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The Last Tram

by JohnK 

Posted: 31 March 2004
Word Count: 1302
Summary: Intended to amuse...

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I had to go into town, to see my editor about my salary, one evening. I parked my bike in the bike rack by the tram depot, as usual. It is the nearest place to park to the office. The meeting went off well, and I ended up with a 15% increase, which lifted my spirits by a good deal more than 15%.

To my amazement as I was getting my bike, I heard a couple of tram officials saying to each other, “The last tram, eh? I'll be glad to see the back of it.” “Yeah, no more trams after this one. No need for the conductor to stay, there's not likely to be any passengers tonight.” I left my bike in the rack, and entered the depot.

“Did I hear you say this is the last tram?”

“Yeah, mate. Last one. You're in luck. Where do you want to go?”

I decided quickly. This could be a real scoop for me. “To the terminus.”

“That'll be fivepence.”

“And back.”

He looked at me strangely. “And back? You'll end up just where you started, you know.”

“I know. My bike's here, so I'll have to come back for it, won't I?”

“Yes,” he said slowly, looking me in the eye. “But we won't be providing very much of a service, bringing you right back here. Tell you what, there'll be no charge.”

“Thanks,” I said, and I climbed aboard, sitting right at the front. If this was the last tram, I would have expected the Lord Mayor himself to see it off, and reporters from regional and perhaps even national papers covering the event. I noticed the official I spoke to had a word with the driver, who approached me warily.

“Hello,” I said, holding out my hand, “I'm from the newspaper.”

“Oh ay. Selling, or delivering?”

I tried to look older and more serious. “No, more a kind of roving reporter. Mind if I ask you a few questions?”

“Not a bit. Just let me get this tram going, and then we can chat as we go.” He went through his routine of pressing two handles and treading on a pedal. He waved to the official I had spoken to first. We were on our way.

The tram was a single-decker, in light blue and white, with no adverts on it at all. It carried the town's crest proudly. It was clean, quiet and comfortable.

“How long have you been driving trams?”

“Let me see now. Man and boy, it's been just over three years.” I wrote '3' in my notebook.

“And in that time I suppose you have seen many changes?”

“I certainly have. Mmmm...” He took his time. “When I started, we used to turn the heater on before we left the depot. Now we have to wait until at least three tickets have been sold.”

“I see.” I wrote down his recollection of earlier, happier days on the trams. “And how will you cope when there are no more trams?” He looked confused at this. I let him know that I knew. “The other official at the depot told me this was the last tram.”

For some strange reason this seemed to please him. He looked at me for a moment, and then said, “No-one was supposed to know. Now the press has got hold of it, I might as well tell you. My job from tomorrow morning is to tear up all the tramlines.”

I wrote this down too. I had my exclusive. What a story. Maybe they would make me a full reporter straightaway, and surely the nationals would pick up the scoop, and give me full credit.

“Would you put the closure down to passenger falloff?”

“I would not! I always close the doors when moving, and no passenger can fall off, ever.”

“So why then are they closing down the tram service?”

“The real reason is we are all sick of 'em. Sick to death.”

I wrote this down. “Why are you sick of the trams?”

“Not the bloody trams, the passengers. They just keep getting on an off, on and off, all day. Do you know, in all my years driving these things, nobody has ever offered me a tip? The local taxi drivers sometimes gets a tip but me, never.” He brooded a while, then went on, “On rainy days them bloody passengers come in here with their wet clothes and muddy shoes, as if they owned the place. The inspector, the one you spoke to at the depot, told me we are going to jack it all in, as from today. No more trams. Then let's see how they get from A to B. And back again.”

Writing quickly, I asked, “Who changes the points for you at this time of night?”

“No-one. See the divergence ahead? Green Drive is to the left, the terminus straight ahead. If I slowed down to ten miles an hour or less, we'd go left. At this speed though, we go straight on. Clever, eh?”

