Brixton trams: Brixton Hill cable tram
Brixton's old tram system
With Brixton Hill too steep for all but the lightest of horse-drawn trams, an Act of Parliament was obtained in 1890 to permit the London Tramways Company to construct a cable line.
This was to replace the horse tram service from Kennington to Brixton Water Lane and then on to the top of Brixton Hill at Telford Avenue.
(Horse-drawn tram passing St Marks Church c1870)
Using a cable traction system identical to San Francisco, the trams were pulled along by a steel-wire wound cable roughly an inch in diameter and six miles long.
The constantly moving cable ran between the tram lines in a concrete conduit, and trams attached themselves to this cable via a "gripper" car.
Seen above is the Grippercar No. 18 between Kennington Gate and Telford Avenue.
As was the Victorian custom, the vehicle was liberally plastered in adverts, with the grippercar sporting a poster for a 'Remnants Oddments' sale at Bon Marche for Friday, July 27th, 1894.
(Cable Tram on Brixton Hill, 1905. Note the adverts for the Empress Theatre and Bon Marche stores.)
Tram travellers from Westminster Bridge to Brixton Hill would have their two horses being replaced by the gripper car at Kennington.
Once connected, the cable would propel the tram southwards at a stately maximum speed of 8 m.p.h., with a special depot on Streatham Hill opposite Telford Avenue providing the steam powered winding gear for the cable.
The cable cars ran until 1904.
Brixton Society Official website
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