Liverpool Tram #869 - Its Journey into Preservation

 Liverpool Tram #869 at the Crich Tramway Village Depot

Click on picture [HT30] for an enlarged version

These notes have been extracted from the WEB site run by former members of the Liverpool University Public Transport Society.

The Liverpool University Public Transport Society [LUPTS] was formed in 1958 by a group of undergraduate students at the University with a mutual interest in all kinds of transport. Over the next 33 years, it organised meetings and afternoon trips, ran tours by rail, bus and tram, published a number of booklets and was active, locally and nationally, in the enthusiast world.

LUPTS continued as an active student society through the 60s, 70s and 80s but, with declining numbers, was forced to disband in 1991.

One trip is so significant for the LUPTS, and indeed transport preservation, history that it deserves a WEB page all of its own. This was the two day visit to Glasgow, leaving Liverpool on Saturday 20 February 1960, and which included a tour of the Glasgow tramway system the following day.

As mentioned earlier, one of LUPTS' earliest aims had been to preserve a Liverpool tram. Enthusiasts at the time were worried that no Liverpool tram would survive for future generations. An early scheme to preserve German trailer 429 and Bellamy 558 had failed when both cars were subject to vandalism and neglect when stored in the open at Kirkby and scrapped. Liverpool's official last tram, 293, did pass into preservation but at the Seashore Trolley Museum, Kennybunkport, Maine, USA where it remains to this day in a deteriorating condition.

Allegedly as an afterthought, Liverpool Corporation themselves retained Baby Grand 245 which had been one of the cars in service on the last day. However, just a year later, there was concern over its condition and LUPTS made several efforts to obtain custodianship of the car. The initial request was made in 1958 but the matter was not resolved finally for over a year. In January 1960 LUPTS received a letter telling them that their request had been turned down. The decision was explained in a letter from the Chairman of the Passenger Transport Committee dated 23 March 1960:

Dear Sir,

I have your letter of March 20th which refers to the request which was made regarding Tramcar No.254 [sic]. The reason the Committee did not feel that they could turn this car over to your society was due to the strong body of opinion which considered that the tramcar should be retained in Liverpool.

As you know we are hoping that arrangements may be made with the Director of Museums in Liverpool for this tram to be taken over by him but meanwhile it is intended to retain it in our Edge Lane Works.

It is ironic that, in the intervening 38 years, 245 has only been on display in Liverpool for about five years and that, currently, it resides in a reserve store in Bootle, inaccessible to the public and in a run down condition.

Having received this rejection from Liverpool Corporation, LUPTS turned its attention towards the Glasgow system where a small number of the 46 Bogie Streamliners [Green Goddesses] which Glasgow had bought in 1953/54 were still running. It was decided to organise a farewell tour of the system on one of the cars and, at the same time, try and obtain sufficient funds to buy one for preservation. The date for the tour was arranged for Sunday 21 February 1960 and Glasgow were to charge 6 for the hire. In order to reach Glasgow, a Ribble Tiger Cub was hired for two days at a cost of 45.

The tram selected for the tour was Glasgow 1055, formerly Liverpool 869. This was both the oldest car and the one judged by the Coplawhill Works staff to be in the best condition. It also retained several key Liverpool features.

Martin Jenkins, writing in the newsletter of the Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society in 1985, remembers the tour:

"Weather conditions were atrocious and if I recall there was a railway strike. The coach contingent from Liverpool had to make several lengthy detours to avoid the worst of the snow.

"On arrival in Glasgow, two of the party alighted prematurely and having vainly chased after the bus as it stopped at Glasgow's never ending string of traffic lights, spent the night in a house of ill repute. Mistaking it for a boarding house, they never undressed but spent the night listening to the trudge of feet past their locked door!

"A marvelous crowd had gathered at St Vincent Street by 10.30 am on the Sunday morning. As 1055 swung into Renfield St for the first leg of its six hour tour, there were 94 passengers on board including rep's of the Glasgow press.

