Sheffield Tramway

Sheffield Tramway

: "This article is about the original Sheffield tramway system, for the modern light-railway system see Sheffield Supertram."

Sheffield Tramway was an extensive tramway network serving the city of Sheffield and its suburbs.

The first tramway line, which was horse-drawn, started in 1873 with the opening of a line between Lady's Bridge and Attercliffe. This line was subsequently extended to Brightside and Tinsley. Routes were built to Heeley, where a tram depot was built, Nether Edge and Hillsborough.

In 1899, the first electric tram ran between Nether Edge and Tinsley. By 1902 all the routes were electrified. By 1910, the Sheffield Tramway network covered 39 miles, in 1951 the network was extended to 48 miles.

The last trams ran between Leopold Street and Beauchief on 8 October 1960—three Sheffield trams were subsequently preserved at the National Tramway Museum in Crich.__TOC__


The horse tram era

The Sheffield horse tramway was created under the Tramways Act 1870, with powers granted in July 1872. The first routes, to Attercliffe and Carbrook, Brightside, Heeley, Nether Edge and Owlerton opened between 1873 and 1877. Under the legislation at that time, local authorities were precluded from operating tramways but were empowered to construct them and lease the lines to an individual operating company. Tracks were constructed by contractors and leased to the Sheffield Tramways Company who operated the services.

Prior to the inauguration of the horse trams, horse buses had provided a limited public service but at that time road surfaces were of poor quality and their carrying capacity was low. The new horse trams, travelling on steel rails, gave a smoother ride and were an improvement over previous alternatives. The fares were too high for the average worker so the horse trams saw little patronage; services began later than when workers began their day so were of little use to most. Running costs were high as the operator had to keep a large number of horses and could not offer low fares.

It was common practice to paint tramcars in different colours according to the route operated. This helped even illiterate people to identify the trams.

The electric tram era

The Sheffield Corporation (Sheffield City Council) took over the tramway system in July 1896. The Corporation's goal was to expand and mechanise the system. Almost immediately a committee was formed to inspect other tramway systems to look at the improved systems of traction. Upon their return the committee recommended the adoption of electrical propulsion using the overhead current collection system.

The national grid was not as developed as it is now and so the Corporation set out to generate the required current. The Corporation became the local domestic and industrial electricity supplier. A power station was built for the Sheffield Corporation Tramways on Kelham Island by the river Don between Mowbray Street and Alma Street. [Now used as the Kelham Island industrial museum. See] Feeder cables stretched from there to the extremeties of the system, covering over forty miles of route.


The Sheffield Tramway Company's original horse drawn tram network was 9½ miles long and radiated from the city centre to Tinsley, Brightside, Hillsborough, Nether Edge and Heeley. A few years after the Sheffield Corporation took over, horse tramways were gradually and completely replaced firstly by single deck electric tramcars then by double decker tramcars. It extended routes to Beauchief and Woodseats in 1927 and to Darnall and Intake in 1928.

Adjacent lines were converted into circular route by sleep track connecting links. The line along Abbey Lane, linking Beauchief to Woodseats was one of them and its entirety was built on reserved track.

The last extensions were opened in 1934 and extended the network to Lane Top, via Firth Park.Three small sections, Fulwood Road, Nether Edge and Petre St were closed between 1925 and 1936.

In 1952, the Corporation closed 2 sections (inc. the Abbey Lane line), followed by the rest of the network between 1954 and 1960.

Tram depots

Over the years eight depots were built throughout the city to service a fleet of about 400 trams.

Tinsley tram depot

Tinsley tram depot (coord|53|24|28|N|1|24|45|W|region:GB_type:landmark) was built in 1874 and was the first depot built in Sheffield for the "Sheffield Tramways Company". It was originally built for horse trams but was converted for electric trams in 1898–1899 after which it was capable of accommodating 95 tram cars. Following the abandonment of the tramway system in 1960, the Tinsley depot was sold and was subsequently used as a warehouse. Much of the original 1874 building still exists and the entire depot is listed as a historically significant building. The Sheffield Bus Museum Trust used part of the depot as a museum from 1987 until 2007 when they moved to a factory unit in Rotherham.The building is now all but empty with just a tile dealer left there in the first two "bays" through the gate.Recently there have being some rumors that the whole area is to be developed and work has been carried out on the Weedon Street side of the building to clear a small patch of waste land but nothing definite has been announced.

