Birmingham and Midland Tramways Limited

The Birmingham and Midland Tramways Company was founded on 22nd November, 1883 to operate over the authorised lines, which were to be built for the company by the Western Districts Company, at extremely low rates. The lines were authorised by the Board of Trade, as the Birmingham and Western District Tramways Order, 1881, and confirmed by the Tramways Orders Confirmation (No. 2) Act, 1881, the Tramways Orders Confirmation (No. 3) Act, 1882, and the Tramways Orders Confirmation (No. 2) Act, 1883. The lines formed a large interconnected network with around 35 miles of track, crossing Birmingham, Smethwick, Oldbury, Tipton, Dudley, Sedgley, and Coseley.

The acts and authorised tramways can be summarised as follows:

Tramways Orders Confirmation (No. 2) Act, 1881. Tramways in Birmingham

Tramway 1: From Congreve Street, Birmingham to Dudley Road via Summer Row, Parade, Sandpits, Summer Hill, and Spring Hill.

Tramway 2: From Dudley Road, Birmingham to the boundary with Smethwick.

Tramway 3: Along Smethwick High Street and Oldbury Road to the Oldbury boundary.

Tramway 4: A continuation of tramway 3 through Birmingham Road, Birmingham Street, Oldbury Market Place, Freeth Street, and Dudley Road to the Oldbury boundary.

Tramway 5: A continuation of tramway 4 to Dudley Port Road, Dudley via Dudley Road and Tividale Road.

Tramway 6: A continuation of tramway 5 to Dudley Market Place via Birmingham Road and Castle Hill Road.

Tramway 7: A short line from Dudley Road, along Heath Street to the Borough boundary with Smethwick.

Tramway 8: A continuation of tramway 3 to High Street, West Bromwich via Oldbury Road, and Spon Lane.

Tramway 9: A continuation of tramway 8 from High Street West Bromwich to terminate with tramway 4 at Oldbury Market Place via St. Michael Street, Moor Street, Bromford Lane, Bromford Road and Church Street, Oldbury.

Tramways Orders Confirmation (No. 3) Act, 1882. Tipton, Sedgley, and Coseley

Tramway 1: A continuation of tramway 5 above from Dudley Road to Sedgley Road West via Tipton Road, Sedgley Road East, and Park Lane.

Tramway 2:  A continuation of the above tramway from Sedgley Road West to Coseley.

Tramways Orders Confirmation (No. 2) Act, 1883. Birmingham, West Bromwich, and Dudley

Tramway 1: A modification of tramway 1 in the 1881 Act from the Parade to Congreve Street, via Summer Row.

Tramway 2: Lines in Birmingham in Hill Street, Navigation Street, Hurst Street, Sherlock Street, Gooch Street, and a line from Hurst Street along Smallbrook Street, Holloway Head, and Bath Row to Five Ways.

Tramway 3: From the Dudley Road line in Birmingham to the Hagley Road, via Monument Road.

Tramway 4: From Congreve Street, Birmingham, along Edmund Street as far as Livery Street.

Tramway 5: From the Parade, Birmingham to Hockley Hill, and from Vyse Street to Icknield Street via Pitsford Street.

Tramway 6: From Hamstead Road, Birmingham to Heathfield Road via Church Hill Road.

Tramway 7: A line in Alcester Road, Moseley.

Tramway 8: From Moor Street, West Bromwich, along Paradise Street, to Spon Lane.

Tramway 9: A short line from Castle Hill Road, Dudley to the west side of Dudley Railway Station.

When construction of the network began, Birmingham and Midland Tramways Limited quickly discovered that it could not raise sufficient funds to pay for the work, which was being carried out by the Western Districts Company. Negotiations were hurriedly arranged between the two companies and Birmingham Central Tramways Company Limited. The Central Tramways Company agreed to take over the lines in Birmingham included in the 1882 and 1883 Acts. By this time Birmingham Corporation had decided to construct the tramways within the Borough itself and lease them to Central Tramways and the Western Districts Company for twenty one years.

