Notes for Trams - Pershore Road

Kindly provided by Peter Walker

Bus 2921 near Sir John's Road
It is quite surprising that the overhead wires were still in place over seven weeks after the last tram ran empty to Kyotts Lake Road works for dismantling on the day after buses had taken over, but there was the whole length of Bristol Road to cover as far as Rednal and Rubery as well. All the overhead wires and most supporting columns were removed, except those with 1930s-style mercury vapour lamps, which were to last several years longer. Also prominent on the nearest post is a Midland Red bus stop sign, of the design introduced in Birmingham to replace the standard Birmingham Corporation pattern signs in about 1948. Elsewhere, Midland Red used small rectangular plates bearing the simple message BUS STOP.

Bus 2921 had a Guy 6LW engine and chassis  built in Wolverhampton and a body by Metro Cammell, then at Elmdon works. It was only a few months old when this picture was taken.

About 250 yards away, Pershore Road crossed the Bourn Brook from Harborne, which until 1907 marked the boundary of the counties of Worcestershire and Warwickshire and also the City of Birmingham and the Urban District Council of Kings Norton and Northfield.

Bus 2812 near Upland Road
Evidently the wire-dismantling gang had already reached a point only about 300 yards south of the first picture, as the valuable copper conductor wires had already been removed in this view. The steel span wires were just scrap.

Bus 2812 had a Daimler CVG6 engine and chassis built in Coventry, with a Crossley body. The second bus appears to be an early post-war Daimler CXVG6, with Metro-Cammell body dating from 1948, before the enclosed radiator design was introduced in 1950.

Car 756 near First Avenue
This view shows air-braked car 756 on its way to Navigation Street. Also visible is the trolley rope which hung down to enable the conductor to turn the pole round at stub terminals. When the car was running, the rope was whipped into a heavy wire 'pigtail'  attached to the roof edge, and then drawn in through the driver's windscreen to be attached loosely to a hook below the upper deck floor, so that if the pole jumped the wire it would be restrained, and could be easily recovered.

The large property on the right is No 692, Pershore Road, then occupied by British Road Services, a state-owned company formed by compulsory acquisitions under the Transport Act of 1948. By the time the picture was taken, there had been changes of government, and odd sections of that monolith were soon privatised. The 1956 edition of Kelly's Directory records that this address was occupied by W Evans (Transport) Ltd and Brookvale (Transport) Ltd. In 1943 No 692 was occupied by Grey Motors, motor vehicle repairers. First Avenue was just past the elegant terrace of seven houses, behind the tram, and on the opposite corner was H & G Charles' grocery stores.

Car 838 at Dogpool loop
As it entered a small industrial settlement of Ten Acres, with its cottages and former iron rolling mill in Dogpool Lane, Pershore Road narrowed severely. The short stretch of road to the right of the tram was taken from front gardens of the houses set back on the right to provide a passing place when the tramway was built in 1904 - the Ordnance Survey published that year was based on a 1903 survey and showed the original kerb line without tram tracks.

At first the line was run by the City of Birmingham Tramways Company, a subsidiary of the British Electric Traction Company, which was set up in 1897 to acquire and electrify existing horse- and steam-propelled tramways, and to build new electric tramways. When Birmingham absorbed the Urban District of Kings Norton in 1911, the company tramway was taken over by the City Tramways Department on 1 January 1912.

Tram 838 belonged to the 812-841 series, the last batch of trams to be built for Birmingham. The trucks and air braking system were by Maley and Taunton of West Bromwich, motors and electrical equipment by the General Electric Company of Witton, and the bodies by Short Brothers (Rochester & Bedford) Ltd, better known for their 'Sunderland' flying boats. They proved to be the best trams on the system, some needing routine overhauls only throughout their life from 1928 until 1952. They were also popular with drivers.

The Midland Red single-decker bus appears to be one of the first 8ft wide S8-class single deckers first produced in 1948.

Car 756 near the Pavilion Cinema
This view is at the south end of the old settlement, with Bewdley Road behind the tram. beyond this point, the absence of buildings made it easier to widen the main road when the tramway was built, hence the doubling of the track here. Immediately behind the camera, the road crossed the Bourn Brook, and the Pavilion cinema was built just beyond, opening in 1931.

Car 756 was one of the 732-761 class built in 1926-27, with trucks and air-braking by the Electro-Mechanical Braking Company of West Bromwich, electric equipment by General Electric Company of Witton and bodies by the  Brush Electrical Engineering Company of Loughborough. This batch of cars led a nomadic life. Originally based at Rosebery Street depot to operate the prestigious Hagley Road route, they remained there, almost forgotten, to work the unimportant Ladywood route until some were fitted with bow collectors for the Washwood Heath routes, and others were moved to Selly Oak and Cotteridge.

