Heywood Corporation Tramways

Heywood Corporation became a tramway owner on the 24th February 1904, when a binding agreement was reached between several local authorities and the Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramways Company, to acquire the tracks and assets of the former within the various municipalities. The agreement allowed those authorities who were building electric tramway systems (primarily Bury and Rochdale Corporations) to gain access to the tracks and thus progress the work of converting the tramway to standard-gauge overhead electric traction; during this process, the company continued to operate steam trams, which in Heywood's case, were 3ft 6ins gauge.

Although Heywood Corporation wished to own and thus control the tramways within the municipality, it was clear that such a small system would never be viable if operated independently, so negotiations were opened at an early stage with Rochdale and Bury Corporations, as would-be operators. Unfortunately, agreement was a long time coming, which was to have significant consequences for Heywood.

Meanwhile, steam services between Bury and Heywood were withdrawn (on the 7th March 1904) to enable Bury Corporation to commence reconstruction of the line between Bury and the municipal border with Heywood at Heap Bridge. Whilst this was in no way a surprise, what followed certainly was, when on the 10th June 1904, Heywood was deprived of all tram services by virtue of Rochdale's decision to commence reconstruction of various ex-BR&OSTCo lines in Rochdale, a move which effectively separated Heywood from the BR&OSTCo steam depot.

Although Bury Corporation electric cars had reached the western municipal boundary two months earlier (on the 21st April 1904), Heywood were determined not to enter into an operating agreement that was not to their liking. They therefore chose to purchase several former BR&OSTCo steam trams and trailers, starting their own steam services on the 20th December 1904. Agreements were, however, eventually reached with both Bury and Rochdale Corporations, and conversion to electric traction began. The last steam tram ran on the 20th September 1905, with the first electric tramcar running through from Bury on the 17th November (and onto Hopwood from the 1st March 1906), and the first electric car from Rochdale on the 20th December 1905.

Although Heywood Corporation was no longer a tramway operator, it still played a very active role in tramway affairs, maintaining the track (until 1919) and setting service standards. However, difficulties still persisted with Rochdale Corporation, and another two years were to pass before through running commenced between Bury and Rochdale (on the 1st August 1909).

Like many tramways, Heywood Corporation's emerged from the Great War with a significant backlog of maintenance work. Although much track improvement took place, by the mid-1920s, the tramways were making an annual loss, primarily due to unregulated bus competition. Despite the losses, the corporation was happy to enter into an agreement with Manchester Corporation Tramways for the latter to finance and build a new line from Middleton to Hopwood, which opened on the 19th May 1928.

Following further losses and pressure from Rochdale, agreement was reached in May 1932 on replacing the trams with buses, Rochdale ceased all tramway services to Heywood on the 2nd July 1932, with Bury following suit on the 19th February 1933. The last tram of all in Heywood, operated by Manchester Corporation Tramways, ran on the 1st May 1934, following which the Middleton route, only 6 years old, was closed.

In the steam tram era, the Heywood system totalled 4.33 route miles, and in the electric era, 5.18 miles. The system was centred on Heywood Market Place, with lines running westwards to meet the tracks of Bury Corporation at Heap Bridge, and eastwards to meet the tracks of Rochdale Corporation at Heywood Cemetery. A branch also ran southwards to Hopwood, which was later connected to the newly built Manchester Corporation Tramways line from Middleton.

Heywood Corporation only operated steam tramway services for a matter of 9 months — from 20th December 1904 to 20th September 1905 — following Rochdale Corporation's abrupt severance (on 14th June 1904) of the service provided by the BR&OTCo.

Photographs clearly show that Heywood Corporation continued the practice of its immediate predecessor in not issuing uniforms. Drivers wore clothing similar to railway footplate men, namely: heavy cotton trousers and jackets, and cotton or cloth caps, whilst conductors wore informal attire similar to the latter days of the 'BR&OSTCo', namely, jacket, shirt and tie, with flat cap. No insignia of any kind appears to have been worn.

Heywood is known to have employed the services of an inspector from the late Edwardian era, however, photographs appear not to have survived, so it is currently unclear what uniform, if any, was worn. Although a Heywood municipal cap badge has survived (see below) that may have been worn by Heywood tramway inspectors, there is currently no photographic evidence to support this.

Further reading
For a history of Heywood Corporation Tramways during the steam era, see: 'The Manchester Bury Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramway' by W G S Hyde; The Transport Publishing Company (1979). For the electric era, see: 'Tramways in Bury' by E Hall and T Young; Light Rail Transit Association (2017).


Steam tram drivers and conductors
Heywood Corporation Steam Tram No 63 1905 Heywood Market Place
Heywood Corporation Tramways Steam Tram No 63, a Beyer Peacock-built Wilkinson engine of 1886, stands in what is probably Heywood Market Place — photo undated, but almost certainly taken in 1905. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.

Heywood Corporation Tramways Steam Tram conductor 1905
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor, clearly wearing informal attire, with money satchel and ticket rack/punch.

Heywood Corporation Steam Tram No 70 1905
Engine No 70 (a Beyer Peacock product of 1886) stands with an unidentified trailer at the Heywood Cemetary terminus, which was near the eastern municipal boundary. Although undated, the photograph was probably taken in autumn 1904 or spring 1905 as there are leaves on the trees in the background.

Heywood Corporation Steam Tram No 70 1905
A blow-up of the above photo showing the conductor and the driver.

Heywood Corporation Steam Tram No 70 1905
A classic 'Old & New' photograph, much loved of local photographers, who saw the commercial possibilities of capturing the switch to electric traction — photo undated, but probably taken in September 1905. Here we see a Beyer Peacock engine (possibly No 79) along with Rochdale Corporation Tramways rather more up-to-date No 13, at Heywood Cemetery terminus. Photo courtesy of the Richard Rosa Collection.

Heywood Corporation Tramways steam tam No 79
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver (in railway footplate-like attire) and the conductor (in informal attire, though smart enough). The latter would seem to be the same individual depicted in the first photograph above taken in Heywood Market Place.

Heywood Corporation Tramways Steam Tram No 81 at Heywood Cemetery
The driver of Wilkinson-patent locomotive No 81 (built by Beyer Peacock in 1886) leans nonchalantly against his engine — together with his conductor — at the Heywood Cemetery terminus, allegedly on the last day of operation, 20th September 1905. Both the driver and conductor are wearing informal attire without insignia of any kind, in continuance of the policy of the previous service providers, the BR&OSTCo (until 10th June 1904). Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Heywood Corporation Tramways Steam Tram No 81 at Heywood Cemetery
Another photo of No 81 at the Heywood-Rochdale boundary, but this time of the opposite side of the engine, and again ostensibly taken on the last day of operation, 20th September 1905. The tramcar in the background is No 27 of Rochdale Corporation Tramways. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.

Heywood Corporation Tramways Steam Tram No 81 at Heywood Cemetery
A blow-up of the above photo showing the driver and conductor. Given the strong facial resemblance, it is possible that the conductor in most of the photos above, is the same man.

Senior staff
Heywood Corporation municipal cap badge
A Heywood Corporation municipal cap badge — nickel. Although this pattern of cap badge may indeed have been worn by Heywood tramway inspectors, there is currently no photographic evidence available that would either prove or refute this. Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum.