Tramways have a long history in Britain though often they have been neglected in studies of railway systems. Often historians such as Bogart for example in a study of transport networks in the Industrial Revolution have not considered rail systems before 1830 (when steam traction began to be used widely) at all, another study by Bagwell and Lyth on transport in Britain also fails to include much at all on horse-drawn railways. However horse-drawn rail in Britain dates from the early seventeenth century at least with systems still operating as late as the Second World War.
Horse-drawn tramways were operated in a similar manner to the canals they so often supplemented. The tramway was generally open to all carriers who owned their own waggons and could also own their own sidings on some routes. The owners of the tramway used a system of toll gates and weight bridges to charge carriers for the loads being carried, tolls often on the basis of a ton of freight per mile. Weighing waggons was also important to reduce the strain on the rails from overweight vehicles, the poor quality of rails and maintenance being a problem which often plagued tramways.
|Horse drawn waggon|
(c) All text and images Kris Davies
Philip Bagwell and Peter Lyth, Transport in Britain 1750-2000 (London: Hambledon & London, 2002)
Bertram Baxter, Stone Blocks and Iron Rails (Tramroads) (Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1966)
Mark Jones, Discovering Britain's First Railways - a Guide to Horse-Drawn Tramroads and Waggonways (Stroud: History Press, 2012)
Stephen Hughes, The Brecon Forest Tramroads (Aberystwyth Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments in Wales, 1990)