Horse trams for sale!

Despite recent positive developments regarding the future of the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway – which is currently looking more secure than it has done all year – there remains an unavoidable fact that the current tram fleet is far larger than is required. Bearing this in mind, it has been confirmed that six trams have been declared surplus to requirements and are to be sold at auction later this month.

The Department for Infrastructure, who have agreed to operate the tramway for at least a further two years, have been conducting a review of the fleet based on operational requirements and historical merit. This has led them to decide that six of its trams can be sold off without greatly affecting the variety of the fleet. The identities of the trams which are to be disposed of have not yet been revealed, but they are reportedly one winter saloon, two open toastracks and three bulkhead cars. These are all duplicates of others which will be retained by the tramway for future operation and/or display, ensuring that a fair representative of rolling stock survives for future enjoyment.

The trams will be auctioned off at 1100 on Saturday 24th August and there will be viewing opportunities for potential buyers preceding this in the morning. Further details are available from Murray’s auctioneers by email – It is hoped that all of the surplus vehicles will find good homes, indeed this may well provide a rare opportunity for mainland museums to acquire a Manx tram. Although too small to run on a standard gauge tramway, a Douglas horse tram would make a potentially attractive static exhibit in a museum although it is understood that all of the trams to be sold would require some level of renovation work.

Whilst not ideal, the disposal of a small number of duplicate cars is certainly a lot better than losing the entire tramway and its whole fleet, and hopefully this will be the only such instance of horse trams being disposed of.

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9 Responses to Horse trams for sale!

  1. Ken Walker says:

    Saturday August 27th

  2. David Mee says:

    Looking at what is currently serviceable, and discounting that from the disposal list, I would say that six of the following seven cars are up for sale:

    Winter Saloon: 28
    Open Toastracks: 39, 40
    Bulkhead Toastracks: 32, 33, 34, 37

    Of these, 32 and 37 have seen use fairly recently and are complete, so I would suspect that one of these two will be retained as an example of the smaller bulkhead car.

    The others are in various states of disrepair, but all easily restored given time and money.

    Although it is sad to see any of these historic vehicles disposed of the fact is that they are very unlikely to see any use on the tramway, and if they stay in the current car shed they will only deteriorate further. My only hope is that the auction attracts responsible bidders with sound plans for the future of any vehicles they purchase. I would hate to see any go for open storage or direct to scrap.

    • Gareth Prior says:

      Although Douglas Borough Council are considered as the big bad wolf of the horse tramway I think its key to look at the comment made by Cllr Stephen Pitts, Regeneration Committee Chairman: “The Council has agreed to assist the Department of Infrastructure in consolidating its core horse tram stock, for which the Department will be retaining a large fleet of trams of historic interest for operational use. Following the Department’s assessment of the fleet there are a small number of surplus trams in need of restoration – examples of which will be retained in the main fleet – to be sold by public auction to organisations or individuals willing to commit to their preservation.” From that comment it seems they are only looking to sell them to organisations/individuals who are looking at preserving the trams. As David says for the majority of the trams up for auction are incredibly unlikely to see service on the tramway in the near future and they have been selected as there are better examples of that type in the retained fleet.

  3. David Blake says:

    While recognising that things have to move on, and that this appears to be part of the scheme to prepare the horse tramway for a hoped-for future, I am perhaps a little sorry this is happening so quickly.

    Looking at the popularity of different individual trams being brought back into service at Blackpool as an attraction for people to keep coming back to ride on the tramway, I had wondered if any of the surplus horse trams might be able to be brought back into use for, at least, a farewell journey or day in service, with appropriate publicity to attract people for a last ride.

    The sudden and unexpected appearance of out of use open toastrack car 38 in the 140th anniversary parade last Sunday encouraged me to think this could be
    feasible with some other cars.

    If this isn’t pie in the sky, and there were time for such an event to be organised before the cars are removed from the depot premises, preferably at a weekend, it would encourage me to make another visit to the island!

  4. John says:

    Personally I think it would have been a more responsible way of doing it to invite offers complete with an outline of what the purchaser intends to do with it! And give more time than a few weeks notice! Or am I being cynical in thinking its already sewn up?

  5. David Mee says:

    Unlikely that a ‘last run’ event could happen. At least five of the seven cars I listed above would need money and time spent on them to put them into a fit state for even one lap of the tramway. A good idea from a publicity and promotional angle, but unrealistic given the timescale and the amount of work required unfortunately.

    As an aside, it is interesting to note that all of these cars have seen service as recently as the 1990’s and I have the photographs to prove it! Think I managed to get a ride behind all but car 40. As recently as the early 2000’s the 30 series bulkhead cars were the preferred regular service vehicles until preference changed to the larger capacity 40 series cars.

