16mm Projects

Alan Poxon : Steam Tram, Horse Trailer

The world's first passenger tram appears to have been on the 4 foot gauge Swansea and Mumbles Railway. It had been built under an Act of Parliament of 1804 to transport limestone and subsequently carried the first fare-paying tram passengers in 1807. The trams were initially horse-drawn but converted to steam-haulage in 1877, and inevitably changed to electric traction in 1929. The same changes in traction applied to many other tramways.

In the UK, steam trams were prevented by law from operating on public roads until the 1870s. After the law changed, no less than 45 new steam-hauled tramways were opened during the following decade. Many were previously horse-drawn tramways. However, steam-haulage was generally short-lived due to the obvious shortcomings.

Developments in electric traction, drawing power from overhead wires, resulted in electric trams being widely employed from the early 1900s. For tram companies, the simple expedient of substituting steam engines for horse traction meant that there was no additional cost in replacing the tram bodies already in use. However, it is no surprise that horse trailers behind a steam engine was a short-lived arrangement.

Despite an extended chimney, the open upper deck of the trailer exposed the passengers to smoke and cinders. Many companies boxed in the upper deck and others adopted larger vehicles mounted on bogies.


Photographed in 1880, the Kitson built Leeds No.1 steam tram hauls No.22 horse tram built by Starbuck Car and Wagon Company. (Image copyright Leeds Library and Information Service licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA)

Having already built a 16mm narrow gauge battery-powered, steam-outline tram engine, I was looking for suitable stock to haul behind. A photograph of the Kitson-designed Leeds No.1 steam tram, dated 1880, provided the inspiration. It was paired with the Leeds four-wheel horse tram No.22 that had been built by Starbuck Car and Wagon Company. Double-decked with curly stairs rising from at platform at both ends of the trailer were the key design points that I was looking for. My steam tram is freelance, loosely based upon the GER G15 (LNER Y6) tram engines. Ten of this class of locomotive were built between 1883 and 1897 to work on the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway in East Anglia. Similarly, the horse trailer that will be paired with the steam tram was to be freelance but based largely on the Leeds No.22 horse tram in the photograph.

Starting the build with some of the outpourings of the 3d printer

The dimensions of the horse trailer were scaled from the steam tram to maintain the correct proportions. Ever reliant of the remarkable 3d design skills of fellow 16mm modeller, Roy Plum, I was soon in possession of the plastic outpourings of his printer. As always with 3d printing, there was the excess plastic to trim away, edges to clean up and lines to fill before assembly could begin.

Lower saloon bodywork assembled.

The main structural element of the tram was the lower saloon which soon took shape. Convention dictated that the lower saloon was for the ladies who never ventured up the stairs onto the upper deck.

End platforms, stairs and top deck added

The end platforms and curly stairs were soon added. The stairs were bolted into place to allow removal for painting.

Upper deck detail complete

The upper deck detail came next after I had sourced enough brass rod for the handrails and decided whether the handrail corners were to be curved or butted straight into a corner post, I opted for the latter. Bench seating was assembled but left unattached to facilitate painting.

Tram trailer ready for painting

Painting complete

Finally the wheels, axles, axle-box assemblies were fitted into place along with the couplings.

Most preserved trams that I have seen have a red & white, or a brown & white, livery. However, I chose a single shade of green to match the tram engine. Running trials indicated that additional weight was needed for stability. The final touch was to build an extended chimney for the steam tram to minimise the discomfort of the gentlemen on the upper deck! So there we have it; steam tram with a horse trailer.

Running trials before extra weight added

Steam tram, horse trailer.

February 2022


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