In 1817, horse-drawn coaches were recorded as providing a service from Manchester to Burnley and Colne on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and, in 1824, the ‘John Bull’ was recorded running to Skipton, Burnley and Colne every Saturday and Sunday afternoon and every Tuesday evening through Rawtenstall.
‘The Union’ ran to Colne every Sunday, Thursday and Friday afternoon, every Monday evening, every Tuesday evening and every Wednesday and Saturday evening, passing through Rawtenstall and Burnley. By this time Colne was well served by stage coaches.
Horse omnibuses appeared in Colne as early as 1850, when an infrequent service to nearby Burnley, travelling via the main roads, commenced.
The service was apparently not a commercial success and part of it (between Nelson and Burnley) was later replaced by the steam trams of the Burnley & District Tramways Company, although the horse drawn omnibus presumably continued to ply between Colne and Nelson.
The first tramway in Colne was constructed under the Colne and Trawden Light Railway Order of 1901, and operated by the Leeds firm of Batley and Greenwood (trading as the Colne and Trawden Light Railway Co. Ltd) .
On the 24th March 1914, Colne Corporation purchased the entire system (even though part was within the boundary of Trawden UDC), changing the tramways title to Colne Corporation Light Railways. The company had already fitted canopy top-covers to half of the fleet and Colne fitted canopies to the remainder.
Unfortunately, the advent of World War 1 shortly afterwards, left the fleet and track in a rundown state and a programme of renovation had to be commenced in 1919.
In 1921 three second-hand Tilling-Stevens chassis were purchased and fitted with new bus bodies, but, because the Corporation lacked running powers, except in the case of tramway breakdowns, they were little used and were soon withdrawn.
New tramcars were delivered in 1921 and 1926, liveried in royal blue and white until 1923, then maroon and white thereafter, and a new larger depot opened in Standroyd Road, adjacent to the original one in Heifer Lane.
In January 1923, the first bus route running from Skipton Road to Earby, via Foulridge commenced, and the old tram depot began to be used for the Corporation’s growing bus fleet.
Colne was heavily involved in the textile industry and in the 1920’s suffered from a slump in trade. The tramway saw its small profits used by the Council to support other areas.
Competition from private bus operators increased, and, with the state of the track declining, economy measures were sought.
This resulted in the conversion (in 1924-1925) of two of the tramcars to single-deck by the removal of their upper decks and staircases, for one-man operation.
On 19th October 1926 the Laneshawbridge tram route was closed, to be replaced by a bus service.
This was followed on 3rd June 1928 by the Heifer Lane to Trawden section, Trawden being served by motorbuses from Colne town centre. Now only the section of tramway track from the tram shed to Nelson remained in use.
In April 1927, a fourth bus service was inaugurated. The route ran from Cumberland Street in Colne to Keighley, via Cowling and Crosshills, and was an extension of the Laneshawbridge route.
It was operated jointly with Keighley Corporation and Ezra Laycock of Cowling (later bought out by the Joint Committee), who had been running between Laneshawbridge and Keighley.
On the 1st April 1933 (under the Colne Corporation Act of 1933), Colne, along with the neighbouring towns of Burnley and Nelson, amalgamated their transport departments to form the Burnley, Colne and Nelson Joint Transport Committee.
The remaining section of tramway passed to the new authority, along with Colne’s motorbuses and services, bringing to an end the short 19 year history of Colne Corporation Transport.
In producing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
The Directory of British Tramways (Keith Turner, PSL 1996); Trams in the North West (Peter Hesketh, Ian Allan 1995); Burnley, Colne & Nelson Joint Transport (Alan Catlow, Wyvern 1985); PSV Circle Fleet History RC5 (1958).