Liverpool Old Swan Tramway

The short-lived Liverpool Old Swan Tramway was built, owned and operated by the Liverpool Road and Railway Omnibus Company Limited, in which William and Daniel Busby, who would eventually go on to be major players in the embryonic tramway world, were the driving force.

The line, which was standard gauge and horse-drawn, was opened on the 2nd July 1861. It used roads owned by the Liverpool and Prescott Turnpike Trust, running southwards from Old Swan along Kensington and London Roads — for 1.5 miles — to the Liverpool boundary. The company had always intended the line to continue to the Town Hall, but despite repeated attempts, could not get Liverpool Council's agreement, so the line never ventured into Liverpool proper. These were early days indeed for street tramways in the British Isles, only George F Train's Birkenhead, Marble Arch and Westminster Street Railways preceding it; as a result, the council was not wholly clear on the legality of the tramway, nor on whether it really wanted it running through its streets.

Despite claims that the rails — which seem to have been a shallow channel — would not interfere with other wheeled traffic, this proved not to be the case, so the tramway quickly came under fire. The company only had one tramcar, which was in effect a street omnibus with flangeless wheels (possibly iron-tyred), enabling it to be taken off the rails and onto the street proper, though it doubtless made for an interesting ride when doing so.

Little else is known of the tramway, even the date of closure; although the tracks were lifted in May 1862, services may well have stopped months beforehand, possibly in late 1861.

No photographs of this early and short-lived line have survived, and even the newspapers of the time, with the exception of the opening, appear to have largely ignored it. As a result, it will probably now never be known whether the tramcar staff were issued with uniforms or not. However, given that the Birkenhead Street Railway Company (Britain's first true street tramway), a contemporary of the Old Swan Tramway on the opposite side of the Mersey, certainly issued uniforms, there remains a possibility that the owners of the Old Swan Tramway (the Liverpool Road and Railway Omnibus Company) chose to do likewise.

Further reading
For a short history of this early tramway, see: 'Liverpool Transport, Volume 1, 1830-1900' by J B Horne and T B Maund; Senior Publications (1975).