22nd January 1889

Guernsey Steam Tramway stops running

There’s no longer any evidence of the route it used to take between St Peter Port and St Sampson, but for many years Guernsey had a steam tram linking the island’s two main towns.

The Steam Tramway, which had been set up with two engines running on three miles of track, had only been operating ten years when the trams ground to a halt. The journey from one end of the line to the other took 18 minutes, initially with just one tram leaving every hour. There was only one line, but it had passing places that allowed one tram to get out of the way of the other.

It proved massively popular in an era where cars were a rarity. The first motor vehicle was only invented in the mid–1880s, so transport in Guernsey would have otherwise been by bike, foot or horse. The tramway therefore quickly expanded, with four new engines being added to the fleet within its first four years of operation.

But perhaps the Tramway owners should have looked a little further ahead. While they were investing in rolling stock, the first excitement over the tramway’s presence was waning and the number of people using it was starting to decline. Thus, on 22 January 1889, the tramway had no choice but to cease all operations.

The steam tramway returns… of sorts

Fortunately for the people of Guernsey, it was only a suspension rather than a definitive termination of the service. The company changed its name to the Guernsey Railway Company and resumed its operations in December of the same year.

The name change was just the first step in a more extensive reorganisation of the service, though. German manufacturing giant, Siemens, electrified the track in 1892 and leased it back to the Guernsey Railway Company for the next twelve months following the introduction of the first electric rail services. When the opening year was up, Siemens sold the line to the Guernsey operator.

This modern incarnation fared better than the steam tramway had done, but still only persisted for a little more than 40 years. It finally closed down in 1934 and the tracks were quickly removed, which is why there is no longer any sign of the route either it or the original tramway used to ply on the island.


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