Edinburgh had trams of various design running through he city streets between 1871 and 1956. It all began on November 6th 1871, when the Edinburgh Street tramways Company ran the very first horse-drawn tram from Haymarket in the west of Edinburgh, to Bernard street in the heart of Leith.
Seventeen years later, the Northern Tramways company started a revolution in Edinburgh when, in January 1888, they launched the first cable-pulled (or cable hauled) trams to run in Edinburgh. By 1894 most tram lines were operated by Edinburgh and District Tramways, and by 1920 Edinburgh Corporation had taken control of all of Edinburgh’s trams, including Leith which had electric trams running.
The rest of Edinburgh city gained electric trams in 1922, with the very last cable-hauled tram operating in Edinburgh in June of 1923. These electric trams continued to serve the people of Edinburgh until November 1956 (a service which operated to Musselburgh ceased in 1954).
The Edinburgh Corporation ran trams with the red and white colours still used by Lothian buses in Edinburgh today. A tramcar from 1948 has been preserved with these colours and can be seen in the National Tramway Museum in Derbyshire.
In 2006 the Scottish Parliament passed bills enabling Edinburgh’s tram network to be raised from the ashes with new services between Leith, Edinburgh City and Edinburgh Airport. Work began in spring 2007 and was originally due to be completed 2011, although meeting this deadline is now thought unlikely. Estimated completion cost is over £500 million, but this too is certain to rise.
The forthcoming Tram system in Edinburgh has become a contentious issue among city residents and is becoming increasingly unpopular among former supporters. The city has been brought to a standstill for months, with streets ripped up and businesses forced to close due to a resulting lack of custom. The Edinburgh Festival of 2009 is expected to be badly hit by the tram works, with tourist numbers already lower than usual.
It remains to be seen whether the expense and inconvenience will be worth it in the long, long run, but on behalf of the people of Edinburgh, Edinburgh History would like to voice it’s discontent with the entire project and the way it has been implemented. We would also like to extend our sincere sympathy to all business owners affected by the Edinburgh Tram Works.
Written by Shaun Flanagan