Birmingham Corporation Tramways

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Birmingham Corporation Tramways
Birmingham Tram.jpg
Birmingham Corporation Tram in 1953, shortly before the service was scrapped.
Open4 January 1904
Close4 July 1953
Track gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Propulsion system(s)Electric
Route length80.5 miles (129.6 km)

Birmingham Corporation Tramways operated a network of tramways in Birmingham from 1904 until 1953. It was the largest narrow-gauge tramway network in the UK, and was built to a gauge of 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm). It was the fourth largest tramway network in the UK behind London, Glasgow and Manchester.

There were a total of 843 trams (with a maximum of 825 in service at any one time), 20 depots, 45 main routes and a total route length of 80 12 miles (129.6 km).[1]

Birmingham Corporation built all the tramways and leased the track to various companies.

Birmingham was a pioneer in the development of reserved trackways which served the suburban areas as the city grew in the 1920s and 1930s.


Trams and buses on Corporation Street in 1931.
The last tram to run in 1953.

The first trams operated in Birmingham from 1872, and the network expanded throughout the late 19th century. Initially these were horse and steam operated, the first electric trams operated from 1901. Under the terms of the Tramways Act 1870 the Birmingham Corporation owned all of the tracks within the city boundaries, however, they were forbidden from operating the trams themselves, and so various private companies operated them under lease. It wasn't until 1904 that the Birmingham Corporation took advantage of new legislation, which allowed it to operate trams in its own right as the original concessions expired. By 1912, the Corporation had taken over all of the privately operated lines, it also took over other district tramways as the city boundaries were expanded. BCT continued to expand the network into a comprehensive system, and also took over routes extending into the Black Country. The last new route to Stechford was opened in 1928.[2]

Decline set in during the 1930s, when several tram lines were converted to trolleybus operation, as this was seen as being a more economic option than replacing worn out track and rolling stock. Several of the least used lines were also abandoned, and replaced by diesel buses. Reflecting the fact that it now operated buses and trolleybuses as well as trams, BCT changed its name to Birmingham City Transport in 1937.

However, most of the tram network remained in operation until large scale closures began in 1947. The last three lines to Short Heath, Pype Hayes and Erdington were closed simultaneously on 4 July 1953.[2]

Trams eventually returned to the streets of Birmingham on 6 December 2015, after a 62-year gap, when the first part of the Midland Metro city-centre extension was opened to Bull Street tram stop.[3]



Map of the tram routes in 1930

Depots and Works[edit]

  • Arthur Street Depot see Coventry Road
  • Birchfield Road Depot, acquired from Handsworth District Council 1911, converted to motorbus use 28 October 1925
  • Bournbrook, Dawlish Road, acquired 1 January 1912, closed 11 July 1927 (replaced by Selly Oak)
  • Cotteridge Depot, acquired from King's Norton and Northfield District Council 1912
  • Coventry Road Depot (also known as Arthur Street Depot), opened 1907, converted to motorbus use 1 July 1951
  • Handsworth Sub-Depot
  • Highgate Road Depot, opened 25 November 1913
  • Hockley Depot, acquired from Handsworth District Council 1912, converted to motorbus use 2 April 1939, (Motor buses ceased 2006)
  • Kyotts Lake Road Works, opened 1907, closed August 1953
  • Miller Street Depot, opened 4 January 1904, converted to motorbus use 4 July 1953
  • Moseley Road Depot, opened 1907, converted to motorbus use 2 October 1949
  • Rosebery Street Depot, opened 1 July 1906, converted to motorbus use 31 August 1947
  • Selly Oak Depot, opened 8 July 1927, converted to motorbus use 6 July 1952
  • Trafalgar Road Depot
  • Tividale B.M.T.C.J. Works
  • Washwood Heath Depot, opened 1907, converted to motorbus use 1 October 1950
  • West Smethwick Depot
  • Witton Depot, acquired 1912. Until 2011, Aston Manor Road Transport Museum [5]
Model of a BCT tram, at the National Tramway Museum

Tramcar fleet[edit]


Year No of vehicles Miles run Passengers Revenue
1904 to 1905 20 266,526 4,709,798 £19,103 (£2,066,436 in 2019),[6]
1913 to 1914 551 14,268,244 146,930,986 £635,471 (£61,434,730 in 2019),[6]
1923 to 1924 658 17,521,741 214,338,365 £1,337,093 (£76,822,773 in 2019),[6]
1933 to 1934 762 17,368,227 201,442,970 £1,171,481 (£83,780,351 in 2019),[6]
1943 to 1944 499 11,206,698 130,665,152 £1,088,824 (£48,310,347 in 2019),[6]
1953 to 1954 120 3,391,580 35,554,412 £398,122 (£10,980,363 in 2019),[6]

Surviving artefacts and infrastructure[edit]

Tram no 395 seen preserved at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum.





