Preston streetcars then and now, a future on light rail?

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Artist’s impression of a tram in Preston Town Center Peak: Preston Trampower

Work on the creation of a new tram network in Preston continues. The city should join Manchester, Blackpool and Birmingham by having its own system.









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Earlier this year, Preston Trampower acquired Station House in Gamull Lane, as its headquarters. Fittingly, the building was once the station master’s house on the Preston to Longridge Railway.

In 2018, Eric Wright Civil Engineering was hired to build the new Guild Line. Accordingly, the next step was to build a test track at Deepdale.

Guild Line Pic Tram Line: Preston Trampower
Tour offered by Guild Line Pic: Preston Trampower

The route of the test track is shown below; there is still a vestige of the Longridge Railway, crossing Skeffington Road.

Pic tram test route: Google Maps
Pic tram test route: Google Maps

Preston Trampower had said he hoped to start work on a 200-meter demonstration line at Deepdale last summer, but the news section of the company’s website still says: “Planning news to follow shortly. , the start of works, financing and other project developments.

The company has been contacted for an update, but had not responded at time of writing.

Interestingly, Preston was one of the early adopters of streetcars.

Preston Tramway Company Historic Route Photo: Preston Digital Archive
Preston Tramway Company Historic Route Photo: Preston Digital Archive

The Preston Tramway Company opened the first horse-drawn line in 1879. It was a 2.5 mile route that went from Town Hall north along Lancaster Road, then east to at Fulwood Barracks. By 1882, Preston Corporation was also operating streetcars.

Horse-drawn tram from the 1880s Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Horse-drawn tram from the 1880s Pic: Preston Digital Archive

One of the Corporation’s lines runs along Fishergate and New Hall Lane to the Pleasure Gardens. Another ran northwest to Ashton-on-Ribble. This made the first streetcar 5.5 miles long. Until 1887, the Preston Tramway Company and the Corporation’s lines operated independently.

A car driver and conductor pose for the camera outside the Excelsior Art Studio on Lancaster Road to Fulwood Barracks Pic: Tramways and Light Railways Society
A car driver and conductor pose for the camera outside the Excelsior Art Studio on Lancaster Road to Fulwood Barracks Pic: Tramways and Light Railways Society

W Harding and Company, a local horse-drawn omnibus company, operated the Corporation’s lines. Eventually, the company bought out the private business and both systems were later operated by Harding’s. The last horse-drawn tram operated in 1903.

The system was shut down for six months while it was converted to electric traction. It reopened in June 1904. The final network was completed in 1905. Unfortunately, Council’s reluctance to build new extensions meant that large parts of Preston never had service. They also made plans to convert the system to trolleybus operation, which also never materialized.

Preston Corporation Transport tram Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Preston Corporation Transport tram Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Buses started running in 1922 and by 1931 Preston Corporation Transport was born. Tram lines have started to close and bus lines are expanding.

The last streetcar operated in Preston in 1935. The maximum trip mileage was less than 11 miles, which is poor for such a large area.

Preston Bus Station in 1965 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Preston Bus Station in 1965 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
The Scout Motor Services fleet in 1936 Photo: Preston Digital Archive
The Scout Motor Services fleet in 1936 Photo: Preston Digital Archive

When it comes to buses, Preston once had a large private fleet operated by Scout Motor Services. They were based in Starch House Square. The company operated from 1919 to 1968.

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