Western Transport Company Limited
Wrexham and District Transport Company Limited
Wrexham and Electric Tramways Limited
Wrexham District Tramways Company
In 1876 Wrexham District Tramways Company ran a horse drawn tram service from Wrexham to Johnstown near Rhosllanerchrugog. The line was single track with few passing places. In Johnstown the terminus was the New Inn. In Wrexham it was initially at the Toll Bar which was situated at the junction of the Ruabon Road with the Ruthin Road. Shortly after the service started the line was extended and the trams were allowed to reach the town centre.
(Horse Tram No2 seen outside the New Inn at Johnstown - Steen)
There were initially only two trams operating and as there were very few passing places the service was not very frequent. The company applied to run the trams using steam traction but this was not agreed. The firm then decided not to run the trams directly themselves and leased the track to a local coal merchant Frederick Llewellyn Jones who operated the trams. He purchased the trams and had a third one built. He operated them for a period of some 20 years.
At the end of the 19th century a decision was made to convert the line to an electric tramway. This involved renewing the line and increasing the gauge by six inches from the original three feet.
(Map of the tramway showing routes of horse drawn tram and electric tram with extension planned to Rhos)
The last horse drawn tram ran on 26th April 1901 but the new electric tramway did not start until 4th April 1903. The new tram service was operated by Wrexham and Electric Tramways Limited which was a subsidiary company of the national BET (British Electric Traction) being the largest owners of tramways in the U.K.
(Johnstown depot in 1903)
At certain times the trams became very busy. There were various passing loops and there were Inspectors employed to ensure correct timing to avoid any unnecessary delays if trams were to meet on the single line working. At the busiest period when all trams were being used they would operate in pairs.
The tram service ended in March 1927. By that time the company had established a large network of bus routes.
The first bus purchased by the company was a 'C' type Daimler (FM 614). It was delivered in July 1913 and it was initially used to train prospective drivers. Further Daimler buses arrived and on 20th December 1913 they began operating on various routes. Before the beginning of the Great War the following services were operated :-
Chester through to Llangollen via Wrexham,
Wrexham to Southsea and Brymbo
Wrexham to Southsea and Coedpoeth
Wrexham to Penycae
Following the outbreak of the Great War the War Department commandeered most of the Daimler chassis. However the bodies were taken off and stored.
(Tram No 7)
On the conclusion of hostilities the company were able to obtain a number of recently built chassis from the War Department. Some of the stored bodies were installed on these new chassis. A number of the re-assembled buses were allocated their previous registration numbers despite the fact they were essentially newer vehicles.
The name of the company was changed in 1916 from Wrexham and Electric Tramways Limited to Wrexham and District Transport Company Limited to reflect that the fact that buses were now the major part of the business.
Competition from local independent operators in the Wrexham area came mainly in the form of cars and taxis that would not follow any form of timetable but they would gather at busy points such as the town centre or the railway station and would take a number of passengers to a particular area.
The other main competitor became the Railway Company GWR (Great Western Railways ) when they started to run buses in 1927. They kept their buses on the Wrexham General Station forecourt. Their first service was to Farndon. Competition between the railways and Transport Red became an issue and the railway company did attempt to operate some services between Wrexham and Llay and later Rossett. GWR also operated in the Oswestry area and also out of Corwen. They also operated in many other area of north Wales
(Still carrying the name of Wrexham and Electric Tramways (pre 1916) is Daimler CA976 built in 1914 - Steen)
The bus service became know as Transport 'RED' and there was a gradual increase in the network around all of the Wrexham area. Places such as Ruthin, Mold, Malpas, Ellesmere, Farndon and Chester were served. The town of Oswestry was served with not only regular services from Wrexham via Ifton Heath but also service from Oswestry to Knockin, Llandrino Bridge, Preesgwyn via Weston Rhyn. One vehicle was out stationed at Oswestry initially in a yard of the Queens Hotel. After further expansion of routes around Oswestry a larger depot was opened in Brook Street. A few years later the depot was located at the old drill hall in Oswald Street.
(A Republic 20hp 14 seater bus registered LO8618 seen at the Maesgwyn Road Depot - Steen)
The Wrexham area was characterised by having numerous collieries and the buses were at times very busy conveying mine workers to and from work. Where possible buses were allocated specifically for this work, especially before pit head baths were utilised as there were numerous problems of passengers having their clothes affected when these colliers sat on the same seats as other travellers.
(Route Map in the centre of the 1930 Transport Red Timetable)
During the mid 1920s the company was able to develop private hire and excursion activities. They employed a person specifically to expand this area of work, and various trips to seaside locations such as Rhyl, Llandudno and Blackpool were organised together with evening tours to areas such as Ellesmere. Specific coach vehicles were purchased replacing the earlier charabanc vehicles which were initially used for such work.
The company used for their enquiry office, tours booking office and parcels service the shop of E Clarke and Sons which was located on the High Street. This firm later became one of the largest funeral directors in Wrexham now owned by the Coop.
The main depot, workshops and offices of the company were located at Maesgwyn Road.
They also used, during the earlier days, a depot in Lord Street on the corner with Argyle Street. These premises later became a china shop run by J C Roberts and is situated opposite the Wrexham Guildhall.
The previous tram depot in Johnstown also became a bus depot. Initially it was used to house buses used for the colliery workers at Hafod and Bersham, but later became a base for all types of services.
(A Tilling-Stevens B10A2 with a Brush 32 seater body - FM7058 - new in 1932 just before the takeover by Crosville)
The company acquired a large plot of land on Mold Road and in 1928 they built a new depot. However, for a considerable time, this facility was mainly used for overnight storage of vehicles and 'Maesgwyn Road' continued to be used as the main depot and offices. The workshops at Maesgwyn Road were often used to rebuild vehicles including the assembling of chassis and rebuilding engines.
In 1930, after a period of fierce competition that lasted for a number of years, the bus services of Transport Red and that of the GWR were merged. Some 30 buses were transferred to Transport Red. The name of the company was changed to Western Transport Company Limited. The operating area of the former Transport 'Red' now extended to places such as Dolgellau, Aberystwyth and Pwllheli. Further changes occurred when the former Corris Railway bus services centred around Machynlleth also came under the wing of the new company. No buses were transferred from Corris Railway – these all went to Bristol and they were replaced by Wrexham vehicles.
After a further two years in May 1933 Transport 'Red' came under the wing of Crosville. This merger was facilitated by an exchange of shares, but this event shaped the future of Crosville to give it a significant foot hold in most of north Wales.
(The Crosville Johnstown depot in 1957)
(The former Johnstown Depot still showing signs of the tram lines)
HISTORIC FLEET LIST
The table below gives a list of all recorded vehicles known to have been with this operator. I am indebted to David Donati for his dedicated work in compiling this data and enabling me to present it.
In the right hand column - where available - there is a link to a photograph of the vehicle. The photo will open in a new window. Links in CAPITAL LETTERS suggest the vehicle is seen when with the operator.
Chassis and body numbers are to be found on the right hand side of the table below. You may need to scroll to see them.
© Ron Hughes and David Donati - any reproduction should give credit to the originator and may require permission.