Although proposals for a horse tramway had been mooted in the 1880’s nothing materialised until the end of the century, when, in 1898, the Carlisle Tramways Order authorised the construction of an electric tramway in the city.
Construction began in 1899. Because of the narrow city streets the tramway was constructed to a gauge of 3ft 6ins and consisted of six lines radiating from the London & North Western Railway’s Citadel station in the city centre to Newtown, Stanwix, along Warwick Road to Petteril Bridge, London Road, Boundary Road and Denton Holme.
The tramway was operated by the City of Carlisle Electric Tramways Co Ltd, with power being taken from the Corporation’s supply station in James Street.
The system was opened to the public on the 30th June 1900, but was never a financial success, and, in 1911 was sold to the Balfour Beatty group.
The tramway, which had been allowed to deteriorate badly during the few years it had been open, was renewed and rolling stock replaced, the ‘new’ tramway opening on 9th December 1912. A new dark green and cream livery was introduced to replace the previous chocolate and cream.
Unfortunately the advent of World War 1, in 1914, presented the company with problems, such as lack of proper staff for maintenance, and led to the deterioration of the tramway once again.
When the war ended, Carlisle began to expand and the Corporation pressed the company to extend its tramway into the new suburbs.
However, the financial state of the Company was such that it was unable to afford the expenditure required, and, in any case, in common with most other operators, had started to run its own motorbuses (under the name Percival’s Motor Bus Services).
As a result the Corporation considered operating its own buses into the suburbs.
On the 5th March 1931, Carlisle Corporation purchased the tramway and motorbus operations from the Company, after sanction from the Ministry of Transport.
The necessary operating licence, however, was refused by the Traffic Commissioners, presumably because of objections from local bus operators.
Consequently the Corporation (who decided against an appeal), invited the local operators (who included Ribble, United, Cumberland and Caledonian) to enter into a co-ordinated agreement, for which the licences were granted.
As a result the tramway was closed, the last tram (No. 8) running with due ceremony on the 21st November 1931.
No. 13 ex-Ilkeston Corporation (new 1903).
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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).