The Electric Tram

Twenty three years were to pass before trams again ran in Cork, this time powered by electricity. From the outset, the new company, called The Cork Electric Tramways and Lighting Company, assiduously wooed Cork Corporation and relations between the company and the municipal authorities were cordial. The company was closely linked to the London-based British Thomson-Houston, a major electrical contracting company. The laying of the permanent way was subcontracted to William Martin Murphy, later to achieve notoriety during the Dublin Lock-out of 1913, who eventually became chairman of the company. The building of the power house was contracted to Edward Fitzgerald, later made a baronet by Edward VII, whose name is commemorated in Fitzgerald's Park in Cork today. The real engineering genius behind the construction of the system, however, was Charles H. Merz, an English engineer and employee of B T-H. He later co-founded the world-famous Merz-McClellan engineering company and was to die in an air raid in London during WWII.

Details Of The Tramway System

The hub of the new system was situated at Father Mathew's statue in Patrick's Street and from there three cross-city routes radiated to six termini. The routes were: Blackpool-Douglas, Summerhill-Sunday's Well and Tivoli-Blackrock. The gauge of the tramway was two feet, eleven and a half inches. This peculiar gauge was chosen for technical reasons to allow railway rolling stock to run on the tramway which ran alongside the Muskerry Railway on the Western Road. It was thought there might be an exchange of traffic between the two systems, a development which never materialized. The first 18 cars of an eventual total of 35 arrived from Brush of Loughborough in 1898. The trams, powered by overhead electrical cables, began trial runs in early December 1898 and the system was officially opened on 22 December 1898. The trams soon became a familiar sight on the streets of Cork and local newspapers reported that they caused considerable alarm, at first, to the horses which pulled most of the wheeled traffic on Cork's streets.

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