Staffordshire Potteries Street Railway Company

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The "Potteries" is an area within the traditional county of Staffordshire in England (UK), consisting of the "Five Towns" (Stoke on Trent, Hanley, Burslem, Tunstall and Longton), part of the county borough of Stoke on Trent. The area was famous for it's manufacture, chiefly of pottery, the most famous perhaps being Wedgwood.

George Francis Train, although portraying himself as a philanthropist, opened street railways with the intention of making money. In later 1861 George Train, already by then known for his "Pioneer" line at Birkenhead (opened 1860) turned his attention to other areas of England. By this point he had been in the UK for two years, having set up street railways in Birkenhead and then London. His proposal in the Potteries was for a street railway of 8 miles linking Longton, Fenton, Hanley, Burslem and Tunstall. The local authorities supported the project and resolved to put pressure on the turnpike trusts, who owned the roads which would be used. As with other lines, Train proposed to set up a company wih share capital of £10,000 based on 2,000 shares of £5, with Train subscribing to half the shares. The share capital never exceeding £6500. Therefore if George Train aquired shares it is unlikely that they were paid up shares. His subscription did allow the company to state in it's prospectus that half the shares had been subscribed for.

The company was named the Staffordshire Potteries Street Railway Company and the prospectus was published in October 1861. It stated that the company had secured preliminary agreement from the towns and road trustees. It also claimed that the Birkenhead street railway had been extended to local towns. The share capital was declared as £20,000 based on 4,000 shares of £5. The directors had subscribed to £2000 and had obtained subscription for £2000. George Train was listed as the promoter and inventor only.

The gauge used was 4' 8½' with the rails were laid on sleepers. By the end of November 1861 construction had commenced on the section between Hanley and Burslem, which was opened on 11th January 1862. At the first shareholder's meeting it was reported that the line had been constructed for a cost of £4213 with two cars obtained for £479 and a total capital outlay of £5261[1]. The qualification for a director was stated as holding 20 shares. The income was stated as approximately £65 with operating costs of about £55. Concern was expressed about the road toll cost, which was being negotiated to £300 per annum, and the hilly nature of the route. The cars were single deck cars drawn by two horses.

In February 1862 the company called for tenders to extend the line in two stages, from Henley to Stoke and from Stoke to Longton [2]. However only one tender was recieved, from a Mr Hathaway. This came to nothing due to a combination of capital constraints and lack of parliamentary approval. Only the Section from Hanley to Burslem was ever built.

The line used the same type of step rails that were in use in Birkenhead, quite possibly the same type of rails which, because they were above the road surface, were proving so unpopular in London. In addition to this the rails were sometimes in the middle of the road and sometimes at the edge of the road - this led to complaints from traffic crossing the rails. At the second shareholder's meeting the directors resolved to move the track to the side of the road and to change the rails to a new rail type level with the road[3]. The first full year of operation yielded a dividend of 2½% to the shareholders, 152,290 passengers being carried. During September 1863 the company carried out the alterations it had proposed. As well as changing the rails and moving the section in the middle of the road, it diverted diverting the track from Stafford Street to Foundry Street to avoid an awkward turn at the top of Hope Street.

In 1865 the company decided to lease operation of the line to George B Bradford, one of the original directors and a shareholder. At the April 1867 shareholders meeting it was declared that the share capital stood at £6483 of share capital and the £90 deficit of the previous year had been turned into a £224 surplus[4]. So the company was able to pay a dividend of 4%. George Bradford reported that traffic had for some time been on the decrease. He hoped that the new double car would help with traffic but that it was currently less profitable than the single cars. In 1870 the dividend paid was 4% but there were concerns about the toll payment and the impact of the extension of the North Staffordshire Railway on traffic. Although George Bradford's lease had expired he continued to operate the trams as per the lease agreement and the lease was renewed.

In 1872 the company had laid sett stones on the track, which enabled them to get the annual toll fee reduced to £200. It declared a dividend of 2% and was once more looking at extending the line to Stoke[5]. In 1873 the dividend was increased to 5%. Fearing competition from the railway, in 1874 the company had reduced the fare to 2d. It had also received an offer to not pay tolls if the company paved the road, which it had already half paved. The company tried increasing the fares to 3d again in 1875 but lossed too much traffic, so returned them to 2d. It also started work on paving the road to remove the necessity to pay the toll. The company was still profitable and paid a 2.5% dividend. In 1876 it did not manage to pay a dividend.

At the 1877 sherholders meetings the company reported an arrears of £29 at the bank that had increased to £90 by 1878[6]. These losses were associated with the slump in trade. Despite the losses, the directors had recieved three offers to purchase the company in 1877. It was also noted that tramway companies were looking to operate in the area. The meeting resolved that the diectors should advertise the company as a going concern.

The North Staffordshire Tramway Company Limited (1879) made an offer that was put to the sherholders at a special meeting on October 6th 1879[7]. It offered 7/6 in cash or 10/- in shares per £1 of paid up capital. The offer was accepted and the company went into liquidation in April 1880. The 1880 prospectus of the North Staffordshire Tramway Company described the operation as;

"A horse tramway of inferior description has existed since 1863 between Hanley and Burslem, a distance of 1¾ miles called the 'Staffordshire Potteries Street Railway'. This line constructed without Parliamentary sanction and existing on the sufferance of Local Authorities, has not been maintained in a satisfactory condition, but notwithstanding this and the limited accomodation afforded, the annual traffic has reached nearly 300,000 passengers"

extracts taken from "The Tramway Review", Vol.4, Issue no.26 - 1959

STR.Advert.jpg

The advert opposite is from the Staffordshire Advertiser of 5 July 1862. This indicates that the company issued paper tickets of 2d and 3d, with a discount of a 22 ticket book for the price of 20. This advert also mentions season tickets, which are not mentioned after this. The indication from this advert is that the tokens were either passes for shareholders or used by season ticket holders. The issue date was probably 1862.


Staffordshire Potteries Street Railway Company
File:STR.001.jpg
Source (Smith)
Filename STR.001
Value
Add Desc. Trains Patent (horsecar and Marble arch)
Size (mm) 26x20
Manufacture Brass
Notes GF Train
STR.002.jpg
Source (Smith)
Filename STR.002
Value
Add Desc. Trains Patent (horsecar and Marble arch)
Size (mm) 24x19
Manufacture Brass
Notes
STR.002Fake.jpg
Source (Smith)
Filename STR.002Fake
Value
Add Desc. Trains Patent (horsecar and Marble arch)
Size (mm) 24x19
Manufacture Brass
Notes Modern reproduction
  1. Staffordshire Sentinel, 1 Feb 1862, Page 8
  2. Staffordshire Advertiser, 22 Feb 1862, Page 2
  3. Staffordshire Advertiser, 7 Feb 1863, Page 4/5
  4. Staffordshire Sentinel, 13 Apr 1867, Page 8
  5. Potteries Examiner, 24 Feb 1872
  6. Staffordshire Sentinel, 8 Feb 1878, Page 2
  7. The Potteries Examiner, 11 Oct 1879, Page 6