Halifax Passenger Transport From 1897 to 1963, including Trams, Buses & Trolleybuses, by Geoffrey Hilditch

Halifax Passenger Transport From 1897 to 1963, including Trams, Buses & Trolleybuses, by Geoffrey Hilditch
Halifax Passenger Transport From 1897 to 1963, including Trams, Buses & Trolleybuses, by Geoffrey Hilditch

Book published by Oakwood Press in 2006, 336 pages. Hardback with Dust Jacket - c.15cm by 21.5cm (N6172)

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From the inside front fly leaf: One of my earliest vivid childhood recollections involves my first ever visit to Halifax when my parents paid a visit to some friends. Already something of a transport fan, I was allowed to stand and watch from their front door as a steady procession of trams and buses passed. Then after dusk my attention was drawn to a series of lights slowly climbing up into the night sky. They came not from some 1931 vintage spacecraft but from a rather more mundane tram or bus making its way to Southowram against the pitch black backdrop of Beacon Hill.

In later years, I came to know the area rather better. The post-war aroma of Halifax bus exhaust was decidedly off-putting, but in those later days when open staircase double-deckers were still to be seen in some quantity I never imagined that in not too many years I would be professionally involved with Halifax Passenger Transport. That involvement began late in 1954 when I was appointed head of the Engineering Department. I quickly discovered two things: firstly, the undertaking was a most fascinating one with an equally fascinating history and, secondly, things happened to passenger vehicles in and around Halifax that just did not seem to occur elsewhere.

The older hands such as the dock shop foreman would tell me that all this was as nothing to what he had known. When I returned to Halifax in 1963 as General Manager, I decided to try to piece the story together before it was too late. For even the surviving departmental records were sketchy in the extreme, and the number of men living who had been involved in the early days were becoming ever fewer.

I had hoped to produce something for the 1968 70th anniversary but in the event time did not allow. Only now is publication possible after rather too many years of delayed effort, and I can only hope that the reader will find much of interest in these pages.

The Halifax area presented the transport engineer with a considerable challenge. It was always a source of some wonder to me how Messrs Escott and Spencer and their confreres with virtually no previous experience could bring a fully operational tramway system into being and then, with an equally unskilled staff, keep it operational.

For the drivers and conductors there was no sick pay, few holidays and long hours. Just how long those hours must have seemed to the driver of an open-fronted car on, say; the Queensbury route who for nine hours at a stretch might have had to brave arctic-like conditions in mid-winter with poor protective clothing can now be hardly imagined. But, in addition to needing stamina, such men also needed a high degree of physical strength for those trams, which weighed up to seven or eight tons laden, were stopped on average five to six times a mile by hand brakes that required more than a little effort to apply. To those men, therefore, whether officer or servant, to use an outdated description, who served their townsfolk and undertaking so well, this book is dedicated for they deserve to be remembered...
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