Longest (historic) Tram/ Light Rail services and Shortest (current) Tram/ Light Rail services - anything excluding London Underground

tbtc

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At the moment I guess the longest service in the UK is South Shields to St James on the Tyne'n'Wear Metro (running, as it does, via Whitley Bay) - if you discount the Metro as being "heavy rail" then the longest is maybe Rochdale - East DIdsbury on Metrolink?

But how do these compare to historic services (when many cities had their own extensive networks)? Were there examples of tram services running comparable distances? Did they even interwork between different "networks"?

Conversely, there are some relatively short tram services at the moment (e.g. Herdings Park to Sheffield Cathederal on Supertram, or Elmers End to the Croydon loop on Tramlink) - if anyone wants to play that game too?

For the avoidance of doubt, let's say we are talking about regular scheduled off-peak Monday to Friday services, so any "placing journeys" or emergency engineering workings etc can be ignored - "longest" and "shortest" can be by distance that the service travels by rail or duration in time - whilst some services may interwork I'd say that a journey "finishes" when it serves the same station a second time - e.g. if a Tramlink service from east of Croydon passes through East Croydon stop, runs round the loop and heads back to a different destination east of Croydon then I'm saying that this journey "finishes" when it passes East Croydon after doing the loop - however I'm happy to treat Monument in central Newcastle as being two separate stations, since the "east west" and "north south" lines serve different pairs of platforms
 
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Harpers Tate

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If this includes overseas then I believe the Belgian coast tram (De Kusttram) in the winner by distance.
 

Ianno87

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I'm sure there were countless examples of through running were tracks of different boroughs / corporations were connected to each other - London and Greater Manchester for one.
 
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South Lancashire Tramways had some long inter-urban routes such as Atherton to St. Helens (14miles) and Atherton to Farnworth (14.3 miles) - which were later converted to trolleybuses. There was a lot of co-operation between the municipal operators in Greater Manchester (as it wasn't called then) with joint services over long routes such as Manchester - Waterhead (Oldham), Manchester - Rochdale, Manchester - Hazel Grove and (briefly) Manchester - Bolton. Stockport Corporation hired an illuminated car from Liverpool Corporation on several occasions for special events - it was possible to work it all the way out and back under its own power over the the various systems.

In the West Riding (as it was called then) through working was stymied by the different track gauges of the respective systems - although variable gauge cars were tried (unsuccessfully) for a time between Leeds and Bradford.

The great survivor, the Blackpool Tramway, also comes in at a respectable 11.5 miles between Starr Gate and Fleeetwood.
 

Ken H

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I'm sure there were countless examples of through running were tracks of different boroughs / corporations were connected to each other - London and Greater Manchester for one.
Wakefield and Leeds ('Wakefield' was pre-runner of West Riding buses)
Leeds and Bradford (Special gauge changing trams
 

etr221

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For details of traditional British tramway networks, track down a copy of 'Great British Tramway Networks' by W H Bett & J C Gillham. One issue theough is understanding where systems met and there was through running - or it was a case of all change. And for the largest networks, there were never through services from one side to the other: most cities worked on the basis of services to and from the centre.

They quote the longest continuous system as being that in South Lancashire - covering Liverpool and Manchester, extending from Great Crosby to beyond Stalybridge (alternatively to Bacup!) - 40 miles by crow, perhaps over 50 by tram...

In the chapter on Glasgow, they mention through services from Airdrie to Anniesland (16 miles) and Paisley (20 miles); and from Renfrew Ferry through Glasgow to Milngavie (2 hours - the longet in GB)

Even before the LPTB takeover, there was a lot of interworking around London with through services e.g. Victoria Embankment to Purley, and Aldgate to Barking and Ilford. But while through tracks could take you from Chadwell Heath to Uxbridge, Hampton Court to Horns Cross, and Purley to Waltham Cross there were never through services over such distances - although I believe the LRTL (Light Railway Transport League) did run a tour which did do the last.
 

madannie77

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I can never find my reference books when I need them.....

So, without knowing the mileages, I shall mention three inter-urban lines:

Notts & Derby, from Nottingham to Ripley
Sunderland & District, a rather indirect route from Sunderland to Easington Lane
Dearne District Light Railway, another indirect line from Barnsley to Thurnscoe
 

Ken H

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Do these maps help at all?

(Link leads to images of maps of tram systems in Scotland and the north of England, and the English Midlands.)
 

Egg Centric

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Manx Electric Railway = 17 miles

This post assumes (not unreasonably) that "longest" means distance, can OP clarify if (s)he means distance or time?

I am not sure I would consider the MER a "proper" tram/light rail service as opposed to heritage line. I did use the IOMSR for bona fide non-enthusiast travel once in a blue moon when I lived on the island, but if I'm honest I went out of my way to. The MER is an order of magnitude less useful for genuine journeys, at least outside of Douglas, so does it really count?
 
