Leeds nostalgia: Back to the days of trams

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Everyone of a certain age will remember the trams of Leeds. Most also wonder why they ever disappeared.

The original horse-drawn tramway opened in 1891, but within two decades the route had been electrified and it represented one of the country’s most sophisticated transport networks.

Headingley past and present, from the time the trams ran past the Original Oak to today.

Headingley past and present, from the time the trams ran past the Original Oak to today.

With their distinctive red livery, they were the main way to get across the city and this blended picture above shows one of the trams making its way through Headingley. Perhaps tellingly the modern bus sits in a queue of traffic, but there was no such obstruction for the old trams.

Headingley itself has also witnessed massive change since the last tram stopped at the Original Oak pub.

The rapid expansion of the city’s two universities, particularly during the 1990s, led to a rise in the student population. Each year the city is home to around 65, 000 students and many of them live in the Headingley area.

It’s a change which has had its critics on the once quiet residential streets, but it has also brought a rash of new bars, cafes and independent shops to the area, making Leeds a popular choice for A-Level students.

What it hasn’t brought is a return of the its iconic tramway, which survived two World Wars and was one of the last to be dismantled in Britain.

Even when other cities were abandoning their tramways in the 1940s, Leeds continued to modernise its system, but eventually the city gave in and the network was closed in 1959 much to the disappointment of many. However, several Leeds electric trams are now preserved at the National Tramway Museum at Crich and the last remaining horse-drawn tram is now being restored by the Leeds Transport Historical Society.