On Monday 21st January 1907, Blantyre residents were delighted to see the extended tram line from Blantyre to Cambuslang open for use. For the first time, people could travel by electric tramcars beyond Priory Bridge, in the direction of Glasgow. Extending the line into Cambuslang allowed the trams to connect to other tram networks and onwards into Glasgow.
The number of people who turned up on that day bode well for the tram network and the day was a huge success. For the first time, the general public could travel from Glasgow all the way into Wishaw, through many towns and over a good stretch of Central Scotland. However, January was not a time people particularly liked to travel in and so the trams whilst moderately busy, were not packed. Had it been summer, things may have been different.
The stretch from Blantyre to Cambuslang initially ran tram cars every 11 minutes, meaning waiting at tram stops was only ever a matter of a few minutes. During weekdays, the first cars ran from 7.33am until 10.24pm each night connecting to the last Glasgow tram at 11.24pm. On Sundays the first car left at 9.33am and the last at 9.28pm. On the outward journey, it took 40 minutes and on the inward journey, just 30 minutes, keeping in mind the many stops.
By the opening, the roadway at the Priory Bridge over the River Calder had been straightened and a large compliment of workmen was busy finishing clearing the road. This ongoing work, despite the opening meant the cars were taking longer to travel than they should, a considerable delay at times to the network. The tram company had put on experimental cars between Thursday and Sunday prior to opening to test the run. In later weeks when the Spittal Quarry recommenced, a workmen’s car commenced at earlier times to accommodate the miners early start.
Upon opening, Blantyre people immediately compared the tram fares to those of the train. On the train in 1907, a Blantyre to Glasgow single ticket was 6d, or 1shilling return. By comparison the tramfare from Blantyre to Cambuslang was 2d then another 2d onwards to Glasgow, making a return from Blantyre to Glasgow a total of 8d, a net saving. Seeing this, there was some pressure on the railway company to reduce fares.
There were losers though in this new enterprise. Those who hired out carriages between Blantyre and Cambuslang were almost overnight made redundant or had to adapt their business model to other routes. Knowing that the tramcars were starting in early 1907, some hirers did not renew their licenses and some sold their horses, brakes and traps, accepting the “day of horse travel” was likely at an end.
At the time, the new cars were comfortable and clean and the travelling was surprisingly very smooth. After some efficiency tweaks, the Blantyre to Cambuslang run, there and back was shortened to fifty-five minutes.
There is no doubt that the implementation of this line, solidified further a notable decline of horse traffic in the area. A Blantyre tram is pictured at the Dalton junction on this new stretch of road, a suitable illustration for this article.