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Charter Year 1957 (1957)

Courtesy of North West Film Archive

Main image of Charter Year 1957 (1957)
Standard 8mm, colour, silent, 767 feet

14th September 1957: the final day of operation for Liverpool's tram service.

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This is an extract from a three-reel, Standard 8mm film, by an unknown amateur filmmaker, documenting events and places in Liverpool during the 750th Anniversary celebrations for Liverpool's Charter in 1957.

Merseyside saw its first horse-drawn street tram in Birkenhead appearing in 1860 and the introduction of the first electric tram in Liverpool on 16th November 1898. By 1957 there remained only two tram routes operating in Liverpool, and in September of that year, 60 years of Liverpool Corporation's ownership of the tramway system was commemorated with Liverpool's last tram. Car number 293, a 'Baby Grand', was painted in a special light cream colour and made its final journey on route 6A from Pier Head to Bowring Park on 14th September 1957. The last day of tram operations saw 13 of the remaining trams in a ceremonial procession leaving Pier Head and making their way past crowds to their final destination.

The demise of Liverpool trams came relatively late in comparison with other cities, due to a period in the 1920s and 1930s of track replacement and the introduction of a new fleet of streamlined 'green goddess' trams. By the 1950s, however, uneconomic maintenance and repair costs to aging tracks contributed to their decline. The legacy of the Tramways Act 1870, which made operators responsible for the repair of the public highway between the tram tracks as well as a distance of 18 inches either side, added to the economic strain upon tram companies. With the rise of cheap diesel fuel in the 1930s, buses were becoming an increasingly popular method of transport, and commercial bus companies were able to use the very roads tramway operators were still forced to financially maintain.

In 1945 the City of Liverpool finally decided to replace the trams and over the next decade services were gradually cut. As people moved further into the suburbs, extending tram networks proved too costly and a potential hindrance to road development as privately owned cars became more popular.

Emma Hyde and Geoff Senior

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