“Very clever. I always wondered how you did it.”

“Not for much longer though. This is the last time those points will be used. I'll have them on the back of a truck by lunchtime tomorrow, mark my words.”

“And what about the trams themselves?”

“We've discussed that. I was all for running them at speed off the end of the line and leave them in a big heap, as a kind of monument. The inspector feels we may get a few bob for them, as scrap. Would you like this one?”

“I would! Oh yes, I'd like it very much. Put me down for this one.”

“I could let you have a bit of track to put it on. Perhaps a set of points, who knows...” We had reached the terminus, and the driver wasted no time. He stepped out of the tram, went around to the back which was soon to be the front, and pulled on the rope attached to the pickup arm. He trundled the arm around to what used to be the front of the tram, and carefully lodged the little wheel back on to the livewire.

“Last time I'll be doing that,” he pointed out, as he took up his new position, turned two levers and stepped on the pedal. I walked from the back of the tram to the front, and continued questioning the man.

“Little Puddlington-on-Sea will be a different place without its trams.”

“I'll say. No-one will need trams. All the pavements will have moving surfaces, in both directions, and all the hills are to be fitted with escalators. You won't recognise the place.”

I was writing furiously. This could be the scoop of the century. I could just see the editor's face when he read my article tomorrow.

Back at the depot, I shook the driver's hand, and waved at the inspector. I dashed for my bike, and rode home furiously. I prepared my report in my head as I went, but even so it was four in the morning before I was satisfied with what I had written.

I rushed it into town at nine o'clock. The reception I received was just as I expected it to be. The editor was naturally disbelieving at first, and even laughed a bit. Soon though he knew what a scoop we had, and he congratulated me heartily.

I returned later in the day to see my name in print. It was there on page 2, with just one change. The editor had added, “A cub reporter, with his first story, has accepted the words of a tram driver, Mr Alan Merryweather, without checking any of the facts. I think he may remember to do so next time.”

* * * *

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Comments by other Members

Nell at 06:53 on 01 April 2004  Report this post
John, a gentle piece that made me smile, as all your stories do. As I read onwards the tension built - how were you to end this? Almost at the end, and I couldn't see how it was to be done. Then... Surely not, I thought, so, back to the beginning, and yes, all the clues were there. Subtle ones, but all in place. I had to laugh. Thanks for that.

Best, Nell.


Tiny typo: taxi drive rsometimes

JohnK at 07:54 on 01 April 2004  Report this post
Thanks Nell,

I just go and fix the typo.

All the best,


Paperback at 08:10 on 01 April 2004  Report this post
Nice. Feels very much like a Magnus Mills story, right up until the end anyway. The story has a weirdness to it, otherworldly. Things feel really strange, right up until the pay-off, and then it just kind of goes out with a whimper. You've created a lovely little story that seems to really veer towards the leftfield but then the ending is just so... normal. It still works, it's just that i thought i was reading something new and unusual, something that i'd choose to buy in a bookshop but then it just reverts back to something like i've rad a 1000 times before. Still, i'm saying this but it's still one of the better things i've read on this site.


scottwil at 09:33 on 01 April 2004  Report this post
Intended to amuse... And it does. Very gentle story with a witty ending. I enjoyed it. Thanks John.

Account Closed at 16:13 on 01 April 2004  Report this post
I saw the wind-up coming but enjoyed the ride.
Thanks for that one John

JohnK at 01:27 on 02 April 2004  Report this post
Thanks Matt, Sion and Elspeth,
I like your comments.

Matt, You have a point there. It could have maintained the strangeness right to the end, revealing a time shift or alternate universe, a left/right switch or something like that. I'll give it a go.

Sion, I'm glad you liked it as it is. Perhaps the new version will need to be completely changed, and both version might work.

Elspeth, yes, this was not a heavily disgusied ending, and I'm glad you liked it anyway.

All the best to the three of you, JohnK.

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