Fast and efficient public and private transport are luxuries the majority of us take for granted but it was not always so. Even after buses and trains had been introduced many rural families were without a means of transportation either because services were unreliable or non-existent or that the service provided was too expensive. In the area of Glenanne and Loughgilly one solution operated with success for a short time.
The tramway was unlike our concept of a modern tram. The Glenanne - Loughgilly service was in fact a carriage pulled along a track by a horse walking along the road beside it. In fact it began life as a commercial invention with the aim of transporting coal and other products to the factory at Glenanne and finished linen products to the Great Northern Railway Station at Glenanne.
Gray and Son had the track laid out along the two and a half miles stretch between their mill at Glenanne and the railway station. Work on laying the track was completed in 1897 and the first tram ran later that year. The decision to provide a passenger service was to ease the lives of the local residents.
The coach known as the "Carew" after a local family could hold fourteen passengers sitting back to back along a seat that ran down the middle of the carriage. The services were frequent and timed to coincide with the trains arriving at Loughgilly Station on the Newry-Armagh Line. Along the route there were two halts at Barbour's Crossroads and Tullyallen Crossroads. A return fare cost 3d and a single journey cost 2d.
The tramway operated for almost two decades. During World War One the trains and private bus companies became more accessible. The tram systems were doomed to close. The last tram ran in 1919 and the line was lifted the same year, twenty-two years after the first service.
Kennedy, ML & McNeill, DB, Early Bus Services in Ulster (Belfast, 1997)
McKee, E, Railways Around County Armagh (Bessbrook, 1990)
In the accompanying audio recording, Sam Qua talks about his grandfather and father, who drew coal on the Glenanne-Loughgilly tramway at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.
Use the audio controller to listen to this talk, given in 2003.