First Generation Tram Companies
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Trams have operated in Edinburgh from 1871 to 1956 and more recently from 2014.
The first trams running in 1871 in Edinburgh were pulled by horses. The underground cable system of haulage started in the city in 1888. Electric trams first ran on the seperate system in Musselburgh, which commenced in 1904, meeting with the city system at Joppa. The other electrified lines were the Leith trams, which commenced in 1905, and they met the Edinburgh cable trams at Pilrig on Leith Walk.
An early experiment with electric traction took place in 1884 from the entrance to Donaldson School onto Haymarket Station. please click here for more detail
In 1923 the Edinburgh system was electricfied, allowing the city trams to run into Leith and as far as Port Seton.
Edinburgh City and Leith systems merged under Edinburgh Corporation in 1920. In 1928, with the closure of part of the Musselburgh system, all first generation trams operating in Edinburgh were eventually controlled by the Edinburgh Corporation.
The last of the first generation of trams ran in 1956. The second generation trams returned to the streets of Edinburgh in May 2014 with the opening of Edinburgh Trams.
The first trams to run in Edinburgh were horse-drawn and operated by the Edinburgh Street Tramways Company. The Edinburgh Street Tramways Company was originally authorised by an 1871 Act of Parliament to construct tramways in Edinburgh, Leith and Portobello. Their first horse tram service from Haymarket to Bernard Street in Leith ran on 6 November 1871. It ran from Haymarket, via Princes Street and Leith Walk, to Bernard Street, Leith, replacing a horse-drawn carriage service.
Photograph showing Edinburgh Street Tramways which advertises as service "Bernard St Leith Haymarket & North Merchiston".
Route map of the Edinburgh Street Tramways
Company Crest from the side of preserved tram No. 23
In 1887 The Patent Cable Tramways Corporation constructed a cable tramway in Edinburgh, running north from Princes Street, for the Edinburgh Northern Cable Tramway Company under the supervision of W. N. Colam. The main contractor was Dick Kerr & Co. It was based on the inventions of Hallidie, Eppelsheimer and others.
Edinburgh Northern Tramways began the first cable-hauled tram services in January 1888. In 1889 a second cable tramway was opened by the company, within half a mile of the first line and operated by the same machinery.
In January 1888 the Edinburgh Northern Tramway Company commenced running using cable-hauled tram vehicles as shown above. and below.
Details of the cable pulley operating system used. The following two pages are from "The Engineer" from 1890.
The former Depot of Edinburgh Northern Tramways in Henderson Row has 2 pulley wheels fitted to the outside following conversion to an office. Only the facade remains.
The images below shows the facade and the inscription of Edinburgh District Tramways at a higher level:
Offices were based at 1 South Charlotte Street, Edinburgh. An 1884 Company formed by Dick, Kerr and Company.
The company was registered on March 6th 1894 and had acquired from the Edinburgh Corporation leases (expiring in 1919) of about 23.75 miles of tramway, including 3 miles of original cable tramway of Edinburgh Northern Cable Tramway Company. The Edinburgh Street Tramway lines in Edinburgh, excluding the Portobello and Leith lines, were taken over by the Edinburgh & District Tramways Co. Changed from horse to cable traction.
The E&DT Co entry in the 1915 telephone directory, thanks to Roy Calderwood.
Left : Edinburgh & District Tramway Co Uniform Button
Below : Edinburgh & District Tramway Ticket. Pre-printed with the names of the stops - Murrayfield or Gorgie; Roseburn or Admillian; Pilrig or Haymarket; West End; Waverley or Post Office; as can be seen in the image.
Below is an old commercial postcard with an image of a decorated tramcar for the Royal in 1911.George V became King in May 1910 and the following year made his first state visit to Scotland. He stayed at Holyrood Palace with Queen Mary, the Prince of Wales and Princess Mary during their visit to Edinburgh in July 1911.
Company Crest from Preserved tram No 23 (members photo)
Leith Corporation Tramways (1904-1920)
The opening of the Leith Corporation Tramways on 3rd November 1904 was celebrated as seen in this postcard view
Leith Corporation Tramways - uniform button
Foot of Leith Walk
The Musselburgh system was typical of many other tramways of the early 20th century in being a joint tramway and electrical supply enterprise.
After some rival proposals and delays the “Musselburgh and District Electric Light and Traction Co. Ltd.” opened their line in December 1904 from the Edinburgh cable car terminus at Joppa to just beyond the public house at Levenhall at the east end of the Musselburgh Race Course and golf links.
In 1909 the line was extended through Prestonpans, opening as far as Cockenzie in early August and reaching the final terminus at the east end of Port Seton by the last day 1909 giving a route length of just over 6.5 miles.
There was no physical link to the cable system at Joppa and through passengers had to change vehicles. The last Edinburgh cable route to be electrified was that from the Post Office to Joppa in June 1923, allowing the tracks to be linked and joint through running by the Musselburgh Company and Edinburgh Corporation commenced between the Post Office and Port Seton.
This situation was fairly short lived as the Company ceased participating in this service in February 1928 leaving Edinburgh Corporation to run the route only as far as Levenhall.
The Company ran some local mineworkers’ cars for a further month then ceased tram operation completely but they had already begun running a through replacement bus service from Port Seton to Edinburgh.
Some images, mostly postcards from the time, are shown below and additionally at the end of text.
114 at Joppa
High Street Musselburgh
Coloured (tinted) postcard of a Tram in West Links Road in Cockenzie
At the time of closure, the total tram route was 47 miles long. The Corporation's last electric tram ran on 16 November 1956.
Edinburgh Trams 252 at Bankhead.
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All photographic images and text are Copyright Chris O'Brien. Moral right are asserted