100 years ago – the first tram arrives

 

There is much to commemorate this year but we should not overlook the centenary of the first tram to arrive in Elland. A quick recap – the Halifax tram arrived in West Vale in 1905. The potential hazards of Salterhebble and the railway bridge on Stainland Road had been easily beaten but Halifax Corporation and Elland Council would not budge during the negotiations to pay for the route to travel into Elland via Long Wall. It was definitely a case of six of one and a half-dozen of the other so we won’t linger over that squabble. Elland looked southwards for a solution.

 

The Huddersfield tram already travelled as far as Birchencliffe and the distance to Elland Town Hall was only 1 ½ miles. Once the respective parties had agreed their share of the costs the work began on 25th September 1913. Thanks to good weather during the winter months the new track was completed by January 1914. The Board of Trade granted a licence for the route to operate after only one test run. There had been some local concern about a tram traversing the Ainley’s incline but Elland Council had paid for road widening to alleviate the top bend.

 

Wednesday 14th January 1914 – an excited crowd of over 5,000 waited near the Town Hall for the first tram to arrive. (This event was filmed and this film is stored in the Yorkshire Archive). Councillors Sam Lumb and Sidney Thornton had given their employees a half-day holiday. The press report states that schoolchildren were present so we can assume that the schools closed such was the sense of occasion. Unfortunately the sky was black and there was a steady downpour of rain but this did not dim the crowd’s spirits although the reporter wrote that the sight of 1,500 umbrellas was not picturesque!

 

At Birchencliffe Alderman Aston (Huddersfield Tramways Committee) switched on the current and declared the new section open - ‘It was a pleasure for Huddersfield to bring their cars to Elland, and he hoped it would bring the two towns into closer union.’ The fare from Elland to Huddersfield would cost 3d (about £1 in today’s money).

 

Once the tram, decorated and flying a flag, had descended the Ainleys Cllr Lumb took the ‘reins’. It was soon in view of the crowd. The rain eased to a drizzle. The umbrellas went down. The call went forth ‘It’s coming’. Cheer after cheer echoed as Cllr Lumb brought the tram to a halt at the Town Hall terminus. Three cheers were raised for Huddersfield and its council then another three for Ald Aston. The dignitaries then retired to Elland Constitutional Club for a celebratory luncheon. Cllr Lumb’s and Thornton’s employees were treated to a free journey on the next cars to arrive.

 

After the delays and upsets a regular tram service now operated to Elland. All were happy...bar Halifax Corporation, who fumed at a lost opportunity. 

 

David J. Glanfield

Greater Elland Historical Society

 

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