Not so tram-endous

Whoops: A conductor takes off the brakes, the driver's not at his post, crash, in Intake, March 27, 1902.
Whoops: A conductor takes off the brakes, the driver's not at his post, crash, in Intake, March 27, 1902.
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CRASH! Smash! Wallop!

Ah, Sheffield trams? Quick, efficient and prone to the odd prang every once in a while.

It’s a form of public transport which bosses – from the Victorians who ran the Sheffield Corporation vehicles to today’s Supertram officials – have always claimed to be completely reliable. And one thing you can certainly rely on is that another accident may be just around the next corner. Literally.

Now, a fascinating (and perhaps somewhat morbid) new book details the history of tram crashes in our fair region, and across the world.

But don’t worry – author Peter Tuffrey assures us very few people were hurt in the making of this tome.

“A lot look worse than they actually were,” says the 59-year-old of Warmsworth. “Like that Swinton crash. The tram went 10 foot down an embankment and it was full of colliery workers but ironically the only person who broke anything was a passenger who jumped out the car. By all accounts the rest mainly moaned about having to walk to work.”

Other incidents include everything from the local – such as a 1902 Intake crash where the conductor released the brakes before the driver was on board – to more modern crashes around the world involving other vehicles, walls and at least one canal (“Amsterdam – no-one was hurt but the driver got his trousers wet”).

The only thing the pictures have in common, says Peter? “They all look spectacular”.

It could be a grim read too, you might think. And, to some extent, you’d be right.

There are images of trams ripped open during the Sheffield Blitz, while the aftermath of an American aircraft crashing on to a Munich tram in 1960 may not be for the faint hearted.

But Peter reckons the book will sell well because people are intrigued by the horrors of the odd historic bang.

“A lot of the early pictures in the book actually come from postcards,” says Peter, who writes a nostalgia column for The Star’s Doncaster edition. “People would take photos of these crashes and then sell them as souvenirs. It sounds bizarre but it happened.

“In one case, a postcard photographer, who had his business premises near where a crash occurred in Exeter, was selling views of the incident within the hour. Remarkable.”

Tram Disasters by Peter Tuffrey is published by Fonthill and is available from bookshops next week.