Glasgow and Ibrox Tramways

Powers to construct a 1.55-mile horse tramway along the Paisley Road Turnpike — in the burghs of Govan and Kinning Park — were granted on the 2nd August 1877 under the Glasgow and Ibrox Tramway Act, 1877. The act authorised the use of horse traction, and also, the incorporation of a company, the Glasgow and Ibrox Tramway Company, that would build and operate the line.

It is likely that the promoters, one of whom was William Dundas Scott-Moncrieff, the inventor of a compressed-air tram, were then persuaded to use the new form of traction on the tramway, as a provisional order to this effect was granted by the Board of Trade. Although the provisional order was confirmed on the 16th August 1878 — under the Tramway Order Confirmation (No. 3) Act, 1878 — the powers were never used, probably because the technology did not prove to be the success its inventor had hoped for.

The line, which was built to a gauge of 4ft 7¾ins (to allow the movement of railway wagons), was opened on the 18th July 1879, and was initially worked by two Eade's Patent Reversible horsecars, which were later supplemented by another two tramcars (one in 1880 and the other around 1884). The full 1.55-mile line — from the junction of Paisley Road and Govan Road in the east, out to Bellahouston Hall lodge gates in the west — was not built, the line only extending to 1.1 miles, terminating between Whitefield Road and Beech Avenue.

The tramway was a commercial failure, partiallly due to its short length, but also to the obstinacy of Glasgow Corporation, who steadfastly refused to sanction a connection to its own system (at Paisley Road Toll), thus putting paid to hopes of through running into central Glasgow. This not only hamstrung the G&ITCo, but presumably also greatly incovenienced the travelling public, a fact which appears to have carried little weight with the council worthies. As a consequence, the G&ITCo made a significant loss during the first year of operation, with matters only improving a decade later in the year of the Glasgow International Exhibition (1888), when a small profit was made. Although the company managed to stay in the black for the next three years, the profits were woefully small, and by 1891 it was back in the red.

In the absence of anything approaching a constructive attitude from the corporation, the company could not see a way to operating profitably, so tried unsuccessfully — in late 1889 — to interest the corporation in either operating or buying the tramway. Barely a few months later, with the company in fairly desparate financial straits, it tried once again to interest the corporation in taking the line off its hands, which somewhat surprisingly, the corporation now agreed to do. However, someone in the council had clearly not done their homework, as the Board of Trade politely informed the corporation that they (the BoT) were only authorised — under the Tramways Act, 1870 — to transfer the concern to a local authority through whose area the tramway actually ran, and that was clearly not Glasgow. If the corporation wanted the tramway, it would presumably now have to go to the time and expense of a parliamentary bill.

If the G&ITCo's financial woes were not enough of a burden, the company's relationship with Glasgow Corporation now took a further nose dive, the council taking exception to the company's contention that the corporation had obstructed the running of trams into central Glasgow, the latter quite disingenuously claiming that it had not. With the game virtually up, and with Glasgow now expecting to obtain the line for a pittance, the G&ITCo received a letter from Govan Commissioners of Police (dated the 24th March 1891), stating that they had accepted the company's offer to sell them the tramway. This must have come as a surprise to the company, as they had offered the tramway to the Commissioners at the same time they had made the offer to Glasgow Corporation, but had given up waiting from them to make their minds up,

Matters now proceeded with alacrity, and somewhat outside the law, for on the night of the 27th May 1891 — the date the Commissioners of Police purchased the lines in Govan (the vast majority of the tramway) — a gang of unknown workmen (presumably paid by the GT&OCo) arrived at the eastern end of the tramway, dug up the road and connected the G&ITCo's tracks to those of Glasgow Corporation. The next day, the GT&OCo began through services between Rockvilla and Ibrox over the new connection, the GT&OCo being the lessee of both Glasgow Corporation and the Govan Commissioners of Police.

Govan Commissioners of Police were not empowered to buy the section of the tramway that lay in Kenning Park, so had circumvented this through the Burgh Surveyor, who bought it as an individual. This unusual situation persisted until the 29th June 1893, when Govan acquired the necessary powers, under the Govan Burgh (Tramways) Act 1893, to formally acquire that portion, so that it then owned the whole tramway.

The horse tramway was operated by the GT&OCo until the 11th November 1896, when Glasgow Corporation took over, having bought the company out of its lease.

The ownership of the tramway passed fully into the hands of Glasgow Corporation on the 7th August 1912, following Glasgow's absorption of the Burgh of Govan.

Unfortunately, photographs taken during the years the system was operated by the Glasgow and Ibrox Tramway Company (1879-1891) are extremely rare, with just a single example showing a crew, and this is of such poor quality, that it is impossible to say whether uniforms were worn.

Following the sale of the tramway to the Govan Commissioners of Police in late May 1891, operation was taken over by the Glasgow Tramways and Omnibus Company. GT&OCo drivers operating over the line would have worn informal attire, whilst conductors would have worn GT&OCo uniforms (see link).

From 1896 onwards, the line was operated by Glasgow Corporation, tramcar crews wearing Glasgow Corporation Tramways uniforms (see link).

Further reading
For a more history of the G&ITCo, see: 'The Glasgow Horse Tramways' by Struan Jno T Robertson; Scottish Tramway and Transport Society (2000).


Horse tram drivers and conductors
Glasgow Tramways and Omnibus Company Horse Tram No 286
Glasgow Tramways and Omnibus Company Horsecar No 286 captured somewhere in the general Ibrox area on an Ibrox-Rockvilla service — photo undated, but certainly taken between 1891 and 1896. Although difficult to make out in this photograph, the driver is wearing the usual informal attire of a GT&OCo horsecar driver (see link). Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.