The South Staffordshire and Birmingham
District Steam Tramways Company Limited, later called the
Staffordshire Tramways Company Limited, was formed on 28th
November, 1878 to construct and promote tramways in the
County of Stafford. It had a nominal capital of £50,000 in
£10 shares, and was allowed to operate under the terms of
the Staffordshire Tramways Order, 1879, confirmed by the
Tramways Orders Confirmation Act, 1879. The company's
headquarters and tram depot was in Corns Street, Darlaston,
off Birmingham Street. The Act permitted the construction of
tramways from the terminus of the Wolverhampton Tramways
Company’s line at Moxley, to the Dartmouth Arms, at the
junction of Holyhead Road and Dudley Street, Wednesbury, by
two different routes. The first was the direct route from
Moxley along the Holyhead Road, the second was via
Darlaston, along Moxley Road, Pinfold Street, Darlaston
Road, Trouse Lane, then via the High Bullen to Holyhead
Over the next few years further acts of
Parliament allowed the company to build and operate an
extensive network, covering much of the Black Country. The
Tramways Orders Confirmation (No. 1) Act, 1880 permitted the
use of steam or any form of powered traction for a period of
seven years, and for further periods of seven years if
granted. As with all the acts, permission to operate would
still be required from the Board of Trade and local
authorities. Parts of some of the permitted tramways were
not completed for many years, others such as the Holyhead
Road, Moxley to Wednesbury line were never built, and
some sections were modified as a result of subsequent
The acts and authorised tramways can be
summarised as follows:
The Tramways Orders Confirmation (No.
2) Act, 1880. Tramways in Walsall
Tramway 1: From the Pleck at the
junction of Wednesbury Road and Darlaston Road to Mellish
Road via Bradford Street, The Bridge, Bridge Street, and
Tramway 2: From a junction with tramway
1 at The Bridge to High Street, Bloxwich via Park Street,
Stafford Street, and Bloxwich Road.
Tramway 3: A reversing triangle at The
Bridge and its junction with Park Street.
Tramways Orders Confirmation (No. 2)
Act, 1881. Tramways in West Bromwich and Great Bridge
Tramway 1: From the junction of
Holyhead Road and Bridge Street, Wednesbury, by the White
Horse Inn, to Carter’s Green, West Bromwich via Bridge
Street, and Holloway Bank.
Tramway 2: From the end of Tramway 1 at
Carter’s Green, West Bromwich, to the existing tramway at
New Inns, Holyhead Road, Handsworth.
Tramway 3: From Carter’s Green, West
Bromwich, to the Stalk Inn on the boundary of Great Bridge
and Tipton, via Dudley Street, Great Bridge Street, and
The South Staffordshire Tramways Order,
1881. A tramway in Wednesbury and Tipton
From the White Horse Hotel, Bridge
Street, Wednesbury, to a terminus at the junction of
Birmingham Road and Tipton Road, Dudley. The route followed
Holyhead Road, Victoria Street, Great Western Street,
Leabrook Road, Gospel End Road, Wednesbury Oak Road,
Bloomfield Road, Dudley Road, and Tipton Road, Dudley.
The Dudley and Tipton Tramways Order,
1881. Tramways in Tipton and a short length of track in
Birmingham Road, Dudley
Tramway 1: Great Bridge Street, Tipton
to the parish boundary in Burnt Tree Road, via the Market
Place, Horseley Heath, and Dudley Port Road.
Tramway 2: From a junction with tramway
1 in Great Bridge Street, Tipton to Ocker Hill, via the
Market Place, New Road, and Toll End Road.
The Staffordshire Tramways (Extension)
Order, 1882. Tramways in Darlaston and Wednesbury
Tramway 1: From Pinfold Street,
Darlaston to Wednesbury Road at the Pleck, Walsall via
Walsall Road and James Bridge.
Tramway 2: From the High Bullen,
Wednesbury to the Market Place, Wednesbury via High Street.
Tramway 3: A short line between the end
of Great Western Street, Wednesbury, joining tramway 1,
along Dudley Street to the line on Holyhead Road.
The Walsall and District Tramways
Order, 1882. Tramways in Wednesbury and Walsall
Tramway 1: From the White Horse Hotel,
Bridge Street, Wednesbury to the Pleck, Walsall, joining the
tramway to Walsall, via Lower High Street, the Market Place,
Walsall Street, and Wood Green. It could only be built if at
least two thirds of the owners and occupiers of the
properties in Lower High Street, and Walsall Street,
Wednesbury were in favour.
