Nelson Tram

Postcard of the Month

Nelson Corporation Tramways, Car 2

Nelson is in Lancashire, four miles north of Burnley and on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. It developed as a cotton weaving town, especially after the canal opened in 1796 and the railway arrived in 1849. Today, the textile industry has almost disappeared and the population has declined from nearly 40,000 in the early 1900s to about 30,000. From past prosperity, the town has fallen on harder times with many shop closures and high unemployment.

On 23 February 1903, Nelson Corporation opened the first stage of their 4ft gauge tramway system, the same gauge as neighbouring Burnley to the south (opened in 1901) and Colne to the north-east (opened November 1903). Ultimately, connections were made to both towns after which some through services operated.

Our postcard, published by the Skipton Stationary Co., shows Nelson Corporation tram no.2 at the Reedyford tram terminus (north of the town centre) and very soon after the tramway opened. We are looking back along Scotland Road (now the A682) towards Nelson. The tram has just arrived from Nelson Centre. Reedyford Bridge, crossing Pendle Water, is immediately behind the photographer. The building on the right is still there and is now known as the Pendle Community Church.

Trams 1-3 were built in 1902 by Brush with seating for 40 and fitted with Brush 'A' trucks, two GE 28hp motors and BTH B18 controllers. Trams 4-6 of the same design arrived in 1903 and all were in a red and white livery.

The writer of the card has crossed out the words 'Tram Terminus' in the title. The card was posted from Nelson to Kelbrook, near Colne, in September 1903, by which time this route had been extended through to Higherford Bridge in Barrowford on 11 August. This suggests the writer was simply indicating that Reedyford was no longer the terminus.

It is also worth noting the large dent in the tram's dash panel. This is not a printing error on the card: it really is a dent. The original photograph was taken within days or a couple of weeks of the tramway opening when, it is believed, only three of the six ordered trams had been delivered. Whatever the cause of the dent (new, inexperienced drivers?), the photographer was probably not going to wait for the next tram. It's even possible that only one tram was in service on the day.

At only 2.75 miles in length, the Nelson tramway was one of the shortest in Britain but had a variety of single- and double-deck cars. The original six cars of 1902/03 were replaced by six new open-balcony trams by UEC in 1916 which, in addition to two new cars in 1912, were of a low-bridge design allowing them to operate right through to Colne under Primet Bridge near the railway station. The last three trams were of similar design and built by Brush in 1925.

Burnley, Colne and Nelson tramways (and bus services) were operated and managed by a Joint Transport Committee from 1933. For the final nine months of tram service through Nelson, Reedyford and on to Barrowford, Burnley's trams were used. The Nelson and Colne tramways were closed on 6 January 1934, followed by those in Burnley on 7 May 1935.

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Postcard of the Month is created by John R. Prentice © Copyright 2018