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track laying in manchester

Local History

Track-laying an Engineering Marvel to Draw the Crowds

The laying of tram tracks proved a real show-stopper back at the start of the 20th century.

Crowds gathered at St Mary’s Gate in 1901 to witness the intricate intersection of lines being manoeuvred into place in Manchester city centre.

The photographer is looking toward Deansgate at its junction with Blackfriars Street. It was a time when trams were an established part of Manchester life.

Track-laying an Engineering Marvel to Draw the Crowds
Trams have always been part of Manchester-life, even with stops once near Manchester Cathedral – Source: iNostalgia Publishing / MirrorPix

The tracks were cast whole off-site and then fitted almost in one piece. It was certainly a powerful spectator experience as the watching crowd proves!

Trams reigned supreme as a means of public transport in Manchester right up to 1949. By 1930, the city’s tram network had grown to 163 miles, making it the third largest in the UK.

People lined the streets when the last tram left Hyde Road depot in January 1949. It was No. 1007 which travelled into Piccadilly then out along London Road before terminating at Birchfields Road.

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A Busy Manchester Street with Single Line Tram Track - Source: iNostalgia Publishing / MirrorPix
A Busy Manchester Street with Single Line Tram Track – Source: iNostalgia Publishing / MirrorPix

Perhaps no-one who witnessed the moment would have imagined trams would make a comeback in the city. But that’s exactly what happened when a single line was opened in the early 1990s.

The service proved so successful that it was expanded. Manchester Metrolink now has eight lines radiating from the city centre along 64 miles of track. It is the largest light rail system in the UK.

3 tracks feed from the Metrolink platforms at Victoria, and split into 4 - the left pair head to Shudehill and the right pair to the new stop at Exchange Square which opened c2015
3 tracks feed from the Metrolink platforms at Victoria, and split into 4 – the left pair head to Shudehill and the right pair to the new stop at Exchange Square which opened c2015. – Source: Neil Turner, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

There are terminals at Altrincham, Ashton-under-Lyne, Bury, East Didsbury, Eccles, Manchester Airport, Rochdale and the Trafford Centre.

Owned by Transport for Greater Manchester, Metrolink recorded 44.3 million passenger journeys in 2019/20.

Featured Image: Crowds gathered at St Mary’s Gate in 1901 – Source: iNostalgia Publishing / MirrorPix – The Changing Face of Manchester.

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Written By

Former daily newspaper editor and group editorial director for leading national media brands, Malcolm is a regular contributor to the iNostalgia National History with a love for our national heritage.

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