Great Orme Tramway

Gauge: 3ft 6in (1,067mm)

The Great Orme Tramway in North Wales opened in in 1902. It runs from the centre of Llandudno to the top of the Great Orme, and is Great Britain’s only remaining cable-operated street tramway. The line consists of two counterbalanced funicular railways, with passengers changing cars at the mid-point.

Authority to build the tramway was granted by the Great Orme Tramways Act of 1898, and construction started in 1901. The tramway was opened in its two stages: the lower section on 31 July 1902 and the upper on 8 July 1903. The original power house, at the Halfway station between the lower and upper sections, was equipped with winding gear powered by steam from coke-fired boilers. Communication between the power house and the tram cars was provided by a telegraph system, operating over an overhead wire and trolley poles on the cars.

The line was initially provided with seven cars, three freight cars numbered 1 to 3 and four passenger cars numbered 4 to 7. The passenger cars were each named after a local Welsh Christian saint and are still in service. The freight cars were for the carriage of goods and parcels, as stipulated in the tramway’s original Parliamentary Order, but were withdrawn from service within a few years.

The line suffered a serious accident in 1932, and consequent financial difficulties resulted in liquidation and its sale to the Great Orme Railway company. The Llandudno Urban District Council took over the line on 1st January 1949. The winding engines at Halfway were replaced by electric motors in 1954.  In 1977, the line reverted to the Great Orme Tramway name that it had carried before its sale in 1930s. The overhead wire has now been removed, and communication between the trams and the winding house uses modern control systems.