See also[edit]


Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX


  1. ^ Birmingham City Transport, Malcolm, etc. Keeley, Transport Pub. Co 1978 ISBN 0-903839-18-0
  2. ^ a b "Birmingham Corporation Transport The Tramways 1872-1953". Archived from the original on 15 December 2012. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  3. ^ "Extensions open in Birmingham and Manchester". British Trams Online. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  4. ^ Tramways of the Black Country: Company-operated Lines of South Staffordshire and North Worcestershire, J S Webb Staffs., 1954
  5. ^ Aston Manor Road Transport Museum
  6. ^ a b c d e f UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  7. ^ Historic England. "Moseley Road Depot  (Grade II) (1386758)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 19 January 2015.


  • Great British Tramway Networks, Wingate H. Bett and John C. Gillham, Light Railway Transport League 1st edition 1940 and 2nd edition 1944
  • The ABC of Birmingham City transport. Parts 1 & 2, W. A Camwell, Ian Allan 1950
  • City of Birmingham Transport Department. 1904-1954: Brochure to commemorate the undertaking's jubilee, Birmingham Transport Committee 1954
  • The demise of Birmingham's Trams, Gordon P. Laker - copy in Birmingham Central Library
  • Birmingham Trams and Tramways, Colin Andrew Purdue - copy in Birmingham Central Library
  • Memories of Birmingham's steam trams, C Gilbert, Light Railway Transport League 1966
  • Short review of Birmingham Corporation tramways, Peter Laurence Hardy, H.J. Publications1971 ISBN 0-9502035-0-5
  • Birmingham (British tramways in pictures, 3), R.J.S. Wiseman, Huddersfield, Advertiser Press, 1972, ISBN 0-900028-11-4
  • Birmingham Transport, Alec G Jenson, Birmingham Transport Historical Group 1978 ISBN 0-905103-00-9
  • Birmingham City Transport, Malcolm, etc. Keeley, Transport Pub. Co 1978 ISBN 0-903839-18-0
  • Birmingham Corporation Trams and Trolleybuses, Archie Mayou, Senior Publications 1982 ISBN 0-903839-83-0
  • Birmingham Corporation Tramway Rolling Stock. The story of Birmingham tramcar design, development and maintenance, P.W. Lawson, Birmingham Transport Historical Group 1983
  • Last Tram Down the Village and Other Memories of Yesterday's Birmingham, Ray Tennant and Jim Lyndon, BiginInk Ltd 1984 ISBN 0-948025-01-8
  • Memories of Birmingham's transport, A.N.H Glover, 1987 ISBN 0-905103-06-8
  • Birmingham in the Electric Tramway Era, D.F. Potter, Birmingham Transport Historical Group 1988 ISBN 0-905103-10-6
  • Memories of Birmingham Transport, D.R. Harvey Birmingham Transport Historical Group 1988 ISBN 0-905103-09-2
  • Birmingham Trams on Old Picture Postcards, John Marks, Reflections of a Bygone Age 1992 ISBN 0-946245-53-3
  • A Nostalgic Look at Birmingham Trams, 1933-53: The Northern Routes Vol 1, David Harvey, Silver Link Publishing Ltd 1993 ISBN 1-85794-014-8
  • A Nostalgic Look at Birmingham Trams, 1933-53: The Southern Routes - Bristol Road Routes, Cotteridge and the Moseley Road Routes, Plus Nechells and Bolton Road Vol 2, David Harvey, Silver Link Publishing Ltd 1994 ISBN 1-85794-021-0
  • A Nostalgic Look at Birmingham Trams, 1933-53: The Eastern and Western Routes - Including the Stechford Routes, the West Bromwich, Wednesbury and Dudley Routes and the Smethwick, Oldbury and Dudley Routes v. 3, David Harvey, Silver Link Publishing Ltd 1995 ISBN 1-85794-037-7
  • Birmingham Trams, Silver Link Publishing Ltd 1995 ISBN 1-85794-992-7
  • Birmingham Transport (Archive Photographs: Images of England), Keith Turner, Tempus Publishing Ltd 1998 ISBN 0-7524-1554-9
  • The Tramways of the West Midlands, LRTA handbook 1999 ISBN 0-948106-23-9
  • Birmingham Corporation Transport, 1904-39, Paul Collins, Ian Allan Ltd 1999ISBN 0-7110-2627-0
  • Birmingham Corporation Transport, 1939-69, Paul Collins, Ian Allan Ltd 1999ISBN 0-7110-2656-4
  • Birmingham Transport (Sutton's Photographic History of Transport), Mike Hitches, Sutton Publishing 1999 ISBN 0-7509-1670-2
  • Seeing Birmingham by Tram, Eric Armstrong, Tempus Publishing Ltd 2003 ISBN 0-7524-2787-3
  • Roads & Rails of Birmingham 1900-1939, R.T. Coxon, Ian Allan Ltd. 1979 ISBN 0-7110-0913-9

Video and DVD[edit]

  • Birmingham trams and trolleybuses, Birmingham Transport Historical Group 1992, VHS, 90min, also DVD published by Online Video
  • Another look at Birmingham's trams and buses, John Stanford, 1999 VHS

External links[edit]