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The Tram

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The No.25 Tram ran from Batchelors Walk, beside O’Connell Bridge, to the village of Lucan a distance of some eight and a half miles. It served the suburban areas of Parkgate Street and Islandbridge and the villages of Chapelizod and Palmerstown. The line was single track, with passing places at intervals, which were equipped with red and green lights to control the two trams which, at normal times, served the route and ran at half-hourly intervals. At weekends and Bank Holidays a third tram was introduced, thus increasing the frequency to one every twenty minutes.

The trams were of high quality, second only to those on the number eight, Nelson Pillar to Dalkey route, and superior to the general suburban vehicles serving Rathmines and Rathgar to the south of the city centre and Drumcondra and Glasnevin to the north. They had passenger accommodation at two levels, the lower level being referred to colloquially as “inside” and the upper level as “op top2. The lower level was double ended, due to the absence of a turntable facility at the termini, the end section serving as either the driver’s private emporium or the conductors department – which also provided the passengers access point. From each of these identical end points, a steep circular stair rose to the upper level.

At the lower level, the passengers could be divided off at each end by sliding doors which were always closed from the drivers department and sometimes from the conductors, when the weather was very severe. On those occasions, the conductor would usually join the passengers for increased comfort. Both the driver’s and the conductor’s sections were equipped with low level folding screen s to provide some protection in the former and exclude additional passengers from the latter in the event of full capacity. This latter facility was seldom used as the general principle was never to leave anyone behind, regardless of the number on board.

The driver controlled his vehicle from a standing position which provided ready access his two controls. One, to his left hand, provided the motive power and consisted of a sturdy metal column having a removable lever turned horizontally to vary the speed. The right hand control, which was the braking system, consisted of an elegant brass lever permanently fixed to a square section upright, fitted with a rachet wheel at floor level. This lever also worked horizontally and could be made to spin round to the noisy accompaniment of the ratchet wheel by more flamboyant drivers – much to the delight of any watching schoolboys. A third facility available to the driver was an emergency bell or clanger which was operated by stamping on a metal disc in the floor. This item presented some diversion for the more daring children when alighting from the conductor’s end. Communication from conductor to driver was by means of either a leather strap pull bell or a piston type fixed to the partition.

Electric power was transferred from the overhead cable to the trams motors by means of a connecting bar fixed to the roof at the other raised end. It was spring-loaded to maintain an uninterrupted connection. This device, known as the trolley, required to be changed in direction at each terminus – a task which came under the bailiwick of the conductor. A slim rope ran from the raised end of the trolley to an anchorage point in his compartment which he would detach. He would then pull downwards to clear the trolley from the cable and walk round the vehicle holding fast to the rope. At the opposite end he would then manoeuvre the trolley end back onto the cable and re-fix the rope end, thus completing the operation. Occasionally, during travel, perhaps at a more extreme bend, or caused by a rolling motion induced by excessive speed on a long straight, the trolley would disengage from the cable and rise almost vertically over the roof. Its reinstatement, sometimes in darkness or adverse weather conditions required much skill, akin to fly-fishing, on the point of the conductor.

The tram’s seating, whilst falling short of the standard in the No. 8 Dalkey tram, was comfortable and practical in design. The seats and backs were of a firm upholstery surrounded by hardwood framing. On the lower deck, just inside each end compartment, on each side a long seat accommodated three passengers who sat facing each other across the aisle. Beyond these, the seating was at right angles to the ram’s length to enable the passengers to face forwards when travelling, the seat backs, which were supported at teach end by a hinged metal column projecting through a slot in the seat frame, could be readily moved back and forth, as required, at the end and beginning of each journey. This simple task was performed by the conductor, often before the terminus was reached when few passengers remained on board.

Drivers and conductors were, of course, well known to all the regular passengers and, in addition to their professional duties, performed many extra-curricular tasks such as conveying messages along the route, collecting and delivering parcels, and ensuring the safe passage of unaccompanied, small children in the event of some family in the form of a inspectors, who might board the tram at any point, whose main duty was to ensure that all those travelling had a valid ticket. This could cause some embarrassment for overgrown schoolchildren who, at the age of fifteen, moved from half-fare to full-fare category.

Few people had their own transport so passengers were from all walks of life and social levels. In general, the older and more sedate travelled outgoing and gregarious nature had a preference for upstairs, where smoking was permitted. Schoolchildren also preferred this level, there being more scope for horseplay. The vast majority travelled quietly and anonymously but, as with most groups, a small number tended to be noticeable.

There were the three artistic ladies from the upper echelons of society, who travelled concurrently but always sat separately, at a considerable distance apart. This geographical remove in no way inhibited their conversation, which was pursued in high volume and provided much entertainment for their fellow travellers. There was the enormous docker who, on receipt of his Friday wave packet, spent same in his local pub and, with the aid of companions, presented himself on the last tram homewards. Here, he was installed in the area under the staircase, at the conductor’s end, and passed the journey snoring with occasional bursts of song. On Sunday nights, throughout the year, the last tram to leave the village for the city was packed solid with “bona fides” returning to bas after a day’s carousing, the vehicle swaying and creaking, and accompanied by singing and laughter.

A true story was recounted by a sedate lady, who was travelling downstairs the only other passenger being a large, bald-headed man some seats in front of her. The conductor being engaged in conversation with the driver through the dividing doors at the front a schoolboys came down the stairs armed with a pea shooter. He fired a volley of peas with unerring accuracy at the bald head and promptly shot back upstairs. The astonishment on the face of the inured party as he whirled about was mirrored by a look of suppressed amusement and embarrassment on that of the sedate lady.

Lucan Electric Tram

As the thirties advanced, it was decreed trams should be phased out and replaced by buses. Gradually, the various suburban routes were pruned from the system, and the No. 25 was one of the last to go, at the end of the decade. The final journey took place accompanied by music and song, and the tram entered its Conyngham Road station for the last time, thus relegating a well-loved public facility to the pages of history.

© Ray Tarleton.