Most often when Falkirk folk talk about the famous electric trams they are thinking of the circular route linking the town with Camelon, Larbert, Stenhousemuir, Carron, Bainsford and Grahamston. It was certainly the most successful and long lasting service in the town but not the only one.
At the outset there were ambitious plans to extend the tracks to Grangemouth and Laurieston and even a suggestion that Stirling, with its horse drawn system, could be connected. In the end only the 1.5-mile Laurieston extension was completed and operated from 1909-1924.
The road under the Skew Bridge had to be lowered by three feet, but that was easy compared to winning over the locals.
Charles Forbes of Callendar House didn’t mind the trams as long as they were as far away from his high wall as possible and the company was forced to lay the track well over to the north side of Callendar Road. At the west end of the town some road widening was required opposite Lint Riggs. But the narrowness of the west end made it dangerous to carry passengers so the starting terminus was fixed at Kirk Wynd just west of the Steeple. Empty trams were able to link into the circular route.
Construction started in June 1909 and was completed in just 12 weeks – quite a wee bit quicker than Edinburgh a century later. Outside the town the tracks were laid on railway sleepers instead of the usual concrete and since the trams were allowed to travel at speeds of up to 16mph there were lots of complaints about the bumpy journey!
There were seven short loops of double track between the steeple and Laurieston used as passing places and trams were allowed to turn round opposite Robert’s Wynd (Howgate) which caused even more complaints.
The original plan had been to take the new route to the Polmont end of the village but that was changed to Mary Square. We are lucky to have a fine photograph of the opening day – September 3, 1909 – which shows the great and the good of the local community filling up the first two trams.
Tram No.18, on the left, was one of three Falkirk trams which had been extended upwards and given a flat topped cover to protect the passengers and the trams from the weather. The curved top of the windows on tram No.10 tells us that it was one of the original 15 built in Paris and shipped to Scotland in 1905.
Only one ‘car’, as they were always called, serviced the route running at 20-minute intervals with a second added in peak times. The fare was three halfpennies, any distance.
The new route was never the financial success of the circular route which carried thousands of workers to the foundries each day and brought shoppers in droves to the town centre. There was also strong competition from new buses and rather than embark on extensive repairs to the track the owners decided to abandon the Laurieston route. The last tram ran on July 20, 1924, and by the end of the year all trace of the tracks and overhead cables had gone.