Authorised by the Rossendale Tramways Act of 1888 and
owned and operated by the Rossendale Valley Tramways Company, this steam tramway
consisted of a single line track built to 4ft gauge and ran south from
Crawshawbooth along Burnley Road to Queens Square in Rawtenstall (where it was
joined by an extension of the Accrington Steam
Tramways line from the boundary at Lockgate), then turned east, following
the line of the River Irwell, the road and the railway for 4½ miles to the
neighbouring town of Bacup. The section between Rawtenstall and Bacup opened on
the 31st January 1889, followed in 1891 by the line to Crawshawbooth,
a total of just over 6½ miles.
The initial service was operated using 9 (Nos. 1-9),
Thomas Green locomotives hauling Milnes double-deck bogie trailer cars (Nos.
1-10). Additions to the rolling stock were made in 1893 and 1894, when two more
(Nos. 10-11) Green locos arrived, followed in 1901 by a similar engine (No. 12)
purchased from Blackburn Corporation, along with additional Ashbury trailer cars
(Nos. 11-12), also ex-Blackburn, in 1899. Although no official records tell us
of the tramway livery, there is in existence at least one tinted postcard dating
from 1906, showing a trailer car wearing a chocolate and cream livery hauled by
a rather rusty (brown) steam loco (known locally as 'armoured trams' because of
the metal cladding on the steam engine), which may possibly be an approximation of the actual
The Company was purchased by the BET in 1900 and plans
were made to electrify the system, but wrangling between Rawtenstall and Bacup
councils delayed permission until the 21-year lease on the tramway had almost
expired and the system was eventually purchased, jointly by both councils, on 1st
October 1908, with Rawtenstall Corporation operating the system on behalf of
both parties. The steam trams continued to be operated by the new owners until
22nd July 1909, the last regular use of steam traction on a street
tramway in Britain.
No. 12 ex-Blackburn Corporation (fleet number unknown
but Blackburn had 14 (Nos. 1-14), all were new in 1887).
Nos. 11-12 ex-Blackburn Corporation (fleet numbers
unknown but Blackburn had 12 (Nos. 1-12), new 1887 or 1888).
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); Olive Green & Ivory (Duncan Holden, website
2003); Hyndburn & Rossendale 75 Years of Municipal Operation (Peter Deegan,
Omnibus Society 1982).