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Glasgow Corporation Transport Jubilee 1922


The jubilee of the Glasgow tramways, which were inaugurated on August 19, 1872, was celebrated in the city on August 18. For twenty-three years the service was provided by a private company, who leased the track from the Corporation, but in 1894 the undertaking was municipalised. Four years later electric traction was introduced, and in 1900 the horse car system was completely superseded. Under municipal management the service was rapidly ex­tended. To-day the range of the system is over 100 miles of double track, and acquisitions and develop­ments which are being carried out at the present time will add almost a further fifty miles. The efficiency with which the undertaking has been operated has earned for it a world-wide prestige, and reference is often made to it as a model of municipal tramway enterprise. The jubilee celebrations included the distribution of £1 each to all the employees in the service of the department, the reproduction of the opening ceremony of fifty years ago with a parade of a horse drawn car of primitive type, and the holding of a civic luncheon and an evening reception in the City Chambers.

The Lord Provost of the City (Mr. Thomas Paxton) presided at the luncheon, and the guests included representatives of various tramway undertakings throughout the country. The occasion brought together an interesting group of managers of transport enterprises who were at one time or another associated with the direction of the Glasgow service. These included Mr. J. Barber Glenn, who was the first secretary of the Glasgow Tramway and Omnibus Company the private concern which established the undertaking; Mr. John Young, under whose regime as general manager the service was municipalised, and who afterwards received an appointment in the administration of the London Underground Railways; Mr. J. B. Hamilton, who is now manager of the Leeds tramways; Mr. William Clark, at one time engineer to the Glasgow department, who was appointed manager of the Lisbon tramways; and Mr, M'Call, now general manager of the Shanghai tramways. Three of the group served under Mr. James Dalrymple, the present manager of the Glasgow tramways, who has been in charge since 1904.

Horse Tram
Glasgow Tramway and Omnibus Company Horse Tram



After the loyal toasts had been submitted by the Lord Provost, Sir Samuel Chisholm, Bart., proposed " The Houses of Parlia­ment." He said that while Parliamentary control over local authorities was no doubt necessary in order to prevent chaos, there was a good deal to be said for greater freedom of action being allowed to such municipalities as that of Glasgow. Members of a city corporation had a closer and clearer vision of the needs of their own little kingdom and a firmer grasp of the best measures to adopt to meet the local requirements than could possibly be possessed by legislators who lived a large portion of their lives in London, detached by their circumstances from intimate sympathy with the local community. It would be absurd to ask that Parliament should grant everything that municipalities desired, but this much at least he thought should be recognised—that when municipalities, after careful consideration, brought proposals before the Houses of Parliament, these proposals should receive a favourable and friendly reception, and should not be dismissed simply because they were without any precedent.    (Applause.)

First Car run by Glasgow Corporation, 4.53 am, 1st July 1894


Lord Belhaven and Stenton, in the course of his reply, said that the progress of the Glasgow tramways could be reviewed with genuine satisfaction. The success of the undertaking was un­deniable, both in the matter of providing a cheap and excellent service for the community and as a remunerative enterprise that was now known far and wide and thoroughly deserved the great reputation it had acquired. Glasgow had been and still was a pioneer in the development of municipal tramways, and other Corporations were paying it the compliment still of copying its methods. The extension of the tramways had materially improved the social conditions of the city. It was a well-known circumstance that where the tramways came in slums receded and their places were taken by smart residential and business quarters. In paying a tribute to the wonderful efficiency of the service, Lord Belhaven declared that everyone who travelled by the Glasgow cars must be more or less impressed with the invariable good nature and courtesy displayed by the employees. A more obliging and civil body of public servants could not be met anywhere he believed in the world.    (Applause.)

Mr. A. M'Callum Scott, M.P., and Mr. F. A. Macquisten, M.P., also replied to the toast.