It is surprising to see the Handsworth Dairies milk float so far from its base. A great advantage of the horse and cart was that they moved along independent of the driver.

Cars 738 and 825 near Fordhouse Lane
This view is taken from the ramp to the railway bridge looking towards town, with Fordhouse Lane - where the Outer Circle bus turned off - on the right. The large factory on the left was Guest Keen and Nettlefold's important screw factory. The two principal types of car working this route are seen passing here, but there are hardly any external differences in the end-on view.

Car 831 at Breedon Cross
At this point, Pershore Road climbed steeply up an embankment to cross the Worcester and Birmingham Canal and the old single-track Birmingham and West Suburban Railway, later used for a few freight movements.

This view shows some interesting details of the trams themselves. The sunblind was drawn down to protect the driver's vision and the leather-sheathed chain was in place across the driver's platform - not always the case. The pneumatic starting bell was given from the rear platform by the conductor who pressed the plunger seen at the top of the bulkhead. A narrow tube connected with the driver's bell beneath the stairs on the front platform. The elaborate life-guard can also be seen - the gate below the bumper was hinged and connected with the tray under steps, so that if anything struck the front gate it would rise, lowering the tray which would pick the obstruction up.

Also visible is the disused 'Board of Trade' light at high level, left of the sun-shade.

Car 832 at Breedon Hill
In this view the tram is just reaching the summit of the ramp, so that the front platform is at an angle to the road. This view shows two types of overhead post finials. The rather ornate "Chinese" one behind the lighting fitting on the left was used by the British Electric Traction Company on all the tramways which it electrified and operated throughout the country and abroad. The “Egg-and-dart" pattern on the middle post was the standard preferred by Birmingham Corporation, presumably a replacement, while the finial on the right hand post is missing.

Car 840 at Breedon Hill
In this view the tram is shown in a bright spot of sunlight. Another overhead post finial is missing, while the rest are standard BET ones.

Car 820 at Cotteridge terminus
The conductress seems to have been quite nippy turning the pole at the terminus, as passengers were still getting off while she was half way round. Like trams 732 to 811, the body of the Leyland PD2 Outer Circle bus 1729 was also built by Brush at Loughborough, but 25 years or so later, and the bus was based at Wellhead Lane garage, Perry Barr.

A photo from the opening of the tramway on 23 June 1904 shows the properties on the left as houses with shallow front gardens, but they were soon converted into shops.

Car 738 at Cotteridge terminus
Until a small depot at the terminus was finished, the eight cars needed to run the service were housed at Bournbrook depot, but this was only for a few days, as the new depot opened in early July 1904. The gable-roofed shed ran parallel with the main road, and the four tracks converged into a single track at right-angles to the road which then forked left and right to meet the single running track in Pershore Road. After City takeover in 1912, the depot was used only for storage, the tram route being operated from the Bournbrook depot in Dawlish Road. During the 1920s, the Bristol Road tramway was extended in stages from Selly Oak to Northfield, Longbridge, Rednal and Rubery, cars still being provided by the Bournbrook depot. The Cotteridge depot was widened in 1922-23 from 4 to 8 tracks, and extended in length to give a total capacity of 30 cars, and on reopening it was provided with some brand new standard Birmingham Corporation bogie cars. The depot was then able to relieve overcrowding at the Bournbrook depot with its capacity of 46 cars, until this was replaced by the new depot at Harborne Lane, Selly Oak which had room for 80 trams in addition to buses.

What the photos do not show
An interesting feature of the Pershore Road route was the pair of lightweight experimental cars built in 1929-30, the last to be acquired by the Department. When Short Brothers tendered to build bodies for cars 812 - 841, they were required to produce virtually a facsimile of the previous batches (indeed they took car 740 to their works at Rochester for a few weeks to make sure they did so) but , having expertise in aircraft and lightweight bus construction, they offered to design a modern lightweight tram conforming with most Birmingham requirements. This was delivered in October 1929 and placed on lightweight trucks by the English Electric Company, and entered service the following month as car 842. It had a few teething troubles which were corrected in the early years, but the car remained in working order until 1952, and was driven to Kyotts Lake Road works to be broken up in July 1952. It weighed 13.6 tons, compared with the standard car's weight of 16.8 tons. Wishing to be in on the act, the Brush Company offered to design and build their version of a lightweight, which they delivered to Birmingham in June 1930, and mounted on special trucks by Maley and Taunton with GEC motors and controllers. This car weighed only 12.3 tons, and entered service as car 843 in September 1930, but it remained a regular visitor to 'The Lake' (Kyotts Lake works). . It was closer in appearance to earlier Birmingham cars, but its domed roof made it particularly handsome. It was taken to Kyotts Lake works in January 1952 after one motor failed, and remained there awaiting scrapping with the other Pershore Road cars that July.