Formed in December 1882 as the Birmingham Suburban Tramways Company, the first route to be opened was the horse tram route from Old Square to Nechells Park Road via Great Lister Street, which commenced operations on the 11th November 1884, by which time the Company had been re-formed as the Birmingham Central Tramways Co. Ltd.
Authorised by the Birmingham and Suburban Tramways Order of 1882 the line was constructed to the narrow gauge of 3ft 6ins and the early livery is reported to be sage and dark green.
On the 25th November 1884, the first steam route (to Perry Barr) was opened, followed shortly afterwards by routes to Moseley (29th December 1884), Sparkbrook (11th May 1885 – extended to College Road in June 1900), Lozells (1st October 1885), Saltley (24th November 1885), Small Heath (16th January 1886), Moseley via Balsall Heath (19th July 1886 – extended to Kings Heath on the 1st February 1887) and to Wheeler Street (25th October 1886).
The initial rolling stock consisted of ten (Nos. 1-10) Falcon 4-wheel horse cars for the Nechells route, 14 (Nos. 1-14) Kitson tram locos and 13 (Nos. 11-23) Falcon trailer cars, all delivered in 1884.
In 1886, the Company purchased the portion of the track of the Birmingham Tramways and Omnibus Co. Ltd., which lay outside the city boundary, along with 18 horse cars.
At the same time Birmingham Corporation leased the lines within the city (although Birmingham did not become a city until 1889, for convenience it is always referred to as such) to the Company.
On 24th March 1888, the former horse tram route from Colmore Row to Hockley Brook (rebuilt to 3ft 6ins gauge) was converted to cable traction by the Patent Cable Tramway Company, and, on the 20th April 1889, the line was extended to Handsworth (New Inns).
The service commenced with Nos. 75-94, Falcon open-top bogie double-deckers. In October 1889 the portion of the acquired tramway along Bristol Road to Bournbrook was closed for reconstruction.
It re-opened on 24th July 1890 and was worked by Nos. 101-112, Falcon battery-electric open-top double-deck cars.
This mixture of tramway systems proved unsatisfactory and on 29th September 1896, the assets of the Birmingham Central Tramways Company were acquired by a new company – the City of Birmingham Tramways Company Ltd., which intended to convert the whole system to overhead electric.
Horse Drawn Cars
Nos 1-10 To City of Birmingham Tramways Co. Ltd., 29th September 1896.
18 horse cars were acquired from the Birmingham Tramways and Omnibus Co. Ltd., in 1886 – details unknown but these probably retained their former fleet numbers.
10 were withdrawn in March 1887; the remainder in July 1889.
|1888||–||‘Julien’ system battery-electric loco|
Nos. 1-56, 58-82 to City of Birmingham Tramways Co. Ltd., 29th September 1896.
No. 57 withdrawn 1888 and returned to manufacturer.
The battery-electric loco was used only briefly – date of withdrawal and disposal unknown.
Nos. 11-74 toCity of Birmingham Tramways Co. Ltd., 29th September 1896.
Battery Electric Cars
|Brown, Marshall & Co.||20/18|
Nos. 101-112 to City of Birmingham Tramways Co. Ltd., 29th September 1896.
Withdrawn 1894 (113-114).
Nos. 75-100, 113-118 to City of Birmingham Tramways Co. Ltd., 29th September 1896.
In preparing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
The Directory of British Tramways (Keith Turner, PSL 1996); PSV Circle Fleet History 2PD2 (1979).