Barrow-in-Furness Tramways Co Ltd 1885-1920

The Barrow-in-Furness Corporation Act of 1881 authorised the construction of a tramway system within the borough and on the 27th February 1884 the Tramways Order Confirmation, promoted by the Barrow-in-Furness Tramways Co. Ltd., to whom the lines were to be leased, authorised the construction of the tramway.

The initial routes were planned to run from the Town Hall to the Abbey, via Duke Street and Ramsden Square; a branch from Ramsden Square to the steelworks; from the Town Hall to Roose Station, via Salthouse Road and Roose Road, and from the Town Hall to Ramsden Dock, via the High Level Bridge, where the track was doubled, then down to the forecourt of the Dock railway station.

The High Level Bridge was still under construction at this stage and it was to be a further 12 months before the trams could reach the terminus. The depot was built next to the Vulcan Foundry in Salthouse Road. On the 11th July 1885 the system opened to the public.

The initial rolling stock comprised of eight locomotives supplied by Kitson of Leeds (Nos. 1-8) and eight trailers by Falcon Works of Loughborough (and also numbered 1-8), wearing a maroon and white livery.

In 1893 the Board of Trade granted permission for steam traction to be used until 1900 and the company sought Parliamentary powers to extend the routes.

Proposals included an extension from the Abbey route at Claye’s Mansion to Dalton-in-Furness some five miles further on. Barrow Council, however, was unimpressed and the extension was forgotten.

By 1897 the total route length was 5.5 miles, but the financial state of the company was in serious decline.

In 1898 the Barrow-in-Furness Tramways Co. went into liquidation, and although the council considered purchasing the company (the asking price was £22,750) in the end declined, and, on the 23rd December 1899, it was taken over by the British Electric Traction Co. Ltd., whose intention was to convert the system to electric traction in line with their regular practice.

In the meantime, however, the BET imported two locos and trailers from the North Staffordshire Tramways to help maintain the services.

On the night of 27th June 1902, a fire at the Salthouse Road depot destroyed several locos and trailers, which were never replaced and by the time of the steam tramways closure on 13th July 1903 the remaining rolling stock had deteriorated badly.

Electrification of the track commenced in 1903 and opened to the public on 6th February 1904, a new depot being built on the site of the old one.

An agreement was reached with the Furness Railway to lay tracks to Walney Island, over the proposed new bridge that was intended to replace the ferry. The complete system was relaid by Griffiths of London to the same 4ft gauge.

The initial fleet comprised of seven Brush open-top cars (Nos. 1-7) and five Brush bogie single-deckers (Nos. 8-12), needed to negotiate the low railway bridge at Salthouse.

In 1905 two British Electric Car demi-cars (Nos.13-14) for use on the off-peak Ramsden Dock to Roose service, and two more Brush open-top cars (Nos.15-16) were added to the fleet.

The bridge to Walney Island opened on 30th July 1908. The tram tracks in Ferry Road (now re-named New Bridge Road) were relaid towards the bridge and it was ready for use in June 1909.

At the same time work was proceeding on a new extension to Biggar Bank on Walney Island, which opened in August 1911.

The fleet was strengthened in 1911 by the arrival of four (Nos. 17-20) Brush bogie open-top cars and in 1913/14 four Brush bogie single-deckers (Nos. 21-24) were purchased.

The final purchases for the BET Co. were two second-hand Midland bogie single-deckers (Nos. 25-26) bought around 1915 from the Potteries Electric Traction Co.

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 restricted the BET expansion plans and the lack of men and materials put a strain on the system, which consequently suffered serious neglect over the next few years. 

On the 1st January 1920 the Corporation of Barrow exercised its option to purchase the tramway system, which it did for the sum of £96,250.



YearFleet No.Manufacturer

Nos. 9-10? ex-North Staffordshire Tramways (new ?).
Withdrawn by 1903.

Trailer Cars

YearFleet No.TypeManufacturerSeating

Nos. 9-10? ex-North Staffordshire Tramways (new ?).
Withdrawn by 1903.

Electric Cars


Brush ABrush26/22
Brush BBrush38


Brush RadialBrush32/28


Brill 22EBrush56/40


Mountain & Gibson 3LBrush40


Brill 22EMidland40


27-28Double-deck open-topBrush AABrush30/18

Trailer Cars


27-28Double-deck open-topBrushBrush30/18

Nos. 27-28 motorised c. 1920.

In producing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
The Directory of British Tramways (Keith Turner, PSL 1996); Trams in the North West (Peter Hesketh, Ian Allan 1995).