  6. David Blake says:

    Yes, David’s comments about the ’30’ series cars apply at least to 2004 when I was on the island in August and again in September. I remember car 33 and, I think, 32 at least, being in regular use as David says, and I probably rode on both at that time. I was on the island again in 2005 but can’t remember for sure whether the same cars were still running.

    As I mentioned in a previous comment, 32 was apparently listed for the 140th anniversary procession last week and appeared to have been cleaned up and prepared in the depot including adornment with the latest ‘Bushy’s’ promotional poster, but in the end was substituted by open toastrack 38. I think a previous post mentioned that a very dusty but complete looking car 37 was displayed on the depot fan on the Friday of the Manx Transport Festival week when all ‘available’ trams were
    used in service in rotation, although not including open toastracks 21 and 38 which were in the depot that day but have appeared since, and 21 now appears to be part of the service fleet again, having received up-to-date advertisements. This is the car that got ‘left behind’ on the sidings for the parade, which I understand was due to a driver ringing in unavailable. This means that we appear to have been fortunate indeed that the normal non-runner 38 still able made its unexpected appearance, happily having been got out later and positioned well ahead of 21 in the sidings when the parade was being formed!

    Of the 1896 covered toastracks, 36 is still of course in regular use, having been lengthened as far back as 1908 to seat 40 which thus brings it into line with the stalwart covered toastracks 43, 44 and 45 that David mentions.

    I am always wary of making remote observations on decisions being made, especially in circumstances like this where management are working so demonstrably hard not only to keep the horse tramway running but to breathe new life into it. I do just wonder, however, if the disposal of the admittedly long dormant winter saloon car 28 could leave the tramway a little short of covered cars in the long term, bearing in mind that the enhanced 15 minute service requires 3 vehicles and even if the other 3 saloons 1, 27 and 29 were all to be retained (which not all reports suggest will be the case), there does not appear to be the longer term potential for establishing spare cover for inclement weather services if any saloons were unavailable for service for any length of time through eventual overhaul, rebuild or whatever, as has happened with cars on the MER for example? I accept that we are not living in an ideal world, however, and it may come down to being able to retain what is possible within limited resources, and according to some lists there may ultimately not be all that much spare cover even with the toastracks either. The positive thing is that plans do seem to being made towards a future which is a far better position than just a few months ago.

  7. Andrew Waddington says:

    The Manx Electric Railway Society have now confirmed that the trams being sold are:

    Bulkhead crossbench cars 33, 34 & 37
    Open toastrack cars 39 & 40
    Winter saloon 28

  8. Tony Geering says:

    my name is Tony Geering I have come across this forum inadvertently while searching for a small railway carriage to restore for a project we are about to begin in Old Kentish Town and I have completely fallen in love with the THE number 28 Winter Saloon tram by G.F. Milnes and Co., built 1892. My partner and I would love to restore it to it’s former glory and turn it into a tea, coffee and cake shop for a regeneration project we are about to embark on in three disused railway arches in Kentish Town, Camden. Right opposite Kentish Town West over ground railway station. Our plans are to build centre around the arts with art exhibitions, theatre, music, poetry, comedy and lots to do for children and adults alike incorporating a bakery and health food shop/cafe built under the arches and we adore the idea of having this outside the front where everyone passing could see it on a daily bases and grab a tea or coffee from it while on the go. We love the idea of the tram because not only is it beautiful but it does have a relationship with the railway arches. We would invite locals here to help on a community level with the restoration making it a joint project and when completed a special place for locals and visitors to Kentish Town to meet up and share a coffee. I myself am a specialist antique dealer specialising in the Arts and Crafts Movement which covers the period from 1890 to 1910, the same period when this tram was built. I am a historian and researcher and have also been passionately restoring Antique furniture for the last 30 years. I am a time served engineer doing an apprenticeship with British Road Services over 35 years ago working on trucks and trailers. With these skills and a little help from my friends and the community I feel we have enough experience to oversee the perfect restoration of such a beautiful old tram.
    I wonder if anyone knows the right person I could talk to who knows about the true condition of the tram and who might have an idea to how much actual restoration time and effort it would require to bring it back to life as we only have a small budget. I am also a presenter working for BBC, ITV and CH4 and I am already in talks with a particular TV company who are interested in filming and documenting number 28’s history to date, the IOM tram station, it’s history and all the other trams that reside there. If we are lucky enough to buy number 28 then we would film this and it’s journey from that moment on, over sea and land to Kentish Town and how it will be restored and used for posterity serving coffee to locals and visitors alike in Kentish Town. It will make a wonderful story and great TV. We are so in love with this tram we wondered if we could buy it before the auction, a buy it now price so to speak so we can get this old tram rolling again as soon as possible. If anyone knows the right person or persons who could help then we would love to her from them.
    My phone number is 07966 371676
    My kindest regards
    Tony Geering

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