Webpage created: May 20, 2016.
Webpage updated: May 24, 2017
MORICE SQUARE TO SALTASH PASSAGE
Route numbers were unknown in Old Devonport until after the amalgamation with Plymouth.
The route covered was: From Morice Square - New Passage Hill - William Street - South Keyham (Albert Road Gate) - Keyham Road - North Keyham (Saint Levan Gate) - Saltash Road - Royal Naval Barracks - Saltash Road - Wolseley Road - Camel's Head.
Work started on the construction of the tramway network at Camel's Head on November 15th 1899, when Mr W J Waycott, chairman of the Tramways Committee, cut the first sod.
The permanent way was laid by Mr A Faulks and the overhead electrical equipment was supplied by Messrs Blackwell & Company. Track was double throughout except in William Street where it was interlaced. The wiring was held on conventional side poles and brackets except in Albert Road between Keyham Road and Exmouth Road where the poles were in the centre of the two tracks. Mr Faulks also constructed the car-sheds and Messrs Pethick Brothers were responsible for the improvements to Keyham Hill.
During construction, Gashouse Hill (Keyham Road) was lowered, which cost the Company £15,000, and the North East Gate to the Keyham Steam Yard was moved from opposite the Gas Works to opposite Saint Levan Road. This work was completed in August 1900 and it was apparently hoped, by the Western Morning News at least, if not by the Tramways Committee, to open the services to Milehouse and Camel's Head before Christmas 1900. In the end the lines on either side of the area were only connected up in March 1901.
At that time it was hoped that the Board of Trade inspection would be held around May 18th 1901 and that the Company would be able to start services on Whit Monday, May 27th, with the official opening taking place on the previous Saturday. That was not to be.
The Board of Trade inspection was carried out by Major Pringle assisted by Mr Alexander P Trotter, the electrical adviser to the Board, on Tuesday June 11th 1901. Two cars left the Depot at 10.30am and a thorough inspection of the entire system was carried out with 'admirable control being obtained over the cars on the steepest gradients'. Accompanying the Inspector were: Mr A B Pilling (Town Clerk), Mr J F Burns (Borough Surveyor), Messrs C Chadwell and C H Gadsby (joint engineers of the undertaking), Mr C Furness (Electrical Engineer of the Corporation), Mr F S Pilling (resident engineer of the Company) - was he related to the Town Clerk by any chance? - Mr J W Endean (Traffic Superintendent), Mr J C Tozer (Chairman of the Tramways Committee), Mr J B James (Chairman of the Electric Lighting Committee), Mr F B Fell (Clerk of Works), Mr J S Pringle (representing Messrs R W Blackwell & Company, the contractors for the overhead equipment), Mr J Heppell (representing Messrs British Thompson-Houston Company, who supplied the motor equipment on the tramcars), Mr Seton Chisholm (representing Messrs W T Glover & Company of Manchester, contractors for the electric mains) and Mr J Belton (representing Messrs Veritys Ltd of Birmingham, contractors for the sub-station switchboards).
The service started on Wednesday June 26th 1901. Car number 20 was the first to depart from Morice Square, with number 19 behind, and a third car behind that, all loaded with the Mayor of Devonport and local dignitaries. Their journey took them first to Camel's Head, the furthest point north on the system at that time. They completed the whole route network in one hour ten minutes. Public service started at Noon, when nineteen tramcars were placed in service. Unfortunately the first day turned into a disaster as there was not enough electric power to operate all the cars at the same time and cars came to a standstill all over the network. Eventually all but six were withdrawn and returned to Milehouse Depot, leaving just two cars on the service to Camel's Head. The same happened the following day, when eleven cars started out but five had to be withdrawn and sent back to the Depot.
Devonport Corporation started on constructing the disconnected section from Saint Budeaux Station LSWR towards Weston Mill in June 1902, when Mr J C Tozer, then chairman of the Tramways Committee, turned the first sod and a large silver cup was ceremoniously presented to the Mayor by Mr C Chadwell, the Company's engineer. Likewise, the contractors, Messrs Griffiths & Company, presented a silver salver to Mr Tozer. A small Depot was erected on the Weston Mill side of the Creek to house tramcars 22 and 24, which from Saturday October 31st 1903 provided the shuttle service from there to Saint Budeaux Station LSWR and Saltash Passage. A tramcar made the first crossing of the new Camel's Head Embankment on Saturday March 26th 1904.
Unfortunately the traffic on the Saltash Passage section did not cover the expenses thanks to the Great Western Railway Company's Saltash suburban train service and the London and South Western Railway Company's Saint Budeaux suburban service and on Saturday January 16th 1909 the Devonport and District Tramways Company withdrew their trams from that section.