The Great Orme Tramway has been a favourite attraction amongst visitors and locals of North Wales for over 100 years and it is likely to continue to do so for centuries to come! As it passes you by, you can’t help but smile and wave at the passengers and as you enjoy the ride, you will be mesmerised by the outstanding surrounding views and the breath-taking panoramic sights from the summit of the Great Orme. So, let’s learn a little more about this historic Tramway.
What Was the Great Orme Tramways Act?
During the 18th century a request for authorisation to build the Great Orme Tramway was granted, this approval was referred to as the Great Orme Tramways Act 1898. Within this act, the length of the Tramway, the gauge and the cost of the journey to passengers was decided.
Why Was the Great Orme Tramway Built?
Throughout history, the Tramway has been used to transport passengers, commodities and cargo. Nowadays, the use of the Tramway is mainly for leisure, with many visitors to the area hopping aboard to enjoy the scenery from the top of the Great Orme without having to partake in the hike!
When was the Great Orme Tramway Built?
The foundations and building work of the Tramway began in 1901, three years after the Great Orme Tramway Act was awarded. The primary contractors for much of the equipment required, such as the tramcars and rails was R White and Son of Widnes. Llandudno’s own builders, Thomas and John Owen constructed the building work.
How Long Did it Take to Build the Tramway?
Just over a year after construction begun on the Tramway, the lower section had the first passengers aboard. The grand opening was quite a large event in the calendar of the locals and visitors, and the beginning of the journey was marked by the music of the Town Band.
It wasn’t until 1903 that the upper section of the Great Orme Tramway was opened, just over two years after the construction started.
Why Has the Great Orme Tramway Changed Names?
In 1932, the Great Orme Tramway was forced into liquidation following a fatal accident. The tramcar detached from its supporting cable and the tramcar, full of passengers, crashed. The injuries and death from the accident lead to claims for compensation for the passengers and families affected. Following this incident and the costs occurred, the Great Orme Tramway was sold to the Great Orme Railway Company Ltd. The accident and take-over of the company lead to a two-year closure of the Tramway, it didn’t reopen to the public until 1934. During this time, additional safety measures were designed and installed and the popularity of the iconic attraction returned to its previous levels.
Do the Council Own the Great Orme Tramway?
Since 1949, the Great Orme Tramway has been taken care of and operated by the local councils, although, it has been passed to different districts over the years.
· 1949 – Llandudno Urban District Council
· 1974 – Aberconwy County Council
· 1977 – Conwy County Borough Council
How Does the Great Orme Tramway Operate?
Originally, the Tramway was powered by steam power, following a conversion in 1957, it now has an electric drive.
The electric drive supports the funicular system. This system is most frequently used to transport skiers to the tops of mountains, but, it is also used in many railways and tramways across the world. A heavy and large tramcar would typically not have the ability to journey up such a steep incline such as the Great Orme without utilising the funicular system. Rather simply, the system requires at least two tramcars, one of which will always be descending, the other will always be ascending. This enables the cars to balance the weight of one another in order to get the ascending up the mountain and to slow the descending down to a comfortable speed. Basically, the tramcar going down the mountain, is in effect, pulling the tramcar going up the mountain, up!
The electrical drive is used to power the pulley system that the tramcars are attached to and its primary job is to match the difference of the weights as the tramcars move.
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