Birmingham Corporation Tramways 301 Class

The Birmingham Corporation Tramways street car network was the fourth largest in Britain. Unlike most other tram networks it was to 3ft 6in narrow gauge (and was the largest narrow gauge tram network [1]). The 301 Class was built for an expansion of the network in 1911 for routes Birmingham Corporation Tramways had taken over to Handsworth, Selly Oak and Kings Norton [3]. However the 301 Class was also slightly lower than earlier trams (and a bit longer) to allow it to pass under a low bridge at Aston. This became the standard height for subsequent trams.

Number built: 100
Built: 1911
Builder: United Electric Car Company / Dick, Kerr & Company
Engine: 2 DK13A traction motors (550v DC OLHE [2])
Power: 80 hp (60 kW)

The 301 Class introduced a number of new features which later became standard across the fleet, the design taking advantage of operational experience gained from earlier types. The 301 Class had interpole electric motors (which were better for tram cars with electric braking and which were used on more challenging routes [4]). They also had notch regulator controllers, a new type of Westinghouse magnetic brake and some flexibility in the movement of the axles.

The original order for the 301 Class was for sixty cars with the car bodies built by the United Electric Car Company and equipment by Dick, Kerr. Another forty cars were ordered to replace cars inherited from the companies Birmingham Corporation Tramways had taken over which were found to be in a poor condition [5].

Some cars were converted into single deckers in the First World War though later converted back as the routes they were being used on saw passenger increases. Most of the fleet remained intact until the Second World War though post-war withdrawals began in earnest and the 301 Class ended service in 1950. Car 395 was saved from scrapping (one of only two Birmingham trams to survive) and since 1953 has been in Birmingham Science Museum / Thinktank.
395 preserved at Thinktank

View of 395's roof

Notice the staircase

Upper floor was open at both ends on this class of tram


Guards at the front and sides

[1] P.W. Lawson, Birmingham Corporation Tramway Rolling Stock (Birmingham Transport Historical Group, 1983) p. 13 
[2] “New power station at Birmingham, England”, Street Railway Journal December 1906 Vol. XXVIII No.22 p. 1043 [3]
[3] Lawson p. 43
[4] Lawson p. 192
[5] Lawson p. 45