by  Roy Brook  and  John S. Hinchliffe

Huddersfield Passenger Transport Group





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      When Huddersfield Corporation opened its first steam tram route on Thursday 11 January, 1883, it was the first example in the U.K. of a municipally-operated tramway system. In other towns and cities Corporation-owned tracks were all leased to private enterprise.

      By 1900 the system developed, from a route mileage viewpoint, to become the largest standard gauge (albeit 4ft  7¾ ins) steam tramway system in the British Isles, covering 29 miles 45 chains of route. The initial fleet consisted of small Wilkinson type tram engines and four wheeled open top cars seating 38 and 34 passengers built by the Ashbury Railway Carriage & Iron Co Ltd and the Starbuck Car & Wagon Co Ltd. Increasing popularity of the tramways made the acquisition of larger top-covered bogie cars a necessity; these seated around 62 passengers. They were built by Milnes of Birkenhead, gave a much smoother ride, and led to an increase in the traffic load. More powerful engines were then required to haul these cars and purchases were made from the well-known Leeds engine builders Kitson & Co Ltd (15) and Thomas Green & Sons Ltd (10), whilst the Corporation built two of their own at Great Northern Street Depot. This Depot was opened in July 1887, had accommodation for 30 engines and 30 cars, and replaced the wooden structure on the site of the present General Post Office in Northumberland Street, which had been used from March 1883. This site is now a modern trading park including Sainsburys Homebase. 


      Horse trams were only used on the Moldgreen and Fartown sections between 1885 and 1888 when they were superseded by steam trains.


      The carriage of letter boxes on each tramcar with the collaboration of the GPO and first introduced on 20 March, 1893, once more gave Huddersfield the lead in a service which was of great benefit to the general public, and which survived until the outbreak of war in 1939. In the 1920s Huddersfield trams were carrying more mail than those of the rest of the country put together!


 Huddersfield Corporation was the first tramway operator to introduce the two-shift system of working for drivers and conductors resulting in each man working only an eight hour day. Normally, it was usual elsewhere for men to work all day. By 1900, steam tram services were running between St. George’s Square and Birkby, Fartown, Bradley, Waterloo, Almondbury, Newsome Road (Stile Common), Berry Brow, Crosland Moor (Park Road), Slaithwaite (Star Hotel), Longwood (Quarmby Clough), Outlane and the Lindley Circular route via Marsh and Edgerton, usually on a 30/40 minute frequency, but with no Sunday services. Fares were collected by means of Kaye’s Patent Fare Collecting Box and no tickets were issued until the end of 1901.

  The Slaithwaite route beyond the borough boundary at Pinfold Well was worked by the Corporation on behalf of Linthwaite Urban District Council, which owned the three mile stretch of track in its area. An agreement was concluded between the two authorities on 23 June, 1899, for Huddersfield to work the line on a rental basis, the Council being responsible for track maintenance. It was the requirement for additional rolling stock for this route which ultimately led to the decision to convert from steam to electric traction.

After considering lengthy reports prepared by the Managers of the Tramways and Electricity Departments, and the Borough Engineer, Mr K. F. Campbell, M.Inst.C.E., M.I.Mech.E., the report of Mr Campbell which recommended conversion of the entire steam system and the erection of a Power Station, Car Shed and offices at Longroyd Bridge was adopted by the Town Council, and the stage was thus set for the development of a modern electric tramway system.


Following the decision to proceed with electrification, the Corporation applied for powers to borrow £47,780 to carry out the work which was undertaken in two stages during 1900 and 1902. The first routes scheduled for conversion were Crosland Moor, Slaithwaite, Longwood, Outlane and the Lindley Circular route. The main contractors for this initial stage were Messrs Greenwood & Batley Ltd, Leeds, who sub-contracted various works, including car building to other firms. Traction poles painted sage green were planted on all routes and wiring erected.

The new Power Station and Car Shed was built at Longroyd Bridge on part of the site now occupied by the Scholes Windows in the former bus garage, and underground feeder cables laid to supply power to each route. All was completed by early 1901 and 25 new open top electric bogie cars built by George F. Milnes & Co Ltd, Castle Car Works, Hadley, Shropshire, to seat 56 passengers were available for service. The tramcars were painted in vermillion and cream, and had electric heaters in the lower saloon, curtains at each window, and crimson velvet cushions, a great advance on the old steam trams.

