Great Orme Tramway Collection

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Including records of the Marine Drive Bus Service.

Administrative / Biographical History

In the mid 1880s suggestions were made that a tramway or railway should be built on the Great Orme. During 1894 -95 a Chester mining engineer, H. Enfield Taylor, put forward two schemes for a conventional electric tramway to the Works Committee of the Llandudno UDC. Taylor's proposals were not taken up and a group of Llandudno businessmen decided to promote their own tramway scheme and they engaged consulting engineers Wood & Fowler of Liverpool who recommended a funicular tramway. This type of tramway is powered from the winding house by a stationary electric motor which operates steel cables which are attached to the tram cars.

After no opposition was raised by Llandudno UDC the bill received Royal Assent 23rd May 1898 passing into law as the Great Orme Tramways Act. The Great Orme Tramways Company raised the capital, £25,000 with the powers to borrow a further £6,250.

The construction eventually commenced in April 1901 by the contractors R. White & Sons, Widnes and H. Enfield Taylor was the engineer. This arrangement was not very satisfactory as the correspondence in CX77/1/3 (Construction) demonstrates, with acrimonious letters passing between White & Sons, Enfield Taylor and the Company. The tramway became fully operational 1902 - 3 and the tramway operated without a major incident for a long period.

On 23rd August 1932 the drawbar of one of the lower section cars snapped in two and the cable car had run away causing the deaths of the brakeman, Edward Harris and 12 year old Margaret Worthington, daughter of a tramway employee. Eleven passengers were kept in hospital and three treated for minor cuts and shock. The line was closed and with loss of revenue and demands for compensation the company was forced to wind up its business. It re-opened in 1935 under the helm of a new syndicate who formed the Great Orme Railway Company Ltd.

The new company continued much as before until in 1947 the Llandudno Council decided to exercise their option of purchasing the tramway which (after 1926) they had the right to do every seven years. After some dispute about the price which was taken to the Chancery Division of the High Court, the council obtained a compulsory purchase price of £8,407. Civic ownership took effect from 1st Jan 1949.

In 1951 the council introduced some competition to the tramway by setting up a bus service which went from the Town Hall to St. Tudno's Church and as far as T'yn y Coed Road in the winter months. In 1956 the boiler house at the Halfway Station was converted to electricity by the English Electric Company as coke was proving too expensive.

During the 75th anniversary celebration on 30-31st July1977 the tramway was officially re-titled the Great Orme Tramway.

By the 1980s the line was in need of serious overhaul and voices amongst the council called for the tramway to be advertised for sale or lease on account of falling sales and rising costs but in 1989 reversed this decision and the council's Direct Services Organization - Grwp Aberconwy took it over and £255,000 was made available in order to bring the tramway into peak working condition with a refurbishment programme commencing in 1990 spread over 5 years.

With the reorganization of the borough in 1992 the tramway came under Conwy Borough Council and the hope that the last major reconstruction (the rebuilding of the Halfway House) would be completed by the middle of the decade was put on hold. But things began to look up in 1998 with the council spending £14,000 renewing the track followed by a Heritage Lottery Fund refurbishment grant. In 2000 it was awarded £1 million pounds of European Objective One funding, and a new 5 year refurbishment plan was put in place and completed 2006.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research. Access to some documents may be restricted due to Data Protection legislation, Conwy Archives will advise where this is the case. For details and opening hours see http://www.conwy.gov.uk/en/Resident/Libraries-Museums-and-Archives/Archives/Archives.aspx.

Related Material

For plans and photographs related to this collection see CMaps & Plans 32 and CP141