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or details of traditional British tramway networks, track down a copy of 'Great British Tramway Networks' by W H Bett & J C Gillham
= snip =
They quote the longest continuous system as being that in South Lancashire - covering Liverpool and Manchester, extending from Great Crosby to beyond Stalybridge (alternatively to Bacup!) - 40 miles by crow, perhaps over 50 by tram...
I have a booklet* by the same Messrs Bett and Gillham whose introduction includes the following extract from the 26 August 1916 issue of The Tramway and Railway World.
Tramway and Railway World said:
At a cost of just over 4 shillings (20p) each in fares, two Bingley residents recently journeyed to Liverpool mainly by tramway. They started at 6 am and reached the Mersey city at 5 pm. The distance is 76 miles, and the only portion not served by tramway is the seven miles between Hebden Bridge and the village of Summit on the boundary of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Outside the OP's criteria, I know, since the trip involved a good few changes and a "missing bit" in the middle, but the distance, low fare and relatively quick duration was impressive. I wonder how long it would take by local buses today?**

The quote does not mention whether the two gentlemen took a brisk 2 hour walk from Hebden Bridge to Summit, or engaged the services of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway for that section.

The booklet also mentions that an epic "mileage-bashing" trans-Pennine tram journey could have started from either Bingley, Guiseley or Wakefield. And as @etr221 mentions could have continued to Great Crosby in the west.


* The Tramways of South-East Lancashire published in the 1970s (I think) by the Light Railway Transport League.

[EDIT] ** I was a bit too pessimistic posting this comment. A check of the journey planner in Google maps shows you can leave Bingley at 05:57 and arrive in Liverpool in time for lunch, by around 13:15, with changes of bus at Bradford, Halifax, Rochdale, Bolton, Leigh & St. Helens - and no seven mile walk in the middle!
 
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randyrippley

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This post assumes (not unreasonably) that "longest" means distance, can OP clarify if (s)he means distance or time?

I am not sure I would consider the MER a "proper" tram/light rail service as opposed to heritage line. I did use the IOMSR for bona fide non-enthusiast travel once in a blue moon when I lived on the island, but if I'm honest I went out of my way to. The MER is an order of magnitude less useful for genuine journeys, at least outside of Douglas, so does it really count?
It may be a heritage line now, but it was not built as such - and actually predates most urban tram systems
 

341o2

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If this includes overseas then I believe the Belgian coast tram (De Kusttram) in the winner by distance.
The longest single route in the world, 76km or about 42 miles, although worked in two halves - change at Ostend
For the shortest route, I suggest Lisbon route 12, 4km in length, as a contender
 

Smokey Joe

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The Central Tramway in Scarborough is quite short (I know some will argue at this being included but the vehicles are called trams, not lifts or funicular cars etc, thereby it's a tramway).
 

Ken H

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The longest single route in the world, 76km or about 42 miles, although worked in two halves - change at Ostend
For the shortest route, I suggest Lisbon route 12, 4km in length, as a contender
How long has it been change in Ostend? Wasant in 2002. lst time I used th Kustram.
 
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I have a booklet* by the same Messrs Bett and Gillham whose introduction includes the following extract from the 26 August 1916 issue of The Tramway and Railway World.


Outside the OP's criteria, I know, since the trip involved a good few changes and a "missing bit" in the middle, but the distance, low fare and relatively quick duration was impressive. I wonder how long it would take by local buses today?**

The quote does not mention whether the two gentlemen took a brisk 2 hour walk from Hebden Bridge to Summit, or engaged the services of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway for that section.

The booklet also mentions that an epic "mileage-bashing" trans-Pennine tram journey could have started from either Bingley, Guiseley or Wakefield. And as @etr221 mentions could have continued to Great Crosby in the west.


* The Tramways of South-East Lancashire published in the 1970s (I think) by the Light Railway Transport League.

[EDIT] ** I was a bit too pessimistic posting this comment. A check of the journey planner in Google maps shows you can leave Bingley at 05:57 and arrive in Liverpool in time for lunch, by around 13:15, with changes of bus at Bradford, Halifax, Rochdale, Bolton, Leigh & St. Helens - and no seven mile walk in the middle!
You could get there a lot quicker by taking a 662 Shuttle to Keighley (22 mins), an M4 Mainline to Burnley (1hr7mins) then a 152 Hotline to Preston (1hr35 mins) then an X2 Preston to Liverpool (2hr22), a total of 5hr26 I think, plus waiting time.
For the price of a Transdev Daytripper (£10) and a Lancashire Dayrider on Stagecoach (£8.20), so not exactly 20 pence!
 

D365

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Conversely, there are some relatively short tram services at the moment (e.g. Herdings Park to Sheffield Cathederal on Supertram, or Elmers End to the Croydon loop on Tramlink) - if anyone wants to play that game too?
For comparison, how does Halfway - Malin Bridge compare?
 

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