On this week in 1952, inner London’s last trams ran, with the very last journey taking place in the early hours of 6 July, when the final service ran from Woolwich to New Cross depot, passing through Charlton, with thousands lining the route. A few hours later, the replacement for tram route 40, bus route 177, ran for the first time, and the trams passed into history.
There are two locations in Charlton with close links to the tram. The first was an old repair depot in Felltram Way, close to what is now the Woolwich Road flyover, where tracks were still in place until the 1990s.
The second is more poignant. After they were taken out of service, the trams were taken to a yard in Penhall Road. They were scrapped and later burned. You can see this in a film made at the time, The Elephant Will Never Forget.
A few years ago, we were alerted to the possibility that the tram tracks might still be in place on Penhall Road. A Dutch tram enthusiast, Arie den Dulk, sent us some photos from the 1980s showing they were still there. We went for a look one day in 2012 – but the land was too overgrown to tell.
However, on a lockdown walk a few weeks back, the undergrowth had been cleared. And parts of the tracks remain in place, behind a warehouse, 68 years after they played host to London’s trams for the last time.
With the Charlton Riverside area slated for redevelopment over the coming years, it will be interesting to see if any developer tries to retain a small part of London’s transport history.
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