Thursday, August 11, 2005

Trams - a family thing

This morning I ran out of time before I could finish my tram post before going to work. Tonight I got an e-mail from my cousin in Arizona, and he wrote :
"My father used to tell us about pulling the pole off the wire on the trams in Brooklyn and running from the conductor for kicks when he was a kid..."

Well, it must run in the family, because that's what MY dad did too, and I was going to write the same thing. Those Lank brothers ...

13 August: just talked to Dad, and he said we missed a vital point about pulling the pole off the wire: at the time they would be riding, for free, on the outside at the back, and pulling the cord was a way of slowing down the trolley so they could get off safely at a convenient place! I wonder if Grandma knew about that stuff.

My cousin Tim just sent me a whole list of websites to follow up on these interurban (long distance) trolleys that featured at the beginning of E.L. Doctorow's book "Ragtime". The Trolley Stop website looks like a great place to start.

Mel and I almost bought an old Melbourne tram in the early 80s. We put our name down to get one of the trams that were going to be retired in 18 months. In the meantime we needed to buy a block of land to put it on, and that’s why we bought 10 acres in the gold country, which was our favorite place anyway. So 18 months go by, and sure enough, we get a notice from the transport people to say our tram is ready to “collect”! It was going to cost $700 plus transporting it up to the country – no problem. Unfortunately, the local council was very strict at the time and they were not going to allow it unless we put up a house first. Well, that would have defeated the purpose because we were just going to make the tram into a holiday house. So we passed up the opportunity to get a tram of our own.

I had almost forgotten about another city I've lived in with a great tram system: Hamburg, Germany. I lived and worked there for 6 months in the 60s, and they had an extensive tram system. It is also the place where I had my scariest tram ride. I was travelling by tram to visit a friend who lived in an industrial area. There wasn't much traffic out there on a weekend and the driver was pushing the tram to maximum speed. The tram started to sway and rock so much that I thought it was going to leave the rails. This has stuck in my memory all these years, similar to the wild bus ride of Singapore in the 70s. But I'll leave it at that.

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