Ryde Pier Trams
In 1862 the Ryde Pier Company decided to build a structure alongside the existing 1814 pier to provide a service for foot passenger using the ferry to Portsmouth. This structure would carry a double track for a horse drawn tram service, the contact valued at £12,080 was awarded to a local island company by the name of Langdon Bros; in 1863 one track was used for the transport of luggage, it is thought using a hand propelled truck. In the same year steam trams were tried, but the trials proved unsuccessful and they were subsequently withdrawn. On the 29th August 1864, a horse drawn service was introduced between the Esplanade and Ryde Pied Head. The first tram was specially built at a cost of £220.0 by a company in Walham Green, London who specialised in the building of buses, the company’s name was T.B. Ashford; a second tram was supplied by them in June 1865. The trams were of a lightweight design to ensure they did not cause vibrations, which could damage the pier structure.
The opening of the tram service came six days after the opening of the Ryde St. John’s to Shanklin railway, the town council had refused to allow the trains to cross the public highway and terminate at the Esplanade. To overcome this lack of connection the Pier Company obtained the Act of 1867, which allowed them to extend the tram service to meet the train at St. John’s station. It was not until August 1871 that this service actually started operating using horse drawn double decker trams with two classes; the first class passengers sat inside in the lower saloon, and the third class sat on the open top deck.
One of these trams was built in Ryde by John Knapp, with some of the parts being obtained from Starbuck of Birkenhead and had carved grapes on the corner pillars. It is rumoured that that later in its service life when the horse drawn trams were withdrawn it was converted into a single decker and operated on the electrified track; the two original trams were retained for pier duties only.
In 1876 the fare on these trams up the pier was 4p first class and 2p second class, the fare to St. John’s was 10p and 7p respectively. In the same year a Merryweather steam tram was introduced but the experiment was not a success.
The train companies became dis-satisfied with the service offered by the trams and started to look at way of improving the connection and increasing their revenue. To solve the problem of trains gaining access to Ryde Pier the railway company built a tunnel under the Esplanade, which was opened in1880. As a result of this the horse drawn trams were soon withdrawn and became a pier service only.
In 1881 two gas-fired engines became the means of transport on the tramway, but were soon converted to burn coke, however in 1884 the trams reverted back to using horses. At a meeting of the Pier Company shareholders in May 1885 the use of cable haulage was rejected in favour of electric trams. In October of that year a contract for the construction of one electric track was placed with Siemens Brothers and in March of 1886, it was one of the first electric trams in the world. A gas engine drove a dynamo, which in turn supplied 120 volts to a third rail and the trams used a wheel in contract with the rail to pick power for their drive motors. The resulting from this change the fare was reduced to 1p and single class.
The horse drawn trams were phase out and the service remanded virtually unchanged until 1927, however it must be noted that in 1924 the Southern Railway Company had bought Ryde Pier Company. October 1927 saw the introduction of two new trams sets using Drewty petrol engines; these were later changed to diesel. The service remained operational until the 26th January 1969 when it closer and passengers had to use the train.
Editors notes: -
The original Ryde built tram was bought by a Mr Winstone of Romford, Essex, it is not known how, but the tram eventually found its way to Hull Transport Museum where it was on show. It was damaged during the Second World War, restored and placed back on display, current status unknown.
There is one of the earlier electric trams on display in the Isle of Wight Bus Museum, Newport Quay.
Tram shed at Ryde Pier head was finally demolished in October 1970 to make way for an accommodation block for the pilots supplying pilotage to Solent shipping; this in turn as now been demolished.
Source: IWCP 1 February 1969This page was last edited on: 26th January, 2022 17:50:44