Our postcard from an unnamed publisher was posted in Kingston-upon-Thames on 19th March 1906. The photograph was taken on 1st March 1906 and shows London United Tramways (LUT) car 320 on the inaugural run across Kingston Bridge, this being the first electric tramway over the River Thames. At the controls is the Mayor of Kingston, Alderman H.C.Minnitt, under the guidance of senior LUT motorman Lewis Bruce. The man in the bowler hat walking past the left side of the tram is probably Sir James Clifton Robinson, the Managing Director of the Imperial Tramways Co., the owner of the LUT.
Having successfully opened electric tramways north of the Thames, the LUT wanted to extend their system south of the river into Surrey, powers for which had been obtained in 1901. Consideration had been given to Hampton Court Bridge, but this would have required complete rebuilding. Much negotiation was had with local authorities about possible widening and rebuilding of Kingston Bridge, but since LUT were given permission by the Board of Trade to build double tracks across the existing bridge this was done anyway. The contract for building the new Surrey lines was given to J.G.White & Co. Ltd. in 1905 and work commenced on 3rd April. On 11th February 1906 a trial of the new lines took place and close to midnight Sir James Clifton Robinson drove car 309 over Kingston Bridge from Hampton Wick and became the first man to drive an electric tram over a Thames bridge. The Board of Trade inspection was undertaken on 21st February by Lt. Col. Yorke. As mentioned above the service was officially opened on 1st March 1906.
This formal opening of the routes across Kingston Bridge to Surbiton and Thames Ditton and the branches to Kingston Hill and Tolworth was not without incident. The mayor drove car 320 leading two other trams up to the terminus at Kingston Hill, where Lewis Bruce took over for the return trip downhill. They passed two brewer's drays. One of the horses of the second dray shied and it collided with the leading tram. Sir James Clifton Robinson was on the platform of the car and was knocked into the road causing him bruising and a sprained ankle. The tram received a broken window and some bodywork damage.
Despite Sir James Clifton Robinson's preference for open top tramcars, Kingston council insisted on the latest type of trams being used, so LUT purchased 40 open-balcony cars from the newly incorporated United Electric Car Company Ltd. of Preston. Car 320 on our postcard was one from this batch, which were numbered 301 to 340 and were later classified as type "T". They had Brill 22E maximum traction bogies with British Westinghouse motors and Westinghouse type 90M controllers which could operate magnetic track brakes. The livery for these cars was Venetian red and white.
The Kingston area tram routes were the first in London to be replaced by trolleybuses, in this case by those of London United Tramways itself, in 1931. Taken over by London Transport in 1933, ironically they became the last London trolleybus routes, closing on 8th May 1962.
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