Founded by Yorkshire-born engineer Thomas Lightfoot in 1876, Douglas Bay Horse Tramway is the oldest horse-drawn passenger tramway to remain in service anywhere in the World.

    Tramcar No.2 at the Broadway / Iron Pier Passing Loop (1877)
    Photo: MNH i-museum
    History & Heritage...

    The Horse Tramway provides both an unique visitor experience and a heritage transport service along the busy seafront promenades of Douglas, capital of the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea between the United Kingdom and Ireland.

    The Tramway retains thirteen of its original Victorian and Edwardian tramcars with which to operate the service, a selection of open-sided roofed and un-roofed cross-bench cars, enclosed saloons and a double-decker.

    Built between 1883 and 1913, the historic tramcars afford today's visitors the opportunity to experience the first form of mass urban public transit, pre-dating the arrival of electric trams in the World.

    Lower Tramway Stables dating from 1877
    Tramway Stables & Trammers...

    The Tramway's original stables complex dating back to 1877 is a listed building and still used today to accommodate the large team of draught horses. Located off Queen's Promenade at the junction with Summer Hill, the Tramway Stables are open to the public when the Tramway is operating.

    Visitors can explore the stables, meet the Clydesdale and Shire draught horses, learn about their lives and discover the full story of the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway. Guided "Meet the Trammers" tours of the stables are available on selected dates throughout the season led by knowledgeable volunteer guides.

    Clydesdales and Shires are well suited to pull horse trams with their immense power, large round feet and generally good temperament.

    There are more than twenty-five of these heavy draught horses with the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway. Historically known as 'trammers', they also attend agricultural shows and compete in ploughing matches on the Island.

    Ownership & Operation...

    From 1902 until 2015, the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway was owned and operated by local government Douglas Borough Council (formerly Douglas Corporation).

    The Horse Tramway was taken over by the Isle of Man Government in 2016 and is now operated as a subsidised heritage transport service and visitor experience by Isle of Man Transport (a division of the Department of Infrastructure), with additional support from volunteers and the third sector.

    The small retail shop within the Tramway Stables is also run by Isle of Man Transport, which receives all of the proceeds from items purchased in the shop.

    A 21st Century Renaissance...

    Significant investment is being made by the Isle of Man Government in the development of the Horse Tramway as a heritage visitor attraction which will in time see:
    • the track replaced as part of the Douglas Promenades Refurbishment Scheme;
    • a new Tramcar Shed built at the Derby Castle northern terminus with a facade similar in style to the original shed c.1902;
    • four museum set tramcars and nine service fleet tramcars restored and refurbished;
    • the historic tramway horse stabling facilities dating back to 1877 refurbished and enhanced as a visitor experience; and
    • 21st Century amenities provided for both staff and the visiting public.
    To view the plans and progress of the replacement horse tramway track along the Douglas Promenades, visit MyProm Drawings.

    What makes a Heritage Railway?

    A 'heritage railway' is a working railway or tramway which has retained or assumed the character, appearance and operating practices of a railway or tramway of former times.

    Much of the rolling stock and other equipment used on heritage railways is original and is of historic value in its own right. Most heritage railways make use of historic railway or tramway sites or formations.

    Some heritage railways operate as profitable visitor attractions or provide viable public-transit options with or without government subsidy. However, most are run as educational visitor experiences requiring financial and other assistance from support groups, volunteer workers, individual benefactors, associated charity organisations and other grant-giving bodies.

    The Douglas Bay Horse Tramway is unusual in that it is operated on the direction of Tynwald (the Isle of Man's parliament) by an Isle of Man Government department, with subsidy from the taxpayer and additional support from volunteers and the third sector.

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