The Times We Lived In: Dublin trams that went off the rails

Published: January 14th, 1955. Photograph: Eddie Kelly

Three old Dublin trams on a site near Sutton railway station in 1955. Photograph: Eddie Kelly

Three old Dublin trams on a site near Sutton railway station in 1955. Photograph: Eddie Kelly

 

It could be a still from a horror movie. The eerie light; the decaying trams; the barbed-wire fence.

But then there’s that sign in the foreground, which adds a note of black comedy. Why on earth would you want to keep trespassers from entering here? What could they possibly steal? Have they already stolen a chunk out of the sign itself? And who put the extra “s” into “trespassers”?

You may chuckle. But when the last tram route in Dublin – the No 8 to Dalkey – closed in July 1949, the minister for justice of the time, Seán Mac Eoin, reported that despite a considerable Garda presence, the last tram was nearly dismantled by people attempting to help themselves to various bits and pieces.

At the National Transport Museum of Ireland in Howth, the famous No 9 tram is now on public display. It has been lovingly restored by enthusiasts and experts: no easy task, as the museum’s website explains. “During years of outdoor storage, vandals, souvenir hunters and the elements reduced No 9 to a pitiful hulk … ”

Somebody in The Irish Times newsroom in 1955 must have had a soft spot for the Dublin trams. On Thursday, January 13th, a story on page three of the paper declares that funds were urgently needed for a transport museum. “Unless its membership increases or grants of money are made within the next few months, Ireland’s Transport and Science Museum Society may go out of existence,” the piece begins.

“It is estimated that between 800 and 1,000 is needed before a museum can be built. A site has been acquired at Sutton, Co Dublin, and three of Dublin’s old trams have been bought and are now out there.”

The photograph duly records the trio, waiting in their field with an almost bovine patience for rescue and restoration. Maybe some day there’ll be a group of Luas carriages parked somewhere around Brides Glen. If they can still find a field to park them in, that is.

You can buy this photograph and other Irish Times images from irishtimes.com/photosales

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