Alderman Clark (Rochdale) proposed " The Corporation of Glasgow," and in referring to the tramway system of the city he said the success of the tramways had done a great deal to add to the prestige of the city. The system carried with it great benefits to the citizens. He had been greatly impressed with the ceremony that day, and he thought no one could have witnessed it without being struck with the great difference there was in transport to-day compared with the earlier days of the system. Glasgow had been most fortunate in all the circumstances connected with their tram­ways, and particularly fortunate with regard to their tramway managers. (Applause.) The system would not have been what it was to-day had it not been placed under capable managership.

Glasgow Corporation Tram Car 1922



The Lord Provost, in response, said "I esteem it a great honour to preside on this historic occasion, marking as it does a notable milestone in the journey towards municipalisation of one of the most important and successful of the undertakings of the Cor­poration. The fifty years history of the tramway undertaking furnishes an unexampled spectacle of continuous, prudent, and far-sighted management which I think has no parallel in any similar undertaking or in any country. Glasgow has been pointed to as a model for other cities in municipal activity, but in none has its claims to recognition as a pioneer found more ample justification than in the tramway undertaking. The inception and development of the undertaking for the last 50 years reads almost like a fairy tale; As someone said on the occasion of the celebration of the jubilee of our water supply in 1909, " We are paying tribute to-day to that which is the greatest of all qualities which go to the making of a State the dynamic quality of imagination in civic life. With­out it progress is impossible in any direction worthy to be desired. Without imagination the mind of the city, as of the individual, is fettered to stagnation and infertility." Those who have had the control of our tramways undertaking have in a pre-eminent degree shown that supreme quality of imagination as the history of the undertaking undoubtedly demonstrates. I need refer only very briefly to the successive stages of our tramways to prove the truth of that statement. It was on August 19, 1872 fifty years ago that the first tramway was opened in Glasgow. The lines were leased to the Glasgow Tramway and Omnibus Company, and I am glad to learn that we have at our gathering to-day more than one of the gentlemen who were identified with it. The first route to be opened was from St. George's Road to Eglinton Toll a distance of 2 1/4 miles and by the end of 1872 four other lines were opened I would like at this point to pay a tribute to the manner in which the old tramway company discharged their duty for 23 years both to the Corporation and to the citizens, and it was through no fault of theirs, nor was it because of any lack of efficiency or administra­tion that the Corporation in 1891 resolved to take over the control of the tramways into their own hands. The company's lease expired on June 30, 1894, and on the following day, over 28 years ago, the Corporation started to operate the tramways. Nobody but those who were in the Town Council at that date can realise the stupendous task which confronted the Corporation at this time. Owing to the negotiations for the acquisition of the plant and equipment of the old company falling through, the duty devolved upon the municipality to organise the whole service for themselves before the company's lease terminated on June 30. They had only about eighteen months to prepare, and in that short time so com­plete was the organisation in the able hands of the Corporation's first manager, Mr. John Young, whom I am delighted to see here with us to-day, that on July 1, 1894, a complete service of cars was placed on the streets, and the citizens were thus not incon­venienced by a single hour owing to the transference of control. The history of the tramways department ever since then has been one long record of success, and the fact that to-day the tramways undertaking stands pre-eminent among similar undertakings, and has shaped the municipal policy in connection with tramways not only in this country but throughout Europe, is due to the zeal, enterprise, and enthusiasm with which successive tramway com­mittees and general managers have applied themselves to meeting not only the increasing travelling requirements of the citizens at the minimum charge, but to equipping and developing the system as a whole, and adapting it to the growing requirements of a growing population. The great strides which the department has made may be shown by quoting a few eloquent figures. In 1894, when the Corporation took over the tramways, there were only 32 miles of route. To-day there are 100 miles, and within recent weeks the Corporation, by the resolution to acquire the Airdrie and Coatbridge system and the Paisley tramway system, will add 21 miles, and if we include the subway, which was recently acquired, it will bring the total of mileage up to 146. Then with regard to passengers carried, it is almost unbelievable that while those numbered for the year 1893-94 fifty-four millions, they now number five hundred and nine millions. Revenue in 1894-95 stood at £226,414, com­pared with £2,354,294 for last year. It was no small thing from a financial point of view for the municipality to assume the control of such a gigantic undertaking, but it speaks volumes for the manner in which it was managed that in 1917 that is to say within 23 years the whole indebtedness of the undertaking was cleared off, and to-day the magnitude of the tramway undertaking might be summed up in the statement that during the last 28 years in which the municipality has provided the tramway facilities the grand aggregate of the passenger traffic has advanced to the colossal figure of over seven billions, while the revenue has approached twenty-seven million pounds, or an average of almost a million a year. I need say no more, but would conclude by congratulating all concerned, and it will not be invidious if I specially pay a tribute to the manage­ment, first of Mr. John Young, the original manager, and secondly to Mr. James Dalrymple, our present manager. The city of Glasgow has always been fortunate in its officials, but in none more than in those of the tramway department, and I consider it a very happy circumstance for me that this important celebration should take place during my term of office.

