The International Steam Pages

Surviving Steam Trams of the World

This is the index page for the Surviving Steam Trams of the World, you can access individual pages by using the links below:

Not quite steam trams but…

Definitely not steam trams but…

These pages were basically the work of Don Sibley and Derek Rayner who got together to try to catalogue the remaining steam trams of the world. Thanks are also due to James Waite, Thomas Kautzor, David Owen, Bob McKillop, Lynn Zelmer, Filippo Ricci, Bob Tebb, Clive Hepworth, Doug Coldwell, Nick Bryant, Hans Scherpenhuizen, Michael D Martin, Adrian Geringer, Adam Phillips, Paul Stratford, Torsade de Pointes, Didier Duforest, Steve Noon, Chris Yapp, Robin Patrick, 'Oxyman', Françoise Cottebrune, Greg O'Brien, Don Gray (David S. Spohr collection), Kevin Hoggett, Dmitry Kolesnikov, Tom Daspit, Michael Weininger, Les Chatfield, Herbert Ortner, John Yeadon, Paul Harrop, Dan Crow, Geof Sheppard, David Ingham, Hugh Llewelyn, Burgess Von Thunen, Mike Hart, Jan Pesula, 'Friedrichstrasse', Andy Dingley, 'TracksOnWax', Andy Chapman, Gordon Mott, Hans Männel, Neil Edwards, Ralf_Aroksalasch, Des Speed, John Stein, Wouter Van Poucke, Jan Voetberg, David Furbur, Paul Middleton, Ludovic Wirth, Andy Plunkett and Rob Dickinson for supplying further information and photographs. A number of pictures are taken from Wikimedaia Commons and used under the Collective Commons License, they are indicated as such with the photographer's name when viewing the larger image.

Associated articles:

The introduction of the steam tramway locomotive in the late 19th Century revolutionised public transport (in Europe) since this type of propulsion replaced the somewhat slow and cumbersome horse-drawn trams that previously carried people around towns and cities. Many places continued to use their old horse-drawn cars, merely replacing what was on the front by a small enclosed steam locomotive with skirts, to comply with the regulations of the time. This way forward was considerably less costly than horses and much easier to maintain. (As one film maker famously commented, 'replacing one form of pollution with another'. RD)

Within Europe, (urban) steam trams were constrained by regulations, those in Britain and most of Europe being totally enclosed with metal skirts and side plates, burning coke and being fitted with condensers. In general, these trams had side fired fireboxes and were built for one-man operation with the controls at the side of the boiler so that the driver had a view of the road whichever way the tram was running. The corresponding American steam dummies were fired and controlled conventionally and the coverings were wooden and often fitted with windows to make them look more like the coaches they pulled. These differences are reflected, according to origin, in the steam trams which are found in Asia, Africa, South America and Australasia.

Steam trams themselves, particularly in Great Britain, were superceded almost as quickly as they replaced horses with the advent of electric tram cars and it was not long before all the city routes were changed over to the new-fangled method of propulsion.

This was not the case in Continental Europe, however, for in the Netherlands - and in Belgium in particular - where an extensive network of secondary lines existed, the steam tram survived in operation until well into the 1960s. In consequence, many more of the 'genus' exist in Europe than in the United Kingdom; the following pages reflect this major imbalance.

Operable examples of steam trams of the type that ran through town and city streets in the world are few. There are shamefully none in Great Britain, despite the Tramway Museum Society having two (or rather one and a collection of parts from another) in their 'national' collection and it is generally left to museums elsewhere in the world, with one or two notable exceptions, to champion the cause of the steam tram. The major exception in this is at Bern, in Switzerland, where the private Berner Tramway-Gesellschaft AG operates the SBB Historic owned 1894 SLM-built example for the benefit of tourists and locals alike on selected days throughout the year.

The first four pages cover 'true steam trams' that were specially designed and built specifically to serve public tramways, the earlier such locomotives wore 'skirts', later ones often went skirtless. The first two mainly cover the European tradition, the fourth the 'Steam Dummies' (the American tradition), the third has examples from both. 'Skirt Tanks' (conventional locomotives with the motion covered) and 'Near Misses' are included to present as complete a picture as is possible.

Finally, because they are fascinating in their own right and kept coming up during internet searches during the project, we have included a selection of locomotives with steam tram characteristics and steam railcars.

We make no claims to completeness, there are bound to be omissions (and errors). Please get in contact via the email address below if you have anything to add.

Rob Dickinson