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
Tramway 5: A continuation of tramway 4
to Dudley Port Road, Dudley via Dudley Road and Tividale
Tramway 6: A continuation of tramway 5
to Dudley Market Place via Birmingham Road and Castle Hill
Tramway 7: A short line from Dudley
Road, along Heath Street to the Borough boundary with
Tramway 8: A continuation of tramway 3
to High Street, West Bromwich via Oldbury Road, and Spon
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
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
Tramway 6: From Hamstead Road,
Birmingham to Heathfield Road via Church Hill Road.
Tramway 7: A line in Alcester Road,
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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