Heritage Locations

Queens Road Tram depot - Manchester

Now housing the Museum of Transport, Greater Manchester, this was opened in 1901 as the city's first electric tram depot.  It was subsequently expanded, in 1928 and 1935, to give a maximum capacity, of trams and buses, of 275 vehicles.


Period of construction:
1900 - 1949

Transport Trust plaque:

Transport Mode:


Boyle Street, Cheetham, Manchester

M8 8UW

Nearest Town:

Heritage Centre:

In the late nineteenth century, despite the rapidly expanding Victorian City, the area where the Museum of Transport and First’s Manchester bus garage now stand was still open.  In June 1899 the Cars, Sheds and Staff Sub-Committee of the Manchester Corporation Tramways Committee investigated the area and found it suitable as the site for an electric tramcar shed.  At the time they were planning to take over and electrify the horse tram lines of the Manchester Carriage and Tramways Company – who built and operated the horse bus which can be seen in the Museum.  The site was duly purchased from Lord Derby and in June 1900, Councillor Daniel Boyle, Chairman of the Transport Committee, laid the foundation stone of the Queens Road Tram Depot.

They must have been quick workers, for the Depot was opened just a year later, and was built at a cost of £90,000 to house 252 tramcars.  Several cars, including possibly the preserved 173, were actually assembled in the partly built tram shed.  There were four entrances off Boyle Street (named after Councillor Boyle) and a number of sidings ran onto the land that now forms the Museum’s Lower Hall.  In this area were several outbuildings, housing a sand dryer, stables and a permanent way yard.

Why would an electric tramway need stables? At the same time as the tram depot was built, what is now the Museum Archives and Tea Room block was also built and became the Emergency Waggon House, where two tower waggons were kept, ready to have the horses quickly harnessed and attached before they galloped off to repair any defective wiring on the nearby electric tramway – they must have been quite a sight making their way down Boyle Street! If you look at the front of the building you will see the bricked up arches where the tower wagons where kept.  Those with an eye for detail may also note that some of the gully covers in the Museum have their manufacturing date cast into them, with a 1901 example near the Tea Room and at least one from the 1920s in the Lower Hall and again in Boyle Street.

During the 1920s, more motorbuses entered the Corporation fleet and in 1926 a garage and workshop was built to house them and that is now the Upper Hall of the Museum.  The cost of this building was £17,332.  The site of the Lower Hall was still open at that stage and that is presumably why the present Tea Room has a bay window.

As the motorbus fleet grew through the 1930s, the tramcars were gradually ousted from Queens Road, the last one leaving in 1938.  Prior to that the area between the motorbus garage and the tram shed was roofed over and became a state of the art fuelling and washing bay to deal with the growing motorbus fleet.  This is described in detail in ‘The Transport World’ for 12th September 1935 and cost £7218.

In brief, buses would come off service and enter through one of the five doors coming to a stand by one of the eight fuel pumps (petrol and heavy oil - diesel - engines being in use at the time).  The Fuel Checker sat in the glass fronted cabin up in the roof of the building which can still be seen today.  He’d make a note of the bus’s fleet number which was painted on its roof and note how much fuel had been drawn.  After fuelling, the buses would move forward to washing gantries positioned across the shed where oilskin clad men with hoses and brushes would wash the vehicles before they were finally driven away to be parked in the former tram shed next door.  The connection between the two buildings can still be seen in front of our fire engine display, though it has been bricked up long ago.

The buildings survived World War 2 unscathed and the bus fleet continued to grow.  However as the motor car began to take its toll in the 1950s, the later buildings became surplus to requirements and were leased to the Ministry of Works, who refurbished the buildings and subsequently rented them out to the Post Office who maintained their heavy road vehicles there until the mid-1970s when the buildings became empty once more.

The former tram shed was also refurbished in the mid-1950s at a cost of over £150,000 and made suitable for its new role as a bus garage.  It could then house over 250 buses, many more than its present capacity, as buses then were much shorter than today’s vehicles.  The buses served a wide area of north Manchester and have continued to do so through SELNEC (South East Lancashire North East Cheshire), Greater Manchester, GM Buses and now First ownership.  The operational buildings have changed little over the years and the façade on Queens Road and Boyle Street has recently been sympathetically restored by First.

The empty buildings at the north of the complex, higher up Boyle Street, were available just at the right time when local enthusiasts were saving some of the traditional half cab buses and crucially there was also a will within Greater Manchester Transport to save some of the area’s heritage in the form of at least one bus from each of the previous operators. This all came together and under the guidance of the Greater Manchester Transport Society and the Museum of Transport first opened its doors to the public in May 1979.  Some basic improvement work followed in the 1980s and the project has continued to develop ever since and now welcomes around 18,000 visitors a year.

We are grateful to Dennis Talbot for this entry

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