Authorised under the Burnley & District Tramways Order of 1879, this steam tramway was promoted by the Tramway & General Works Co Ltd, of London and owned and operated by the Burnley & District Tramways Co Ltd.
The tramway, constructed to 4ft 8½ ins gauge, ran from Padiham, west of Burnley, via Burnley town centre and along Colne Road and Manchester Road through Reedley and Brierfield to the terminus in Nelson town centre to the north.
The tramway opened on the 17th September 1881, when five Kitson steam locomotives (Nos. 1-5), hauling Starbuck trailers, in a black and cream livery, began services.
The Board of Trade were uneasy about the trams using the narrow Church Street, but relented after the company agreed to a 4mph speed limit on this section and 8mph on the rest of the system.
The Kitson steam locos proved unsatisfactory, incurring the displeasure of Burnley Council who were concerned about the amount of smoke and noise from the engines. On the 1st March 1882, they were withdrawn and horses were used to haul the trailers.
Falcon locomotives were purchased to try to alleviate the problem and by March 1883 services were again steam hauled, although problems with the locos meant that the horses were kept on standby until 1885.
Burnley Corporation had widened some of the thoroughfares by this time and the steam trams, which until this time had been confined to the Queensgate (where the company had its depot) to Nelson section, were able to operate throughout the route.
The Tramways Act of 1870 provided for the purchase of the steam tramway in 1900, and, on 1st March of that year it was purchased for £53, 000 by Burnley Corporation.
It continued to be operated by its new owners until 17th November 1901 when it was closed to enable the relaying of track for electrification, bringing the steam era to an end.
Nos. 1-5 withdrawn 1882.
|1885||3, 6, 11, 12||Double-deck|
No. 16 ex-St. Helens & District Tramways Co. (No. ?, new c.1890-1893). This has been quoted as built by Metropolitan, but the St. Helens fleet had no such trailers and was probably as shown.
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); Local Transport in St. Helens 1879-1974 (Maund & Ashton, Venture 1995).