Taunton Electric Traction Co.
The Taunton Electric Traction Company adopted a 3ft. 6in. gauge and operated from 21 Aug 1901 to 28 May 1921.
This is the first photo located to date of two Taunton trams out together on the highway. The two trams are the Brush built double deck cars of 1901, the location is the Belvedere Road loop in Station Road looking north, and the date is between 1901 and 1905, probably around 1902.
Perhaps somewhere out there will be also a photo of two of the 1905 to 1921 Brush built single deck cars on a passing loop!
Many thanks are due to local historian and writer Nick Chipchase for locating this historic photograph used in his latest book.
Seventeen year old conductor Bill stands next to his driver on the platform of a single deck tram at the East Reach Depot in 1917
|The first horse drawn tram in this country was at Birkenhead in 1860 and was introduced by the American – George Train.Steam tramways developed rapidly in the 1880’s, mainly in urban areas. Blackpool was first with an electric tramway in 1885, using current collection from an underground conduit. This created problems with drifting sand from the beach and the system was eventually replaced with overhead collection. The Sheepscar to Oakwood tramway of 1891 in Leeds was the first system on the mainland with the now familiar overhead collection.
After a false start in 1897, Taunton’s tramway opened in August 1901 with six new Brush double deck cars during the high point in urban tramway construction in this country. As normal for smaller systems of that era in the south west, the track was of the 3ft 6in narrow gauge.
|The town attracted the attention of the powerful British Electric Traction group, and a company was incorporated in 1900 with the title of the longest name in the country as the ‘Taunton & West Somerset Electric Railways and Tramways Company”. However, it was one of the shortest urban systems in length and was only the second electric tramway in this country to close.
After the abandonment of earlier grandiose schemes to cover much of western Somerset, what was actually constructed was the smallest urban electric tramway in Great Britain.
Opened in August 1901 it was just over a mile long with eight passing places; the track gauge was 3ft 6ins/1067mm., the maximum gradient 1 in 25 and the sharpest curve had a radius of 35ft.
In 1903 the name of the undertaking was changed to the more realistic Taunton Electric Traction Co. and all vehicles carried the BET Company’s “wheel and magnet” insignia.
The original line ran from the depot and eastern terminus in East Reach via crossing loops at Grays Road, Haydon Road, Silver Street, Fore Street, North Street, Bridge Street and Belvedere Road to the northern terminus in Station Road. This was situated just to the south of the low bridge of the Great Western Railway main line.
Relaying of the whole system took place in 1905 and the service ceased for two months, during which time the original fleet of six open top cars was sold to Leamington and Warwick Tramways Co.; six replacement single deck cars were ordered for the line. The only extension was opened on 13th August 1909 from the original terminus at the railway station to a new one at the junction of Kingston Road with Salisbury Street, Rowbarton. At its full extent from 1909-1921 the tramway was just under one and a half miles in length with ten passing loops and a depot situated at the terminus of East Reach.
After World War I it became clear that the system’s prospects were not good and following a dispute with Taunton Corporation over the price of traction current, the power supply was switched off and service ceased on 28th May 1921. An offer by the BET to sell the undertaking to the corporation for E7000 was turned down due to the precarious financial state of the tramway. The six tramcars were all sold, three going to Torquay, two to Gravesend in Kent and one became a garden shed!
|Manager W.Smith, his wife and daughter on the top deck of double deck car No. 5 in 1905 shortly before it is dismantled for the journey to its new home on the Leamington and Warwick system.
Brush Double Deck Car Nos.1 to 6 1901 -1905
Brush Single Deck Car Nos.1 to 6 1905 -1921
Double Deck car No.4 of 1901 waits at the East Reach terminus on a summers day early in the 20th Century
Also see our other pages on Electric Transport in the South West