SouthMet Car 13

South Metropolitan Car 13, Inspection at Penge

The title on this postcard is "Croydon to Crystal Palace". It was published by The London View Co. Ltd. in 1906 and our copy was posted from Croydon in February 1907. The photograph is credited as being by "Malthouse" and was taken on 10th April 1906 at the commencement of the Board of Trade (BoT) inspection of the tramway section on Anerley Hill. The actual location of the view is in Thicket Road, Penge, by the entrance to Crystal Palace.

There are a number of interesting factors to this card, but first we must look at the background. Croydon Corporation had taken over the horse tramways of the Croydon Tramways Company in 1900 with the intention of electrification. This was undertaken by British Thomson-Houston, who had recently provided electric lighting to the borough, with the operation of the routes being leased to the British Electric Traction Group (BET), a lease that could be terminated by either side after five years. BET themselves had plans to build tramways outside of Croydon, specifically the routes to Penge and Crystal Palace in the east and Sutton and Mitcham in the west, and set up the South Metropolitan Electric Tramways & Lighting Co. Ltd. (SMET) to do so. The corporation took a dim view of this, considering that BET were building a tramway empire at their expense, and gave notice of the termination of the lease to occur on 1st June 1906. From this point there was considerable animosity between the two concerns.

In late 1905 when the corporation's South Norwood route was due for BoT inspection they asked SMET for the loan of a tram. SMET refused on the grounds that the new line was built with single track and passing loops rather than the double track as previously envisaged. The corporation was forced to borrow a tram from West Ham, with the ridiculous situation of the car being transported from the East End of London to Croydon on a flat wagon pulled by a traction engine. SMET's line from Selby Road to Penge was opened in February 1906, with them operating a service from Croydon. With the impending lease terminated, the corporation removed the company cars from their depot with horse drawn flat trucks and dumped them at SMET's Aurelia Road depot site. Embarrassingly the first group of SMET's new cars were delivered to the corporation's Thornton Heath Depot by mistake. After much discussion the corporation agreed to allow them to stay until SMET had built their depot on the condition that they could be used on the corporation's main line in the meantime. As they did not want the hated BET wheel and magnet symbol visible, the corporation fitted boards to the waist panels. These were painted chocolate with "Croydon Corporation Tramways" in white lettering on them, despite the fact that the trams were holly green.

Offiial View This brings us back to our postcard view. It seems that the only trams suitable for the inspection of Anerley Hill, which needed the newest cars fitted with track brakes, were the ones being held by the corporation, so in our postcard view we see the odd situation of SMET car 13, standing on SMET owned tracks at Penge, but carrying the Croydon Corporation fleet name! Another interesting thing about this photograph is that it is almost the same as the official photograph (left), which has been much published. "Malthouse" must have been standing about two yards to the left of the other photographer and the posed photos taken within seconds of each other. Also of note in the picture is the gentleman in the bowler hat standing on the step of the tram. This is Lt. Col. Von Donop, the BoT Inspector. The trip started at here at Thicket Road where the Inspector was welcomed by Mr P.W.Greetham, the Chairman of Penge Urban District Council. This may be the gentleman on the tram platform wearing the top hat.

Tramcar 13 was part of the 1-16 series (later called Type J). The bodies were built by the United Electric Car Co. Ltd. of Preston and supplied to Brush of Loughborough who fitted them out for SMET. They were double-deck open-top with 28 seats in the lower saloon and 30 on the top deck. They had normal half-turn staircases and were fitted with Brush type "H" controllers. They were mounted on 4-wheel Brush 9ft 6in wheelbase trucks with Lycett & Conaty radial axle boxes, two 40 horsepower Brush motors and C.J. Spencer's patent track brakes for use on Anerley Hill.

SMET's services from West Croydon to Penge and Crystal Palace ran for just over a month until the lease terminated on 1st June 1906, after which the daft situation was that Croydon Corporation operated a service from the town to their boundary at Selby Road and SMET operated a service, isolated from the rest of their tramway, from Selby Road to Penge and up Anerley Hill, with the poor passengers having to change trams. This continued for just over a year until 24th June 1907, after which common sense prevailed and it was agreed that the corporation would work the route from West Croydon to Penge and SMET would work West Croydon to Crystal Palace via Anerley Hill.

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