by John Stafford
There had been horse-drawn trams run by various companies on Corporation rails for more than twenty years when there began moves to electrify the system. After visits to towns such as Kidderminster and Birmingham, where electric and steam trams were already operating, the council decided to build an electric system. The construction of the electric tramway system in 1903-4 involved upheaval on a scale that has not been matched by any more recent improvements. It involved the closure of important streets such as Broad Street for days at a time, not only to wheeled traffic but also to pedestrians who were unwilling to cross expanses of mud to reach the shops. Most of the work was done with spades and wheelbarrows, and the only machine which we would regard as modern was a lifting device for erecting the posts which carried the electricity wires. By the end of 1904, a line to the Berwick Arms was under construction, completing access from all the outer areas of the city along The Tything, Lowesmoor, London Road and St. John's. The electric trams were faster than horse trams or horse buses, but were unpopular with many residents because of the noise they made when crossing points. The tramways were purchased back by the Corporation in 1928 when the operating rights of the company lapsed, and the trams were replaced by motorbuses, which in their turn had become faster vehicles. The only relics of the tramways that are still with us are the posts, which are to be found along various parts of the routes, in use today as lampposts. They are easily identified by the tramway symbol of the magnet, which is cast onto the base of the post.