Sheffield Tramway

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The Sheffield Corporation tramway network at its fullest extent, circa 1933. The lines to Nether Edge and Petre Street closed before the Second World War.

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

The first tramway line, horse-drawn, opened in 1873 between Lady's Bridge and Attercliffe, 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, and by 1902 all the routes were electrified. As of 1910 the network covered 39 miles, and as of 1951 48 miles.

The last trams ran between Leopold Street to Beauchief and Tinsley on 8 October 1960—three Sheffield trams were subsequently preserved at the National Tramway Museum in Crich. 34 years later trams returned to the streets of Sheffield under a new network called Supertram.


Horse tram era[edit]

Sheffield tramcar 15, used on the Brightside route, at the National Tramway Museum.

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, which operated the services.

Prior to the inauguration of the horse trams, horse buses had provided a limited public service, but road surfaces were poor and their carrying capacity was low. The new horse trams gave a smoother ride. 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 illiterate people to identify the trams.

Electric tram era[edit]

'Standard' tram at Beauchief on the last day of the tramway, 1960

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.

An 'Improved Standard' at Sheffield Lane Top terminus, 1959

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 Sheffield Corporation Tramways on Kelham Island by the river Don between Mowbray Street and Alma Street.[1] Feeder cables stretched from there to the extremities of the system, covering over 40 miles of route.

Preserved Sheffield tramcar 15 of 1900.

The horse operated lines were left opened and track replaced with heavier rails. Along with lines opening to Abbeydale, Walkley and Hunter's Bar, the missing link in the centre of the sprawling network between Moorhead and Lady's Bridge was finally laid.

Electric lines opened in succession; Nether Edge to Tinsley on 6 September 1899, to Walkley on 18 September 1899 and Pitsmoor on 27 September 1899. The other electric lines opened soon after allowing the Hillsborough to be closed in November 1902.

The network was basically in place by 1905, further development included extending lines out of the city and connecting lines.

'Jubilee' on a special at Woodseats, March 1960

In 1905, Rotherham Corporation connected their line to Templeborough to Tinsley and both Sheffield and Rotherham corporations began running services between both towns. Some tensions existed between both councils and services were halted between September 1914 and May 1915 leaving passengers to either walk between both networks or use the railways. Sheffield Corporation introduced motor bus services from the termini to outlying districts in 1918.

The First World War made material scarce and progress in bus technology which meant that many cities abandoned their tram networks. Sheffield considered trolleybuses, but found no favours in the Council who preferred motor buses. Twenty second-hand double-deck tramcars were purchased from London County Council Tramways in 1917 and 1918, due to the material shortage. This was a rare move but a necessary one to replace single-deck cars. The scarcity of material did not deter the Corporation, though, who extended the network to Handsworth, Mansfield Road and to Sheffield Lane Top. In 1927, the Beauchief and Meadowhead lines were joined by the laying of track along Abbey Lane. Prince of Wales Road line was linked to the Handsworth and Intake line. The Nether Edge line was closed in 1934, in face of line renewal costs, the Nether Green via Broomhill line suffering the same fate.

The Prussian blue with cream bands with gold leaf lining livery gave way to the Cream with azure blue bands.

After the Second World War, the railway bridge on Sheffield Road was replaced and the through-tram service to Rotherham temporarily suspended. It was never reinstated. In 1951, the decision was taken to eventually close the tramway system and replace it with motor buses. The decision was not unanimous, Councillor R.W. Allott resigned from the ruling Labour Group in protest. The Council compared the price to replace tramcars with that of buses, ignoring the shorter lifespan of motor buses.

The first line conversion was the Fulwood to Malin Bridge in 1952. Several protests broke out following the publishing of the news. "Sheffield folk were fond of their trams and did not take kindly to the prospect of losing them".[2] An unsuccessful petition was handed over to the Council by the Holmes Lane residents and traders. The second conversion occurred in 1954 and was the Ecclesall to Middlewood line. Thos W Ward received most of the trams for scrapping via a track connection into their scrap-yard on Attercliffe Common, almost opposite the end of Weedon Street.

The last route, Beauchief to Vulcan Road, closed on the afternoon of Saturday 8 October 1960. An illuminated car, followed by a procession of fourteen trams, carried passengers and Council dignitaries from Beauchief to the Tinsley depot. Trams then went on to Tinsley or Queens Road, trams led to the Queens Road were destined for preservation.


