1885: Horse-Drawn Trams Begin Operation in Barbados

December 5, 1885

A new system of horse-drawn trams (streetcars) was inaugurated in the vicinity of Bridgetown on the Caribbean island of Barbados. At the time, Barbados was a British colony; it has been an independent state and Commonwealth realm (with Queen Elizabeth II reigning as the current monarch) since 1966.

As far back as 1851, residents of Barbados had been formally petitioning the British government for an island-wide system of horse-drawn trams. The eventual result of this demand was the authorization to develop such a system in and around Bridgetown, the largest city on the island. This public transit service began operations exactly three years after the internationally renowned Scottish railway engineer Robert Fairlie – someone who could be endearingly ebullient but also alarmingly thin-skinned when dealing with others – legally registered the Barbados Tramway Company (BTC) to build the system.

At the time of its opening in 1885, this tram system covered two miles (3.2 kilometers) of a line running as far as the Bridgetown suburb of Hastings Rocks. Over time, BTC expanded its services to encompass a total of five lines and up to 10 miles (16 kilometers) of track in the Bridgetown region. BTC operated as many as 25 trams within the system. The company identified these trams by names rather than numbers. A few of the names used were Active, Alert, and Jubilee.

This tram system became the largest horse-drawn transportation network to be found anywhere among all of the Caribbean islands. By 1907, though, the Bridgetown-area trams were encountering significant competition from gasoline-powered buses that had been introduced locally. The tram system, which was never electrified, ceased operations altogether in 1925 – four decades after BTC had launched the service.

For more information on the system of horse-drawn trams in the vicinity of Bridgetown, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbados_Tramway_Company and http://www.tramz.com/bb/00.html.

Additional information on rail transportation in Barbados is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_in_Barbados#Railway.

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