Hills and Trams. Great Orme Tramway – Welsh 100: No 18

Aunty and I are up in North Wales for the Easter break. Unfortunately the weather is not as good as one would hope, with temperatures below 6C, a bit of a gale during the night and a lot or rain. Putting up the awning in the caravan was a little challenge but it was still up this morning as we woke to a still morning. But still not sun. 

Our original intention was to visit Conway but we went to the end of the A470 all the way to Llandundo, not necessarily to visit the sea front. This wasn’t a day for the beach. Llandudno is home to the last remaining cable tramway in the UK.

Victoria Street Station at the foot of the Great Orme

We caught the tram from Llandudno Victoria Station to just below the summit of the Great Orme headland. Operation of the tramway differs from the better-known San Francisco system in that it is not a cable car but a rather on the funicular principle, where the cars are permanently fixed to the cable, and are stopped and started by stopping and starting the cable. As one car is ascending, the other is descending, and they meet midway.

One up and one down – passing each other at the midway point.

In 1898 the Great Orme Tramways Act was passed which laid out the length of the Tramway, the gauge and the fares to be paid. The original purpose of the Tramway was to transport passengers, goods and parcels up and down the Great Orme. The Tramway even had to carry coffins to the Halfway Station for burial at St Tudno’s churchyard. There was no concession for grief; mourners were charged full fare, plus 2s 6d (12.5p) for transporting the coffin.

Looking back down onto Llandundno from half way.

On July 31st 1902, the first paying passengers rode on the Tramway, seen off by the Town Band, playing God Save The King. At this time, only the lower section was open/operational. The original power house, at the Halfway station between the lower and upper sections, was equipped with winding gear powered by steam from coke fired boilers. This was replaced in 1958 by electrically powered apparatus. 

“Our” tram at the half-way station. everyone had run off the the next tram, including Aunty to get the front seat.

The line comprises two sections, where each section is an independent funicular and passengers change cars at the halfway station. We were ushered off the first tram at the half-way station, and escorted by the brakeman through the station and watched closely as we all got on the next tram for the 200m journey to the summit. The Tramway’s Upper Section opened on July 8th 1903.

One of the trams on the top section

I’m sure that the  views from the top of the Orme are spectacular as you look South towards the Carneddau Mountains and Angelsey to the West. However, with the low and thick cloud everything looked grey and flat. Oh we’ll never mind. We’ll have to come back again.

Looking west towards Angelsey and Puffing Island. This small island is also on my list to visit sometime.

 

Aunty decided it would be a good idea to walk down back the car, despite my prostestations that I had paid for a return ticket. As we walked down it became evident just how steep the incline is. In one section going up Old Road it’s almost possible to touch the house walls as you pass by sitting in the tram.

Looking down Old Road towards Llandudno.

As well as the tramway it’s also possible to travel on a cable car from the seafront all the way to the top. Maybe we’ll try this next.

  

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