| The History of First Generation Trams in Nottingham
Article Posted Saturday 6 March 2004
As we start the build up to the start of public services on Nottingham Express Transit on Tuesday 9 March British Trams Online Webmaster Gareth Prior looks at the history of first generation trams in the City of Nottingham…|
There are two distinct periods of first generation trams in Nottingham: Nottingham and District Tramways (horse and steam trams) and Nottingham Corporation Tramways (initially horse and then electric). In addition there was also the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Tramways which operated a few services into the city.
Nottingham and District Tramways
The foundations were laid for the first trams to run in Nottingham when the Nottingham and District Tramways Order of 1877 was passed by the government of the day. This led to the construction of the first routes in Nottingham with a one mile line running from Trent Bridge to St Peters Square in the city centre. There was also a spur off this main line which went off around half way down and served the Great Northern Railway station. The first trams ran on these initial routes on 17 September 1978 and were in the hands of a fleet of 8 single deck trams built by Starbuck (not the Coffee shop!) and unsurprisingly numbered 1-8. The power was provided by two horses.
Less than a year passed when on 11 August 1879 a third line was built connecting Market Place to Carrington Road, this one being unconnected to the previous two. After this opened the tramway needed initial trams and these were supplied when two double deckers arrived along with an additional single decker supplied by Stevensons (numbered 9-12). The following year saw another 5 single deck Starbuck trams arrive in the city numbered 13-17.
The length of the system reached its company peak in 1881 when another route commenced at Market Place going to Basford Gas Works via Derby Road, Alfreton Road and Radford Road on 5 June followed in September by a short link between the two Market Place routes. Due to the steep nature of this line a third horse had to be added along Derby Road to ensure that the trams could get up there. This route required another 5 Starbuck trams and these were duly delivered during the year bringing the fleet total up to 22.
For the remaining 16 years of the Company years the main activity saw new tram arrivals with new trams being built in 1883 (2 single deckers), 1884 (2 summer single deckers) and 1885 (2 single deckers). 1885 also saw the arrival of the first (and only) steam tram locomotive with Wilkinson supplying it to haul a Starbuck bogie double decker on the Basford route. However this was to be only steam tram which operated in Nottingham as it proved not to be a success with the passenger tram being converted to a standard 4 wheeled open topper in 1889 when the locomotive was withdrawn. This conversion was preceded by the purchase of an Eades reversible truck tram from Manchester in 1887 and by the conversion of 4 open top horse buses to trams in 1888. Further tram purchases followed in 1891 (2 toastracks), 1892 (4 open toppers from Milne) and finally in 1895 (3 identical open toppers). The Company carried on operating the lines until 1897 when the local Corporation bought it before a start was made on electrification. The takeover was completed on 16 October 1897.
Nottingham Corporation Tramways
The Nottingham Corporation Act was passed in 1899, 2 years after their purchase of the lines. They then started their modernisation program with a contract being awarded to Dick Kerr to help they achieve their aims. 1900-1 saw the arrival of the first electric trams into the city with 57 open top trams being delivered in time for the opening of the first electrified route on 1 January 1901. This electrified route was the third line opened in the horse tram days from Market Place to Carrington Road and this was followed on 23 July by the Basford route along Derby Road and included an extension to Bulwell Market. On 15 October the original Trent Bridge-City Centre route was electrified and this had an extension added to Market Place to ensure that the system was now totally as one with no gaps between routes. 1901 also saw further trams arrive in the city with 10 4 wheeled open toppers and 10 bogie open toppers being delivered from Milnes, bringing the total fleet size of electric trams to 77.
In 1902 the last open top trams were delivered to Nottingham, with 6 Milnes 4 wheelers, 6 Milnes bogie trams and 16 from ERTCW. The same year also saw the abandonment of the final horse trams when the former link route was closed and it was also the year that new routes started to open, with this process continuing apace until 1915. The final extensions to the tramway were completed in 1927 and the length of the tramway was up above 25 miles. However 1927 was also to be the beginning of the end for the tramway when the route along Nottingham Road went over to trolleybus operation on 10 April, a decision that had been taken in principle 3 years previously by the Corporation.
By this stage the fleet of trams had reached 200 double deckers with deliveries of new trams in 1907 (10 from Milnes), 1908-14 (30 from UEC), 1914 (10 from Brush), 1920 (25 from English Electric) and 1926 (20 enclosed cars again from English Electric).
Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Tramways
In 1914 the Corporation tramway was joined in the city by the independent Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Tramways which ran to Upper Parliament Street from Ripley in Derbyshire. This tramway ran for nearly 13 miles with just over 3.5 miles of these in the city either leased from or owned by the Corporation. This tramway meant that you could get from Nottingham to Cinderhill without having to change trams. However the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Tramways never reached the lengths that the promoters wanted and it was short lived surviving only 19 years before being abandoned in favour of the dreaded motor bus.
Nottingham’s trams did not last long beyond the closure of the neighbouring Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Tramways with just 4 years passing before on 5 September 1936 car 190 (one of the last batch of English Electric tramcars) ran the last tram in the city for 67 years on the route to Arnold.
The majority of the trams were scrapped after abandonment but 18 of the last batch of English Electric tramcars were sold on for use in Aberdeen. However there are still 4 Nottingham trams in existence today, although none of them are in a restored condition with one at the Great Central Railway in Ruddington and the other three out of public view at the moment.
The following sources were used in the preparation & writing of this article
The Directory of British Tramways by Keith Turner (Patrick Stephens Limited, 1996)
The Tramways of the East Midlands by W.H.Bett & J.C.Gilham, edited by J.H.Price (Light Railway Transport League)
The Definitive Guide to Trams by David Voice (Adam Gordon, 2001)
Nottingham Corporation Transport website
BBC Nottingham Tram Gallery