The Runaway Tram Came Down the Hill

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Following the spectacular crash of No 2 in April,1901, critics had been quick to attack the tram network, one particularly barbed comment claming that its drivers were not fit to drive wheelbarrows, let alone trams! And there was some element of truth in that remark because many of the drivers had been Irish navvies constructing the network, and they were now piloting these juggernauts around the island!

On the 9th of August, at 7.30pm in streets still crowded with shoppers on a fine summerís evening, there occurred Margates worst accident. Again a tram ran away down Fort Road, only this time packed full of passengers, both inside and on the open top deck. With sparks flying from itís brake-locked wheels and the screams of terrified passengers echoing through the air, No 8 tore down the hill, pedestrians scrambling out of its way. At the bottom it made the inevitable leap from rails on the tight bend, turning sideways onto the buildings as it did so and toppling over to finish leaning at a crazy angle against Evelingís Drapers Store, which was packed with customers. Passengers on the top deck were thrown off into the road, and people in the shop cut by flying glass.

A total of 28 people were injured, most of whom had amazingly only suffered cuts and bruises, but there were a couple who had severe injures, including broken bones and internal damage. Help was soon at hand from the Police Station and Margate Ambulance Corps, whose headquarters was in Fort Road just a few yards away. Those not too seriously injured were sent home by cab after first-aid treatment, and two serious casualties were taken to Margate Cottage Hospital. A large milling crowd had gathered, giving the Police a hard time in keeping things under control.

CAR 38 ARRIVED FROM THE Depot with a gang to recover No 8 and shore up the facade of the damaged building once it had been removed. Car 38 was chained to No 8 and things readied for the operation, all of this to a stream of sarcastic remarks from the voluble crowd. At 9.30pm. Things were all set with some of the constables helping to take the strain on the chains ready for the pull, and then around the corner at the top of the hill came Car50, sent to help. But it too ran out of control down the steep gradient to smash into the back of No 38, knocking it clean off the rails, panicking and scattering people in the process. Several more were injured including two policemen. The newly injured having been given first aid, the job started again.Car50 was shackled to No.8 and gingerly pulled upright. Back on the rails, it was found that No.8stillworked, and to loud cheers from the crowd swollen by drunks from the pubs it was driven away at 10.20pm. To much heckling work got underway to get No. 38 back onto the track and, after a long struggle, it was finally chained to car50 for the tow back to the Depot.

By now a light drizzle was falling, and this added to the problems as it had been decided to travel back up the steep incline in Fort Road to avoid that sharp bend. To the delight of the jeering crowd nothing happened in way of movement, just a lot of wheel-spinning and sparks due to the loss of traction from the wet rail. Sanding produced the desired result and off the trams went slowly up the hill still sparking furiously, the jeering and cheering crowd following closely. However, after 25 yards the chains parted, and No.38 rolled back to scatter the now not so brave crowd. Hooked up again, the two trams finally left the scene of devastation to a final cheer. An evening to remember!


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