Heeley tram depot

Heeley tram depot (coord|53|21|31.5|N|1|28|28|W|region:GB_type:landmark) was the depot for horse trams only, the line to it was never electrified. The depot was built by the Sheffield Tramways company in 1878. When the tram system was abandoned in 1960, the depot was sold and subsequently used as a car repair shop until 2005. The building has been sold and flats will be built incorporating the structure, as it is a listed building, [English Heritage (1995) [ Albert Road (South West side) Nos.20-42.] "Images of England" (accessed 31 March 2006).] although the archway was recently demolished. Locals recently were told the archway would be saved as part of the redevelopment but awoke one morning to find it knocked down. The builder told locals that it was unsafe and fell down in the night.Sheffield City Council however has told the builder that all work on site must stop until the archway is restored, however work is continued regardless.Flats were built in place of the depot and the central rooftop removed to make way for a courtyard. The original archway was rebuilt, partly with original material and slate from the roof was replaced. The arch has been "lifted" up slightly to comply with regulations to allow access by the fire service.

Nether Edge depot

A small tram shed was built at the Nether Edge terminus (coord|53|21|35|N|1|29|18|W|region:GB_type:landmark), which opened in 1899. The Nether Edge line as well as two other small sections was abandoned due to the narrowness of the streets the tram travelled on. This caused problems and was unsuitable for efficient service. The Sheffield Corporation concluded that trams were better for city service.

Queens Road works

The Queens Road works (coord|53|22|8|N|1|27|52|W|region:GB_type:landmark) opened in 1905. Many of the trams used on the Sheffield tramway were built at Queens Road. The building survived for many years following abandonment, but was demolished in the 1990s.

Shoreham Street depot

Construction of the Shoreham Street depot (coord|53|22|36|N|1|27|54|W|region:GB_type:landmark) started in about 1910 on the site of an 18th century leadmill. Following the abandonment of the tramway the depot was used as a bus garage for many years until it finally closed in the 1990s. Much of the building has since been demolished and redeveloped as student flats. However those parts that surround the entrance at the junction of Shoreham Street and Leadmill Road are still standing and in good condition, though a new use for them has yet to be found.

Crookes tram depot

The Crookes depot, which was located on Pickmere Road (coord|53|23|1|N|1|30|25|W|region:GB_type:landmark), was started in 1914, but not completed until 1919. [Hobbs, C. " [ The Tramshed at Pickmere Road Crookes Sheffield] " (URL accessed 31 March 2006).] It closed on 5 May 1957 and has since been demolished and a Church now stands on the site.

Tenter Street depot

The Tenter Street depot (coord|53|23|2|N|1|28|21|W|region:GB_type:landmark) opened in 1928 and was the last tram depot to remain in operational use. As well as the tram depot there was a bus garage on the upper level that was accessed from Hawley Street.

Holme Lane depot (Hillsborough)

The depot at Holme Lane (coord|53|24|7|N|1|30|12|W|region:GB_type:landmark) closed on 23 April 1954. The facade of the building still stands, although the rest of the building has been demolished and a medical centre built in its place.

Rolling stock

"For a comprehensive list of the tramcars of the Sheffield Tramway see here".

Unlike other tram companies, whose trams were often rebuilt and made to last thirty to forty years, Sheffield Corporation adopted a praiseworthy policy of replacement by new vehicles after a twenty-five year life. The corporation never really stopped acquiring new rolling stock and by 1940, only eleven of its 444 trams were older than twenty-six years, more than half of them were less than ten.

In its history, Sheffield Corporation operated 884 tramcars. Its last livery was the blue and cream livery, which is still worn on the preserved trams at Crich and Beamish.

The 'Preston' cars

The United Electric Car Company of Preston built 15 double deck balcony cars for Sheffield Corporation Tramways in 1907.Wiseman, Richard (1997). "Sheffield Trams in Colour Since 1950". Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 0-7110-2535-5] Initially numbered 258–272 they had wooden seats for 59 passengers, and were mounted on a 4-wheel Peckham P22 truck with two Metrovick 102DR 60 hp motors operated by BTH B510 controllers. The braking systems consisted of a handbrake acting on all wheels, an electric brake for emergency use and a hand-wheel operated track brake. Between December 1924 and July 1927 they were rebuilt with a totally-enclosed upper deck.

