Sunday, December 6, 2009

Streetcar Sundays - Portstewart, Ireland

Once again, it's streetcar Sunday, and I'm excited about today's picture of this tram in Portstewart, on the northern coast of Ireland.  You may be asking, what's the difference between a streetcar and a tram? People in the United States call it a streetcar and people in the U.K. call it a tram. That's pretty simple. They are the same, but then again not all streetcars are alike. Take this one for example, no wires are visible because it was steam powered. In fact, the Portstewart tram was the first steam tramway in Ireland. The fact that it's steam powered is one of the things I love about this particular picture, and the fact that each car is different.  I'm not sure why all those people are crowded on top of the third car and the second car is entirely empty. The last car looks as if it is used for luggage.

The Portstewart tram was a 3-foot guage tramway that connected the seaside town of Portstewart with the mainline railway, which ran from Belfast to the neighboring town of Portrush, but which by-passed Portstewart by a couple of miles. The tramway started service in 1882. The Portstewart tram closed down in 1926, unable to compete with bus service.

Here's a close-up:

During the era of steam trains, steam tram engines were governed by specific rules. For one thing, the steam could not be visible, so they had to use coke rather than coal as a fuel.  They were also required to conceal all machinery from view at all points above 4 inches from the rails, which is why this engine has such an odd profile. Finally, they also had to be quiet, and they couldn't exceed 8 miles per hour.  Most steam-powered trams were phased out in favor of electric trams in about 1900.

The picture above is not actually a postcard; it's from a little folder of real photo snapshots.  You would write the address on the outside of the packet and send the whole thing.

If you're interested in Irish steam trains, check out the website for the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland.  There are also two restored cars from the Portstewart tramway available to view in two separate museums, the Streetlife Museum of Transport in Kingston upon Hull, England (admission is free!) and the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra, Northern Ireland.

Come back next week for another Streetcar Sunday!


  1. I love all of your postcards, but the Streetcar Sundays are especially sentimental for me. My grandmother and I used to ride the electric streetcar on Germantown Ave when I would visit her on the weekends as a child. I'm looking forward to checking in next Sunday to see more!

  2. A STEAM tram???? How innovative--but what else would one expect of those daring dashing Irish?!



Related Posts with Thumbnails