By 1952, they had all closed. Their rails were removed from the streets and the sights and sounds of trams, including overhead wires, busy interchanges with bus and Underground services, bells and screeching brakes, had departed forever. Today, red double-decker buses and the Underground railway with its iconic map are central to London’s image as a city. Gone for almost seventy years, London’s original tram network is almost forgotten. But a few well-restored survivors, some of them running occasionally, still wow visitors to transport museums.
A spatial literary scholar, Jason Finch’s research explores narratives of London’s horse-drawn and electric tram networks written between the 1860s and the 1980s, including memories recorded decades after the trams’ last night. These narratives are found in novels and short stories by noted writers like Arnold Bennett and Maureen Duffy, but also in memoirs, journalism and semi-technical histories written by enthusiasts and former workers. In this exhibit, old photos from the London Transport Museum’s collection are accompanied by a fictional conversation between Fred, a driver, and Ethel, a female ‘clippie’ or conductor, sharing memories over mugs of tea on a break at the New Cross tram depot in 1942.