20th February 1892
Guernsey Railway Company runs its first services
Guernsey Railway Company was born out of an earlier incarnation, the Guernsey Steam Tramway. Its only line, which ran from St Peter Port to St Sampson and back was the second street tram in the British Isles to use overhead wires to deliver an electric current.
For its first year in operation, Guernsey Railway Company didn’t actually own the line itself. It leased it from Siemens, who had electrified it, until satisfied that it was working without any hitches. Its predecessor had operated eight engines, but the Railway Company started with two, and capacity to double that if needed. It maintained a depot at Houge a la Pierre, and the building that housed the generator and invested in its fleet over time. The third tram arrived five years after the service launched, in 1897.
A self-sufficient railway
Guernsey didn’t have public mains electricity when the service opened, so the Guernsey Railway Company generated its own. It used a steam boiler to turn a turbine at 575rpm, producing 500 volts at 85 kilowatts.
To guarantee its popularity, the Guernsey Railway Company killed the competition. It bought out the horse-drawn bus company for £4500 in 1895, but this turned out to be a short-lived fix. Motor-powered buses arrived on the island in 1909 and provided more flexible services at lower costs.
The service was hugely popular, carrying a million passengers. It took ten minutes to get from one end of the line to the other, which was quick. but it was also expensive. The 9d per mile it cost to run compared poorly with the 5 1/2d cost to run the bus. Perhaps inevitably, it didn’t survive, and the service was wound up on 9 June 1934. Work began on lifting the tracks on 11 June.