Glasgow Corporation Tramways Works car No.21

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Photo: Dan Heeley

An often overlooked aspect of tramway operations is the tram track itself, or permanent way. Although tram track looks superficially similar to rail track, the form and profiles of the two are slightly different and this difference also extends to the profiles of the wheels themselves. As a result, even though both trams and mainline trains run on track that is nominally the same gauge (4’ 8½”), the difference in profile means that in practice they would not normally be able to operate satisfactorily on the same track.

Ordinarily this was not a problem for first generation tramways as, for the most part, “never the twain did meet”, but Glasgow was an exception. Here, on account of the extensive shipyards around Govan, it was felt to be desirable to transport heavy loads of steel directly from the nearest mainline freight yards to the shipyards themselves using conventional railway freight wagons that were hauled along short sections of the city’s tramway by small electric locomotives (not unlike the museum’s Blackpool electric loco 717).

In order for this to happen, Glasgow adopted the highly unusual track gauge of 4’ 7¾” for its tramways so that railway wagon could run on their deeper flanges along sections of tramway. As a result, all of the Glasgow tramcars that have ever operated at Crich have had to be regauged to the tramway standard gauge of 4’ 8½”. Glasgow 21 is exceptional inasmuch as, alone of all the city’s tramcars represented at Crich, it has retained its original idiosyncratic gauge of 4’ 7¾”, because it has only ever been a static exhibit at Crich.


Type of tram
Works car – Welders Tool Van
N/A (currently painted blue). Originally crimson lake, fully lined out in yellow edged with red with fine inner white lining and yellow lettering. The lining was omitted after the 1930s and ultimately the lettering was omitted also.
Seating capacity
Date built
Date entered service
Manufacturer of body
Glasgow Corporation Tramways
Manufacturer of truck
Brill 21E
4’ 7¾”
Originally 2x Westinghouse 49B at 30hp each, subsequently BTH GE58 at 30hp each.
Originally BTH B18, subsequently MV OK45B
Current collector
Trolley pole originally then Fischer bow collector during the 1930s

Originally No. 1, renumbered 21 in early 1920s (probably 1923 following GCT’s acquisition of Airdrie and Paisley systems).
October 1939 platform vestibules added.
1949 equipped with new truck (Brush 21E), controllers and more powerful 60hp motors.

Withdrawn from service

October 1962

Subsequent history

Sold to AJ Brown, October 1962, who then donated it to the museum. It was used as a museum shop for several years and was moved to Derwent View for storage in March 1968.
In November 1977 the tram was removed to Wakebridge where it was used for a time as an electricians’ workshop while the new substation was being built.
For a time it sat on the Argyle Street/Jamaica Street junction track work at Wakebridge. While there it was initially repainted in its former museum shop colours of green and cream but was then repainted blue and white to match the other buildings then at Wakebridge.
In September 1996 the car was removed to the Museum’s off-site storage facility, where it has remained. While there it sustained severe damage to its roof during the storage depot fire on 10th February 1999.

Restoration history

A group of volunteers at the museum began to restore the tram in spring 1976, repainting it in Glasgow brown works car livery and reuniting it with its own truck and some other components.

Current status
Unrestored; non-operational
Date started operating at Crich
Total mileage covered at Crich
Current location
Off-site storage facility
  • 1903 – 1962Operational on original tramway
  • 1962 – 1972Static exhibit as museum bookshop during most of the period
  • 1972 – 2005Static exhibit on Glasgow gauge tramtrack at Wakebridge
  • 2005 – Off-site storage

Crich Tramway Village is a brand name for the National Tramway Museum (Accredited with Arts Council England), solely owned and operated by The Tramway Museum Society, incorporated in England with liability by guarantee (no. 744229). Registered charity number 313615. Our ICO number is Z6700136.