Great Orme Tramway

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Great Orme Tramway
GOT Tram 4 Descending 05-07-17 04.jpeg
Type Funicular
Status Operational
Locale Llandudno, Wales
Coordinates 53°19′56″N 3°51′16″W / 53.3321°N 3.8544°W / 53.3321; -3.8544Coordinates: 53°19′56″N 3°51′16″W / 53.3321°N 3.8544°W / 53.3321; -3.8544
Opening 1902
Operator(s) Conwy County Borough Council
No. of tracks Single track with passing loop
Track gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Route diagram
756 Summit Complex
passing loop
St Tudno's Roadlevel crossing
0 Halfway
interlaced track
passing loop
Old Roadstreet running
0 Victoria

The Great Orme Tramway (Welsh: Tramffordd y Gogarth) is a cable-hauled 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge tramway in Llandudno in north Wales.

This is Great Britain's only remaining cable operated street tramway and one of few surviving in the world. It takes passengers from Llandudno Victoria Station to just below the summit of the Great Orme headland. Operation of the tramway differs from the better-known San Francisco system in that it is not a cable car but, rather, operates on the funicular principle where the cars are permanently fixed to the cable and are stopped and started by stopping and starting the cable. As one car is ascending, the other is descending, and they meet midway.

The line comprises two sections, where each section is an independent funicular and passengers change cars at the halfway station. Whilst the upper section runs on its own right of way and is very similar to many other funicular lines, the lower section is an unusual street running funicular, similar to Lisbon’s Glória, Bica, and Lavra funiculars.


The tramway was opened in its two stages: the lower section on 31 July 1902 and the upper on 8 July 1903. The line was initially provided with seven cars, three freight cars numbered 1 to 3 and four passenger cars numbered 4 to 7. The passenger cars were each named after a local Welsh Christian saint and are still in service. The freight cars were for the carriage of goods and parcels, as stipulated in the tramway's original Parliamentary Order, but were withdrawn from service by 1911. The freight vans were also used to carry coffins for burial at the church on Great Orme. There were two methods of using the freight tramcars - they could be placed on the track ahead of a passenger tram, and propelled up the incline, or the cable could be detached from a passenger tram and attached instead to a freight tram, which then operated alone up the incline. All seven trams were fitted with couplings, which would have allowed the passenger trams to tow the freight trams, but there is no evidence that this type of operation ever actually occurred.[1]

The original power house, at the Halfway station between the lower and upper sections, was equipped with winding gear powered by steam from coke-fired boilers. This was replaced in 1958 by electrically powered apparatus. In 2001, the entire Halfway station, its control room and its power plant were completely rebuilt and re-equipped.[2]



The tramway has three main stations, a lower station named "Victoria" after the hotel that formerly occupied the station site, a middle one aptly named 'Halfway', and the Great Orme Summit station. Passengers must change trams at the Halfway station as upper and lower funicular sections are physically separate.

The two sections operate independently, with two cars on each section. The lower section is built on or alongside the public road and has gradients as steep as 1 in 3.8 (26.15%). The cable on this section lies below the road surface in a conduit between the rails. The bottom half of the section is single track, but above the passing loop it has interlaced double track. In comparison, the upper section is less steep, with a maximum gradient of 1 in 10 (10%), and is single track apart from a short double track passing loop equipped with points actuated by the flanges of the passing cars. The rails are interrupted to accommodate the cable.


Tram number Tram name Type Entered Service Notes
1 No name 16'7" four-wheel freight tram car 1902 Withdrawn in (or by) 1911
2 No name 16'7" four-wheel freight tram car 1902 Withdrawn in (or by) 1911
3 No name 16'7" four-wheel freight tram car 1902 Withdrawn in (or by) 1911
4 St Tudno 37' bogie passenger tram car 1902 Still in service
5 St Silio 37' bogie passenger tram car 1902 Still in service
6 St Seiriol 37' bogie passenger tram car 1902 Still in service
7 St Trillo 37' bogie passenger tram car 1902 Still in service


An overhead wire telegraph was formerly used for communication between the tram and the engineer-driver in charge of winding the drum, and has been replaced with an induction-loop radio-control system.


  • On Sunday 30 April 2000, on the day of the Llandudno Transport Festival, 37 passengers were injured with 17 requiring hospital treatment following a head-on collision between trams 6 and 7 on the passing loop of the upper section. The cause of the accident, described as the most serious since the opening in 1902, was initially thought to be a points problem.[3][4] The investigation by Her Majesty’s Railway Inspectorate concluded that the two persons responsible to survey the position of the point didn't notice the incorrect position because their training had been inadequate.
  • Shortly after midday on 15 September 2009 two trams on the upper section collided at the passing loop above Halfway station. No serious injuries were reported, but both the Rail Accident Investigation Branch and the operators, Conwy County Borough Council, launched investigations. The RAIB published their report in 2010.[5] The report concluded that the forces of wheels in the upper bogie of car 6 could move the point into the wrong position and this made the lower bogie run on the track of car 7. Wear of the rails and the point mechanism had allowed this result.


A selection of views of the line, from lower station to summit:

See also[edit]


Inline citations
  1. ^ Keith Turner: The Great Orme Tramway – over a century of service. Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst 2003, ISBN 978-0-86381-817-2, pages 65–68.
  2. ^ Noel Walley (1902-07-31). "Llandudno Great Orme Tramway Conwy North Wales UK". Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  3. ^ "Tram collision injures 17 passengers". BBC News Online (BBC). 30 April 2000. Retrieved 15 September 2009. 
  4. ^ "Accident on the Great Orme Tramway - report by John Murray". North Wales Railway Noticeboard. Charlie Hulme. 1 May 2000. Retrieved 15 September 2009. 
  5. ^ "Collision on the Great Orme Tramway, 15 September 2009" (PDF). Rail Accident Investigation Branch. 16 October 2010. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 
Other references
  1. J. I. C. Boyd; Narrow Gauge Railways in North Caernarvonshire Volume 3 Part 7 The Great Orme Tramway and Tramroad The Oakwood Press, 1986
  2. R.C. Anderson, A.M.Inst.T.; The Great Orme Railway Light Railway Transport League (later edition called The Great Orme Tramway).
  3. Keith Turner; The Great Orme Tramway – Over a Century of Service Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanwrst, 2003.

External links[edit]