John Young
General Manager, Glasgow Corporation Tramways, 1894 - 1904

Councillor Mancor, convener of Edinburgh Tramways Com­mittee of that city, proposed the toast of " The Tramways Committee of Glasgow." The efficiency of the Glasgow system, he said, was an incentive to all those who would learn by example. The Corporation of Edinburgh meant to emulate so far as it lay in their power the policy of the Glasgow Tramway Committee. When important guests were entertained in the city of Edinburgh they generally spoke of it as having a glorious history a fascinating past. But his view was that no city could live on its traditions alone, and it was clear to him that in the past Glasgow Corporation had never lent ear to such nonsense. From the press he understood that there was a certain section in Glasgow who thought the Tram­ways Committee should perform miracles financially that they should immediately revert to the halfpenny fare. To the press who urged that he thought they might reply that the public would get back to the halfpenny fares the same day as they got back to the halfpenny papers. The governing factors were the same in both cases.

Bailie M'Whirr, convener of Glasgow Tramways Committee, in replying, said that the Tramways Committee had always been fortunate in having a splendid staff of workers. During the past two years the committee had had to consider some questions of very great and far-reaching importance. They had been called upon, for example, to decide as to the purchase of the Paisley tramways, the Airdrie and Coatbridge tramways, and of the Glasgow Subway Railway. Last year the committee had organised a great amount of relief work for the benefit of the unemployed, and only the other day they had agreed to a further scheme which would give employment to about 1,700 men for twelve months. After referring to the necessity for the withdrawal of the halfpenny fare in 1920, Bailie M'Whirr said he was sorry to say that a movement was now on foot to reinstate the fare on a slightly different basis. The proposal had been turned down at the meeting of the Tramways Committee by a small majority, and he hoped that when the question came before the Corporation they would support the majority of the Committee. The tramways had always been run on safe business lines, and they felt that it would endanger the financial position of the undertaking if they tampered with the fares at the present time. Dealing with the question of congestion of traffic, he said that the most effective remedy was unquestionably that of the construction of more bridges across the Clyde. The Corporation had already agreed that a bridge should be built at Oswald Street, but he was of opinion that another bridge was also required. With two bridges he believed that the traffic could be so spread as to remove the existing congestion.

