Until 1951 Dog Kennel Hill in Dulwich, South London was served by London Transport trams.
The hill was renowned for the unique four track layout. Electric trams had first climbed the hill in 1905. The gradient was severe being 1 in 10 at the steepest point.
Because of this and to avoid the danger of an accident, only one tram was allowed on each up or down track at any one time. The length of the hill was 440 yards and this rule greatly restricted the frequency of the service, so in 1912 the original twin tracks were quadrupled. Each tramcar would use the alternative track to the preceding car, so if there was a runaway the chance of an accident would be reduced.
The rules were strictly enforced - here is an extract from the rule book:
STATUTORY RULES AND ORDERS
1935 – No. 91
LONDON PASSENGER TRANSPORT
The maximum speed at which the carriages may be driven or propelled along the tramways shall not exceed the rate of:-
Ten miles an hour-
While descending Dog Kennel-hill.
The carriages on the tramways shall be brought to a standstill as soon as possible whenever it is necessary to avoid impending danger and on all occasions immediately before reaching the following points:-
Before descending Dog Kennel-hill, at the junction of the extra tracks.
At the “Stop” sign halfway down Dog Kennel-hill, on the descending journey.
NOTE. – Any person offending against or committing a breach of any of these byelaws is liable to a penalty not exceeding forty shillings.
Five tram routes used the section of track on the hill providing frequent services to London.
Postwar all of the Dog Kennel Hill routes were operated by cars of the HR2 class. these were specially designed for 'hilly routes' having extra motors and equal wheel bogies.
In peak hours up to 90 tramcars passed Dog Kennel Hill every hour making the quadrupled track arrangement essential. In off peak times generally the two centre tracks would be used. Strict rules were enforced to ensure that every tramcar stopped at the tramstop at the brow of the hill, and again halfway down, whether or not there were passengers, to ensure that the speed was kept under control. As the tramcar descended the hill, the electromagnetic brake would emit a distinctive mournful whine.
All of the routes were run by Camberwell Depot and used trams of the HR2 class which had four powerful motors and special brakes.
Like much of the London tram network, the Dog Kennel Hill routes ran on the conduit system which meant that no overhead wires were required. Instead the electricity was supplied under the road surface and passed to the tramcar via a ‘plough’. In fact many of the trams operating on Dog Kennel Hill were not fitted with trolley poles at all, thus being confined entirely to conduit working.
In fact many of the trams operating on Dog Kennel Hill were not fitted with trolley poles at all, thus being confined entirely to conduit working.
The distinctive London County Council flats provide an impressive backdrop to the model, and remain in situ today. On the other side of the road a modern supermarket has replaced the Kings College Hospital Medical School sports ground. All of the trams would pass the hospital as they journeyed towards London and carried a slipboard on the side advertising this fact.
The Dog Kennel Hill tram routes were replaced by buses in stagefive of ‘Operation Tramaway’ on the night of 6th October 1951. Many of the trams, especially those without trolley poles went straight to the ‘Tramatorium’ at Penhall Road, Charlton. Here London’s unwanted tramcars were burnt. One HR2 tram, number 1858 was bought privately and after many years on display at Chessington Zoo, now runs at the East Anglian Transport Museum, near Lowestoft. On the layout you will see 1858 running on route 62. During the final months, trams were sometimes hired for private tours, and you may see car 1877 displaying ‘EX’ (extra) as it gives enthusiasts a special ride up the hill. London’s last trams finally ran on 5th July 1952.
London’s last trams finally ran on 5th July 1952.