Coventry Corporation Tramways

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Coventry Corporation Tramways
Coventry Corporation Tramways.jpg
Map of Coventry Corporation Tramways
Locale Coventry
Open 1 January 1912
Close 30 December 1940
Status Closed
Track gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Propulsion system(s) Electric
Depot(s) Priestley's Bridge and Foleshill
Route length 13.33 miles (21.45 km)
Coventry and District Tramways Company era: 1884–1893
Track gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Propulsion system(s) Steam
Coventry Electric Tramways era: 1895–1912
Track gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Propulsion system(s) Electric
Coventry Corporation Tramways era: 1912–1940
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Propulsion system(s) Electric

Coventry Corporation Tramways operated a tramway service in Coventry, England, between 1912 and 1940.[1]


Coventry and District Tramways Company

Initial steam powered tramway services were provided by the Coventry and District Tramways Company between Coventry and Bedworth from 1884 to 1893. A proposed extension to Nuneaton was withdrawn owing to opposition. The steam trams seem never to have been very successful, frequently de-railing and experiencing difficulty in ascending the Bishop Street gradient. The service headway was one hour. Steam traction ceased in 1893, after which there was no tramway service until 1895.[2]


Coventry Electric Tramways Company

The steam tramway service was superseded by the Coventry Electric Tramways Company Ltd, which started operations in 1895. This company was a subsidiary of the New General Traction Company. The contractors for the electrification were the General Traction Company of Westminster, and the work was carried out under the supervision of Graff Baker and Winslow. Much of the equipment was supplied by the Westinghouse Company, and the Peckham cantilever trucks for the tramcars were also American.

Coventry was the first tramway in Britain to have side poles with span wires to carry the overhead electrification.

The first electric tram ran to Foleshill Depot (grid reference SP 34481 82294) on 5 December 1895 and the service was extended to Bedworth one week later.

A new depot was opened at Priestley's Bridge (grid reference SP 34277 80197) during 1899. On 6 March 1900 a tramway postal service was inaugurated, which continued until the end of tramway operation 40 years later. In latter days the postal car left Bedworth at 8.50pm, showing 'Postal Car' in red letters on the route indicator. The letter-box was fixed to the outside of the rear dash.

In 1896 the company made a profit of £3,360 (equivalent to £381,909 in 2018).[3] By 1911 the profit had reached £12,599, (equivalent to £1,260,290 in 2018).[3] the highest in the company history.

On Sunday 15 December 1907, car 9 overturned on turning the corner into Lower Ford Street after descending Far Gosford Street.

This company was taken over by the Coventry Corporation in 1912 at a cost of £202,132 (equivalent of £19,657,376 in 2018).[3]

For the history of the Corporation's bus operations in the city, see Coventry Corporation Transport.


Generation Station

The power house in 1895 was built at Foleshill Depot with two Browett, Lindley & Co horizontal engines, running at 240 r.p.m, driving at 650 r.p.m, 4 pole 100 kW generators by means of belts. In 1899 a new power house was built at Priestley's Bridge. This took in the engines from the Foleshill Depot, and two new direct coupled 250 r.p.m sets with Browett, Lindley & Co engines and 100 kW, 6 pole generators. These remained until January 1930 after which power was obtained from the Coventry Corporation Electricity Supply department and converted by two 500 kW Bruce Peebles rotary converters, installed in 1914, and a 1,000 kW Brush motor–generator installed in 1930.

Coventry Corporation Tramways

The Corporation purchased the entire undertaking on 1 January 1912 for £220,638 9s 0d, met by a 30-year loan. This included 10.5 miles of single track, 2.6 miles of double track, 41 tramcars, with another in construction, the depot at Foleshill Road and the depot, boiler house and power station at Priestley's Bridge on Stoney Stanton Road.[4]

In 1912 the Corporation ordered ten new vehicles from Brush Electrical Machines of Loughborough. These were delivered in phases between 1913 and 1914. A further vehicle was delivered in 1916.

The fleet was expanded further after the First World War with new vehicles arriving in 1921, 1925, 1929 and 1931, which took the total fleet size to 73.

Services developed such that by 1926 there were three full-length cross-city tram routes with seven short workings.

A new tram loop was opened in 1926 from Greyfriars Green along Queens Road to Albany Road, joining the existing Earlsdon route. Four years later, the last extension was opened from Bull's Head Lane along Binley Road to Uxbridge Avenue, for the new General Electric Company plc telephone works.

By 1938 the tram services were confined to the Bell Green and Bedworth tram routes.


Top covered cars, vestibuled lower deck, open balconies on Peckham Trucks

  • 43-45 Brush 1913
  • 46-53 Brush 1913-1915
  • 54-58 Brush 1921
  • 59-63 Brush 1925
  • 64-68 Brush 1928
  • 69-73 Brush 1931


The livery of the cars was firstly chocolate and cream, with cream rocker panels. "Coventry Corporation Tramways" was painted in gilt letters on the rocker panels. After 1933, maroon replaced chocolate, and "City of Coventry" was painted on the rocker panels which was finally replaced by "Coventry Transport". Car 52 appeared in 1939 in a livery which was entirely cream except the window frames, which were maroon.


German photograph of the destruction caused in the Coventry Blitz

The first air raid to affect tram services occurred on 12 October 1940, when several bombs, including one at the top of Bishop Street, caused the Bedworth service to be cut back from Broadgate to Eagle Street. Two days later a bomb just beyond Foleshill Depot caused the Bedworth service to be curtailed at that point. On 24 October, the service was restored between Broadgate and Foleshill Depot.

The Bell Green route operated in two sections on either side of the Price of Wales cinema, Paradise, as the result of the raid on 12 October 1940. There were sufficient cars isolated on the outer end of the route to operate the service on the Bell Green side of the crater. The through service was restored on 14 October but on 23 October the route began to operate in three sections as a result of further damage. By 28 October repairs had been made to allow the service to operate in two sections with a break at Peel Street.

This break was repaired and through service was about to be restored when the heavy raid of 14 November 1940 brought all services to an end. The damage caused by heavy bombing during the Coventry Blitz was too great to be repaired, and the remaining system was abandoned in February 1941.


A new light rail system for Coventry known as Coventry Very Light Rail is planned with the first line planned to be operational by 2024.[5]


  1. ^ The Golden Age of Tramways. Published by Taylor and Francis.
  2. ^ A History of Coventry Tramways, F.K. Farrell, The Tramway Review, Vol. 4, No, 30, 1961
  3. ^ a b c UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  4. ^ Coventry Transport 1884-1940 by A.S.Denton & F.P.Groves published 1985 by the Birmingham Transport Historical Group.
  5. ^ "Trams to run on Coventry's streets for first time since The Blitz". Coventry Telegraph. 14 March 2019. Retrieved 16 March 2019.

External links

  • Coventry and District Tramways at British Tramway Company Badges and Buttons
  • Coventry Electric Tramways at British Tramway Company Badges and Buttons
  • Coventry Corporation Tramways at British Tramway Company Badges and Buttons
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