Weymouth Harbour Tramway
The Weymouth quay tramway was first opened with Great Western and South Western trains to support the Channel Island Steam Packet Service. As the port of Weymouth grew, a new system was required to maintain the level of freight passing through the town. With the growth of the national rail network, the Tramway was built and opened in 1865, with the first trains being pulled by horses. The railway line was extended to the Ferry Terminal to form the Quay Tramway with services connecting passenger ferries as well as goods shipped by cargo vessels using the port.
The tramway was worked by the Great Western Railway (GWR), but owned by the Weymouth & Portland Railway. This connection allowed for greater expediency without the need for double handling, where goods are transported from rail to cart to ship or vice versa. As loads increased in weight and frequency the first wheeled locomotive negotiated the route in 1878. Great Western Railway began to operate its own ships and passenger service in 1889 causing rivalry between railway companies as the Southern Railway operated the port at Southampton.
In June 1880 a small locomotive was installed and by 1889 a regular passenger service also ran along the line transporting people directly to Weymouth ferry port where they could board a ferry service to the Channel Islands.
This pattern of goods and passenger services continued with various improvements being made to the line well into the 1920s. Following the rebuilding of the Town Bridge in 1930, much of the harbourside was filled in, creating space for the development of the tramway. In 1938 the original line was moved, allowing for a more gradual curve and second line was added in 1961. A third line was added in 1973 and was used up until the line ceased to have regular traffic.
As shipping to the Channel Islands gradually moved to other ports and road haulage became more economical, the need for the tramway began to decline. Regular freight and goods services ceased in 1972, however fuel was still transported on the line until 1983 and the last passenger train ran the line in 1987 before the subsequent electrification of the main line to Weymouth.
Public services to the quay area were suspended at the outbreak of the Second World War until 1945 when regular goods service resumed with passenger operations following approx 12 months later.
In 1960 the Channel Island Service ceased from Southampton leaving Weymouth as the main UK port to serve interests with the Channel Islands.
In 1972 after shipping movements to the Channel Islands moved away from Weymouth, use of the track declined and in 1972 the last goods train navigated the line, although a summer boat service continued for some time.
The death knell for the tramway came with the electrification of the main line to the Dorset coast in 1988. In 1997 there were some experiments with a flywheel powered vehicle but this did not result in permanent traffic on the tramway and the last train to travel along the tramway was on 30th May, 1999. The trains may have stopped running but a single line is still visible to visitors along the length of the old route.