A total of fifty-one tramcars have operated on the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway since its opening in 1876.
We are fortunate in that some twenty-four of those cars, in both original and converted form, have survived to the present day, although half are now in private ownership and some of those in very poor condition.
The Isle of Man Government (as owner / operator of the horse tramway since 2016) acquired thirteen historical tramcars for future service on the Tramway - a representative selection of design types, some with historical event association:
'Toastracks' nos. 12, 21, 38 and 42
'Saloons' nos. 1, 27 and 29
'Sunshades' nos. 32 & 36
'Bulkheads' nos. 43, 44 and 45
Double-deckers nos. 14 and 18 were both acquired second hand in 1887, but actually were built in 1883 and therefore are the oldest two surviving tramcars.
No.14 is on display in the Manx Museum and remains in near original form, whereas no.18 is still in service having been converted into a single deck saloon in 1903 and then back to a double-decker in 1988!
Winter Saloon car no. 1 is a later replacement of the 1876 original and dates from 1913, built by G.C. Milnes, Voss & Co of Birkenhead.
All the other remaining tramcars are centenarians, built between 1888 and 1911, making them by far the largest and most historic collection of original horse-drawn tramcars in the world.
Since the Horse Tramway operation was taken over by the Isle of Man Government in 2016, it has completed the refurbishment of Double-decker no.18 and the full restorations of Sunshades no.36, Long Toastrack no.42, Bulkhead no.45, Saloon no.27 and Saloon no.29.
The oldest surviving tramcar bought new for the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway is 'Toastrack' no. 11, built in 1886 by the Starbuck Car & Wagon Co of Birkenhead. It is now in the care of the Wirral Transport Museum in Birkenhead, where plans are being developed for its restoration for future display.
The youngest surviving tramcar, albeit in very poor condition, is a more 'modern' all-weather convertible no.49, which was built in 1935 by Vulcan Motor & Engineering Co of Southport. It is privately owned and currently stored in Ramsey.
'Toastracks' first arrived in 1884 and eventually became the most numerous type of tramcar on the Horse Tramway. Open to the elements on the sides and ends, when delivered they all had eight cross-benches with flip-over seat backs.
The outermost two benches have tall upright fixing posts onto which were mounted metal over-arch brackets with oil lamps suspended centrally, as seen preserved on No.12 today. The lamps and brackets later gave way to arched wooden advert boards.
The tramcar design reminded visitors of the toast caddies on their B&B guest house breakfast tables, hence the 'Toastrack' nickname which has stuck since Victorian times.
Douglas Corporation extended the length of a number of 'Toastracks' in the 1930s to increase their seating capacity from 32 to 40, adding two extra cross-benches.
'Long Toastracks' No.21, 38 & 42 remain with the Tramway fleet, noticeably long in appearance, tending to bow towards each end.
Canvas Roofed Toastracks
Three 'Toastracks' (No.22 to 24) were modified by Douglas Corporation in 1908/9 by fitting ridge-mounted retractable canvas roof blinds to add a modicum of protection from the Manx summer sunshine when needed! They were subsequently fitted with fixed canvas pitched roofs in the 1920s.
These are 'Canvas Roofed Toastracks', No.22 survives at the Jurby Transport Museum, albeit further converted during the 1970s into a mobile souvenir shop for the Tramway.
Six 'Sunshades' (No.32 to No.37) arrived in 1896, originally open on the sides and ends like the early 'Toastracks' and with the same 32 seat capacity, but with a lightweightb boarded roof affixed onto eight upright posts (four each side) and delicately curved roof eavesboards.
No.36 was lengthened in 1908 with the addition of two extra cross-benches and fitted with glazed bulkheads at each end to create segregated driver space. The other five 'Sunshades' had similar glazed bulkheads fitted in the 1960's.
All of the 'Sunshades' survive to date, including No.35 at the Home of Rest for Old Horses. No.36 and No.32 are in service with the Tramway, having been fully restored in 2017 and 2021 respectively.
Five 'Bulkhead' tramcars (No.43 to No.47) were delivered to the tramway between 1907 and 1911, a heavier design of tramcar with 40 seat capacity from the outset, still with cross benches and open on the sides, but with glazed bulkheads at each end to segregate the driver space and a boarded roof affixed onto sixteen upright posts (eight each side).
When delivered, these tramcars also had canvas roller blinds fitted between the upright posts on each side, affording protection for the interior of the tramcar when not in operation. The upright posts had machined grooves which assisted in securing the roller blinds.
The number of upright posts is the most discernible difference between the 'Bulkheads' (8 posts each side) and the 'Sunshades' (4 posts each side) seen in service today.
The last tramcars to be purchased were the 'Convertibles' (No.48 to 50), a set of three built with steel underframes, removable glazed side shutters which could be stored onboard the tram, and cross bench seats which could be extended outwards when the side shutters were not in place.
These were noticeably rectangular in profile and became known as the 'Tomato Boxes'.