Plymouth Corporation Tramways

3ft. 6in. 22 Sep 1899 to 29 Sep 1945


Plymouth and Devonport

The originally separate towns of Plymouth and Devonport were served by electric, horse and steam tramways run by three different operators.



The first trams in Plymouth were worked by steam and only ran from 1884 to 1885. Horse cars of the Plymouth Tramways Company commenced in 1890 and the system was purchased by Plymouth Corporation in 1892. The Corporation extended the horse system and electrified it in stages from 1899 to 1907.Plymouth Open Top Tram

They then took over the Devonport system in 1915, and the Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport in 1922, the tracks being connected to permit through services.

At its maximum in 1925 the Plymouth Corporation system had a maximum of 135 cars. Replacement by municipal motor buses began in 1930 and was almost completed by the outbreak of war in 1939.

This busy Plymouth to Devonport route via Stonehouse required fifteen trams (1-12 and 14-16, with no car numbered 13) and involved crossing a toll bridge.

One route from Theatre to Peverell continued to run on weekdays only, apart from war damage in 1941, until the closure in September 1945 thus becoming the last street tramway in the West of England.
SINGLE-ENDED CARS In 1902, fifteen standard four-wheeled cars were built by the Electric Rail-way & Tramway Carriage Works (Dick, Kerr) for the Plymouth & Devonport Tramways Co., all of the double deck open top type, with Brill 21 E trucks and reversed stairs, though one car, No. 16, was built with direct stairs. They had three window bodies, with ventilator lights and single sliding bulkhead doors. Seating was longitudinal in the saloon, and 2 + 1 above, 24 on each deck.

When, in 1922, the company cars were incorporated into the Plymouth Corporation fleet, they were renumbered 113-127, but not in order – No. 16 became 113, then 2-12, 14, 15 and 1 followed in that order. (There was no number 13, as in several other fleets this was blank, in deference to superstition.) In 1924, these fifteen cars were rebuilt in a unique fashion. The stairs at one end were taken out, and a vestibule fitted to that platform, vvhich was totally en-closed, with no entrance except from the saloon. The other platform retained the stairs, and was unvestibuled; the cars thus became single-ended, and were used solely for circular routes. The rear controller was retained for emergency purposes, but was not normally used. On this rebuilding, the reversed stairs were replaced by direct type. The waist and rocker panels were lengthened at the vestibuled end, to join the dashplate. A single lamp at each end of the upper deck gave a meagre amount of light during the hours of darkness. These cars ran in this condition until 1932, when they were withdrawn.

On coming into the Corporation fleet, they changed their green and vvhite livery for the unusual yellow and white which the Corporation used until the middle of the 1930’s, when the main colour was changed to deep red. The words “CIRCULAR ROUTE” were painted on the dashplates below the headlamps.

Plymouth Corporation Open Top Tram Car
Open Top Tram Car

Also see our other pages on Electric Transport in the South West