The Mad Tram Driver

Trams. Our American members will know them as Cable cars I think.

All the rails and overhead wires were torn down in Glasgow, where I was brought up, when I was about 6 years old I think, but I remember them with affection, despite the terrible noise they made late at night (do I mean late? At 5 or 6 I probably mean 2030 or 2100 lol).

My father drove these things for a while after he left the navy in the mid 50’s and he used to tell a great story about them.

To set the scene then. Trams ran on rails and were powered by electricity, which they obtained from overhead power cables, very like electric trains today.

At the time, in Glasgow, traffic lights on major junctions were not controlled by timers (the technology wasn’t there yet) but by traffic passing over rubber covered across the road. A certain number of vehicles press on the pad as they pass and the lights would change to allow traffic from the other, or cross, road to proceed and so on.

Trams, of course could not use this system as their steel wheels would have shredded the rubber etc., so they had to rely on other traffic to change the lights as it passed.

To the story then. Late one cold, windy and wet November evening my father was driving the, empty, last tram back to the depot when he was stopped by a red traffic light.

There was no traffic about (it was about 2300) so he knew the light would just stay at red till hell froze over, so he had a bright idea. He got out of the tram and started jumping up and down on the rubber sensor/counter trying to simulate the passing of traffic and get the light to change.

As he told the story, he could hear clicks as the counter activated, but only on every 8th or 9th jump, so he knew he was in for a lengthy effort. But he kept jumping, because he couldn’t think of anything else to do.

It was at this point that he registered a blue light. A blue flashing light actually. Out of the darkness came a voice which said “Oi, YOU, what the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?” The police had arrived.

It seems that the stretch of road the tram was on ran through a posh area and one of the local ladies had looked out of her window, seen my father’s antics, panicked and phoned the police to tell them that there was “some lunatic jumping up and down in the rain in the middle of the road” and could they please come and take him away.

The police were very understanding. They didn’t arrest him. They even had some sort of key thingy that all emergency services were issued with, it seems, that they could use to turn the lights to allow passage, which they did, letting my rather damp father drive on and finally get to the depot.

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Published in Senior Chatters


  1. sunflower2

    What a funny story. I can see your father jumping up and down. At least he had the guts to try something different to get the light to change.

  2. jojo

    Of course he could’ve simply gone through a red light couldn’t he? That’s what I would’ve done! But what a funny story. One has to wonder why the nosy lady was up at that time of the night, or was she awoken by some lusty Glaswegian swearing that accompanied the jumping up and down? lol

    Thanks for sharing – I enjoyed it