I think we can all agree that with an average rush-hour traffic speed of 14.5 mph, getting around in Bristol is not as quick as we might like it to be. Between 1875 and 1941 though, long before the days of First buses, you might have taken a Bristol Tramways tram to the office!

[Disclaimer: this is a bit of a diversion from normal posting topics but I’ve never heard anyone talk about Bristol’s trams before so I guess the history isn’t that well known and I thought it was interesting.]

Ever wondered why the Cooperative in the centre has a big clock on it? Well that used to be their offices:

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Bristol Tramways operated 237 double decker trams like those pictured connecting a surprisingly wide area as shown in this route map from 1911…

Bristol Tramways 1911 route map

My first thought was to turn that route map into a Google map but someone had already gotten there before me! I couldn’t work out who but here it is…

There’s also a pretty nice route visualisation in a more modern style on the Wikipedia page.

Unfortunately, you might say like most of Bristol’s attempts at mass transit, the story of Bristol Tramways doesn’t have a happy ending which is actually what got me looking into it. By 1938 there was already a plan to decommission the trams in favour of buses but it was the Good Friday bombing raid in 1941 (the targets of which can be found on the Bristol Know Your Place map) that put the final nail in the coffin. Damage to the power system sustained that day left the network paralysed and apparently the buses started their routes the very next day. Sadly the powerless trams were then all towed to the Kingswood depot where they were burned! Preservation wasn’t so important in those days!

But some trams from other places did survive and we even have a National Tramway Museum where you can ride a real historic tram (if you’re willing to drive a few hours up North).

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