Leeds nostalgia: Albany’s tram scrapes and escapes

TRAM LINES: Albany Duncan has fond memories of driving trams all over Leeds.

TRAM LINES: Albany Duncan has fond memories of driving trams all over Leeds.

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Tram accidents were not uncommon back in the days when they dominated the public transport network in Leeds.

More than a few people will have memories of tram disasters but now Leeds author Peter Tuffrey has collected a fair number together for a new book all about the subject.

Aptly titled Tram Disasters, it contains dozens of images of tram crashes from the early to late 20th Century and not just from Leeds and Yorkshire but also the entire globe.

One Leeds resident well remembers his time driving trams.

Albany Duncan, 81, from Kirkstall, drove just about every route going in Leeds and he has more than a few stories to tell from his time behind the wheel.

“I used to be the first tram out of a morning but I was finished before dinner. I would start at 5.30am. There were people out there then.

“I remember once going on Roundhay Road and someone having to walk in front of the tram near the park, it was that thick with fog. It was a pea-souper and you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.

“We used to call overtime a ‘snivel’, I would sometimes get a snivel and go from the Corn Exchange to Temple Newsam, stay up there for 15 minutes, then come back to Leeds and do that four times a day.

“I’ve had some fun on trams, I was once doing Belle Isle-Middleton and I got to the Middleton Arms and there was a branch on rail line and it knocked my air line off so I had no brakes.

“I was going downhill. I shouted to the guard ‘tell everyone to hold on’ and he shouted back ‘you’re lucky, it’s just me and you’.

“I reckon we were touching 50mph when we reached the bottom before it levelled out and we eventually came to a stop, no harm done.

“Another time I was going up the Woods in winter and the snow plough, which should have been in front of me, was behind me.

“There used to be a hatch in the floor near the driver and I remember it just opened up and snow came piling up and it ran right through the tram all the way down and out the back. That time there were people on board.

“I also once found a dead person on board. The guard came to me once when we were going to Roundhay and he said there’s a man back there and I cannot wake him up. We stopped at Spencer Place and I went back to see him, I couldn’t find a pulse, so we rung the ambulance for him but he was dead.

“Another time, at Spencer Place, I stopped to let someone off and a coal wagon belonging to P Eaps and Son came by and caught the tram cab and it just opened the front right up. I was just sat there in the open all of a sudden.

“On the front of the tram, we had what you call a cow-catcher, which dropped down if there was anything on the track and it was to move things out of the way. I’ve had no cows but a few near misses with horses.”

Albany, whose late wife-of-58 years Mary passed away last year, served with the RAF Regiment during the war and has more than a few stories to tell about that too.

“It was toward the back of the war, I did dozens of jumps, our job was to guard airfields. There was one jump when we came down in a pine forest and my shoe got caught on a tree. My mate went past me laughing as he headed toward a big green patch he thought was grass. He didn’t know it was a stagnant pond. Then I was laughing.

“Another jump and a pal of mine went past me and he’d ‘candled’ - his chute had failed. He was lucky, he landed on top of another chute and they both lived, although they each broke a leg and one his arm too.”

He added: “When I came out I went into driving trams, then when they finished I went on the buses and after that I drove lorries, I’ve driven just about anything you can think of in my time.

“I used to like the trams, it was a shame they got rid of them.”

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