In the end Birmingham and Midland Tramways agreed to pay the Western Districts Company £77,330 for the eleven miles of track constructed outside Birmingham, and £4,000 to operate within the Borough, but with legal and other fees an extra £26,970 had to be paid. Construction of the lines outside Birmingham had been completed by May 1885, and a trial run was made on May 29th. The Board of Trade inspection was carried out by Major General Hutchinson on June 1st, during which complaints were received about the standard of work from Smethwick and Oldbury councils. The complaints were dealt with, and the Board of Trade Certificates for Oldbury, West Bromwich, Tipton, Dudley, and Rowley Regis were received on July 4th. The certificate for Smethwick arrived on 18th August.

The company’s depot was built on 3½ acres of land in Oldbury Road, Smethwick, about 300 yards west of the junction with Spon Lane. Large engine and car sheds were built, along with a coke yard, off Windmill Lane, Smethwick. The company purchased 34 tramway locomotives, as follows:

Numbers 1 to 6 purchased in 1885 were of the Kitson & Company’s standard type with air condensers, 8½ inches by 12 inches cylinders, 2 ft. 4½ inch diameter wheels, and a wheelbase of 4 ft. 6 inches. Another eight locomotives of this type, numbers 27 to 34 were purchased in 1899.

Numbers 7 to 12 purchased in 1885 were the Kitson & Company’s larger and more powerful ‘five-panel type’ with large six-tube air condensers, 9 inches by 15 inches cylinders, 2 ft. 10 inch diameter wheels, and a wheelbase of 5 feet.

Numbers 13, 20, 21, and 22 to 24 were built by Thomas Green & Son with air condensers, inside cylinders, 9 inches by 14 inches, 2 ft. 6 inch diameter wheels and a wheelbase of 5 feet. Number 13 was purchased in 1885, the others in 1886.

Numbers 14 to 19 purchased in 1886 were the Kitson & Company’s ‘five-panel improved type’ with air condensers, 8½ inches by 12 inches cylinders, 2 ft. 4½ inch diameter wheels, and a wheelbase of 4 feet 6 inches.

Numbers 25 and 26 purchased in 1897-8 were the Kitson & Company’s ‘five-panel iron cab type’ with air condensers, 8½ inches by 12 inches cylinders, 2 ft. 4½ inch diameter wheels, and a wheelbase of 4 feet 6 inches.

Numbers 27 and 28 purchased in 1899 were identical to locomotives 25 and 16.

Many of the locomotives were rebuilt with various modifications. Others were scrapped and replaced. The livery consisted of dark green panels lined in gold or yellow, with windows and under frames painted in yellow and lined in green and possibly gold. At the beginning, the only lighting on the engines were locomotive type oil lamps which displayed the route code. Later the engines were fitted with destination boards at the front, supplemented at night by two lamps, attached to either side of the board.

There were sixteen double deck trailer cars built by the Oldbury Carriage and Wagon Company. They were purchased in 1885, and had open-sided canopy covers on the upper deck and knifeboard seats. They were numbered 1 to 16, and seated 30 inside, and thirty outside. Six other trailer cars, numbers 17 to 22, were purchased in 1886, and built by the Starbuck Car & Wagon Company Limited, of Birkenhead. They were double deck cars with a canopy cover and seated thirty inside, and thirty-two outside. The cars carried a destination board outside the lower deck windows, and at night, a tail light on the rear lower deck bulkhead.

The following advert appeared in the Weekly News on 29th August, 1885:

The Steam Trams now run every hour from Birmingham to Smethwick, Oldbury and West Bromwich. On Sunday next they will run through to Dudley hourly, from 2 p.m.

From Sunday 30th August the through service was extended to Dudley Station, and Tipton Road junction, but due to a shortage of rolling stock, the full service did not operate for about six months.

The main line within Birmingham built by the Corporation was double track as far as Winson Green Road. Most of the other lines including those outside Birmingham were single track with passing places. The tramways had a gauge of 3ft. 6 inches.

The annual report, given at the annual general meeting in 1886, told a sad story. Little progress had been made in developing traffic during the first six months of operation because of a shortage of rolling stock. This had been caused by delays in the delivery of new vehicles, and the original number of vehicles was inadequate. Sufficient rolling stock wasn’t available until Easter 1886. During the first twelve months of operation, the cars ran 201,784 miles, and carried 3,022,232 passengers. The operating costs for engines, cars, and permanent way amounted to £118,771.13s.10d.