'Jubilee' tram on the Abbeydale Road reservation near Beauchief, 1960
'Standard' tram at Millhouses loop, 1958
'Standard' and 'Jubilee' trams on a tour at Wolseley Road, March 1960

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 Sheffield Corporation took over horse tramways were gradually replaced first by single-deck, then double-deck electric trams. It extended routes to Beauchief and Woodseats in 1927 and to Darnall and Intake in 1928.

Adjacent lines were converted into circular route by sleeper-track connecting links. The line along Abbey Lane linking Beauchief to Woodseats was mostly 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 two sections followed by the rest of the network between 1954 and 1960. The sortable table below shows opening and closing dates of routes -

Terminus Route Date opened to electric trams Date closed
ABBEY LANE 14 April 1927 1 March 1959
BRIGHTSIDE 27 December 19011 7 December 1958
CROOKES Old Grindstone 1 April 1901 5 May 1957
School Rd 28 April 1902
Heavygate Rd 1913
DARNALL Prince of Wales Rd 11 April 1901 13 April 1958
ECCLESALL Hunters Bar 13 April 1900 28 March 1954
Banner Cross 1908
Millhouses Lane 1922 1954[3]
FIRTH PARK Pitsmoor 27 September 1899 3 April 1960
Barnsley Rd 1909
FIRTH PARK Pitsmoor 26 October 1903 1 March 1959
Brightside Lane 1909
FIRTH PARK Newhall Rd 27 October 1957
FULWOOD Ranmoor P.O. 1 August 1901 23 August 1936
via Broomhill Nether Green 12 October 1901
Canterbury Lane 12 July 1923
FULWOOD Hangingwater Rd 28 October 1901 6 January 1952
via Hunters Bar Nether Green 14 May 1904
Canterbury Lane 12 July 1923
HANDSWORTH Norfolk Arms 1909 5 May 1957
Orgreave Lane 7 September 1934
INTAKE Cemetery Gates 10 January 1900 8 April 1956
Woodhouse Rd 17 April 1902 (Manor Top-Intake)
Hollinsend 8 February 1935 7 October 1956
Birley Vale 29 December 1935
MALIN BRIDGE 1909 6 January 1952
MEADOW HEAD 12 July 1928 3 April 1960
MIDDLEWOOD Hillsborough 30 May 1903 28 March 1954
Middlewood 1913
MILLHOUSES Firth Road 28 July 1900
Bannerdale Rd 1 March 1901
Millhouses Lane 17 April 1902
Waggon & Horses 31 July 1926
NETHER EDGE 5 September 1899 25 March 1934
PRINCE OF WALES RD 24 February 1928 13 April 1958
ROTHERHAM 11 September 1905 12 December 1948
SHEFFIELD LANE TOP 18 November 1934 see Firth Park
TlNSLEY 5 September 1899
WADSLEY BRIDGE Owlerton 26 January 19012 4 October 1959
via Nursery Street Halifax Road 7 June 1924
WALKLEY 18 September 1899 8 April 1956
WOODSEATS Thirlwell Road 1 November 1900
Woodbank Cres 1 November 19023 4 October 19594
Chantrey Rd 6 April 1903 3 April 19605
Abbey Lane 1903

1 via Newhall Rd

2 Owlerton via Penistone Rd opened 12 February 1902

3 via the Moor; Shoreham Street and Queens Road opened 1904

4 via Shoreham Street and Queens Road

5 via the Moor[4]

Tram depots[edit]

Eight depots were built throughout the city to service a fleet of about 400 trams.

Tinsley depot[edit]

Plan of Tinsley Depot.
Tinsley Depot in 2006.

Tinsley depot (53°24′28″N 1°24′45″W / 53.40778°N 1.41250°W / 53.40778; -1.41250) was built in 1874 and was the first depot built for the "Sheffield Tramways Company". It was originally built for horse trams but was converted for electric trams in 1898–99, after which it was capable of accommodating 95 trams. Following the abandonment of the tramway system in 1960, it 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 the Sheffield Bus Museum from 1987 until 2007, when it moved to a factory unit at Aldwarke, Rotherham. Since then the Sheffield Bus Museum Trust' has been renamed the South Yorkshire Transport Museum.

The building was then all but empty, with just a tile dealer left, in the first two bays through the gate.

In 2009, the building was once again fully occupied. The rest of the bays are now home to the South Yorkshire Transport Trust's 75 vehicle collection - The SYTT announced plans in February 2010 that looks set to see Tinsley Depot restored and opened as a new Museum.[5]

Heeley depot[edit]

Heeley depot in 2006, now Grade II listed.

