Leith Corporation Tramways Opening

Leith Corporation Tramways, Official opening on 3rd November 1905

This postcard shows the tramcar decorated with holly, laurel and yellow, white and pink chrysanthemums for the official opening ceremony of Leith Corporation Tramways on 3rd November 1905. The card caption tells us that Provost Mackie was at the controls. (A provost is the Scottish equivalent of a mayor.) The card was produced locally from a photo by T. Johnstone Kelly of Leith. Our copy was posted from Leith (postmarked Edinburgh) to an address in Orkney on 13th November, just ten days later, illustrating how quickly newsworthy postcards could be produced in those days.

The Leith system originated as part of Edinburgh Street Tramways' standard gauge horse car system which had opened on 6th November 1871. Edinburgh Corporation took over the tramways in their area on 9th December 1903, leaving the Street Tramways Company to operate in Leith with the remaining 30 trams out of a former fleet of 100. On 23rd October 1904 Leith Corporation took over the final horse tram routes and set about re-laying and electrifying them. On 18th August 1905 the first electric route commenced, with most of the system following on 16th September. As stated the official inauguration ceremony was on 3rd November. Small extensions took place in 1909, bringing the total route length to just over nine miles. An interesting feature was a swing bridge owned by the Leith Dock Commission over the harbour at Bernard Street. The eight track depot was in Leith Walk on the site of the previous horse car sheds and is the location of the view on the postcard.

The tram on our card is thought to be car 6. It is one of the batch of fifteen 4-wheel open-top four side window cars (1-15) delivered in 1905. The bodies were by the United Electric Car Company of Preston. They seated 22 passengers inside and 36 on top. The trucks were Brill 21E with two GE 54-5T 25 horsepower motors and used BTH B18 controllers. There were also three similar cars (31-33) which were top-covered with open balconies. One can be seen in the background of the postcard view. At the same date eighteen three side window 4-wheel cars were supplied by the Brush Electrical Engineering Company Ltd. of Loughborough. These cars had Brush equipment and again there were fifteen open-top (16-30) and three top-covered (34-36). There was also car 37, a single-deck training car which was delivered in 1905, but was given a new Brush open-top body in 1906. Finally there was a 1,000 gallon tank water car number 60, which was from UEC in 1905 and with the same equipment as cars 1-15. The open top cars were given Brush open-balcony top-covers in 1912-14. Cars 8, 10, 11, 29 and 35 were given platform vestibules in 1913-15. The livery was Munich lake and white.

In 1920 the City of Edinburgh expanded to include the borough of Leith and from 20th November that year the Leith Tramways were absorbed into Edinburgh Corporation Tramways. The Leith trams became 231-267 in the Edinburgh fleet with the water car becoming Edinburgh grinder car number 1. Edinburgh's tramways were closed on 16th November 1956 with the last tram, car 217, running on route 23 from Granton Road Station to Morningside, the Granton Road end being part of the former Leith System.

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