Tramway 2: A short section of line
between the junction of High Street, and Pinfold. Bloxwich,
to the junction of High Street, and Station Street,
The tramways had a gauge of 3ft. 6
inches, and were mostly single track with passing places,
although a few short lengths of double track were installed.
Stand pipes were also fitted between the tracks at
convenient stopping places to refill the engines’ water
Construction began on the Handsworth,
West Bromwich, Wednesbury, and Darlaston line on 26th July,
1882 with an initiatory ceremony near the White Horse Hotel
in Bridge Street, Wednesbury. Six inch girder rails, 75 to
78 lbs. per yard, were laid on a concrete bed with granite
sets between the rails, and on an eighteen inch strip on
either side of the track. By early September, track was
being laid in Holyhead Road.
On 16th May, 1883 the Wolverhampton
Chronicle carried the following brief article:
On Tuesday, considerable interest was
taken in the running of tramcars from the goods depot of the
L & N.W. Railway at Wednesbury to the car shed belonging to
the South Staffordshire and Birmingham District Steam
Tramways Company Limited, near Darlaston Station…… The cars
are constructed in a manner that will afford every comfort
to the passengers. They are provided with cushioned seats
inside, while those who travel outside will be protected by
an awning, either from the sun or the inclemency of the
On 26th May, 1883 the Midland
Advertiser reported: On Wednesday last, one of the new
steam tram cars had a trial trip, starting from Darlaston, proceeding through Wednesbury to West Bromwich.
Major General Hutchinson, R.E., the
Inspecting Officer for the Board of Trade, carried out an
inspection of the line on 25th June, 1883. Special engines
and cars were provided for the inspection to accommodate the
company directors and invited guests. Major General
Hutchinson walked the whole length of the line starting at
Handsworth, to carefully examine the track, and the points
As originally built, the line through
Wednesbury from Bridge Street to the High Bullen went via
Victoria Street, Great Western Street and Dudley Street,
presumably to include the Great Western Railway Station.
Major General Hutchinson’s only criticism was that the line
would be better if it went along the Holyhead Road directly
to Dudley Street and the High Bullen. He was assured that
the route would be amended accordingly, and when done the
Board’s approval was quickly received.
Mr. Alfred Dickinson was appointed as
Traffic and Locomotive Superintendent, and the line opened
for business on 16th July, 1883 with a half-hourly service.
The first steam tramcars had Wilkinson patent vertical
boilers, cost £850 each, and were as follows:
|1 to 2
||Wilkinson of Wigan
|3 to 12
||Beyer, Peacock and Company
|13 to 16
||Thomas Green & Son
|17 to 21
||Wilkinson of Wigan
|Others were soon added to make the
number up to 38:
|22 to 29
||Beyer, Peacock and Company
|30 to 37
||Thomas Green & Son
||Falcon Engine & Car Works
|The double deck bogie cars with canopy
covers and open sides were as follows:
|1 to 12
||Starbuck Car and Wagon Company
|13 to 28
||Falcon Engine & Car Works
The lines from Darlaston to Moxley, and
from Wednesbury to Dudley were soon completed, and inspected
by Major General Hutchinson on 8th August, 1883. In October
the company bowed to public pressure and introduced penny
fares. They were as follows:
Darlaston to the Wrexham, in Holyhead
Road; the Wrexham to Hill Top; Hill Top to West Bromwich
Town Hall; the Town Hall to The Beeches; and The Beeches to
the New Inns.
Three more sections opened in January:
14th January, 1884
Carter's Green West Bromwich to Great Bridge.
21st January, 1884
Wednesbury to Dudley, via Tipton.
21st January, 1884
Darlaston to Moxley (operating as a shuttle service).
On 5th May, 1884, Wednesbury council
gave permission for the building of a reversing triangle for
Walsall trams from Holyhead Road to High Street, and on the
same day work began on the line from the Bull Stake,
Darlaston to the Pleck, which opened on 4th December, 1884.
A South Staffs steam tram passing
through Wednesbury market.
By the beginning of June 1884, work on
the line to Walsall from Lower High Street, Wednesbury, and
the section from Walsall to Bloxwich had been completed. On
18th June a trial trip was made from Wednesbury to Bloxwich
by company officials and guests. The report of the journey
The journey was accompanied without
the slightest hitch, and the car was extremely steady in
progress…. The several gradients on the line caused but
little inconvenience, and the first stoppage for water was
at Stafford Street, Walsall.
On the afternoon of 15th July, 1884,
Major Marindin, R.E., inspected the line on behalf of the
Board of Trade. He expressed some concern about restricted
clearances on Wood Green railway bridge and insisted that
drivers must stop their engines when crossing the bridge, or
when called upon to do so by other road users. He also
pointed out that the section beyond the Spread Eagle Inn,
Bloxwich, was not wide enough to allow the statutory
clearance and until land could be obtained, and widening
carried out, this section could not be approved.
