Brief History of Trams in Blackburn and Darwen
The Blackburn and Over Darwen Tramways Act of 1879 was the first one in the country to authorise a tramway system to be operated solely by steam power. The line linking Darwen to Blackburn opened in 1881. Initially run by private companies the trams were taken over by the Blackburn and Darwen local authorities and work on electrification was begun.
Electric trams began to run in 1899 on the Preston New Road route to Billinge End. The first electric tram to Darwen ran in 1900. The Blackburn Cemetery route was extended to Wilpshire in 1902 and in the same year the line to Church opened. In 1903 came extensions to Audley and Cherry Tree and in 1907 the through service to Accrington began using Blackburn cars. Trams to Hoddlesden commenced in October 1901.
Although Accrington cars didn't begin to operate alongside the Blackburn ones until 1917, they were considering the abandonment of their tram system within little more than a decade. Buses started appearing on Blackburn roads as early as 1920 with a service from the Boulevard to Rishton. Throughout the 20's and 30's bus routes proliferated and by 1939 there were only four tram routes remaining, those to Wilpshire, Darwen, Church, and Preston New Road. Without a doubt World War, and the consequent petrol shortages, prolonged the life of trams.
Trams to Hoddlesden finished in 1936. Throughout the war Darwen Corporation had been petitioning the Ministry for permission to abandon trams, but this was witheld. It wasn't until 6th October 1946 that the last tram ran in Darwen.
In Blackburn the Preston New Road route closed on January 6th 1946. On 21st December 1947 the Wilpshire route closed. The route from Intack to Church went on January 16th 1949. The trams to Darwen boundary ceased on July 2nd 1949 and on September 3rd 1949 the last service, the one to Intack, ceased. Number 74 was the last tram to run. It left the Boulevard in the evening all decked out with flags and lights. A large crowd were there to send it off.
To read a detailed history of trams in Blackburn and Darwen visit 'Olive Green and Ivory', a website dedicated to the history of trams in the borough which includes images and information about steam and horse-drawn trams.