A formal opening of the power station took place on 7 February, 1901, and was attended by 150 invited guests, including the General Managers of neighbouring tramway systems. Following Board of Trade inspections (a legal requirement before any line could be used for passenger traffic), electric trams commenced running from St. George’s Square to Outlane and Lindley both via Marsh and Edgerton on 14 February, 1901, and the other routes followed by the end of the month.

Conversion of the remaining steam routes including an extension from Berry Brow to Honley (the first Corporation extension outside the Borough) was effected between February and July, 1902 by which time the electric tramcar fleet had risen to a total of 61, all of the open top type. These later acquisitions were smaller cars of two types seating 51 and 55 passengers, built by the British Electric Car Co Ltd of Trafford Park, Manchester, and were of the single truck (four wheeled) type. They were more suitable for operation on the many steeply graded routes in the Huddersfield area. A further nine cars obtained in 1903 completed the stock at 70 cars which were adequate until 1909. Top covers were first fitted to electric trams in November, 1902. The car livery was now standardised and became Indian red and pale cream, the former colour being a shade of dark maroon


A unique feature of the Huddersfield system was the operation of coal trucks, two in number which carried the coal requirements of three mills on the Outlane route, i.e. Martin, Sons & Co Ltd, Wellington Mills; Benjamin Crosland & Sons Ltd, Oakes Mill; and Edward Sykes & Sons, Gosport Mills, Outlane from the railway coal chutes at Hillhouse Goods Yard. This was the only example of such a service in the U.K. and was in operation from 1904 to 1934.


Between 1903 and 1914 improvements to the system took place each year; tracks were doubled where necessary, and extensions made to Longwood (Rose & Crown), Crosland Moor (Dryclough Road), Newsome Church, Birchencliffe, Elland, West Vale and Marsden. By 1914 the fleet comprised 106 cars, the 36 newer trams having been obtained from the United Electric Car Co Ltd, Dick, Kerr Works, Preston from which works all future new trams came.

The war years placed great strain on all tramway operators, who had to provide the best possible services from resources available. Maintenance proved a problem and men were called up for military service, but to alleviate this lady conductors were employed until 1919 but they were not called upon to drive tramcars in view of the arduous conditions found on some of Huddersfield’s routes. After the war, the policy of improvement was continued including extensions to Dod Lea from the “Rose and Crown”, Longwood and to Brighouse from the existing Sheepridge route at Smithy. This latter extension included Huddersfield’s only section of private sleeper track across fields from the “New Inn” (now the “Ashbrow”) in Bradford Road to Clough Lane, Fixby. This was the last extension made apart from the laying of the track under a Light Railway Order to serve the Leeds Road football ground in August, 1923.

A new depot to accommodate 100 tramcars was built in reinforced concrete in St. Thomas’ Road at Longroyd Bridge, and opened in July, 1921. From 1919 to 1932 new tramcars totalling 38 were purchased, the last 8 of which, painted in a new livery of Post Office red and cream and built in 1931/32, were pronounced in the technical press as being equal, if not superior, to any other tramcars in use in the country. They were fully upholstered, equipped with air brakes, and were used principally on the Bradley-Marsden through service.

Doubling of tracks from Hillhouse Lane to Fartown Bar, Moldgreen to Waterloo, and Deighton to Bradley were undertaken in 1924 in conjunction with road widening projects in Bradford Road and Wakefield Road.

     Huddersfield’s last tramcar ran to Brighouse on Saturday, 29 June, 1940, with some ceremony, although the blackout

and other wartime restrictions prevented what might have been a more fitting tribute to a service which had served the

town and district so well for over 40 years. The trams were not financially viable in their early years and £73,041 was

received from rate funds up to 1906. Between this date and 1919, however, contributions to rate relief totalled £87,027

yielding an excess of contributions over aid of £13,986. Sadly none of the trams survived into preservation



Huddersfield Passenger Transport Group