The Weymouth quay tramway
was opened to much acclaim in the 1800s to support the
Channel Island steamer service by preventing the need
of double handling, i.e., removing goods from a wagon
at the main town station, loading onto carts and transporting
by road to the dock area, or vice versa.
The track as it still appears
Consisting of a
length of track of standard gauge with short sidings
on the quay, the tramway was worked by the Great Western
Railway (GWR), but owned by the Weymouth & Portland
Railway. Horses were used to haul the wagons in the
early years of the line, but as loads increased in weight
and frequency their limitations became apparent. In
1878 the first wheeled locomotive negotiated the route.
immediately overcame the snags associated with horsepower,
although a whole new set of problems arose that were
only resolved by placing certain restrictions on the
line, not least the requirement for a policeman to walk
in front of the engine waving a red flag (or swinging
a lamp when dark) as the train traversed the narrow
A second motive
unit was soon added, although our four-legged friends
were retained for shunting purposes until well into
the last century. A passenger service to the quay was
inaugurated in 1889 when GWR took control of shipping
This pattern of goods
and passenger services continued with various improvements
being made to keep pace with the changing pattern of
life until well into the 1920s; these included the enlargement
of the quay platforms and various track realignment
work, etc., to allow for the extra length of standard
railway carriages used on the rail network at the time.
Strangely, for a line
carrying fare paying passengers, no evidence of a mechanical
signaling system can be traced either through records
or by remains on the ground. Maybe, with its strictly
enforced speed limit of just 4 mph this was deemed unnecessary!
In later years
the motive unit was required to have a bell which the
fireman rang continuosly as it moved along the road,
while the shunter had an array of devices, including
a whistle, flag, lamp, etc., as well as strong vocal
chords to get car drivers out of the way. At known dangerous
points he would walk in front of the loco.
On the outbreak
of the Second World War public services to the quay
area were suspended and it wasn't until 1945 that a
regular goods service resumed. Passenger operations
following some 12 months or so later.
quay branch gradually became busier in those post-war
years with its peak arguably being in the 1960s
after which a gradual decline set in as more and
more people used their own transport and road haulage
took over from rail freight.
As shipping movements
to the Channel Islands transferred elsewhere use of
the track declined and, in 1972, the last goods train
traversed the line, although a summer boat service continued
for some time. The death knell for the tramway came
with the electrification of the main line to the Dorset
coast in 1988.
Today the carriages may
have gone (although it is believed a locomotive negotiated
the harbour trackway in the late 1990s), but the track
along Commercial Road remains as an important link in
Weymouth's proud past, and who knows what future developments
may bring forth as roads becomes even more congested
and the cost of vehicle transportation rises.
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