Farnworth Council Tramways

Although Farnworth's tramway ownership extended as far back as 1880, this was not as an independent concern, but rather as a member of a partnership involving Bolton Corporation, Astley Bridge and Kearsley Local Boards (later Urban District Councils); this enterprise — Bolton and Suburban Tramways — opened the first line of what became an extensive horse tramway system on the 1st September 1880, operation of which was leased to a local undertaking, Edmund Holden and Company (see link). In 1898, the track in Astley Bridge passed into the ownership of Bolton Corporation following the latter's absorption of the former, and in June of the following year, Bolton — as a prelude to electrification — purchased the assets (and remaining leases) of Edmund Holden and Company; the tracks in Farnworth and Kearsley however, remained in the ownership of the respective UDCs.

The last horse tram (worked under contract by Edmund Holden and Company) ran on the 2nd January 1900, with the first electric service over Farnworth's tracks (Moses Gate to Black Horse) taking place on the 13th April 1900, operated under lease by Bolton Corporation Tramways. Farnworth commenced its own electric services on the 9th January 1902, expanding on the 20th February 1902 to operate Kearsley UDC's newly built line to Clifton, and on 2nd June 1902, taking over operation of its own Moses Gate to Black Horse line from Bolton Corporation. Farnworth's attempt to run their system as an independent entity soon ran into severe difficulties — rather predictably given its small size — the result of which was a decision to hand-over operation of the system (and its tramcars) to the South Lancashire Tramways Company; this took place on the 1st April 1906.

The tramway system in Farnworth came around full circle some 30 years later, following the SLTCo's abandonment of tramway operation — largely in favour of trolleybuses — with the result that operation once again returned to Bolton Corporation, on the 16th December 1933. The last tram over Farnworth and Kearsley tracks ran on the 12th November 1944.

In 1906, the system comprised 4.47 miles of track, 2.66 miles owned by Farnworth UDC, and 1.81 owned by Kearsley UDC. Farnworth-owned mileage was latter increased to 3.22 miles, by virtue of new SLTCo-constructed tracks. The system was extremely compact, with the principle lines running: southeastwards from Moses Gate (the Bolton boundary) to the Black Horse in Farnworth (the Kearsley Boundary); southwards from Moses Gate to the municipal boundary at Brookhouse; westwards from the Blackhorse along Longcauseway then southwestwards along Buckley Lane, again to the municipal boundary. Farnworth's tracks were connected to those of the BCT at Moses Gate, and though through-running was eventually agreed, it did not take place until SLTCo days. Connections were also made to SLTCo-owned tracks — at the municipal boundary in Brookhouse and Buckley Lane — but only after the SLTCo had taken over operation.

Unfortunately, photos taken during the four years that Farnworth operated the system are extremely rare, and those which have survived only show motormen and conductors at a distance. Based on this rather sparse evidence, it would appear that staff wore double-breasted jackets and military-style caps; the latter bore a small badge of unknown pattern, an example of which has not survived. Crews were also issued with double-breasted greatcoats, which bore metal badges on both collars.

Photographs of inspectors have not survived, so it is not possible to say what style of uniform they wore.

Further reading
For a history of the Farnworth and Kearsley UDC's tramways, see: 'The South Lancashire Tramways Company Ltd' by E K Stretch, revised by Ted Gray; Triangle Publishing (2006).


Motormen and conductors
Farnworth Council Tramways tram Long Causeway and Albert Rd
An unidentified Farnworth Council Tramways tram — possibly No 2 — at the junction of Long Causeway and Albert Rd. The photo was probably taken shortly after opening in 1902. Photo courtesy of the Tramways and Light Railway Society, with thanks to David Voice.

Farnworth Council Tramways tram driver motorman
A blow-up of the above photo showing the motorman. The graininess of the photo makes it very difficult to discern details of the uniform jacket, other than that it was double-breasted.

Farnworth Council Tramways Tram in 1904
An unidentified FCT tram stands with various tramway staff — photo taken in 1904. The conductor, wearing informal attire and with a cash bag, stands on the top deck. The two uniformed figures are probably motormen, both of whom are wearing double-breasted greatcoats with collar insignia. Their military-style caps clearly carry a small cap badge.