Edinburgh Northern Tramways

A scheme to build a network of cable tramway lines on the north side of Princes Street, connecting the centre of Edinburgh with Leith, was promoted by the Kilmarnock-based engineering and contracting company, Messrs Dick Kerr and Company Limited. After an initial set back, primarily due to objections from Leith Town Council, a smaller scheme, omitting most of the lines in Leith met with success. Powers to build the cable tramway were obtained on the 7th August 1884 under the Edinburgh Northern Tramways Act 1884; the Act also incorporated a company — the Edinburgh Northern Tramways Company — that would own and operate the tramway.

Although plans were ostensibly well advanced at the time the 1884 Act was approved, track laying did not begin until October 1886, the contractor being the Patent Cable Tramways Corporation, which had just opened the first cable tramway in the British Isles, the Highgate Hill Cable Tramway in London. It is tempting to speculate whether there were issues raising the finance, or whether the PCTC had over-reached itself, especially as it subsequently entered liquidation (in 1888), its assets eventually passing (on the 11th August that year) to DK&Co.

The late start on construction meant that the ENTCo would be unable to complete the scheduled lines within the three-year timeframe stipulated in the Act of 1884; the company therefore had to seek powers to extend this, these being granted on the 5th July 1887 under the Edinburgh Northern Tramways Act 1887. The Act also included powers to build a connecting line between the two authorised lines (Goldenacre and Comely Bank). The powers that the company already held for an extension of the Goldenacre line to Newhaven were, however, allowed to lapse, the company eventually choosing to run a horse bus instead.

The first line to open, on the 29th January 1888, ran northwards from near Princes Street, along Hannover Street to Canonmills, then via Inverleith Row to Goldenacre (Ferry Road). Work on the Stockbridge line commenced just over 15 months later in May 1899, and it was opened on the 17th February 1890, along with the connecting line via Hamilton Place to the depot and engine house in Henderson Row; the new line ran northwards from Princes Street along Frederick Street, via Howe Street and Stockbridge to Comely Bank. The gradients at the top of the both lines were around 1 in 11, which would have completely precluded horse or steam tram operation.

The initial services were worked by eight cars, which were joined by another eight when the second line opened. Although two more cars were purchased (in 1894 and 1895), they do not appear to have found much use.

On the 9th December 1893, Edinburgh Corporation compulsorily purchased circa 11.75 miles of horse tramway within the city — from the Edinburgh Street Tramways Company — along with the horses and cars necessary to work the system. The latter were immediately sold to DK&Co, who were given a 21-year lease to work the system on behalf of the corporation. DKCo worked the system itself for a few months, then handed it over to a newly formed subsidiary in July 1894, the Edinburgh and District Tramways Company.

The corporation (driven by a powerful faction within it) was developing plans for an extensive cable system in the city, and intended to convert the existing horse tramway lines to this mode of traction, as well as to build extensions to it. Powers to this end had been obtained on the 29th June 1893 under the Edinburgh Corporation Tramways Act 1893, supplemented by further powers on the 7th August 1896 under the Edinburgh Improvement and Tramways Act 1896. The ENTCo's two lines, which lay wholly within the city, were now numbered, as the corporation wished to have control of all the tramways with the Burgh boundary. However, in view of the fact that the ENTCo's system had only been authorised in 1884, it would seem unlikely that the corporation was able to force through a purchase, so it presumably had to reach agreement with the company. Although a purchase price was indeed agreed, the corporation still had to seek powers to acquire the tramway, so could not take it over. Rather than wait for these powers, the ENTCo agreed to hand over operation to the corporation's lessee, the E&DTCo, which it did on the 31st December 1896. DK&Co were presumably instrumental in this agreement, as they not only controlled the corporation's lessee (the E&DTCo), but very possibly the ENTCo too (at the very least they were a significant shareholder). The corporation duly obtained powers to acquire the tramway on the 3rd June 1897 under the Edinburgh Corporation Act 1897, the undertaking passing into corporation ownership on the 1st July 1897, with the cable trams being immediately sold to the lessee, the E&DTCo.

