top of page
  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Those interurban tramways

At the height of electric tram building mania in the late 1890s and turn of the century the Fylde coast saw not only Blackpool's new municipal system expanding its original promenade line - but also the introduction of two privately owned 'interurban' tramways feeding into Blackpool town centre. In the north, the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company with its extensive reserved trackage linked the two towns and operated long single deck four axle (bogie) trams with a great many of them of the open design: whilst the Blackpool St Annes and Lytham Tramway preferred 2 axle open top double deck cars for its service. Again many of these were open sided to entice vital summer season ridership - an all important revenue aspect for both companies.

The Fylde coast was but one instance of 'tram mania' where private investment brought about rapid change in the form of new electric lines linking neighbouring communities. Whilst the larger number of new tramways were the prerequisite of local town halls and Councils - these ran within the limits of municipal boundaries (for the most part). The private sector was immune to such limitations and could readily traverse through lines on the map, as long as it made commercial sense (sometimes it didn't) and capital funding was available by private subscription.

Classic examples of locales linked by private electric tramway include of course Grimsby & Immingham hardly an endearing ride and a rare example of a tramway without a depot - the tram fleet remaining stored entirely in the open air close to the sea throughout its entire life. The line was financed by the Great Central Railway latterly becoming absorbed through nationalisation as British Railways sole electric tram service. Apparently outdoor storage close to the Humber estuary did little harm, as three of the Grimsby & Immingham fleet are now at museums. Two of the former Gateshead & District cars bought by British Railways to augment its original Grimsby fleet are pictured looking none the worse for wear having stood in the open at Pyewipe Depot sidings for nearly a decade - for those with interest in these matters. Swansea and Mumbles Railway - oldest in the Kingdom, was another classic 'interurban'; whilst Camborne & Redruth had the added attraction of goods wagons hauling ore to and from tin mines. Gosport and Fareham, Portsmouth & Horndean were two south coast 'interurbans'. Airdrie and Coatbridge was one of several privately owned tramways north of the border and Burton and Ashby Light Railway was another example of a mainline railway company owning and operating an electric tramway. Again an example from this 'interurban' now resides back in the UK - having had a transatlantic extended vacation in the State of Michigan.

Where there were several communities strung out along a semi-rural line - the tendency of the company title would be to include '& District' after the principal

point of operation : Dearne & District, Chatham & District, Mansfield & District, Cheltenham & District and so forth. In fact the UK had a large portfolio of privately owned tramways including the three large company operations in London. What has all of this to do with Blackpool's tramways ? Purely anecdotal, as the 130th anniversary of Blackpool's tram operation nears. This is relevant to the Blackpool part of the tramway. The interurban line to Fleetwood opened as

a private venture in 1898; making just 117 years of operation from the Gynn northward ! Without investment in that very profitable interurban line - Blackpool's own tramway would probably never have made it to Cleveleys.

Gateshead and District classic single deckers 5 and 10 - and a decade at Grimsby.

Featured Posts
bottom of page