James Dalryple CBE
General Manager, Glasgow Corporation Tramways, 1904 -


Sir W. F. Russell proposed " The Staff, Past and Present." The Glasgow Tramways, he said, since they had become the property of the Corporation, had been very fortunate in their managers, officers, and staff. In fact, the management and financial success had been the envy of all tramway undertakings not only in this country but abroad. No doubt the credit of all this was due to the efficiency and ability of the managers who from time to time had been at the head of the undertaking. They had with them that day the following past members of the staff Mr. Barber Glenn, the first secretary of the tramway company in 1872; Mr. John Young, general manager; Mr. J. B. Hamilton, now of Leeds; Mr. William Clark, engineer, who was appointed to the Lisbon tramways, and had now retired ; and Mr. M'Call, now general manager of the Shanghai Tramways. Mr. Young, after a successful period of management, had resigned to take up an important appointment in the underground railways in London. Mr. Hamilton had distinguished himself in many ways in Leeds as manager of the tramways there and other offices. As regards the present staff, following Mr. Young, Mr. Dalrymple was appointed general manager,   and   during   his   successful   management   the   tramway mileage had been increased until it was practically 100 miles of double track. It was his privilege to have been a member of the Tramways Committee for twelve years, during which he was sub-convener for three years, and convener for three years under Mr. Dalrymple's management. During that period he had had ample opportunity of forming an opinion of the abilities of Mr. Dalrymple. The least he could say about him was that he could not name any Corporation or commercial undertaking that was more efficiently conducted and managed. (Applause.) Mr. Dalrymple seemed to have the knack of having under him officers of experience and training, in many cases trained under himself. Mr. Dalrymple was greatly assisted by Mr. M'Kinnon, assistant manager, and the general staff, including a head office staff of 322. There was a total staff of 8,746 men and women, and 62 per cent, of the total revenue was paid in wages. Last year 27 millions of miles were run, and 431 millions of passengers carried. That all this was accomplished with very few accidents reflected the greatest possible credit on the management and the whole staff.     (Applause.)

Mr. Barber Glenn briefly expressed his thanks for the compliment paid to him.

Mr. John Young said—I ask you to accept my warmest thanks for the very kind and flattering terms in which Sir William Russell has proposed the toast of the staff, past and present, and for the generous way in which the distinguished company has received it. I am glad to be associated in the toast with the original secretary of the Glasgow Tramways and Omnibus Company, Mr. Barber Glenn, and heartily join in congratulating him on being in harness at 83, and as you can both see and hear, I am no longer young except in name. (Laughter.) It was in 1875, three years after the first tramways were opened, that I entered the Corporation service at 30, and for practically the next thirty years was one of the departmental chiefs. It is now eighteen years since I went to London, and it is wonderful how, even in that short time, one can feel so much a stranger. I suppose one could count on the fingers of one hand the present members of the Corporation who were members of the Corporation eighteen years ago, but I am pleased still to recognise many well-known and friendly faces.

It is a real pleasure to me except for the speechmaking to have the privilege of being once again present at a representative Glasgow gathering, more especially that the occasion is the celebration of the jubilee of the Glasgow tramways, with which my name happens to be closely identified. I can say in all sincerity that I have the pleasantest recollections of my thirty years' experience in Glasgow. From first to last I had the happiest relations with the ever changing members of the Corporation and committees by reason of the goodwill and trust which always prevailed. As to the tramways, I am sure on this jubilee day you will excuse my saying frankly that I am naturally pleased to have had a fashioning hand in the creation and organisation and administration of the Glasgow Corporation Tramways Department, which in a very few years came to be referred to, the world over, as a record success in municipal enterprise. With regard to the municipal staff, past and present, I can truly say that the original staff the selection of which was one of my responsibilities was such that one could scarcely wish a better. And happily the present staff has so naturally evolved from the past, by a gradual succession within itself, as to remain practically the same thing continued. Many have been called away to occupy chief positions at home and abroad. They are represented here by Mr. Clark, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. McColl, and Mr. Goslin.    But others have always been ready to step forward, and we have to-day Mr. Dalrymple as chief, Mr. McKinnon as second in command, Mr. Ferguson, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Braid, and others of the old days, worthily upholding the standard. This is surely as it ought to be. I wish godspeed to all who have been and arc connected with the undertaking.


Perhaps, my Lord Provost, enough has already been said and heard for one day on the Glasgow tramways, but a jubilee is not an ordinary day, and on this historic occasion you may still be willing to hear shortly from me, even at the risk of repetition I shall not trouble you with figures a few episodes in the beginning and earlier years in the history of the tramways as a municipal under­taking. Carlyle says that " In any phenomenon the beginning always remains the most notable moment." You have heard that in 1891-92 the Corporation and the lessees failed in the negotiations for a renewal of the lease, and the Corporation thereafter, with public approval, resolved to exercise their already existing powers by taking the operation of their tramways into their own hands the first Corporation to take that step, destined as it was to shape and influence municipal tramways policy everywhere. You also know that an offer was made to take over, at the end of the lease, the entire tramways establishment of the lessees as it stood, at valuation as a going concern, and that the lessees declined it, de­claring their intention of running opposition omnibuses. It was at this juncture that I was called in by the Tramways Committee to advise, and the whole position and policy were fully gone into. The outcome was that I became general manager of the new depart­ment, and with the necessary authority accepted, under the com­mittee, the responsibility of planning, creating and organising an entirely new establishment, and of being ready to turn out the new municipal service on July 1,  1894 some eighteen months ahead.

