Great Orme Tramway

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Great Orme Tramway
Locale Llandudno, Wales
Transit type Cable car
Began operation 1902
Operator(s) Conwy County Borough Council
Number of vehicles 4
Track gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Great Orme Funicular Tramway
756 Summit Complex
passing loop
St Trudno'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 a street running funicular (similar to Lisbon’s Glória, Bica, and Lavra funiculars), 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 tramway was opened in two stages: the lower section on 31 July 1902 and the upper on 8 July 1903. The two sections operate independently, with two cars on each section which are mechanically separate. 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.

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.[1]


The tramway uses four 37 feet long bogie tramcars, in service since 1902 and numbered 4 to 7, inclusive. Numbers 1 to 3 were 16 ft 7in long four-wheeled vans which were pushed by the tramcars, but were withdrawn from service in 1911.[2] The four passenger trams are each named after a local Welsh Christian saint. The three withdrawn box van tram cars were for the carriage of goods and parcels, as stipulated in the tramway's original Parliamentary Order; this also banned the carriage of livestock.

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.

The tramway has three main stations, the lower station named "Victoria" after the hotel that formerly occupied the station site, the 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.


  • 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.


See also[edit]


Inline citations
  1. ^ Noel Walley (1902-07-31). "Llandudno Great Orme Tramway Conwy North Wales UK". Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  2. ^ 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.
  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". 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]

Coordinates: 53°19′56″N 3°51′16″W / 53.3321°N 3.8544°W / 53.3321; -3.8544