Constructed originally as a 4ft 8½ standard gauge single-track horse tramway between Dudley and Wolverhampton under the Dudley, Sedgley and Wolverhampton Tramways Order of 1880 and opened to the public on the 7th May 1883, the system was operated by the Dudley, Sedgley and Wolverhampton Tramways Co. Ltd.
using seven (Nos. 1-7?) Ashbury horse-cars. It soon became apparent that steam would be preferable to horse-power because of the gradients on the undulating route and so, on 8th November 1885, the horse cars ceased to run and re-construction of the track commenced.
Service was resumed on the 16th January 1886 using 5 (Nos. 1-5) Kitson tram locos hauling 5 (Nos. 1-5) Starbuck bogie double-deck trailer cars.
Within a few years, however, financial problems forced the Company into liquidation (March 1888) and it was sold on 18th October 1888 to a newly formed company – the Midland Tramways Co. Ltd., which was re-formed in 1893 as the Dudley and Wolverhampton Tramways Co. Ltd.
This company, however, fared no better and, in 1899, went into voluntary liquidation.
On the 22nd April 1899 the Company was purchased from the Receivers by the BET, who proceeded to reconstruct and electrify the system under the Dudley and Wolverhampton Tramways Order of 1899.
This Order gave Wolverhampton Corporation the option to purchase the track within its boundary, which it did so.
The section between Dudley and Sedgley was re-opened on the 3rd October 1900 as 3ft 6ins gauge, and the remaining section from Sedgley to the Wolverhampton boundary at the Fighting Cocks being electrified on the 9th January 1902.
The Dudley to Sedgley section was initially worked by electric cars of the Dudley, Stourbridge & District Electric Tramways Company, whilst the line between Sedgley and the Fighting Cocks (on the Wolverhampton boundary) remained steam operated until 1902.
On the 17th December 1900, the Wolverhampton District Electric Tramways Company Limited was registered to purchase the assets of the ‘Bilston & District Tramways’ from the BET.
The Bilston Tramway was acquired on the 1st May 1900 and was previously that part of the Wolverhampton Tramways Company’s horse-tramway that lay outside the Wolverhampton town boundary.
The line to Dudley (worked by the Dudley, Stourbridge & District Company since its opening) was also transferred to the new Company, with effect from 1st February 1901.
The standard gauge tracks were re-constructed to the normal 3ft 6ins narrow gauge tracks, with a number of extensions to link up isolated sections.
Electric workings began on the 14th July 1902 on the Stow Heath Lane to Moxley via Bilston, and the Fighting Cocks to Bilston lines; the following day, 15th July 1902, services commenced on the Bilston to Willenhall section.
Later that year the Deans Road to Willenhall (6th November), Bilston to Bradley (August) and Willenhall to Darlaston (6th December – extended to Bull Stake on 15th December) lines opened for electric operation.
The initial rolling stock consisted of 13 (Nos. 1-13) double-deck open-top cars from the Electric Railway and Tramway Carriage Works of Preston, liveried in BET mustard and ivory (although later changed to lake and cream and, later still, green and cream).
Running powers from Moxley to Darlaston (over the South Staffordshire Tramways Company track) were granted and Wolverhampton District cars began running through from 23rd April 1903. Control of the Dudley to Fighting Cocks section was transferred to the Company on 27th October 1903.
However, on the 9th November 1905, operation of the section between Stow Heath Lane and Bilston was taken over by Wolverhampton Corporation, followed on the 18th April 1906 by the Deans Road to Willenhall section.
This enabled Corporation cars specially fitted with overhead equipment to operate through journeys (at the time Wolverhampton Corporation used the unusual Lorain surface contact system, which prevented Company cars from using the tracks).
On the 15th October 1906, Company cars specially equipped with the Lorain surface contact equipment began reciprocal working between Dudley and Wolverhampton, although this only lasted until 10th January 1909.
On 26th March 1921, after Wolverhampton Corporation had converted to the overhead system, the service was restored.
Following the demise of the South Staffordshire Tramways, the Company took over operation of the services between Darlaston and Wednesbury; Wednesbury and Walsall, and Darlaston and Walsall, with effect from 1st April 1924 (the last two services operated jointly with Walsall Corporation).
On the 1st October 1925, Walsall Corporation took over the section of the system between Willenhall and Darlaston, and, on 31st August 1928, Wolverhampton Corporation purchased the remainder of the Company’s assets (except the former South Staffordshire routes, which were transferred to the Dudley, Stourbridge & District Company – which thus became the only remaining BET operating company), bringing tramway operations of the Wolverhampton District Electric Tramways Company Ltd to a close.
As the Dudley, Sedgley & Wolverhampton Tramways Co. Ltd., or the Midland Tramways Co. Ltd., or the Dudley & Wolverhampton Tramways Co. Ltd.
Withdrawn by 1885 (1-7?).
Nos. 6, 8-9 ex-Huddersfield Corporation (Nos. 7-9, new 1885-86)
Withdrawn and scrapped by 1902 (all cars).
Withdrawn and scrapped 1902 (1-5).
As the Wolverhampton District Electric Traction Co. Ltd.
|Brush L& C Radial||Brush||26/22|
Nos. 1-13 (of 1901) had direct staircases and were later canopied; Nos. 1-4 (of 1901) to Dudley, Stourbridge & District Electric Traction Co. Ltd. c.1904.
Nos. 1-4 (of 1904) ex-Dudley, Stourbridge & District Electric Traction Co. Ltd., (Nos. 39-42, new 1901); cut down to single-deck c.1914.
No. 18 (plus an unknown number of others) cut down to single-deck c.1914.
No. 18 (of 1924) ex-South Staffordshire Tramways Co. Ltd., (No. 34, new 1904).
Nos. 31-32 ex-Dudley, Stourbridge & District Electric Traction Co. Ltd., (two of Nos. 39-40 or 42, new 1901, previously three of Wolverhampton & District Nos. 1-4).
No. 33 (of 1914?) ex-Birmingham & Midland Tramways Ltd. (fleet number unknown (from 1-50 series), new 1904).
No. 33 (of 1925) ex-Dudley, Stourbridge & District Electric Traction Co. Ltd., (No. 41, new 1901, previously Wolverhampton & District).
No. 34 ex-Birmingham & Midland Tramways Ltd. (fleet number unknown (from 1-50 series), new 1904).
Withdrawn by 1923 (18 (of 1902), 33 (of 1914?)); remainder unknown (but probably 1928).
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).