Ipswich Transport Museum
Preserving the transport heritage of Ipswich since 1965, and now supported by the Friends of the Ipswich Transport Museum. The Ipswich Transport Museum is a Registered Charity No. 276626 and an Accredited Museum, number RD890.
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Ipswich Electric Trams

In 1897 Ipswich Corporation was granted authority to establish an electricity undertaking to supply light and power to the town. In 1900 an Act of Parliament was passed allowing the Council to operate electric trams. The Council purchased the privately owned horse tram network in 1901 and suspended services on 6th June 1903 pending conversion to electric tram operation.

A new depot was built in Constantine Road along with a power station and refuse destructor in 1902. In the summer of 1903 over ten miles of new track were laid and overhead wires erected to power a fleet of 26 double deck tramcars. Public running commenced on 23rd November 1903 and by mid 1904 the network was completed with a further 10 cars being delivered at that time. The rival horse bus network ceased operation in December 1904.

The new dark green and cream liveried tramcars seated 50 passengers, 24 of whom travelled on the top deck. At 5' 9" wide the Ipswich trams were among the narrowest in the country. In 1914, after the outbreak of the Great War, the tram system began to suffer. Women were drafted in to replace servicemen called up to defend the country, whilst shortages of material and equipment led to a deterioration in the trackwork and overhead wires. In 1919 motorbuses from the Eastern Counties Road Car Co. commenced operations within the borough which affected revenue income on the trams. To avoid the expense of renewing the worn out tram rails, the Council decided in 1924 to replace the trams. An Act of Parliament granted in 1925 permitted the Council to replace all the trams with trolleybuses. which was accomplished by 26th July 1926. Ipswich was one of the first major towns to dispense with trams and became an unusual all trolleybus operation.

First Days Public Patronage

The new electric trams were run for the first time in Ipswich on Monday for the convenience of the public. According to the official announcement, the first car was timed to leave Whitton for Bath Street at 5.30 am., and at that time four intending passengers (three members of the East Anglian Daily Times staff and a labourer) awaited its arrival. It was seven minutes late, and on reaching Whitton it was found that there were several persons inside, the conductor stating that these had been picked up along the line of route. The first ticket issued at Whitton was a workman's ticket numbered A 500, and it entitled the holder to be conveyed from Whitton to Bath Street for 1d. The four passengers having boarded the car, the journey began at 5.38, and, after several stops to take up travellers, the 'Inkerman' was reached in about eight minutes. The time at Barrack Corner was 5.50, at the Cornhill 5.52, the Railway Station 6, and at the 'Griffin', Bath Street, 6.10. For the return journey at 6.20 a number of passengers entered the car, including a gentleman and probably four members of his family, the youngsters being highly excited at the prospect of their early tram ride. The car was no. 4, the conductor being W. Doran and the inspector T. A. Shinnell. At the police station the first car which had left Wherstead Road five minutes later than the departure from Whitton was passed, this containing one passenger. Along the route the car's bell was kept continually clanging, and this awoke the residents, numbers of whom came to their windows to obtain a glimpse of the car, and whose appearance in night attire afforded considerable amusement to the occupants of the car.

The running of the cars evoked a considerable degree of public interest during the day, and a large number of townspeople eagerly seized the opportunity of testing by practical experience the new mode of locomotion. It is understood that twenty cars were running over the section lying between the boundary of the borough on the Norwich Road, at Whitton, and Bourne Bridge, via Cornhill and Burrell Road. The route to Whitton was remarkably well patronised during the afternoon, a double service being run, and many cars bearing the intimation 'Full'. In the more central parts of the town the patronage was not so apparent, although the streets were crowded with people. The Bourne Bridge route, via the Railway Station, was well patronised. The general impression of the new means of locomotion seemed to be unalloyed satisfaction, and there was no grumbling about the fares, which seem, on the whole, to be reasonable.

At 3.40 in the afternoon a Wherstead Road-Railway Station car (No. 20) went off the rails at the junction at the top of Princes Street. Efforts to get it back proved ineffectual, and the services of No. 8 car were requisitioned to tow it back. The position became worse, and the car got across the street, blocking the traffic entirely. At 4.10 there were nine cars waiting on the Cornhill or close by. The fares stuck to No. 8 car, No. 20 being emptied. Some amusement was created by a facetious person who offered the passengers lodgings for the night. Later on car No. 24 joined No. 8, and as a result of the united efforts, No. 20 was restored to the points after having been inactive for three-quarters of an hour. There was some indentation of the track; but the damage was inconsiderable. The scene upon the Cornhill was one of great excitement, several hundreds of persons being engaged in watching the progress of operations, and the spectacle of the row of illuminated cars were reminiscent of an illuminated fete.

The mishap had the effect of disorganising the car traffic for a while. In the evening there was a dense crowd on the Cornhill, and in adjacent streets, large numbers of the inhabitants showing a lively interest in the new venture. The patronage bestowed was almost beyond the capacity of the cabs, the younger portion of the community showing an abnormal degree of eagerness to take trips. With the exception of the afternoon mishap in Princes Street, the workings was tolerably smooth, although it was evident that the rush of passengers severely taxed the resources of the officials. Complaints were frequently heard during the day from drivers of vehicles and others at the custom of stopping the cars opposite the Police Station: at this particular spot cars coming from both directions somewhat frequently stopped simultaneously, and the roadway being thus occupied, vehicles could not pass. Probably this and one or two other matters of complaint will speedily be remedied. Stoppage on the higher part of the Cornhill would be preferable to passengers and drivers of vehicles.