World’s big­gest trams were in Dur­ban

The Witness - Wheels - - TRANSPORT -

ELEC­TRIC buses, such as BYD and Volvo are build­ing, are not new. Ke­van Mar­don, ex­pert in the his­tory of trans­port in eThek­weni Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, re­ports trams pow­ered by elec­tric­ity were in­tro­duced on May 1, 1902.

The first ones were im­ported. The mu­nic­i­pal work­shops in Dur­ban be­gan build­ing their own tram bod­ies in 1910, fitting them with im­ported mo­tors.

The trams built in Dur­ban had the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the largest in the world.

They were equipped with a driv­ing po­si­tion at both ends and pas­sen­ger seat backs which could be flipped to al­low the pas­sen­gers to face for­ward no mat­ter which way the tram was trav­el­ling. In ad­di­tion to the nor­mal pas­sen­ger trams, the Dur­ban Mu­nic­i­pal Trans­port De­part­ment op­er­ated a num­ber of spe­cialised trams in­clud­ing wa­ter­ing trams, which sprayed un­paved streets to keep the dust down, ob­ser­va­tion trams which were used to check the state of the tram lines, and stone trucks which were used to trans­port stone from the quarry near the Um­geni River for use in road build­ing.

The de­part­ment also op­er­ated two funeral trams which are be­lieved to be unique in the world and which pro­vided space for a cof­fin and 12 mourn­ers to sit. The funeral tram ser­vice first ran in 1907 and caused a huge out­cry among the town’s funeral direc­tors who were still us­ing horse- drawn car­riages.

The ser­vice for the white pop­u­la­tion of Dur­ban was sus­pended af­ter the se­cond trip although that for non-whites con­tin­ued un­til 1931.

The last elec­tric tram ( No. 7015), af­fec­tion­ately known as Old Faith­ful, ran in Dur­ban on Au­gust 2, 1949.

Dear Old Dur­ban au­thor Aileen Gor­don- Hunt­ley had the unique dis­tinc­tion of rid­ing on both the first and the last trams. — www. fad. co. za.

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