The ENTCo's two interconnected standard-gauge cable tramway lines totalled 2.61 miles.

Several photographs exist depicting staff of the ENTCo, though seemingly all taken rather late in its life, namely, around the time of its operational take-over by the E&DTCo, and it is even possible that they were all on the same day. Conductors and drivers wore smart but informal attire (probably self purchased), with soft-topped peaked caps, which were probably issued by the company. The caps carried a small round badge, which presumably bore the name of the company or a company device, though this is merely speculation, as to the best of my knowledge, no examples have survived. The jackets, which did not carry either metal buttons or insignia of any kind, were almost certainly informal.

Inspectors wore long, double-breasted overcoats with lapels, the collars) bearing 'Inspector' in embroidered script lettering. Headgear took the form of a kepi-style cap which bore the grade — 'Inspector' — again in embroidered script lettering.

Further reading
For a detailed history of the Edinburgh Northern Tramways Company, see: 'Edinburgh's Transport - Volume 1, The Early Years' by D L G Hunter; The Mercat Press (1992).


Cable tram drivers and conductors
Edinburgh Northern Tramways Co cable tram in Inverleith Row 1897
An unidentified ENTCo cable tram in Inverleith Row on the Goldenacre line, around the time the operation was taken over by the Edinburgh and District Tramways Company (1st January 1897). The driver (right) and conductor (left) are clearly wearing cap badges of some description.

Edinburg Northern Tramways cable tram driver
An enlargement of the above photograph showing the driver, who is wearing workman-like attire, namely a cotton jacket and trousers, along with a soft-topped peaked cap. Although the latter appears to bear two badges, it seems more than likely that it is in fact just a single round badge, with the bottom part actually being a reflection (of the flash) on the glossy chin strap.

Edinburgh Northern Trawmays Company
Another blow-up of the first photograph above showing the conductor, who appears to be wearing informal attire, along with the same style of cap and cap badge as the driver. The figure on the right appears to be a senior official, though not an inspector, given that his cap bears no badge, unlike the individual shown below.

Edinburgh Northern Tramways Co cable tram in Inverleith Row 1897
Another photo taken at the same location as above, once again an unidentified cable car, but with the driver (left) clearly wearing a smart jacket and trousers.

Edinburgh Northern Tramways tram driver
An enlargement of the above photograph showing the driver. Other than the cap, he is probably wearing self-purchased attire rather than an officially issued uniform.

Edinburgh Northern Tramways tram conductor
Another blow-up of the above photo, this time showing the conductor, who also appears to be wearing smart but informal attire.

Edinburgh Northern Trawmays cable tram at Inverleith Row
Yet another photo taken at Inverleith Row — photo undated, but probably taken shortly after the E&DTCo take-over.

Edinburgh Northern Tramways cable tram driver
An enlargement of the above photograph showing the driver, who is clearly wearing a double-breasted uniform jacket with collar badges, as well as a kepi-style cap. The most likely explanation for this is that the photo was taken after the E&DTCo take-over, and the subject is an E&DTCo employee. The collar badges are therefore almost certainly nickel 'E D T' initials.

Edinburgh Northern Tramways conductor
Another blow-up of the above photo, this time showing the conductor, who is once again in smart but informal attire, though this time with a bowler hat rather than a cap.

Senior staff
Edinburgh Northern Tramways inspector
An enlargement from the first photograph above showing the inspector. His overcoat and kepi-style cap clearly bear his grade — 'Inspector' — in embroidered script lettering.

Edinburgh Northern Tramways official
An enlargement of the second photograph above. The man depicted appears to be the same bearded individual seen in the first photograph above. He is clearly an official of some kind, though what grade he held and which company he worked for is unclear (the photo was possibly taken after the take-over by the Edinburgh and District Tramways Company).