Dewi's Trains,
Trams & Trolleys

London Trams:
The Kingsway subway

Comments/corrections to: Dewi Williams

The Kingsway subway was the one place in central London where overhead wires could have been used. However, since the subway connected the Northern and Southern parts of the conduit-powered area, it too used the conduit system.

[Diver tram]

The northern portal of the subway was in Southampton Row, just north of Holborn. This photo shows a tram descending the steep ramp into the tunnel. Rosy Hunt (U.K.) points out that Dorothy L. Sayers refers to this descent in her detective story "Unnatural Death", where Detective-Inspector Charles Parker takes a "diver tram" to Westminster. Here's the tram actually diving.

[Northern portal]

Here we are looking down into the northern portal. Trams stopped running in 1952 but this photo might have been taken at any time within the last 70 years except for the leaves and garbage on the tracks. In fact it was taken in 1998 (courtesy of David Morgan, U.K.).

[Holborn tram station]

There were two stations in the subway, at Holborn and Aldwych, where The Kingsway intersected major streets. Each station had a central platform, which meant that passengers had to board and alight from the front (driver's) platform.

I was a bit puzzled by this picture when I reviewed it, 40 years later. The tram is moving away from us, at Holborn, but the headlamp at what is now the rear of the tram is shining brightly. However, Bill Fuller (Australia) wrote:

During daylight hours, as the trams approached the subway all of the lighting circuits would be switched on. These were controlled by switches under the stairs of the No. 1 end. The crew sometimes used to forget to check which way the change-over switch was set, hence your picture.

[Southern portal]

The southern portal of the subway, under the arch of the "new" Waterloo bridge, at the Victoria Embankment. A tram emerging from the tunnel would make a sharp right turn as it crossed the road traffic lanes and then would join with the tracks along the Embankment towards Westminster Bridge.

The (U.K.) National Tramway Museum has, in the on-line archive, pictures of this portal taken before the new Waterloo Bridge was built.

[Feltham tram, Embankment]

A view of the Embankment tracks, taken from Waterloo Bridge at a point immediately above that of the previous photo. This is looking towards Blackfriars bridge. Even in 1950, the private right-of-way was very useful in avoiding the traffic jams.

[Tram on embankment]

Down at ground level again, same place, looking towards Blackfriars.

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This page last updated on 2004-12-10