In November 1886 the Chairman, Mr. E. J. L. Twynam issued a letter to the shareholders stating that the company still owed Birmingham and Western Districts Tramways Company Limited, £7,477.12s.0d. An exceptional general meeting was held on 25th November, which included a resolution authorising the issue of 1,000 first preference shares of £10 each, carrying a fixed dividend of five percent. Mr. Twynam stated that the money owed to Birmingham and Western Districts Tramways Company Limited must at once be paid. Unfortunately the shares only raised £4,250. Unfortunately the number of passengers fell.

At the 1888 annual general meeting, the Chairman stated that the company was now able to pay all of its liabilities. When this had been done, Birmingham and Western Districts Tramways Company Limited transferred all rights in the tramways authorised by the 1881 and 1883 Acts to the company, and also gave the company a loan for £2,759. A dividend was paid to shareholders for the first time in the company’s history. It consisted of five percent for preference shares, and two percent for ordinary shares.

Because the Birmingham and Midland Tramways now had full rights to all of its tramways, it signed an agreement with the South Staffordshire and Birmingham District Steam Tramways Company Limited to give it running powers over some of the Birmingham and Midland lines until 1st October, 1890. For the privilege, a toll of ¾ pence had to be paid per journey, for each car using the lines. Under the terms of the agreement, the South Staffordshire Company agreed to pay quarterly. If the total for any September quarter plus the three preceding quarters was less than £100, the total would be made up to that figure. When the agreement ended it was renegotiated and extended to 1st October, 1895. Under the new agreement £105 had to be paid annually for the running powers.

At the 1889 annual general meeting, the Chairman stated that the yield from passenger traffic had increased by £2,000 and that the dividend would be the same as in the previous year. The results for 1891 and 1892 were less satisfactory and so the dividend for ordinary shares fell to one percent. The Chairman remarked that the company provided a first class service, but the public did not seem to take full advantage of it.

In 1892 there were many complaints about the poor service through West Bromwich from Birmingham. The trams were very irregular. Some of the routes were running at a loss, including the Spon Lane and Bromford Lane services which ceased around Christmas 1892. The company occasionally ran a tram along the routes in order to retain the operating rights, but that was all.

In April 1893 an arrangement was made with Mr. B. Crowther of West Bromwich, who owned a funeral service and a horse vehicle hire business, to use his premises in Paradise Street to house two small sixteen seater, single deck horse cars, which had been purchased from the Metropolitan Carriage and Wagon Company Limited. Mr. Crowther supplied the horses, and the company began to operate horse trams over the two routes. By the middle of 1894 Mr. Crowther had taken the horse tram operation over and was leasing the two lines from the company. By September he had acquired two more cars and operated a fifteen minute service over the routes on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

In 1893 the main service through West Bromwich to Birmingham was greatly improved, a half-hourly service beginning around April. At the 1985 annual general meeting, the Chairman stated that a great improvement had been carried out over the last two years. Passenger numbers had increased by nearly twenty five percent, profits were £1,800, and in consequence of the regularity and frequency with which they ran their cars, the traffic had enormously increased, and he spoke well of the care taken by drivers and conductors, that there was only a pound or two increase in the compensation account. They had had to contend with a severe frost in the winter, and competition from omnibuses for five months of the year, although this had ceased in April. He also mentioned that a parcels delivery service had been started in conjunction with the company’s passenger service, but it was too early to say whether it would pay.

The company’s trading results continued to improve. In 1895 the dividend was five percent for preference shares and four percent for ordinary shares, rising to five percent for both in 1896. At the annual general meeting on 11th August, 1897 the Chairman stated that traffic figures were up due to the great improvements in the service, comfortable cars and engines, and a quicker service. The use of workmen’s cars had greatly increased, and were now run every ten minutes from 5.30 a.m. to 7.30 a.m. and were remarkably full. The issue of one shilling tickets for workmen had increased greatly, an extra 3,480 being issued during that year. Engine mileage was 418,840 for 1896, and a total of 6,425,345 passengers were carried.

