ⓘ Tram engine


ⓘ Tram engine

This article relates to European tram engines. For U.S. tram engines see Steam dummy

A tram engine is a steam locomotive specially built, or modified, to work on a street, or roadside, tramway.


1. Steam tram engines

In the steam locomotive era, tram engines had to comply with certain legal requirements, although these varied from country to country:

  • No steam or smoke may be emitted
  • The engine must be governed to a maximum speed of 16 kilometers per hour 9.9 mph 12 km/h or 7.5 mph in the UK
  • Most of the locomotives must have a cab at each end
  • It must be free from noise produced by blast or clatter
  • The machinery must be concealed from view at all points above 10 centimeters 3.9 in from rail level

To avoid smoke, the fuel used was coke, rather than coal. To prevent visible emission of steam, two opposite systems were used:

  • condensing the exhaust steam and returning the condensate to the water tank
  • Reheating the exhaust steam to make it invisible

2.1. Builders United Kingdom

Beyer, Peacock

Beyer, Peacock and Company built some steam tram engines, including three for the Glyn Valley Tramway in Wales.

Henry Hughes

Hughess Locomotive & Tramway Engine Works, Loughborough started building tram engines in 1876. His engines were of the saddle-tank type and exhaust steam was condensed in a tank under the footplate by jets of cold water from the saddle-tank.

Kitson & Co

Kitson & Co. started to build tram engines in 1878. They used a roof-mounted, air-cooled, condenser of thin copper tubes in which the exhaust steam was condensed. This is rather like the radiator on a modern road vehicle. The air-cooled system eventually became standard for steam tram engines.

William Wilkinson

William Wilkinson of Wigan patented the exhaust steam reheating system about 1881. It now seems bizarre to re-heat steam after, rather than before, use because it would involve waste of fuel. Despite this, the Wilkinson system was popular for a time and engines of the Wilkinson type continued to be built up to about 1886. Similar reheaters were also used for road steam wagons, such as the Sentinel.


Other British builders of steam tram engines included:

  • Merryweather & Sons
  • Manning Wardle
  • Dick, Kerr & Co.
  • Thomas Green & Son
  • Manlove, Alliott & Co. Ltd.
  • Hawthorn, Leslie & Co built steam tram locomotives for the Railway Operating Division in 1915 ; they were copies on SNCV type 18.
  • Aveling and Porter
  • Charles Burrell & Sons

2.2. Builders Belgium

Starting from the 1880s every steam locomotive builder in Belgium supplied the SNCV with tram engines nearly 1000 of them were built. Ateliers de Tubize, FUF Haine-Saint-Pierre and Societe de Saint-Leonard also supplied several tram engines to foreign companies such as Spain, the Netherlands, France or Italy.

The last steam engines were delivered in the early 1920s.


2.3. Builders France

Corpet-Louvet, Decauville, Pinguely and Blanc-Misseron built engines for French and foreign tramways, the latter was created by Ateliers de Tubize in order to avoid taxation of imported locomotives. These companies also built industrial engines and some shunters ; large steam locomotives were mostly built by other companies.


2.4. Builders Baldwin

The Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, built steam tram engines, including most of those used in New South Wales, Australia.

A small number of steam tram engines were manufactured in Sydney, Australia to Baldwin designs by Henry Vale, T. Wearne and the Randwick Tramway Workshops.


3. Decline

In cities, steam tram engines faded out around 1900, being replaced by electric trams or buses. Rural steam trams held longer until replaced by electric, diesel trams units or buses. In France and Belgium, the last steam-powered tram lines closed in the 1960s.


4. Preservation

  • Kitson 0-4-0 steam tram engine Portstewart Tramway No,1 at Streetlife Museum of Transport, Kingston upon Hull
  • SNCV type 7 0-6-0 Ateliers de Tubize, 1888, at the ASVi museum Belgium. This engine, kept in working order, is the eldest preserved SNCV engine.
  • Krauss 0-4-0 Gamba de Legn tram engine at the "Leonardo da Vinci" National Museum for Science and Technology in Milan, Italy.
  • Three Sydney Steam Tram Motors survive in museums.
  • Beyer Peacock 0-4-0 steam tram engine at National Tramway Museum, Crich, Derbyshire
  • SNCV type 19 0-6-0 at the Schepdaal museum.
  • Kitson 0-4-0 steam tram engine Portstewart Tramway No.2 at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra, County Down.
  • SNCV type 7 Societe Franco-Belge, 1912, at Blegny-Mine.
  • three SNCV type 18 one built by J.J. Gilain in 1915, and two by Grand-Hornu in 1920, at the Tramway touristique de lAisne France.
  • 0-4-0 Ateliers de Tubize 1912 steam tram engine in Settimo Milanese Milan, Italy.
  • Henschel & Sohn 0-4-0 steam tram engine Darmstadt Tramway No.7, "Feuriger Elias" at Darmstadt-Kranichstein Railway Museum, Germany.
  • Kitson 0-4-0 steam tram engine Christchurch Tramways No.7 at the Tramway Historical Society of New Zealand, Ferrymead, Christchurch, New Zealand.
  • SNCV type 18 0-6-0 Haine-Saint-Pierre, 1920 at the Schepdaal museum working.


5. In popular culture

The character Toby the Tram Engine, from The Railway Series childrens books by the Rev. W. Awdry, and the spin-off TV series Thomas & Friends, was based on the LNER Class J70 tram engines that were to be found on the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway.


6. Other types of propulsion

Diesel tram engines

Four of the British Rail Class 04 diesel locomotives were fitted with sideplates and cowcatchers for working on the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway.

Electric tram engines

There are a few examples of electric tram locomotives designed to pull traditional railway carriages through streets.

Stored energy types

Tram engines have been built to run on stored energy in various forms, including:

  • Compressed air, see also Mekarski system
  • Electric storage batteries
  • Fireless steam

These engines have not met with great success because of their limited range.

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