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Last Updated Friday 25th October 2013

Gateshead 5

Gateshead 5 approaches Wakebridge at the Crich Tramway Village on 10th June 2007.
Photo: Gareth Prior

Gateshead 5 was constructed as part of the modernisation period for the BET operator, choosing to follow the Newcastle "front exit" layout. Gateshead as a tramway system had its issues, particularly with one low bridge near Gateshead Station, and the main cross river link was the nearby High Level Bridge. Single decked trams were a significant part of the fleet to serve routes requiring high capacity and with restricted height clearance on route. The opening of the new Tyne Bridge in 1928, and increasing the height clearance of the railway bridge near Gateshead Station in 1948 by 4 feet, both increased vehicle flexibility.

The new modernisation single deckers were built between 1920 and 1928 Numbered 1 - 20, and 56 - 60, numbers 1, 20, and 56 - 60 were built by Brush, and the remainder built in the own Sunderland Road Works. Built in 1927, number 5 throughout its time in Gateshead had no modifications whatsoever, apart from twin lights fitted to the headlamps along with a mask during the 2nd world War.

The tram had Brill 39E reverse maximum traction bogies with 2 X 25HP DK31A motors. Dick Kerr DB1 controllers and Westinghouse air braking system were fitted. The trolley pole was fitted with a G&DT swivel trolley wheeled head, and the live pole was rope whiplashed over half its upper length. The air brake operated by a combination of interlinking between the wheel and track brake shoes, resulting in a very effective braking system Always operating a ‘front exit’ passenger flow system the saloon had separate smokers and non-smoker’s compartments with a centre partition. Gateshead 5 (along with Gateshead 6) were throughout their lives, apart from 1950 onwards, the exclusively “R.H.Patterson Ford Trams”. In 1950, 5 was repainted with no lining out and all adverts removed, ornate etched coloured glass advert panels were fitted to every side window.

Upon the closure of the tramway in 1951, the tram was sold along with many others to the Grimsby & Immingham system becoming their tram number 20.

At Grimsby, advert boards, destination boxes and all ornate brass fittings were removed, the platform open bulkheads were chopped back to allow for new full BR style bulkheads with a sliding centre door, new electrical lighting fitted, all maple ceiling panels removed and replaced with white painted plywood, and roof mounted headlamps. Saloon heaters were also fitted as well as such units for the Motorman! The air braking linkage was modified to only operate on the wheel and not the track brakes. The 39E bogies were at Grimsby never kept with the car bodies. The bogies were overhauled as units, then fitted to bodies as required. In the case of 5, a pair of bogies was chosen deemed to be in good condition; the last decent pair of bogies were placed under 26 for the British Transport collection (now at Beamish).

When the Grimsby & Immingham system closed in 1961, attempts by the TSO to buy a Gateshead tram were prohibitive due to the quoted high sale price. Luckily upon most of the trams being sold to a scrap merchant, it was possible to buy one at a more realistic figure; number 20 being the chosen vehicle.

The tram arrived at Crich in 1963, and became one of the first trams to move at Crich in autumn 1964. It was then used in 1965 to store a massive bank of batteries, capable of providing power to operate a tram. In mid 1965, a start was made restoring 20 back to Gateshead 5 condition resulting in the tram entering passenger service in 1966. Further work was carried out to the tram between 1966 and 1973 to complete the restoration to include restoring all the original interior appearance, advert boards and authentic mid thirties livery. All the brake linkage set up was also restored back to Gateshead condition acting 75% on the wheel and 25% on the track brakes. In 1978, the tram received more substantive work under the Adult Employment measures programmes, involving rewiring, roof recanvassing, truck overhaul, body bolster replacement, and rebedding all glazing and panelling. The car was then repainted once again, into the condition as display today.

The Gateshead 52 Group were encouraged to divert their voluntary labour away from 52, causing this project to be frozen whilst the team of volunteers set about changing Grimsby & Immingham 20 into Gateshead 5. This task accomplished including recreating the original interior, advertisement boards and genuine livery of a Gateshead “R.H.Patterson” tramcar. No sooner had this work reached a conclusion, the team of volunteers was required to place all their time into the major restoration of Newcastle 102 completing this work in 1975

5 enjoyed a period of passenger use at Crich but required a much more thorough overhaul; this taking place in the mid 1970's under the Manpower Services employment measures. A much more detailed authentic restoration was possible and its portrayed era is the mid 1930's when the Gateshead trams were at their finest. Like all Gateshead trams after the war the headlamp masks were never removed, however as 5 represents the mid thirties, the correct headlamp appearance is restored.

All the Gateshead brass work found on Gateshead 5 has come from various tram bodies located in County Durham and Northumberland during the nineteen sixties. The platform to saloon handrails and chandeliers came from Gateshead body at Felling, whilst all clerestory quarter light brass opening mechanisms came from 2 bodies at Alnwick. All the stained glass advert panels came from Gateshead 60 located at Gooderidge Bay in Northumberland. No fittings had to be re-manufactured following so much time locating, negotiating and removing parts from ex Gateshead bogie cars.

After several years of service, it has now been withdrawn for quite a period of time. The tram I gather received further work in the period post-1985 it is of great concern that several restoration detail has been ignored, when several inaccuracies have become evident. I understand that the lighting wiring has been replaced; this I cannot comprehend as it received new wiring in the mid seventies. During this rewiring, it now has its chandeliers in the wrong configuration. The pair of elaborate chandeliers should be positioned in the “Smoking” saloon (North end) and the less elaborate pair should be in the “non smoking” saloon. Every window should have a stained glass advert panel fixed in position; now there are only a couple located very randomly. Fare tables are no longer in the centre bulkhead windows in all 4 locations; 2 only present. Only two side destination panels are now with the tram when 6 were present after the two restorations. Some external painting has not been carried out correctly including for some reason the headlamp castings are now black not crimson. The exit step light no longer automatically lights up when the door is opened. The “via boards” that locate in the windscreen sill hole were not with the tram the last time I viewed the tram.

The reasons for its withdrawal cannot be too major to resolve due to the magnitude of its past restoration, and I hope in the not too distant future, the trams returns to passenger carrying service.

Author: John Henderson - September 2013. John was lead team member of the Gateshead 52 group who originally restored the tram.

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