About a dozen sites were purchased, on which were erected, to plans prepared in the departmental office, stables for 5,000 horses, car sheds for 500 cars, a large granary and forage store, and an extensive car repairing works and factory, with all appurtenances and machinery. The design of the new cars was likewise prepared and approved, and orders were placed for 400 to begin with. Within three or four months of the starting day about 4,000 horses were purchased, mostly from overseas. There were then the staff and whole personnel, some 4,000 in number, to engage and have in readiness for the appointed day. Obviously this was a very different proposition from simply taking over an undertaking as a going concern. But " all's well that ends well," and it proved to have been for the best.

The 1st July was a Sunday. Fortunately it was a day of perfect sunshine, quite a red letter day in the city. Punctually the new municipal service appeared all over the city, under improved working conditions and revised routes and fares, including the new halfpenny fare. The service was operated to schedule time and without a hitch. Success was secure from the very beginning. The competing omnibuses soon disappeared, and other Corporations who were interested onlookers hastened to follow Glasgow's example. So much for the first stage the genesis of tramways municipalisation.

We were, of course, fully alive to the limits of horse traction. Mechanical traction was in the air, but the time for a public decision was not yet ripe. Overhead electric traction had already been introduced and was beginning to find favour abroad. Personally I was much taken with it. As a matter of fact, in 1893, we had the Maryhill and Springburn routes tentatively surveyed and estimated for, but, placed as we were, we found it impracticable to move in that direction at the start. For one thing no preparation for a change of traction could be made while the tracks were in the hands of the lessees. And we certainly gained by waiting. The cable system had for some time been in operation here and there abroad, but it did not make much progress. As far back as 1885, when in San Francisco on a short visit, I was shown over the cable system of that city, but I considered it cumbrous and inflexible. This, and many other systems, in being and embryo, were strongly advo­cated, and all were carefully examined on their merits.


Meantime electric traction was making steady progress abroad. On the first official tour of inspection on the Continent with the late Bailie Crawford, we saw it well installed and in full operation, and were so much pleased that we had no hesitation in recommending its adoption. The question being of so great public importance, the chairman and deputy chairman, Bailie Paton and Bailie Wallace, and several members of the committee, were deputed to make further investigations on the Continent, and I remember we had with us on that occasion your present highly esteemed member Bailie Burt. They were likewise favourably impressed with the system, and reported accordingly. Finally, so as to leave no doubt on the question, I was sent over with the chief engineering assistant, Mr. Clark, to America, to examine further and report. We found there that the overhead electric system was undoubtedly and speedily making headway, and we saw cable lines being pulled out to be replaced by it, so that we could do no other than confirm previous reports in its favour.

Thereafter, in 1897, its adoption was resolved upon by the com­mittee and the Corporation, and as a demonstration it was first of all installed by our own staff on the Springburn route, in 1898. This proved so satisfactory that within a few months the Corporation passed a resolution to have the whole system similarly converted, and expressed the hope that the electric cars would be in operation at the opening of the International Exhibition at Kelvingrove in May 1901. The change involved a great upheaval. It meant the taking up and relaying with heavier 60 feet rails of practically the whole track, with the horse cars running all the time; the laying down of ducts all along the routes for the distributing cables; the setting up of a vast electric system, including a large power-station and sub-stations, and the electrical equipment of all the lines, rolling stock and depots; and the building and equipping of the larger cars in our own factories for which we afterwards designed the unobtrusive top covers.

