Local Transport and Wrecks

Several times the trams had run away on Borough Bank and ended up in the cafe at the bottom.

Photograph of Borough Bank

Borough Bank

Wakefield’s Garage used to run double decker buses in the North Shields, Tynemouth and Whitley areas, together with the Tynemouth Bus Co.  The Tynemouth Co. used to run trams from Whitley Bandstand long before World War II to the ferry landing at North Shields.  The Board of Trade were not too happy as several times the trams had run away on Borough Bank and ended up in the café at the bottom of this hill – they were travelling too fast to pass around the curve at the bottom.  Gradually when the buses got better, and the tramlines and trams needed replacing these were scrapped and turned into the Bus Company.

Wakefield’s operated a dozen or so steam wagons.  When WWII started these were stored in Percy Park rugby ground.  Us kids thought it great to play steam wagon drivers on these, we had some great imaginary adventures.  The wagons were never used again and just rotted and rusted away where they sat.  I think in about 1945 they went for scrap, which is a pity as now they would be a great rarity.  Even in winter these were great to play on as they were partly enclosed and we put sticks and paper under the boilers and lit a fire to keep our feet warm.  Luckily these fires never got big enough to blow the boilers up – we usually got chased away by the caretaker first.

Talking of steam engines, the first searchlights by the Priory and Spanish Battery were powered by a dynamo turned by a steam engine.  What happened if one night German planes and/or battleships appeared, and they had not got steam up?  It took at least an hour to raise steam from cold and this fast rate did not do the boiler any good.  These coast defence guns could fire quite a few miles out to sea and sometimes did on Sunday target practice in WWII.  Of course the public were never allowed near when they were firing but even in Front Street the noise was deafening and some people nearer these batteries occasionally had broken house windows.

Just after the war on a wet and windy winter night the Greek tramp steamer Zepharos went aground just north of Cullercoats Radio Station.  When the tide went out some of the crew clambered down on to the rocks walked ashore and to the surprise of the locals who were not aware of the wreck walked into the local pub.  Us kids walked over to the wreck at low tide, walked right around it and marvelled at its size and how far above the sea it was.  In fact it was too far ashore to be relocated and was slowly cut up for scrap iron where it stood.  This showed us how a ship was put together, where the cabins and boilers and engine were, and how it was all interconnected.  A one-foot to the foot scale model lesson in naval architecture.  We already knew what deckhouses and cabins were like as these were removed from the wreck of the SS Panama that went aground south of St Mary’s Island long before WWII and re-erected to form a café near the Panama Gardens on the lower promenade.  This café was derelict by the end of WWII so we played in it – thus our first lesson in naval architecture.

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