A further inspection of the Bloxwich
section was carried out by Major General Hutchinson on 14th
November. He decided that when a wall had been taken down,
and a narrower footpath provided, the clearance would be
adequate. The work was duly carried out and
approval given. The tramway opened on 4th December,
1884, and provided a half-hourly service throughout the day,
and on Sunday afternoons and evenings. It is also believed
that the extension from Walsall to Mellish Road opened on
the same day, or if not, certainly by the 9th December.
At this time, six more double bogie
cars were purchased from the Falcon Engine & Car Works
(numbers 29 to 34).
In January 1885, Walsall Council agreed
to extend the deadline for the completion of the section
from Bloxwich High Street to the junction of High Street and
Station Street, the authorised terminus. In August of that
year, Walsall Council agreed to purchase 33½ square yards of
ground fronting High Street for £170. Farm
buildings and a wall were taken down, and the road widened, so that the company
could run its cars to Pinfold. The extension opened on 21st
November, 1885. On 12th October of that year, the Great
Bridge to Tipton Road, Dudley section opened.
A tragic accident occurred in Lichfield
Street, Walsall in June 1886 when a five year old boy was
killed after riding on the step next to the engine. The car
had just left the Mellish Road terminus when he jumped off,
stumbled, and was run over by the car.
The company had running rights over
several other lines, built and operated by rival companies,
including the Dudley and Stourbridge Company’s line to
Dudley market place. In order to test its claim on the line,
the company sent a tram from its Dudley terminus in Tipton
Road, along the line to the market place, and from 9th
January, 1885 a service ran (at least for several years)
from Dudley market place to Wednesbury.
The company’s headquarters, main depot
and workshops were in Corns Street, Darlaston, off
Birmingham Street. There were also three small depots, one
in Dudley at the end of Tipton Road, opposite the entrance
to Dudley Railway Station. Another on Holyhead Road, Handsworth,
near the city boundary, and a third in
Bloxwich Road, Leamore, Walsall, near the railway line,
where the industrial estate is today.
The Directors’ Report for 1884 states
that the financial results were not very satisfactory owing
to the unparalleled depression of trade throughout the
district, which had considerably affected traffic receipts.
Earnings for 1884 amounted to £12,414. The trams covered a
total of 318,072 miles over the company’s twenty three miles
of track. At this time the company had liabilities of
£87,185, mainly owed to the contractors who constructed the
network. Mr. L. C. Clovis was appointed as General Manager,
and given the task of investigating the working of the
tramways to see where savings could be made.
Due to the poor financial state of the
company, it was decided in 1885 to prematurely end the
building of the new lines which had been authorised. In
November of that year, Mr. Alfred Dickinson, the Locomotive
Superintendent based at Darlaston was appointed General
Manager in place of Mr. Clovis. In 1886 Mr. Dickinson took
out four patents for rail cleaners that could be fitted to
the front of the engine. One of them proved invaluable
during the winter of 1887 when snow and ice was quickly
cleared from the lines.
Mr. Dickinson also patented a road-rail
vehicle for use with goods traffic. It had rail and road
wheels, either of which could be swung into position so that
the vehicle could be used on the tramway, or horse-drawn on
conventional roads. The company was greatly in favour of
goods traffic and ordered several wagons built to
Dickinson’s design. In June 1887 a goods service began
across the system, but not initially in Walsall. Around 150
tons were carried each week between Smethwick and towns in
the Black Country, mainly Darlaston and Willenhall. Around
50 tons were carried daily between the Pleck and Wednesbury.
Unfortunately both West Bromwich and Handsworth councils
insisted that the goods traffic had to stop because it was
much noisier than passenger cars. The company then came to
an arrangement with the Birmingham and Midland Tramways so
that the lucrative goods traffic could continue on a
different route. Also in 1887 the company inaugurated a
parcel delivery service by tram, to and from Birmingham, and
opened a parcels office in Colmore Row, Birmingham. The 1894
timetable stated that parcels could be delivered by tramcar
to any part of the company's system, and delivered free of
charge by a company agent within three quarters of a mile.
Above that distance one penny was charged for each
additional quarter of a mile. The standard charges were as
Parcels not exceeding
Plus 1 penny for
each additional 10lbs
An impression of a Dickinson wagon and
steam locomotive at Darlaston Bull Stake.
Mr. Alfred Dickinson, J.P. General Manager.
Mr. Alfred Dickinson, J.P. was
born in Peterborough on February 29th, 1856 and
educated at the Academy in Gorton near Manchester.
