IT IS fairly widely known that Huddersfield was the first UK municipality to construct and operate its own tramway system.
Those who published the jubilee history of the Corporation in 1918 (Huddersfield was incorporated in 1868) were not bashful about the fact, and gave a chapter to its achievements.
The question of a Huddersfield network of trams was first considered in 1877 and after a some argument was started in 1881.
The mechanism of choice was steam haulage, and an engine and car chugged its first few yards on Chapel Hill on November 13, 1882, where it was judged a success.
The next few years saw routes connecting most of the outlying districts of the old borough to the town centre, the last section being an extension of the Berry Brow line to Honley Bridge, opened for traffic on June 5, 1902.
This coincided with the corporation’s decision to convert the whole of the system to electric traction: the vehicles considered would look much like today’s Blackpool trams.
The so-called ‘permanent way’, was widened to give most routes double rather than single tracks and extensions to West Vale and Marsden opened in 1914.
By 1918 the corporation was operating 34½ miles of double track and a combination of double and single track stretching 56 miles.
Trams didn’t just carry passengers. The borough earned a pretty penny, eventually, from letting cars out for mail deliveries and coal-carriers to local mills.
Generally speaking, the tramways were a success. But when things went wrong, they went seriously wrong.
On July 3, 1883, an engine and car were descending the gradient in Westgate when control was lost.
It overturned on the sharp corner into Railway Street, killing seven people and injuring 28.
On June 3, 1891, a firebox exploded when an engine was standing at a passing place at Longroyd Bridge. A cleaning boy employed in the sheds was killed outright and the driver badly scalded.
On June 28, 1902, an electric car got out of control when descending Kidroyd on the Almondbury section.
It left the track and smashed into the Somerset Arms and adjoining buildings, killing three and injuring several others.
The last tram left Longroyd Bridge depot on November 5, 1938, making way for the trolleybus era.