Inventions in Transport from Bradford

Christopher John Spencer

Christopher John Spencer played an important role in improving travel between Leeds and Bradford during the early twentieth century.

A trolleybus pioneer:

Spencer was General Manager for Transport in Bradford in 1898. Over the next twenty years he was responsible for introducing the trolleybus to the city, as well as inventing the dual gauge tramcar truck and designing Bradford trams.


In 1905 there was huge demand for trams to run between Leeds and Bradford for people who lived in one city and worked in the other. At the time this was impossible for a very technical reasons: the two trams systems ran on different track gauges. This meant that the distance between the two rails of the track was very slightly different.

Then, Christopher Spencer arrived and under his leadership everything changed. Spencer planned a system that would allow the same trams to run on both gauges. 

Tram trials:

Spencer and his engineer J. W. Dawson experimented with their design. To test it out, they laid a short track in Town Street, Stanningley and a trial run was set up on the night of 22 January 1907. Staff from Leeds and Bradford tramways travelled on the track from Thornbury to Bradford, then Bradford to Armley. 

After a month of these trials, finally fares were agreed and new dual gauge tramcars were built to run on the tracks. Sign-boards were put up on the sides of the tram cars. The Bradford trams stated 'Through Car Bradford and Leeds', but the Leeds trams : 'Through Car Leeds and Bradford'!


Experiment - to try out different things

Gauge - the distance between two rails in a tramway track

Manufacture - to make a large amount of a product, usually in a factory

Pioneer - someone who is the first to do something

Tram - a type of vehicle that runs along an overhead wire

Trial - to test something

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Map view of Thornbury, site of the first dual-guage tram track from Leeds to Bradford»

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