On The Buses


Featured Article in The Derbeian Magazine about the history of buses in Derby

THE Derbeian | Winter 2017

On the Buses

The first horse-drawn

omnibus service in Derby

was established by W. Wallis

around 1840, linking the newly

completed railway station to

the hotels in the town centre

and terminating at the Old Bell

Hotel in Sadlergate; a distance

of over ¾ of a mile. Prior to

1880, independent operators

using horse-drawn omnibuses

such as Wallis were the only

form of public passenger

transport in Derby.

Last horse-drawn tram in Derby Ashbourne Road 1907.

In 1879 a company was formed, with capital of

£50,000drawn from tramway speculators from

other Midland towns. After negotiations with the

corporation, The Derby Tramways Company

obtained powers (The Derby Tramways Order,

1879) to construct tramways and work omnibuses,

and bought out the existing private operators, with

a lease to operate for 21 years. Stables and car

sheds were in Midland Road, but later removed to

the arches under Friar Gate station, and this depot

yard can still be seen today, with tracks intact

alongside Friar Gate Railway Bridge.

Laying the tramway on Normanton Road.

Normanton Road, Derby.

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Winter 2017 | THE Derbeian

Trolley bus failure on Normanton road, 1961.

Laying the tramway on Normanton Road.

Corporation tram at Abingdon Street Depot, c1905.

Derby Local Studies | 15

THE Derbeian | Winter 2017

On the Buses continued...

Inaugration of the electric trams at Derby, July 26th 1904.

View of Nottingham Road showing lowered roadway to allow doubledeck

trams to pass under the railway bridge.

Procession of the electric trams along London Road, July 26th 1904.

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Winter 2017 | THE Derbeian

The Corporation took over operations in

November 1899, and in 1901 obtained an Act of

Parliament to electrify the system and introduce

new and extended routes. The first electric tram

ran on 27 July 1904, following an official opening

ceremony the previous day involving a procession

of the new electric cars from the Abingdon Street

Depot into the town centre. The last horse tram

ran along Ashbourne Road on 1 June 1907, and by

1908 the electrification works were complete, with

trams running along the radial roads out of town.

At its peak, the system had almost 14 route miles,

with only 3.25 miles single track. However, further

extensions to the system were minimal, due in part

to the 1914-18 War, and motor buses were gradually

introduced to extend the routes to outlying areas

through the late 1920s.

By 1930 the tracks and overhead lines were long

overdue for replacement, and the decision was

made to abandon the system in favour of the more

flexible trolley-bus. The last tram ran from Victoria

Street to the Abingdon Street Depot on 2nd July

1934. For such a popular form of transport, the

electric tram had enjoyed a surprisingly short life.

The trolley-bus was quieter, had lower

maintenance requirements and could avoid

obstacles. The overhead wiring was more

complex, and the vehicles more expensive to

purchase, but it was easier to extend the system

to the new housing estates appearing on the

outskirts of town.

1947 saw a major overhaul of the system, with

all-new overhead lines and an improved pickup

system. The now ageing original 3-axle Guy

vehicles were replaced with more modern twoaxle

Sunbeams, and expansion of the network

continued into the mid nineteen-fifties. However,

further proposed extensions to Breadsall, to

Henley Green in Mackworth, along Kingsway and

to Mickleover were met with stiff opposition. This

came both from householders and from the Blue

Bus and Trent Motor Traction companies, and was

ultimately successful.

Corporation Trolley bus leaving the depot (no date)

Kedleston Road tramway, looking West. Doubling track being laid,

Nov 1913.

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THE Derbeian | Winter 2017

On the Buses continued...

Difficulties obtaining spares and the need for

further renewal of wiring ultimately led to the

decision to replace the service with motor buses.

The last new trolley-buses were delivered in 1960

and the service finally ended on 10 September

1967 when the last trolley-bus entered the Ascot

Drive Depot at 12.15am. Thus ended the era of

cheap, clean electric public transport in Derby.

If you are interested in finding out more about

Derby’s trams and trolley-buses, visit Derby Local

Studies and Family History Library. You can also

find a PDF copy of Derby Corporation’s 1904

souvenir guide “Electric Tramways” on our online

archive, Derby’s History – www.derby.gov.uk/


Pre-1899 view of a horse-drawn tram on Market Place.

Trams on Midland Road c1904.

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Winter 2017 | THE Derbeian

Tram Terminus, Alvaston (no date).

Corporation tram at junction of Uttoxeter New Road and Uttoxeter

Old Road.

Point-changing mechanism for trolley buses, June 1970.

Derby Local Studies | 19

Bridge Gate and St Mary’s

RC Church, 1928 by Lesley Wood

Derby Museum and Art Gallery


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