Cable Tramcars

Image courtesy Manx National Heritage iMuseum (

A total of 16 tramcars operated on the Upper Douglas Cable Tramway, a selection of saloon and cross-bench cars.

The initial order for 12 tramcars was placed with the firm of G.F. Milnes & Co of Birkenhead, a well-known tramcar manufacturer who supplied cars for many tramways across the British Isles, including the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway and the Douglas & Laxey Coast Electric Tramway.

Dating from 1896, these first cable tramcars for the Isle of Man comprised eight open-sided cross-bench cars (nos. 71 to 78) each seating 38 passengers and four unvestibuled saloon cars (nos.79 to 82) each seating 32. Both types of car had end driving platforms which provided additional seating and space for luggage and parcels. Glazed end bulkheads were fitted to the cross-bench cars but not to the saloon cars.

Image courtesy Manx National Heritage iMuseum (

After the cable tramway was acquired by Douglas Corporation in 1902, it determined that four saloon cars were insufficient to provide Winter services and converted cross-bench cars 77 & 78 into saloon cars, retaining their glazed end bulkheads.

Further cars of the cross-bench type were purchased in 1907 (nos.69 & 70 built by United Electric Car Company with canvas roller blinds on the sides), in 1909 (no.68 built by G C Milnes, Voss & Company with canvas roller blinds) and in 1911 (no.67 also built by G C Milnes, Voss & Company but with wooden roller blinds).

Image courtesy Manx National Heritage iMuseum (

All of the cable tramcars had low clerestory-style roofs and for most of their working lives were fitted with full-length advertisement fin boards on the roofs, initially promoting a journey on the Douglas, Laxey, Snaefell Mountain & Ramsey Electric Tramway, subsequently the delights of Jacob's biscuits and wafers or Fry's Chocolate Cocoa!

The first cable tramcars were numbered 71 to 82 to allow for expansion of the horse tramcar fleet up to 70 cars.

The latter never exceeded 50 cars and therefore Douglas Corporation allocated reducing numbers from 70 for its own cable tramcar purchases.

From preserved pieces and additional paint rubbings of components from car 72/73, the colours of the panelling were dark prussian blue and ivory white, metalwork and beading finished in dark brown.

Seats were varnished wood, seat end posts were also varnished wood but with edge-scalloping lined in red.

The blue side and end panels had a broad lemon / gold lining with ornate corners and an inner thin white lining. Upper blue side panels on the first saloons were divided into three sections. The lower ivory white panels had a less ornate thick dark brown lining and an inner thin red lining. Upper ivory white panels and lamp box housings had thin red lining only.

The wooden side panelling added to cars 77 & 78 to convert them into saloon cars is believed to have remained varnished and not painted.

Lettering and numbers were in black with two-tone lemon / gold shading.