Douglas Bay Horse Tramway
History & Heritage
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.
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.
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. Clydesdales and Shires are well suited to pull horse trams with their immense power, large round feet and generally good temperament.
Guided "Meet the Trammers" tours of the stables are available on selected dates throughout the season led by knowledgeable volunteer guides.
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 heritage transport service and visitor attraction by Isle of Man Transport (part of the Department of Infrastructure), with additional support from volunteers and the third sector.
For timetable, fare, special event and service information, visit the Isle of Man Transport website.
The small retail shops within the Tramway Stables and the Tramcar Depot are also run by Isle of Man Transport, which receives all of the proceeds from items purchased in the shops.
Along the Route
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 has already seen:
the northern section of track replaced as part of the Douglas Promenades Refurbishment Scheme;
a new Tramcar Depot built at the Derby Castle northern terminus with a facade similar in style to the original shed c.1902;
a number of museum set tramcars and 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.
Further development of the attraction in due course will hopefully include public access to interpreted displays within the new tramcar depot.