Strathallan Tramcar Depot
In 1886, Isle of Man Tramways Ltd, who had acquired the horse tramway from its founder Thomas Lightfoot in 1882, built a terminus station and tramcar shed on the seafront opposite Burnt Mill Hill (now Summer Hill).
The new shed accommodated only 12 tramcars; this storage space was supplemented in 1891 by the purchase of No.1 Strathallan Crescent with its yard and stables, becoming known as ‘The Brig’.
A number of tramcars were kept in the yard area of The Brig when not in service.
By 1894 when the horse tramway was sold on again to a new concern, the Douglas & Laxey Coast Electric Tramway Company, there were already 31 horse tramcars in service, the majority stored overnight in the open.
With the likelihood of the tramcar fleet expanding further to meet growing passenger demand, the new owners and operator purchased a plot of land inside the entrance to the Derby Castle Pleasure Grounds and in 1895 proceeded to build the Strathallan Tramcar Depot, a new 12-road tramcar shed which could hold up to 36 tramcars, together with an ornate station terminus canopy.
As built, the new shed was a single-storey structure with masonry side walls, a cement-rendered iron frame facade, doorways fitted with wooden slat roller-shutters and a metal sheet clad roof supported on a timber frame.
It had a traverser system outside allowing tramcars to be pushed sideways to access any of the twelve storage roads without the need for complex outside pointwork.
Postcard image courtesy E C More
The large wooden advert hoarding erected above the single storey front facade initially promoted all the glens along the coast between Douglas and Ramsey, ‘places of interest along the way’ which visitors could travel to via the Douglas & Laxey Coast Electric Tramway (later to be renamed the Douglas, Laxey & Ramsey Electric Tramway and, from 1902, the Manx Electric Railway).
After the horse tramway was purchased in 1902 by Douglas Corporation, commercial advertising became abundant and for many years adverts for Jacob’s Biscuits of one sort or another appeared on the Strathallan Tramcar Shed hoarding and on the horse tramcars.
The advert hoarding made way for the addition of an upper floor in 1935.
In the early 1900s and again in the 1920s, internal offices and staff rooms were created within the building, using the far left and far right access roads, thereby reducing storage capacity to 30 tramcars.
The first floor suite of offices were added by Douglas Corporation in 1935 for their tramway and bus management staff. By doing so, a further road was taken up by a stairwell, reducing storage capacity further to just 27 tramcars.
Subsequently, the upstairs offices have been used by the transport division of the Isle of Man Government up until 1999 and then as rentable meeting rooms until 2015.
Following a structural survey in 2016, it was determined that the Strathallan Tramcar Shed was life-expired and its replacement rather than restoration would be more cost effective. In early 2018, the Department of Infrastructure submitted a planning application to demolish the existing building and to replace it with a new structure in keeping with the original design and the adjacent buildings.
It provides office space, staff and public amenities, a ticket sales area and, within a central open-plan hall, accommodation and maintenance space for the thirteen tramcars retained by the Government to operate the horse tramway service and to display the historic vehicles which date from 1883 to 1913.
The new depot's facade is closely styled on the original as it appeared circa 1902.
Together with the cobble-effect floor surface in the main tramcar hall and slatted roller shutter doors, this essential piece of infrastructure for the continued operation of the Horse Tramway as a heritage visitor attraction maintains the look and feel of a Victorian transport building sympathetically adapted for continued use in the 21st Century.