot every night as follows : The outside of the car body is sponged when dry with water, and about every alternate night with a composition of sacarbolate and water.    The inside is swept and dusted every night and washed about once a month with sacarbolate and water. The trucks and dashes are cleaned in the same way as the body, no oil being used. The brass work is cleaned immediately before the car leaves the depot every morning with a mixture of one pot of Needham's paste to three cakes of Abbott's soap. The windows, outside and in, are cleaned every night with water and chamois. Three cars are cleaned by each man every night. There is also a staff at the depot for the nightly inspection of cars and equipments. All the repairing work proper is carried out at the car works, where the cars are sent as required. The depot staff merely does the inspecting work, and such things as renewing brake shoes and adjusting brake connecting rods ; inspecting and repairing lighting and bell circuits ; renewing trolley wheels and generally inspecting  trolley parts ; cleaning, inspecting, and adjusting con­trollers ; greasing car axle boxes and motor bearings; filling sand boxes, etc. The staff required at Langside depot for this work is as under:


General Foreman





Pit Cleaner.

The general foreman has also oversight of the car-cleaning work, and is responsible for the stores, the consumption of which he returns weekly to the head office, where a stores ledger is kept with accounts for the various items of material. The head office have thus a check on the handling of stores.In the depot office there is a time recorder for use by the depot employees.The wages sheet is made up from these records. From the depot office the conductors receive their tickets, punches, etc., and they return their drawings there after 10-30 p.m., when the cash offices are closed.
The cost of Langside depot buildings has been about £25,000, equal to about £126 per car accommodated. The other depot built for electric traction, viz., Possilpark, is practically the same as Lang­side depot, any slight differences being due to the situation of the ground. It accommodates 150 cars.

The Tramway and Railway World 10 March 1910

The Coplawhill car works are now more extensive than ever, and all possible construction and repair work is carried on there. The place and its equipment have previously been described in these pages, but a few new features may be mentioned. A large strip of vacant land adjoining the works has been brought into use as a permanent way store. Here are kept rails, sleepers, paving blocks, and all other things required, and scrapped material is stowed till it can be disposed of. An electrically-equipped tramway track runs into this yard, so that materials can be conveyed to and from it with the minimum of trouble.

An important recent addition to the works is a large, airy, and well-lighted paint shop, which takes the place of a smaller one. The new shop has six tracks, and can accommodate 30 cars at a time. In the ordinary way 12 cars are dealt with by retouching per week. Out of the total number of electric cars in use 80 bodies were bought from car-builders, the rest having been constructed at these works. The painting department regard it as a testimony to the excellence of the materials which they use that while the whole of the 80 bodies referred to have had to be completely repainted, none of the car bodies built and painted in these works have required more than touching up. In this, as in many other departments of the works, the men are employed on the piece-work system.

The truck, wheel, and electric equipment repair shops are thoroughly organised and efficient. Each car is brought in once in six weeks for overhaul. A recent important addition here is a large wheel-turning lathe, by Tangyes. This machine can do as much work as the two older lathes in the shop put together. The speed of rotation of the tyres of the wheels which are being trued can be varied from 6 ft. per minute to 52 ft. per minute. This is effected partly by varying the speed of the electrical driving motor by means of resistances, and partly by a mechanical change-speed gear. This gear provides for six different speeds of the lathe without altering the speed of the motor. The motor, which is by the Phcenix Dynamo Company, is of 36 H.P., and is driven by the 500-volt continuous current used for the tramways.

The work of constructing and fitting roof covers for the cars is now far advanced. One lot of no covers is just being finished, and a start is being made with another lot of 50. Before long there will be very few open-top cars in Glasgow. In the wet climate of the west of Scotland the benefit of the roof covers both to the public and the tramway revenue is very marked.

The ticket boxes on the cars have proved such a success that two boxes at each end of the car have had to be fitted, instead of one. The passengers deposit their tickets in these boxes as they leave the cars, and a great deal of litter and the cleaning of it up are avoided. Moreover, as much money is received from selling the old tickets as waste paper as pays for the capital charges on and maintenance of the boxes.