A Brief History of the Horse & Cable Tramways

Horse Tramway

The first part of the Douglas promenades horse tramway was originally opened on August 7, 1876 by Thomas Lighfoot, a retired Sheffield civil engineer. It ran between Burnt Mill Hill (later Summerhill) and the Iron Pier, a structure that stood at the bottom of Broadway, built in 1869 and dismantled for re-erection at Rhos on-Sea about 1894. By December 1876 the horse tramway had been extended to Peveril Square, close to the steamer piers. In 1882 Lightfoot sold the line to a syndicate which evolved as Isle of Man Tramways Ltd. In 1894 this concern was bought by the Douglas & Laxey Coast Electric Tramway Co Ltd., which changed its name to Isle of Man Tramways & Electric Power Co Ltd., and whose brief but eventful history is referred to under the Manx Electric.

Douglas Corporation Tramways Department came into existence in 1900 to negotiate the purchase of the horse and cable lines from the Liquidator of the failed IoM Tramways & Electric Power Co Ltd. In January 1902 the Corporation took over the lines within the Borough. Although electrification of the horse tramway was discussed for many years and endless reports produced, by the time the Corporation was ready to make a lucid decision the horse tramway had become a celebrity in its own right.

Despite the destruction of a significant percentage of the line's rolling stock during the past twenty five years the line survives to provide a seasonal service.

Cable Tramway

At the turn of the century, the lack of public transport facilities for Upper Douglas had become a matter of serious civic concern, and the Corporation managed to goad the IoM Tramways & Electric Power Co into building a cable tramway along the route, in return for which the borough agreed to waive its imminent powers of compulsory acquisition of the horse tramway.

The hilly-terrain of the upper Douglas route necessitated powerful mechanical traction, and a 3'-0" (914mm) gauge cable tramway was built. It opened on August 15th 1896 and had a fairly uneventful life until its closure on August 19th 1929 when it was replaced by motor buses . Two of the cable cars were sold after closure for use as a bungalow near Jurby, and these survived to be rescued in 1968 for restoration as Car "72/3" and which featured in the horse tramway centenary procession in August 1976. The tramcar is now on display at Derby Castle Depot and is the only surviving bogie cable car outside San Francisco.