Leeds City Transport No. 600

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Leeds 600

Photo: Jim Dignan

The story of Leeds 600 is an interesting saga of two rather unusual attempts in different parts of the country to extend the life of Britain’s first generation tramways at a time when many were being replaced by either motor buses or trolley buses. The first of these attempts, in Sunderland, was a resounding success; the second, in Leeds, could have re-written Britain’s tramway history but ended in a disappointing failure.

The tramcar began life as an experimental single-decker that was designed and commissioned by the manager of Sunderland Corporation tramways (Charles Hopkins) shortly after his appointment in 1929. He was faced with a familiar predicament in the form of an antiquated fleet of tramcars and a track-bed that was largely life-expired. One of the worst affected routes (Villlette Road) was a line served by single-deck cars because a low bridge precluded the use of double deckers. Indeed, conditions here were so bad that the tram service was suspended in August 1930 and replaced by buses, which resulted in an immediate increase in passenger usage.

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Sunderland 85, Hylton Road depot yard? H. Nicol, circa 1934.

Mr Hopkins’ response was to use this as an opportunity to test whether a modernized tramcar might be capable of achieving similar or better results and a single-decker – Sunderland 85 – was commissioned from Brush for this purpose. In its original guise the tram was quite unlike Leeds 600 since it had conventional platform entrances at each end of the tram, but it was equipped with low entrance steps and upholstered seating for 54 passengers and was capable of a greatly improved level of performance with swift acceleration, a top speed of 35 mph and a very efficient braking system.

Specification

Type of tram
Completely rebuilt in 1954. Experimental fully enclosed single-deck, bogie electric passenger tramcar with central entrance.
Livery
Red and white Leeds livery but originally maroon and cream while in service with Sunderland Corporation.
Seating capacity
36 standing and 34 seated (17 in each of two saloons) on entry into service in Leeds. The original seating capacity was 54 while the car operated in Sunderland.
Date built
1931
Date entered service
1954 in Leeds after rebuilding
Manufacturer of body
Brush Electrical Engineering Co., Loughborough/ Leeds City Transport
Manufacturer of truck
EMB Radial Arm type 6A equal wheel bogies (but originally fitted with Brush maximum traction bogies)
Gauge
4’ 8½”
Motor
GEC WT184 4 x 45 hp type (originally fitted with two 50 hp G.E.C. type WT28ES motors)
Controller
MV AN (Remote Electropneumatic) [Originally fitted with English Electric CDB2 controllers]
Current collector
Fischer Bow collector (originally fitted with a trolley)
Modification

1945 temporarily fitted with bogies, motors and controllers from an ex-London HR2 car but restored to its old bogies after 1946
Renumbered as Leeds 288 in November 1948 and as 600 in 1950.
1949-1954 completely rebuilt with tapered ends and central entrances, internal saloons with reduced seating accommodation, replacement bogies from trams salvaged from fire in Liverpool’s Green Lane depot and various additional parts from Bradford, London, Glasgow and Southampton trams and also London Underground trains.

Withdrawn from service

Little used in Sunderland after 1934; withdrawn from service and placed in storage in 1939.
Sold to Leeds in 1944 but did not enter service until 1954; withdrawn from service in September 1957.

Subsequent history

Sold to an enthusiast and transported to Crich in May 1960

Restoration history

Not restored to operational service because of damage to bogies.

Current status
Not operational. In store since 2005.
Date started operating at Crich
1969 for 3 years
Total mileage covered at Crich
221
Current location
Clay Cross
Timeline
  • 1931 – 1939Fully operational on original tramway
  • 1939 – 1945In storage
  • 1945 – 1954Undergoing reconstruction
  • 1954 – 1957Operational on different tramway
  • 1957 – 1960In storage
  • 1960 – 1969On display
  • 1969 – 1972Operational at Crich
  • 1972 – 2005On display
  • 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.