Before joining the
Staffordshire Tramways Company in 1883, he spent
seven years at the Manchester, Sheffield and
Lincolnshire Railway which in 1897 became the Great
Central Railway. During his time with the railway
company he worked in most of the departments.
As a Justice of the Peace, he
served on the Wednesbury Borough Bench.
The following passenger timetable was
published in the Walsall Observer in 1887:
The Tramway Service
The Bridge to North Walsall and
Bloxwich. At 25 minutes past, and 5 minutes to every hour,
from 8.25 a.m. to 9.25 p.m. Extra on Tuesdays and Saturdays
at 9.55 p.m.
Bloxwich and North Walsall to The
Bridge. At 5 minutes to, and 25 minutes past every hour,
commencing at 8.55 a.m. and continuing until 9.55 p.m. Extra
on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 10.25. North Walsall 10 minutes
later than Bloxwich.
The Bridge to Pleck, Wood Green, and
Wednesbury. At 15 minutes past, and 15 minutes to every hour,
from 9.15 a.m. 10 10.45 p.m. Extra on Saturdays to the Pleck
only at 10.30 and 11.0 p.m.
Pleck to The Bridge. At 15 minutes past,
and 15 minutes to every hour, from 8.15 a.m. to 9.45 p.m.
From Wednesbury 20 minutes and Wood Green 7 minutes earlier
than Pleck, except the first tram which starts from Pleck.
Extra from Pleck only on Saturdays at 10.15 and 10.45 p.m.
The Bridge to Mellish Road. At 10
minutes past, and 20 minutes to each hour, from 9.10 a.m. to
9.40 p.m. Extra on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 10.10 p.m.
Mellish Road to The Bridge. At 9.25
a.m. and at 25 minutes past, and 5 minutes to every hour,
from 10.25 a.m. to 9.55 p.m. Extra on Tuesdays and Saturdays
at 10.25 p.m.
The Bridge to Pleck, James Bridge, and
Darlaston. At 5 minutes past each hour, from 11.5 a.m. to
10.5 p.m. Extra on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 10.35 p.m.
Extra from Pleck to Darlaston at 9.45 a.m. each day, and at
11.10 p.m. on Saturdays only.
Darlaston to The Bridge. At 15 minutes
to every hour, from 8.45 a.m. to 8.45 p.m. Extra from
Darlaston to James Bridge and Pleck only at 8.0 a.m. every
day, and 9.45 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays from Darlaston
to The Bridge. James Bridge 8 minutes, and Pleck 15 minutes
later than the Darlaston times.
Sundays. There are no Sunday trams
between The Bridge and Mellish Road. On the other sections
the trams run as on weekdays, but in the afternoons only.
Although a large number of people
greatly benefitted from the trams (3,438,819 passengers were
carried in 1885), the company received some complaints from
local authorities. Both Handsworth and West Bromwich
councils complained about the emission of smoke and steam,
and noise and clatter. The Board of Trade sent Major General
Hutchinson to look into them. He made a report suggesting
several minor improvements, which were duly carried out by
the company. Complaints were also received from Walsall
about congestion caused by the trams when they stopped
to load or unload at The Bridge.
At the sixth annual meeting of the
company, held at the offices in Darlaston, on 28th April,
1887, it was stated that the continuing depression in trade
had been very prejudicial to traffic, which had also been
affected by exceptionally severe weather. The mileage of
434,486 and the number of passengers, 2,855,690, were both
down on the previous year, though traffic receipts were up
by £495, to £18,110. Working and general expenses had been
reduced, as had wages, but repairs had increased, from
£2,109 to £3,195. Gross profit was £3,291, as against only
£628 in 1885.
On Saturday, 10th September, 1887, a
fatal accident occurred on the reversing triangle at the
Dudley terminus. A Birmingham and Midland car was standing
on the triangle with the rear of the passenger car just
clear of the points as a South Staffs car came down from
Dudley, bound for Wednesbury. The engine took the points,
but the car jumped them and crashed into the rear of the
other engine, fatally injuring a woman passenger who was
boarding the Birmingham and Midland car.
The operation of the trams was
controlled by the Board of Trade regulations which allowed a
maximum speed of eight miles per hour, and four miles per
hour through facing points. All engines had to be fitted
with governors that could not be tampered with by drivers.
They were designed to cut-off steam and apply the brakes if
the speed exceeded ten miles per hour. A speed indicator
also had to be fitted, along with a fender to push
obstructions aside. All machinery including wheels, and
coupling and connecting rods, had to be behind covers, from
four inches above rail level, and as far as possible, no
smoke or steam was to be emitted by the engines.