Heeley depot (53°21′31.5″N 1°28′28″W / 53.358750°N 1.47444°W / 53.358750; -1.47444) was for horse trams only: the line to it was never electrified. The depot was built by the Sheffield Tramways company in 1878. When the building was no longer required it was sold off and used as a motor vehicle repair shop until 2005, when it was purchased to become part of a block of flats. The building, had ‘Listed Status’,[6] as part of which, the builder was told the archway, which included the carved stone “Sheffield Tramways” legend had to remain in place. Although promises were made by the builder to that effect, locals woke one morning to find it knocked down.

The builder told the council that it was unsafe and fell down in the night. Sheffield City Council instucted the builder that all work on site must stop until the archway is restored, however work 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 finally rebuilt, partly with original material but noticeably different and with a lot of new material. Slate from the original roof was replaced. The arch looks ‘new’ and some locals have said it has lost its originality. It is far higher that it was before as it has been lifted to comply with regulations to allow access by the fire service.

Nether Edge depot[edit]

A small tram shed was built at the Nether Edge terminus (53°21′35″N 1°29′18″W / 53.35972°N 1.48833°W / 53.35972; -1.48833), opened in 1899. The Nether Edge line and two other small sections was abandoned due to the narrowness of the streets, which caused problems and was unsuitable for efficient service.

Queens Road works[edit]

Queens Road works (53°22′8″N 1°27′52″W / 53.36889°N 1.46444°W / 53.36889; -1.46444) opened in 1905. Many of Sheffield trams were built here. The building survived for many years following abandonment, but was demolished in the 1993.[2]

Shoreham Street Depot in 2006.

Shoreham Street depot[edit]

Construction of Shoreham Street depot (53°22′36″N 1°27′54″W / 53.37667°N 1.46500°W / 53.37667; -1.46500) 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 until the 1990s. Much of the building has since been demolished and redeveloped as student flats. 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 depot[edit]

Crookes depot, which was on Pickmere Road (53°23′1″N 1°30′25″W / 53.38361°N 1.50694°W / 53.38361; -1.50694), was started in 1914 but not completed until 1919.[7] It closed on 5 May 1957 and has since been demolished and a church now stands on the site.

Tenter Street depot[edit]

Tenter Street depot (53°23′2″N 1°28′21″W / 53.38389°N 1.47250°W / 53.38389; -1.47250) opened in 1928 and was the last operational tram depot. There was a bus garage on the upper level, accessed from Hawley Street.

Hillsborough tram depot in 2004.

Holme Lane depot (Hillsborough)[edit]

The depot at Holme Lane (53°24′7″N 1°30′12″W / 53.40194°N 1.50333°W / 53.40194; -1.50333) 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[edit]

For a comprehensive list of Sheffield trams of the tramway see Tramcars of the Sheffield Tramway.

Unlike other tram companies, whose trams were often rebuilt and made to last 30 to 40 years, Sheffield Corporation adopted a policy of replacement by new vehicles after a 25-year life. By 1940, only 11 of its 444 trams were older than 26 years, more than half of them were less than ten.

Sheffield Corporation operated 884 trams. Its last livery was blue and cream, worn on the preserved trams at Crich and Beamish.

The 'Preston' cars[edit]

Tramcar 123 on Abbey Lane, Beauchief.

The United Electric Car Company of Preston built 15 double deck balcony cars for Sheffield Corporation Tramways in 1907.[2] Initially numbered 258–272 they had wooden seats for 59 passengers, and were mounted on a four-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[edit]

Following the production of a prototype at Queens Road works in 1918, between 1919 and 1927 Brush at Loughborough built 100 of these cars, and another 50 at Cravens in Darnall.[2]

The 'Standard' cars[edit]

The prototype Standard car (number 1) was built by Cravens at Darnall, and entered service in 1927. Subsequently, about 150 were built at Queens Road works and 25 by W.E. Hill & Sons in South Shields. From 1936 to 1939 Queens Road works built redesigned Standard cars, known as the 'Domed-roof' class, which had improved lighting and seats.[2]

Tram 510 at Crich Tramway Museum.

