Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Tramways (Swedish tramm = "log") is generally used to signify a street railway, along which cars are smoothly propelled by horses, steam, electricity, or other motive power. Such roads were early employed in mining districts for the purpose of hauling coal and other minerals more easily. Mr. Outram in 1800 tried to develop the system, and some have looked to his name for the etymology of the word. A tramway was constructed in 1801 between Croydon and Wandsworth; but Mr. George Train started the first street tramway at Birkenhead in 1860, and in 1861 he was a11owed to give the experiment a trial in Park Lane, London. The idea, in spite of discouragement, caught on, and in 1870 such progress had been made that the Tramway Act was passed, having for its object to provide for questions of right of passage, gauge, width, repairs, powers of purchase, etc., and tramways are now, like railways, subject to Board of Trade inspection. The earlier tramways sometimes had rails above the level of the roadway, but this system entailed such difficulty and danger to ordinary traffic that it was generally abandoned, and the system, now generally in use, was adopted in which the rail has a groove, into which a flange upon the wheel fits. The advantage of this is that derailment is almost obviated, but it has the disadvantage of increasing friction, owing to the choking up of the groove. Many years ago the omnibuses plying in the suburbs of Manchester passed through Salford upon plain rails, flush with the street, the vehicle being kept on the line by means of a wheel, which could be let down, and which fitted into a groove running parallel to and midway between the rails. The system of flat rails prevails in some Continental towns. The friction is less, especially upon curves, but derailment is frequent. The tramway companies are, for obvious reasons, compelled to keep their ways in repair, as well as the roadway to a certain distance on either side of the line, since the constant drawing on and off the line of ordinary vehicles greatly tries the outer edge of the rail and the roadway adjoining it. Horse-draught is the most common mode of propulsion, but the constant straining upon starting tells heavily upon horses, and other and more economical methods have been adopted. Of these steam is the most objectionable, and has been little used. Compressed air has been tried, with moderate success. Upon steep gradients an endless travelling cable worked by a fixed engine has been found very efficacious. In this system the passenger car is preceded by a dummy car, which has an ingenious arrangement for gripping and letting go of the rope. The system may be seen at Highgate Hill, and at Streatham Hill and Brixton and at Melbourne, Australia. Probably the coming motive-power for trams is electricity. When horses are not employed a more elaborate system of points is required at crossings, since no side inclination can be given to the car. In the matter of cars there is much to be learnt from some of the Continental arrangements.