In view of this second application of the time limit, plans and specifications were promptly prepared, and again operations were simultaneously pushed forward at all points much of it with our own staff and on the site purchased on the Canal at Pinkston the power-station was brought into being fully equipped to the plans of Dr. Parshall. The only hitch in the whole operations occurred through the brickwork contractors throwing up their Pinkston contract when they had little more than the foundations laid. The only way out of the impasse in time was for us to secure the materials and employ direct labour to carry on and complete the buildings. This was done. The result of it all was that on the opening day of the exhibition the electric cars were in operation according to plan. They got a most hearty reception, and again I was truly thankful. The success which followed, as is well known, was unprecedented. Fares, always the lowest on record, were further reduced. The service was speedily increased and extended, and the revenue kept mounting by leaps and bounds. Electricity had opened a new era with boundless possibilities for the future of the tramways. Glas­gow's example in this second pioneering departure was again closely followed by other Corporations, and very soon the system was practically universal. This was the second stage the exodus from the bondage and limitations of horse traction.


And now a few words on finance. With financial success assured at the beginning of 1894, and in the confident anticipation of me­chanical traction, substantial depreciation and renewal funds, in addition to the statutory sinking fund, were established. The result was—and this is apt to be forgotten—that at the end of seven years of successful horse traction the accumulated reserves practically covered the cost of converting the lines for electric traction, and the- continuance of the same reserve and sinking funds, as you all know, resulted at the end of the first sixteen years of ever increasing prosperity under electric traction in placing my good friend and successor, Mr. Dalrymple, in the happy position of being able to announce an accumulation sufficient to wipe off the whole capital of close upon £4,000,000. I have only a few words more to say on the long view. Even with horse traction the view taken by the Corporation was that while the city proper was their first and chief charge, it was sound business to extend the benefits of the Glasgow tramways to the surrounding communities. From that time powers to this end were obtained with the good will and co-operation of the neighbouring authorities. But the advent of electric traction disclosed a greatly wider sphere. The results and potentialities it brought were such that one could scarcely escape the conviction that it had now become the reasonable function of Glasgow tramways, in the broad interests of the larger community, and on fair terms, to make the system available to a greater extent for linking up the surrounding populous places in the Clyde area with the city which forms the chief centre of attraction and influence. The Corporation of Glasgow as usual took the long view. In the next few years, and with general ap­proval, negotiations had been carried through, and powers obtained for extensions to Renfrew, Paisley, Giffnock, Rouken Glen, Cambuslang, Uddingston, Bishopbriggs, Dalmuir, and other places, in addition to needful extensions within the city. Construction followed closely, so that I had the satisfaction of seeing the new programme well on its way to fulfilment. And we know that to this day the larger policy has never been lost sight of. I now take the liberty of warmly congratulating the Corporation, the Tramways Committee, and my good and capable friend and erstwhile coadjutor, Mr. Dalrymple, upon their conspicuous success throughout all the later years in the splendid development, up-to-date improvements, and wise extensions of Glasgow's great system of street and road transport. I expect the next news we shall have will be the placing of the contract for the relief bridge over the river. Wonderful progress has indeed been made, and is being made, by the still youthful Glasgow tramways. This progress must continue so long as Glasgow flourishes. By all means let Glasgow and her tramways flourish together.

Mr. James Dalrymple, general manager, Glasgow Corporation Tramways, speaking in reply for the present staff, said they were proud to be privileged to participate in the proceedings of that day. He trusted that the tramways staff would always remember that they were the servants of the citizens of a noble city, and that if they did their work faithfully they would have the respect and confidence and goodwill of the large and growing community whom they served. On that occasion they looked back and took stock of the work they had done, but at the same time they also looked forward with confidence to the days that were to come. They were satisfied that the work which lay before them would be far more interesting and far greater than anything they had yet tackled. (Applause.)

On the motion of Sir John Ure Primrose, a vote of thanks was accorded to the Lord Provost for presiding.

About 1,500 guests took part in the reception which was held in the City Chambers in the evening. They were received by Lord Provost Paxton and Mrs. Paxton. Dancing was engaged in, and a programme of music was also submitted.

(The Tramway and Railway World 1922)