Douglas Bay Horse Tramway

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Douglas Bay Horse Tramway
Raad Yiarn Cabbyl Vaie Ghoolish
Closed Toastrack No. 35, Loch Promenade
Locale Douglas, Isle of Man
Terminus Derby Castle
Commercial operations
Name Douglas Bay Horse Tramway
Original gauge 3 ft (914 mm)
Preserved operations
Owned by Douglas Town Council
Operated by Douglas Corporation Transport
Stations Various (Hail & Ride)
Length 1.6 miles (2.6 km)
Commercial history
Opened 1 May 1876
Preservation history
1976 Centenary

The Douglas Bay Horse Tramway on the Isle of Man runs along the seafront promenade for approximately 1.6 miles (2.6 km), from the southern terminus at the Victoria Pier, adjacent to the Sea Terminal, to Derby Castle, the southern terminus of the Manx Electric Railway, where the workshops and sheds are located. It a distinctive tourist attraction.


The tramway was built and initially operated by Thomas Lightfoot, a retired civil engineer from Sheffield. His service was introduced in 1876 and the line has run every year since, except for a period during the Second World War.[1]

In 1882, Lightfoot sold the line to Isle of Man Tramways Ltd, later the Isle of Man Tramways & Electric Power Co. Ltd, which also owned the Manx Electric Railway. The company went into liquidation in 1900 as a consequence of a banking collapse. The tramway was sold by the liquidator to Douglas Corporation (now Douglas Borough Council) in 1902.

Since 1927 the tramway has run in summer only.[1]

In 2015 Douglas Borough Council partnered with Isle of Man Transport to introduce the 'Ticketer' system as used across the Island's other public transport systems.[2] On board a Ticketer hand-held unit connects with the island-wide contactless Go Cards and individual tickets can also be purchased.


The tramway is 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge, double track throughout, running down the middle of the road. Service is provided by 23 tramcars and some 45 horses.

There have been several types of tramcar, and at least one of each type has been retained. Most services are maintained by "closed toastracks", with winter saloons and open toastracks also in semi-regular service. In summer trams are stabled outdoors overnight adjacent to the Terminus Tavern public house, and there is a purpose-built tramshed where they are stored in winter.

In 2014 it was announced by the Isle of Man Government's Department of Infrastructure that during 2015 the horse tram service along the seafront would be temporarily suspended while resurfacing work on the prom continued into its next phase, which runs from Regent Street to Strathallen. However, the plans were later revised, allowing regular horse tram operation to take place in 2015, and the 2015 operating season was scheduled to begin on 11 May.[3]

Operational fleet[edit]

Horse tram arriving at Strathallan Crescent, Derby Castle on a wet day in 2002
  • No. 1 - winter saloon, second car with this number
  • No.12 - open toastrack with lamp standards on ends and large fleet numbers (returned to service 2014)
  • No. 18 - rebuilt winter saloon, now double-deck car appearing in peak season
  • No. 21 - "long" (extended) open toastrack with advertisement boards
  • No. 27 - enclosed winter saloon
  • No. 28 - enclosed winter saloon
  • No. 29 - enclosed winter saloon
  • No. 36 - roofed toastrack, in regular operation carries Black Horse Finance adverts
  • No. 37 - roofed toastrack, in regular operation carries Atholl Car Hire adverts
  • No. 40 - "long" (extended) open toastrack, carries Hilton Hotel & Casino adverts
  • No. 43 - roofed toastrack, in regular operation carries Going For Gold: Britain In Bloom adverts
  • No. 44 - the royal tram, in red white and blue, in traffic summer 2011
  • No. 45 - roofed toastrack, in regular operation carries Atholl Car Hire adverts

Stored fleet[edit]

Some cars that see little use are kept in the sheds adjacent to the station; they are in a number of styles and are maintained to a high standard but see very rare outings, not carrying advertising.

  • No. 33 - roofed toastrack, in regular operation
  • No. 34 - roofed toastrack, in regular operation
  • No. 39 - "long" (extended) open toastrack
  • No. 42 - "long" (extended) open toastrack with ornate hanging lamps on bulkheads

Jurby tramcars[edit]

Several cars were stored off-site for a number of years having been moved to a transport museum in the north of the island for display in 2009; No. 22 now serves as a souvenir shop in much the same way as it did when located at the tramway terminus for a number of years. The remaining cars are stored at the museum but as they are privately owned no further work has been carried out to them.

  • No. 11 - open toastrack, not used for many years. Left out in open storage, leading to fast deterioration in condition.
  • No. 22 - "umbrella" car, converted to shop in the 1970s
  • No. 47 - roofed toastrack in 1970s condition. Left out in open storage, leading to fast deterioration in condition.

Other tramcars[edit]

  • No. 14 - sole surviving original double-decker, on loan to Manx National Heritage
  • No. 35 - roofed toastrack, carries Manx National Heritage adverts, on display at horses' home
  • No. 46 - restored to original condition and displayed in the uk until scrapping in 2001
  • No. 49 - sole surviving convertible car, privately owned and in store off site (Baldrine)

The Future[edit]

Despite being the second-oldest operational rail system on the Island, the future of the tramway has been brought into question in recent years.[4] Plans have been submitted by the Island's Department of Infrastructure [5] to rebuild the Douglas Promenades. Plans would see the tramway moved from its current location in the middle of the roadway to a new single line formation adjacent to the Promenade walkway. The new plans have come in for some criticism from a small minority of local residents who object to the siting of the trams near to the walkway.[6]

See also[edit]




  • Heavyside, Tom (2010). Douglas – Laxey – Ramsey: including the Groudle Glen Railway. Narrow Gauge Branch Lines series. Midhurst, West Sussex, UK: Middleton Press. ISBN 9781906008758. 
  • Hendry, Robert (1993). Rails in the Isle of Man: A Colour Celebration, Midland Publishing Limited, ISBN 1-85780-009-5
  • Pearson, Keith (1999). Douglas Horse Tramway - A Millennium Year History, 1st Edition, Adam Gordon, ISBN 978-1-874422-25-9
  • Johnston, Norman. "Douglas Horse Trams in Colour." Omagh: Colourpoint Press, 1995. ISBN 9781898392101.

External links[edit]