THE FALKIRK TRAMS
The Falkirk trams operated for thirty-one years from October 1905. Five years earlier a proposal to establish a tramway round the circular route (already used a few years earlier by motor buses) was approved by Parliament but the prohibitive cost of the required engineering work stopped the project at the planning stage. The approval envisaged a further line from Falkirk to Laurieston, an extension of this to Polmont and a line to Grangemouth but in the end only the Laurieston option was taken up.
In 1904 the original proposers were replaced by a new company owned by Bruce Peebles, owners of the Scottish Central Electric Power Company which had been formed to provide power with the County of Stirling. They owned the new Bonnybridge Power Station which would supply the electricity for the trams. The major problem for the proposers was the need to replace the old wooden bascule bridges over the Forth and Clyde canal at Bainsford and Camelon and the stone bridge over the Carron close to the ironworks. The new Carron bridge, which cost cost nearly £4000, was ready in September 1905 as were the two canal crossings. The Motherwell Bridge Company supplied the new turntable bridges designed to open in under one minute to allow boats to pass through. Tracklaying had already started in January from Larbert Cross with rails laid to a unique 4 foot gauge with 21 double track loops to allow passing. The erection of the overhead power supply began in May the same year and progress was very rapid.
Fifteen French built double-decker tramcars were in Falkirk by the autumn and on Sunday 21st October, members of the Town Council made the first circular journey through streets thronged by hundreds of enthusiastic Falkirk bairns. In the first year of operation well over 3 million passengers were carried and though the figure did reduce from this very high figure the trams were firmly established as the major mode of transport within the Falkirk area. In 1909 the Falkirk to Laurieston service was introduced following major engineering work to lower the road beneath the Skew Bridge. This service continued until 1924.
The decades after the first war brought mixed fortunes. Regular motorbus services challenged the monopoly and the Tramway Company responded by acquiring buses of its own to cover routes away from its established lines. A programme of track reconstruction with all thedislocation and expense involved began in 1921 and the circular route was not completed for eight years. Soon after ten new single decker trams were introduced and much of the business lost during the reconstruction phase was regained. Despite that the death knell was already sounding. Cut throat competition from bus companies and takeovers and mergers were the order of the day and in 1935 the Company, already part of another merged group, was acquired by the Scottish Midland Transport Group, SMT. By the summer of the following year the brand new trams were sold, the track lifted and the whole system consigned to a premature place in the history books. The last tram decorated with a floral wreath returned to the depot on on 21st July 1936.
Ian Scott 2005
For further information see: Alan W Brotchie, "The Tramways of Falkirk", NB Traction Group 1975.