The timetable for July, 1897, is as follows:

Birmingham to Windmill Lane -Weekdays. Lionel Street (depart), 5.35 a.m., 5.48, 6.0 and every 10 minutes until 8.0 a.m., then every 5 minutes until 11.21 p.m.
Windmill Lane (depart), 5.7 a.m., 5.20 and every 10 minutes until 7.30 a.m., then every 5 minutes until 10.55 p.m.

On Sundays, the service commenced at 2.0 p.m. from Lionel Street and 1.30 from Windmill Lane, a 5 minute frequency operating in each direction until 10.54 and 10.25 p.m., respectively.

Birmingham to Spon Lane - Mondays and Saturdays only. Lionel Street (depart), 9.0 a.m., 9.32, and every 30 minutes until 12.1 p.m., 12.16, then every 15 minutes until 11.1 p.m. (11.30 Saturdays.)
Spon Lane (depart), 8.35 a.m. and every 30 minutes until 11.35, then every 15 minutes until 10.20 p.m. (10.50 Saturdays.)

Tuesdays-Fridays inclusive: Lionel Street (depart), 6.30 a.m., 8.30, and every 60 minutes until 11.30 a.m., 12.30 p.m., then every 30 minutes until 11.0. Spon Lane (depart), 4.50 a.m., 5.1, 5.40, 6.40, 7.0, 7.17, 7.25, 7.32, 7.40, 8.34 and every 60 minutes until 11.34, 12.4 p.m., and every 30 minutes until 10.4 10.34.

Sundays:  Lionel Street (depart), 2.0 p.m. and every 15 minutes until 10.45. Spon Lane (depart), 1.5 p.m. and every 15 minutes until 10.50.

Birmingham to Oldbury and Dudley - Weekdays. Lionel Street (depart), 6.30 a.m., 8.30, and every 60 minutes until 11.30, then every 30 minutes until 9.30 p.m. Dudley (depart), 6.30 a.m., 8.0, and every 60 minutes until 12.0 p.m., then every 30 minutes until 9.30. (10.0 on Saturdays.)

Sundays: Lionel Street (depart), 2.0 p.m. and every 30 minutes until 8.30 p.m. Dudley (depart), 2.0 p.m., and every 30 minutes until 9.30 p.m. Fares on the main line from Birmingham were: Aberdeen Street, 1d.; Windmill Lane, 2d.; Blue Gates, Smethwick, 3d.; Oldbury, 4d.; Dudley, 6d.

Bromford Lane - Weekdays. Oldbury (depart), 9.25 a.m., and every 45 minutes until 9.25 p.m.; 10.5, 10.40, 11.20. (Mondays and Saturdays only.) West Bromwich (depart), 9.0 a.m. and every 45 minutes until 9.45 p.m., 10.20, 11.0, 11.20. (Mondays and Saturdays only.)

No Sunday service.

Spon Lane - Weekdays. Spon Croft (depart), 9.10 a.m., and every 30 minutes until 11.10 p.m. West Bromwich (depart), 8.55 a.m. and every 30 minutes until 11.0 p.m. Extra cars on Mondays and Fridays.

No Sunday service.

Passenger numbers continued to increase. In 1898 a total of 8,818,047 passengers were carried, and for 1898 and 1899, ordinary shareholders received a dividend of five percent. Possibly due to the success of the company, it gained the attention of the British Electric Traction Company Limited who decided to take-over the company and electrify the network.

An agreement was reached between the companies on 29th November, 1899 in which B.E.T. agreed to purchase the whole of the shares at £9.10s per ordinary share and £10 per preference share. The majority of the shares were purchased in January 1900, and the company became part of B.E.T.

Birmingham & Midland steam trams continued in use for sometime until lines were electrified, and Mr. Crowther continued to lease the Spon Lane and Bromford Lane lines, and to operate his horse-drawn trams for several years. In 1902 Smethwick Corporation purchased the tramways in the borough, but leased them to Birmingham and Midland Tramways, now under the control of B.E.T.

Electric trams began to operate on the Birmingham to Dudley line in 1904, and new electrified lines opened to Bearwood, and along Waterloo Road in 1904. Another opened to Soho station in 1905, and in 1906 Birmingham Corporation took over some of the shorter routes in Smethwick.

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