Manchester trams, then and now.

Horse trams

Manchester trams then and now, looks at the development of trams in Manchester. For example horse trams began in 1877 and Manchester now has the largest tram network in the UK

Horse-drawn buses had been operating in Manchester since the 1860’s. Consequently, heavy traffic congestion lead to the formation of the Manchester Suburban Tramways Company in 1877. Local councils were allowed to build and lease the lines but not operate them. Thus Salford and Manchester councils began to build an integrated horse-drawn system that grew rapidly.

By the 1890s, the Manchester Tram Company had 515 tram cars pulled by thousands of horses, they plied the city and outlining areas. In the 1880s some local towns began to use steam trams.


The original lease for the tram lines was due to expire in 1898 therefore Manchester Corporation began to take over running and rebuilding the network for electric traction. Many methods of powering the system were looked at, including steam. However, by this time steam tram engines were becoming obsolete.

Electrification using overhead power was chosen. Consequently, a new electrically equipped depot had to be built and land off Queens road in Chetham hill was purchased. the depot and first electrical operated line opened in 1901. It took two years to rebuild the rest of the network, at a cost of £1,500,000.

The old routes were much more extensive than the modern Metro system

By 1949 the system was worn out and would have cost too much to replace. It had already been decided to scrap the trams in 1937, but the war intervened. Consequently, disused routes provide thousands of tons of steel for the war effort.

The new trams

The new Manchester tramway system began to be constructed in 1992. The network has 99 stops and over 64 miles of track. Additionally, the system is owned by Transport For Greater Manchester, which is a public body similar to the old Corporations. However, the trams are operated and maintained by two private companies


The first line to open ran on existing heavy rail lines. That is from Bury to Victoria station and from Deansgate to Altringham in the South. Furthermore, a street-level line was constructed to link Victoria station with Picadilli and Deansgate/ Castlefield.

The line gradually expanded until the newest line opened in 2020, to the Trafford centre.

Tram video, Manchester trams to the city, what to see and do

I am producing a new article and history/transport documentary each week. These are 30-minute programmes.

The video features:

  • The Metro at St Peter’s square
  • The art gallery
  • History of Manchesters’ trams
  • Exchange Quay
  • Ordsall Hall
  • Harbour City
  • Media city
  • The Lowry art gallery
  • MOSi
  • Manchester Cathedral
  • Victoria Station

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Article writing

I also write for Preston Blog and World History Online. An article like this is normally £40. If you would like something similar for your website contact me below.