The 'Rocker Panel' cars

Following the production of a prototype at the Sheffield Corporation Tramways Queens Road works in 1917, between 1919 and 1927 Brush at Loughborough built 100 of these cars, another 50 at were built at Cravens in Darnall.

The 'Standard' cars

The prototype Standard Car (numbered 1) was built by Cravens at Darnall, and entered service in 1927. Subsequently about 150 more were built at the Queens Road works and 25 were built by W.E. Hill & Sons in South Shields. From 1936–1939 the Queens Road works built redesigned Standard Cars, which were known as the 'Domed-roof' Class and had improved lighting and seats.

The 'Roberts' cars

The prototype for this series (number 501) was built at the Queens Road works in August 1946. WIth comfortable upholstered seating for 62 passengers it was the last car to be built at the works From 1950–1952 35 more of these double deck trams, numbered 502–536 were constructed by Charles Roberts & Co. of Wakefield (now Bombardier Eurorail). They were carried on a 4-wheel Maley and Taunton hornless type 588 truck with rubber and leaf spring suspension. The cars were powered by two Metrovick 101 DR3 65 hp motors. Air brakes were fitted, acting on all wheels, and electric braking was available for emergency use. Car 536, which entered service on 11 April 1952, was the last tram to be constructed for the Sheffield tramway. Representing the ultimate development of the traditional British 4-wheel tramcar, the class worked for only 10 years, as Sheffield tramway was closed in 1960. On 8 October of that year, car 513, a member of the class ran specially decorated in the final procession; so too did sister tram 510, now preserved by the National Tramway Museum at Crich.

Sheffield trams in preservation

The National Tramway Museum, Crich

The National Tramway Museum at Crich in Derbyshire holds eight former Sheffield trams. [ [ Tram Fleet] , "National Tramway Museum" (URL accessed 31 March 2006).] Sheffield Corporation Tramways car number 15 is a horse tram dating from 1874; it was the first tram to be used at the museum in 1963. Car number 74 is another Victorian Sheffield tram that was sold to the Gateshead tramway and ran until 1951. Although only its lower deck survived, in use as a garden shed, it has now been restored to original condition by the museum. The museum also has Standard car number 189, a Domed-roof car (number 264), and a Roberts car (number 510). In addition there are two works cars from the Sheffield fleet and an early single-deck Sheffield tram that is not in working condition.

The North of England Open Air Museum, Beamish

The The North of England Open Air Museum at Beamish had two preserved Sheffield trams. Number 264 is a Preston car dating from 1907, [ Burchell, A. [ Sheffield 264] (URL accessed 31 March 2006).] Number 513, a Roberts car dating from 1950 was there also until a few years ago but this has now being moved and is believed to be in Blackpool at the moment. 513 has had quite an eventful time since leaving Sheffield. It was stored for some time on disused railway sidings and lost most of its control equipment and glass thanks to vandals. After that it has travelled to Blackpool and after repair it ran under wires on the famous seafront system, and as mentioned above it has ran for quite some time at Beamish. [ Burchell, A. [ Sheffield 513] (URL accessed 31 March 2006).] .


There are few remnants of the, once extensive, tramway. The tram sheds at Tinsley and Heeley survive, as do parts of those at Holme Lane and Shoreham Street. In many places the tram tracks were not removed, the road was resurfaced over the tracks, and the tracks still survive (albeit covered). An example of tracks covered in this way was uncovered and made a feature of The Moor pedestrian precinct for time but this was re-covered when the area was re-modeled a few years back.

Around the City there are about ten or so of the "overhead" poles still standing (as of 2006), such as the matching pair in Firth Park, where you can also see a small section of track in the middle of the traffic island. Poles also survive at Manor Top, Woodseats Abbeydale Road, Angel Street and also the "last" pole, out side Tinsley Depot.

On the pavement of Howard Rd in Walkley, near the junction with Commonside, several manhole covers marked "Sheffield Corporation Tramway" are still in place.

In places where the trams ran on a reserved track, such as on Abbeydale Road South and Abbey Lane at Beauchief, the reservation has been converted into a dual carriage-way. The former line also lives on in the name of Terminus Road, Abbeydale.

At Kelham Island, the power station that generated the electricity for the whole system still stand and is now used as Kelham Island Industrial Heritage Museum.


External links

* [ Sheffield Bus Museum]
* [ Sheffield tram in the 1960s]

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