The Douglas horse tram service is the oldest horse drawn tramway in the world.It is unique in the northern hemisphere – the only other similar service being in Victor Harbour, South Australia. The service started life on August 7th, 1876 as the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway and was the inspiration of a retired civil engineer, Thomas Lightfoot, who came up with the idea of a public transport system along the promenade that would carry the thousands of visitors arriving at the Victoria Pier by steamer.
In January 1882 Lightfoot sold his tramway to the Isle of Man Tramways, after which the line was upgraded from single to double track. The tramway was sold again in 1894 to what was later to become the Isle of Man Tramways and Electric Power Company Ltd.
Then, in 1902, it was taken over by Douglas Corporation, now Douglas Borough Council, and it’s been run by the Council ever since. The service was interrupted by the Second World War then started up again in May 1946.
In 1876 there were 51 tramcars and today 21 of those are still in service. The horses – ‘trammers’ as they’re sometimes called – that pull the tramcars are stabled at Summerhill, close to the Manx Electric Railway terminus.
The horses complete no more than three return journeys each day and, as the trams move on roller bearings, the horse only has to trot along in front, giving just the occasional pull to keep the trams moving.
The tram journeys normally last 20 minutes and passengers are welcome to leave or join the tram on request during the journey.
A lovely story from the Douglas corporation website and get they are the ones who have decided to axe this service as it is running at a loss. It has always run at a loss, but is part of our heritage. Lightfoot sold it because it did not make enough money for his initial investment.
The Isle of Man is unique it has horse trams, electric railways, steam trains and the great Laxey Wheel all part of our Victorian past. The people of the island will fight to keep it all, because once one is eroded, they will all go, can you imagine our Lady Isabella being chopped up for firewood because it costs too much to run !!
Well that was the story up until our council decided that we were going to do away with it. This unique form of transport has had such a brilliant life span and is not only part of our heritage, but part of our daily lives. The trams would stop in the road to collect passengers and the horses would trot on their way. No longer will this unique (and it is unique because it is not a modern copy but a restored original) When we look at what happened with the steam railways in England and how by sheer good fortune they had not been destroyed so could be lovingly restored and the railway lines become