Monday, 24 February 2014

The Ripley Rattlers

A Ripley Rattler in Upper Parliament Street
waiting to begin the 15-mile trip to Ripley

D H Lawrence knew all about the tram service from Nottingham to Ripley in Derbyshire. Largely because of the gradients it had to negotiate, it was reputed to be the most dangerous tram route in England. The trams were known as the Ripley Rattlers.

There is in the Midlands a single-line tramway system which boldly leaves the county town and plunges off into the black, industrial countryside, up hill and down dale, through the long ugly villages of workmen's houses, over canals and railways, past churches perched high and nobly over the smoke and shadows, through stark, grimy cold little market-places, tilting away in a rush past cinemas and shops down to the hollow where the collieries are, then up again, past a little rural church, under the ash trees, on in a rush to the terminus, the last little ugly place of industry, the cold little town that shivers on the edge of the wild, gloomy country beyond.

This, the most dangerous tram-service in England, as the authorities themselves declare, with pride, is entirely conducted by girls, and driven by rash young men, or else by invalids who creep forward in terror. The girls are fearless young hussies. In their ugly blue uniforms, skirts up to their knees, shapeless old peaked caps on their heads, they have all the sang-froid of an old non-commissioned officer. With a tram packed with howling colliers, roaring hymns downstairs and a sort of antiphony of obscenities upstairs, the lasses are perfectly at their ease. They pounce on the youths who try to evade their ticket-machine. They push off the men at the end of their distance. They are not going to be done in the eye—not they. They fear nobody—and everybody fears them.

D H Lawrence - Tickets Please (1919).

Or more prosaically from Wikipedia:-

The original Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Tramways Company Bill of 1902 was an ambitious application which proposed the building of 79 miles (127 km) of track to link together the tramway systems of Nottingham, Derby and Ilkeston. 

However, when passed the following year the Act only authorized the construction of 39 miles (63 km) of route, of which only 11 miles (18 km) were laid, the section from Ripley to Cinderhill. This was the beginning of the service known locally as the Ripley Rattlers.


Sam Vega said...

I wonder when people started expressing pride in their town or region by saying how dangerous, ugly, and coarse things are there. Everywhere has these popular exaggerations - every regional city has the toughest fighters, the most drunken mobs, and the most desolate squalid landscapes. People living in the countryside will also boast about the boredom, incest, poverty, and thieving travellers.

You see bits of this in the novels of Smollett, but I always thought that was a Scot ridiculing the pretensions of the English. I wonder what's behind it.

Sackerson said...

In one of Peter Tinniswood's Brandon family books, Carter Brandon is told about a place he hasn't visited and his first question is, "What colour are the trams?" because that's a key element in his idea of the character of a place.

Municipal pride, I can remember that in Birmingham - the 11 bus (circular) that was regulated by a series of large clocks all round the route.

As to pride in awkwardness, friends once took me on the San Francisco cable car and the brakeman was making a great show of hauling on the levers and barging passengers out of the way - the commedia dell' busy.

A K Haart said...

Sam and Sackers - it's pride me lads, pride. When a real man's tram comes along wi' blood on't wheels it's no good mitherin on't causey. Yer mun gerron the bugger.