Preston’s Pioneering Horse Trams

Preston’s horse trams. Horse trams ruled in Preston for almost 25 years. In fact, the system was not electrified until 1903. Horse trams were used before steam tram engines became available in the late 1880s. Preston was also known as a centre of manufacturing for tram vehicles, with the Dick Kerr Company being in the town. Compressed gas trams were tried in Lytham – St Anne’s but proved to be unreliable.

The tram network in Preston was reasonably extensive and operated between 1879 and 1934. The tram system began as the Preston Tramways Company in 1879. This was a horse drawn enterprise that ran from the Town Hall North along Lancaster road and eventually to Fulwood Barracks. Notably it used narrow gauge, 3Ft 6ins rails, due to the narrow streets. Preston had one of the earliest tram systems in the North West. Most did not start until the late 1880’s.

Preston’s tram network map by Andrew Rabbott

Horse trams make inroads in Preston

Junction of Church Street & Lancaster Road, Preston 1896, Image Preston Digital Archive

The horse tram era in Preston, lasted for almost 25 years and they were often used for advertising. The above image shows a tram ad. for Kardomah tea. Kardomah was a well known cafe chain in the early 20th century. In fact the company lasted into the late 1960’s. The horse trams had a very short wheelbase and could go around remarkably tight corners.

Preston’s horse trams ended in 1903. The Postcard below was issued to mark the end of the Horse Drawn system.

The end of the horse trams in Preston, Postcard, 1903,image Preston Digital Archive.

Preston Corporation tramways is Born

In 1882 Preston Corporation opened an additional two lines. One ran from the Town Hall northwestwards to Ashton on Ribble while the other ran Eastwards to the pleasure gardens on New Hall Lane. At the time council’s could not operate as well as own tramways, so operation was leased to a horse bus operator, W Harding & Co LTD. The council also bought out the Preston tramways company and brought all the horse drawn lines under Council control. In total there were about 8 miles of line.

Elelctric trams take over

By the early 20th century electric traction had become viable and reliable. Therefore Preston closed the horse tram operation in 1903 and converted all of the lines to 4ft gauge. Electric trams began running in 1904.

Preston was unusual in using some single deck cars. This was due to a low railway bridge on Fylde Road. Three of the Dick Kerr built units were ordered in 1912. Sadly, Preston’s trams stopped running in 1934.

Ashton Tram Terminus, Blackpool Road, Preston 1932, image Preston Digital Archive

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