The 'Roberts' cars[edit]

The prototype for this series, number 501, was built at Queens Road works in August 1946.[2] With comfortable upholstered seating for 62 passengers, it was the last car to be built at the works. From 1950 to 1952 35 more, numbered 502–536, were constructed by Charles Roberts & Co. of Horbury near Wakefield. They were carried on a four-wheel Maley and Taunton hornless type 588 truck with rubber and leaf spring suspension, 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 Sheffield. Representing the ultimate development of the traditional British four-wheel tram, the class worked for only 10 years, as Sheffield tramway closed in 1960. On 8 October of that year, car 513, 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[edit]

The National Tramway Museum, Crich[edit]

The National Tramway Museum at Crich in Derbyshire holds eight Sheffield trams.[8] Sheffield Corporation Tramways car 15 is a horse tram dating from 1874; it was the first tram to be used at the museum in 1963 and still remains servicable. Car 74 is another Victorian Sheffield tram, sold to the Gateshead tramway and ran until 1951. Although only its lower deck survived, as a garden shed, it has been restored to original condition by the museum and is operational. The museum also has Standard car 189 (on display), Domed-roof car 264 (on display), and Roberts car 510 (operational). In addition there is also Sheffield works car 330 and early single-deck tram 46 that are not in working condition.

North of England Open Air Museum, Beamish[edit]

The North of England Open Air Museum at Beamish had two preserved Sheffield trams. Number 264 is a Preston car dating from 1907 and is in service after a major overhaul was completed in 2016,[9] Number 513, a Roberts car dating from 1950, was there also until a few years ago and is believed to be in Blackpool. 513 was stored for some time on disused railway sidings and lost most of its control equipment and glass thanks to vandals. Its travelled to Blackpool and after repair it ran under wires on there, and it has run for quite some time at Beamish.[10] In early 2011 513 was moved from Blackpool to the East Anglia Transport Museum at Lowestoft, on a long term loan from Beamish. The car entered service for the 2011 season and remains operational.

South Yorkshire Transport Museum[edit]

The SYTM owns Sheffield Corporation tramcar 460.[11] The tramcar was built by Cravens in Darnall, Sheffield and was part of a batch of fifty cars, all numbered between 451 and 500. The car was equipped with upholstered seats in April 1939 and survived the Blitz on Sheffield in December 1940. She was withdrawn in February 1950 and stored at Tinsley Tram Sheds until 1951, the car was dismantled at Tinsley with the lower and upper saloon bodies being disposed of separately. The lower saloon of No 460 fetched £25 and was used on a farm in Lincolnshire.

The lower body was generously donated by Mr and Mrs K.S. Jacklin of Susworth near Scunthorpe and returned to Tinsley in May 1987.[11]


A grate at 497 Abbeydale Road bearing the markings of the Sheffield Corporation Electric Tramways.

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, which survive (albeit covered). An example of tracks covered in this way was uncovered and made a feature of The Moor pedestrian precinct for a time, but this was re-covered when the area was re-modelled a few years back.

At Firth Park, the short section of reserved track, running through the middle of a round about, still exists.

There were about ten traction poles still standing in 2006, such as the matching pair in Firth Park, and single poles at Manor Top, Woodseats, Abbeydale Road, Angel Street and also the last pole outside Tinsley Depot.

On the pavement of Howard Road in Walkley, near the junction with Commonside, several manhole covers marked "Sheffield Corporation Tramway" are still in place. A manhole survives on Abbeydale Road between the junction with Sheldon Road and Abbeydale Picture House with the inscription "Sheffield Corporation Electric Tramways".

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 carriageway. The former line lives on in the name of Terminus Road, Abbeydale.

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


  1. ^ Now used as the Kelham Island industrial museum. See "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 October 2006. Retrieved 4 November 2006.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Wiseman, Richard (1997). Sheffield Trams in Colour Since 1950. Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 0-7110-2535-5
  3. ^ "Picture sheffield".
  4. ^ page 348 Buses Illustrated: Ian Allen No.67 October 1960
  5. ^ plans to purchase and restore the entire Tinsley Tram Depot building. See
  6. ^ Historic England. "Albert Road (South West side) Nos.20-42.] (455114)". Images of England. Retrieved 31 March 2006.
  7. ^ Hobbs, C. The Tramshed at Pickmere Road Crookes Sheffield (URL accessed 31 March 2006).
  8. ^ Tram Fleet, National Tramway Museum (URL accessed 31 March 2006).
  9. ^ Burchell, A. Sheffield 264 Archived 20 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine. (URL accessed 31 March 2006).
  10. ^ Burchell, A. Sheffield 513 Archived 4 September 2005 at the Wayback Machine. (URL accessed 31 March 2006).
  11. ^ a b "Sheffield 460". Retrieved 12 February 2015.

External links[edit]