Above: Enlargement of the tram in the Old Kent Road.
Under the title ‘Old Kent Road at the Kentish Drovers’ (17 July 2015) the old photograph included a tram. I also added the comment that the picture was probably taken in the 1910s or 1920s. As it happens, the guess was correct but, when a tram appears in a picture, it is usually possible to give a more accurate date. If the number on the tram can be seen it can reveal a large amount of information and in this picture we are in luck. The picture was taken between 1911 and 1913 and the following paragraphs explain why.
Pat Dennison has provided the information about that tram. He has pointed out that the tram’s fleet number is seen in the photograph as ‘191’. The very first tram in London carried the number ‘1’ and all subsequent trams were numbered sequentially so this is the 191st London County Council electric tram. The numbering continued over the years and the last numbered London Transport tram was 2529 – after which trams ceased to run in London, in 1952. When the Croydon Tramlink was opened in May 2000 the first tram was numbered 2530 and carries on to 2559 with a further four being delivered recently.
In general, odd numbers were used for routes north of the Thames and even numbers were used for routes south of the river. Anomalies arose with trams on routes that crossed one of the bridges over the Thames because these trams ran both north and south of the river.
The tram in question is one of the 100 ‘B Class’ trams built in 1903. Trams of this class were numbered 102 to 201 and were ‘open toppers’ until top roofs began being fitted from 1906 onwards. Notice also the driver who is standing at the front with no window in front of him on this tram. Later trams did have front windows.
Electric trams started in London in 1903 and all of them carried destination blinds. However, route numbers for trams did not come into being until 1 January 1913 although a few trams began to carry route numbers during the latter half of 1912. The electric tramway was extended from New Cross to Forest Hill via Brockley in 1911. Then from Forest Hill – via Brockley Rise and Stanstead Road – to Rushey Green, Catford in 1913.
All these facts and figures, therefore, mean that the photo must have been taken between 1911 and 1913. Thanks Pat for this most useful information.