Sometimes transport books can be all about the mechanical objects they focus on. Walter Burt's excellent "Dundee's Trams and Buses" will certainly not disappoint anyone who approaches it from the perspective of an enthusiasm for trams, for (briefly) trolleybuses, and for the buses that replaced them. But this book is much more than simply a history of how people got around: it is also in many ways a history of Dundee itself. The period covered within its pages is not far short of a century and a half, and during that period Dundee has changed dramatically. It is one thing to say that: but it is quite another to actually see the city evolve in the background to the wonderful collection of images on view here.
The first horse drawn tram service began operation in Dundee on 30 August 1877, and as we see in the opening pages of this book, the photographers were there to capture this amazing new way of getting around. They were also there during the period from 1885 when horses were replaced by steam traction, and there are two remarkable pictures of trams being pulled by what appear to be small buildings with chimneys. It is no surprise that the system was electrified from 1900 to 1902, bringing about the heyday of the tram, and some wonderful images. For us the most intriguing are the photo of six single decker trams arriving in the city on a train in 1902; and a tram completely covered in holly and Christmas decorations which was, apparently (but sadly not in the photograph), driven by Santa Claus.
Excellent images of trams, mainly black and white or sepia, with a few in colour, form the first third of this book. But Dundee's last tram (on a system that was still at the time profitable) ran in the early hours of Sunday 21 October 1956, seen off by some 5,000 people who had turned out for the event. Thereafter the story of public transport in Dundee has mainly been about buses, and a varied and interesting collection of images, starting in black and white but moving increasingly to colour, see us through this stage of the story. And all the while you find yourself looking not just at the buses but past them, comparing the city shown in the backgrounds with its predecessor from 140 years earlier shown in the opening photographs in the book.