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Preston’s trams then and now, a light rail future?

Posted on - 9th January, 2022 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Deepdale, Fulwood, History, Longridge, Preston City Centre, Preston News
Artist's impression of a tram in Preston city centre Pic: Preston Trampower
Artist’s impression of a tram in Preston city centre Pic: Preston Trampower

Work on creating a new tram network in Preston continues. The city should be joining Manchester, Blackpool and Birmingham in having its own system.

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Earlier this year, Preston Trampower acquired Station House in Gamull Lane, to use as a headquarters. Appropriately, the building was once the station master’s house on the Preston to Longridge railway. 

In 2018 Eric Wright Civil Engineering was contracted to build the new Guild Line. As a result the next step was to build a test track in Deepdale.

Guild Line tram route Pic: Preston Trampower
Guild Line proposed route Pic: Preston Trampower

The test track route is shown below; there is still a remnant of track from the Longridge railway, crossing Skeffington Road.

Tram test track route Pic: Google Maps
Tram test track route Pic: Google Maps

Preston Trampower had said it hoped to start work on a 200-metre demonstrator line in Deepdale last summer, but the the company’s website news section still states: “News to follow shortly on planning, commencement of works, funding and other project developments.”

The company was contacted for an update, but had not replied at the time of writing.

Interestingly, Preston was an early adopter of trams.

Historic Preston Tramway Company route Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Historic Preston Tramway Company route Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Horse-drawn trams to Fulwood Barracks

The Preston Tramway Company opened the first horse-drawn line in 1879. This was a 2.5 mile route that went from the Town Hall, north along Lancaster Road and then east to Fulwood Barracks. By 1882, Preston Corporation was also running trams.

Horse-drawn tram from the 1880s Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Horse-drawn tram from the 1880s Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The Corporation takes over Preston’s trams

One of the Corporation lines ran along Fishergate and New Hall Lane, to the Pleasure Gardens. Another ran north-west to Ashton-on-Ribble. This made the early tramway 5.5 miles long. Until 1887, both the Preston Tramway Company and the Corporation lines worked independently.

A horsecar driver and conductor pose for the camera outside the Excelsior Art Studio on the Lancaster Road to Fulwood Barracks route  Pic: Tramways and Light Railways Society
A horsecar driver and conductor pose for the camera outside the Excelsior Art Studio on the Lancaster Road to Fulwood Barracks route Pic: Tramways and Light Railways Society

W Harding and Company, a local horse omnibus company, operated the Corporation lines. Eventually, the Corporation bought out the private company, and both systems were then operated by Harding’s. The last horse tram ran in 1903.

Electric trams take over

The system was closed for six months while it was converted to electric traction. It re-opened in June 1904. The final network was completed by 1905. Unfortunately, Council dithering over building new extensions meant that large parts of Preston never had a service. They also made plans to convert the system to trolleybus operation, which also never came to fruition.

Preston Corporation Transport tram Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Preston Corporation Transport tram Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Buses began running in 1922 and by 1931 Preston Corporation Transport had been born. Tram routes began to close and bus routes expand.

The last tram ran in Preston in 1935. The maximum route mileage was less than 11 miles, poor for such a large area.

Preston Bus Station in 1965 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Preston Bus Station in 1965 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Scout Motor Services

The Scout Motor Services fleet in 1936 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
The Scout Motor Services fleet in 1936 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

On the subject of buses, Preston once had a large private fleet operated by Scout Motor Services. They were based in Starch House Square. The firm operated from 1919 until 1968. 



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