"Numerous photographic stops [had] been organised especially on those stretches not normally covered by Goddesses, confined to routes 15 and 29. Perhaps the most interesting moments were the runs out to Mosspark [where we encountered a works car] and along the 1949 extension to Blairdarie [normally the preserve of Standards]. The tour was marred when, within the confines of Denistoun Depot during a spell of illicit driving, the car collided with Standard No. 64 causing some damage. Subsequently, Glasgow Corporation presented LUPTS with a bill for the repairs which hardly helped the Society's financial position.

"This was the last tour held on a Liverpool tram, and it is fitting that so many people braved the appalling weather to pay their respects."

Photographs of the tour have appeared in many publications: A Nostalgic Look at Liverpool's Trams, Liverpool Corporation Tramways 1937-1957 and Green Goddesses Go East, to name but three. Film footage appears on Online Videos Liverpool Trams: Green Goddesses Remembered, No trams to Pier Head and Glasgow Trams Part Two.

Before the tour, and following the rejection of the 245 plan, the LUPTS Committee had decided to purchase 1055/869 for preservation. As can be imagined, the idea that a group of students wanted to buy a tram was very newsworthy and an article appeared in the Liverpool Daily Post of 27 January 1960 under the headline "University Tram Fans covet the Last Green Goddess".

Glasgow Corporation Transport, in a letter dated 15 February 1960, quoted a purchase price of 50, subject to the tram being removed from Glasgow's premises within a period of two months. It was estimated that the costs of transportation, spares and renovation would add another 300 to 400 to the bill. The sum of 450 was not inconsiderable in 1960 so the Society, in mid March, began fund raising by writing to the good and the great of Liverpool. Jack Train and Deryck Guyler, major personalities of the day, each made contributions, the latter going on to say in his letter that "... perhaps my old friend Frisby Dyke might be allowed to take tickets on your first trip, that is, of course, if you ever get it going". Both Train and Guyler appeared in the hugely popular radio show ITMA - Guyler's character Frisby Dyke was named after a famous Liverpool store. The passengers on board the tour on 21 February were also asked to contribute over and above their 5/- [25p] fare.

Some people were rather less supportive. On House of Commons notepaper, Bessie Braddock, the famous local politician of the time responded to the request with "... because of the many other financial requests and commitments that we have to meet, Mr Braddock and myself are unable to make a contribution to your funds." Lord Cohen of Birkenhead missed the plot totally by offering the advice "... wouldn't a set of coloured photographs and scale drawings be adequate?"

Although the University authorities had initially been supportive of the scheme, it appears that they began to get slightly worried about the implications of a student society having its own tram. The LUPTS Committee was also concerned on a number of counts, including the relatively small membership and the fact that, being a student society with an ever changing membership, continuity could be lost. It was therefore decided to set up another society which would involve local enthusiasts in the city, named the Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society [MTPS], to actually take ownership of the tram.

The funds which LUPTS had collected for the purpose of buying the tram, and the 25/9/9 [25.49] profit from the tour itself, were transferred to the new society on its formation in mid 1960. Reference to LUPTS owning the tram, in publications such as the PSV Circle's Fleet History of Liverpool Corporation Transport and the recently published Middleton Press book on Liverpool Tramways, is therefore not strictly accurate but it does indicate LUPTS' very active involvement in the initial stages of the project. LUPTS' involvement also receives a deserved mention in Volume 4 of the TPC Liverpool Transport series. It is clear that without the decision taken by that early group of LUPTS members there would definitely be no Green Goddess preserved today.

Liverpool Tram #869 at Middleton Park

Click on picture [NTM4294] for an enlarged version

869 spent a nomadic life in early preservation being finally rescued from the former Liverpool depot at Green Lane to live at Crich. Here it is seen at Middleton Park, Leeds in the guise of Glasgow 1055 sometime in the early 1970s.

Martin Jenkins was its first Chairman and he, together with LUPTS member Chris Bennett, accompanied the tram on its journey by low loader to Leeds on 8 June 1960. Several LUPTS/MTPS members spent a few nights sleeping in the tram before security was available at the preservation site. The journey is also recorded in several of the books and in the videos mentioned above. The car was subsequently moved back to Green Lane depot in Liverpool for restoration and later still to Crich where it still remains.

The continued existence of 869 is certainly LUPTS' most significant contribution to transport history.