... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Sunday 26 November 2017

A few lines on the tram

Typical. She doesn't post anything for over a month, then comes back with some witterings about the tram. Well, sorry about that, but if that's waht it's taken to finally tug me out of the doldrums, then perhaps it's better than nothing. I say doldrums, but in many ways it's been the precise opposite that has kept me from my blogging keyboard: a maelstrom; a perfect storm of work related-stuff that has led, for the first time in my life, to there really not being enough hours in the week to deal with it, and to the requisite emotional, intellectual and physical resilience hanging on by its very fingernails. Or that's how it felt, anyway. Obviously, things are feeling a little more manageable now, and here I am.
And there I was this afternoon, on the tram. Not for the first time - I think it was actually the fifth, or eighth if you count return journeys - but you know how sometimes it gradually dawns on you that you're developing an interest in something... It was when the thought came to me that a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon would be to get a £4 Dayrider ticket and ride the length of each of Sheffield's three Supertram lines that I knew I'd been hooked in some way.

The only tram I'd ever been on before I came to Sheffield was in Moscow, in 1982. It cost 4 kopeks, and although I remember the Moscow Metro quite well (the chandeliers!), the only thing I recall about the tram was a sad-eyed man in a cheap leather jacket, and the smell of cigarette smoke.

More than buses or trains, what the tram most reminds me of is the Tube. It's frequent, so you don't plan your journey, but just turn up and wait for one to arrive. It has different lines - Yellow, Blue and Purple - serving different directions, and indicator boards that count down the minutes until the next one is due (and they seem to be pretty accurate). Inside, the seating layout is (slightly) reminiscent of a Metropolitan Line train, and there are grab rails and hanging straps. 
When it moves, it sounds and feels like the tube. It's electric, for a start, which the trains round here aren't (I'd been here years before that dawned on me, suddenly doing a double-take whilst waiting at the station).

But in some ways it couldn't be more different. The tram has a concuctor; a real live person who really says 'any more fares please', and while they issue tickets and read cards with a bleeping wireless handset, they give change from a heavy leather bag hanging from their belt.
There are 48 stops on the Sheffield tram, compared to 270 on the Tube, but I think that it’s got some far more fabulous names. My nearest stop is called Primrose View. Needless to say, it’s on a busy main road with nary a small spring flower in sight. On my journey today, I took in, amongst other stops called Infirmary Road, Manor Top, Gleadless Townend, Hackenthorpe, Donetsk Way (named for a twinned steel producing town in Ukraine), and, quite possibly the most over-promising station name ever, anywhere, Crystal Peaks, which turns out to be a small shopping centre. This was the Blue line, whose final destination, unimprovably, is Halfway. It takes a real visionary of a transport planner not only to retain that name for a tram stop, but to make it the terminus.
So this could be the beginning of, if not quite a love affair, then certainly an exploratory dalliance, with the tram.