Preston Tramways Company

Preston's first horse tramway — a 2.5-mile line running from the Town Hall northwards along Lancaster Rd, North Rd and Garstang Rd, then eastwards along Victoria Rd and Watling St to Fulwood Barracks — opened on the 20th March 1879.

The tramway was built to a gauge of 3ft 6ins, primarily due to the narrowness of the central thoroughfares in the town, and though owned and operated by the Preston Tramways Company, was horsed by a local omnibus operator, W Harding & Co Ltd.

The Preston horse tramway network was further expanded durung early September 1882, not by the company, but by the corporation. The corporation was not legally able to work the new lines itself, so leased them to Hardings. As far as is known, during the period between the opening of these news lines and the corporation takeover (April 1882 to January 1887), the corporation and the company lines were worked completely independently of each other, and may not even have been connected.

The corporation was however not content to share the town with a private tramway operator, but was instead keen to have all the town's tramways under municipal control. A price was subsequently agreed with the PTCo for its tramway assets, the company running its last tram on the 31st December 1886, and Hardings taking over operation the next day (as the corporation's lessee).

Unfortunately, not a single photo appears to have survived from this tramway company. However, the large body of photographic evidence from the corporation horse-tram era (1882 to 1903) clearly shows staff wearing informal attire (see link), which suggests that this may also have been the case in company days (1879-1886).

Further reading
For a history of Preston's tramways, see: 'The Tramways of Preston' by G W Heywood, in the Tramway Review, Nos 67 (p67-77/92), 68 (p99-124), 69 (p131-146), 70 (p163-167/181-191), 71 (p207-212) and 77 (p154-160); Light Railway Transport League (1971, 1972, and 1974).