Cardiff Tramways Company No. 21

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Cardiff 21

Photo: Jim Dignan

A horse-drawn tram service was introduced by Cardiff Tramways Company on 12th July 1872. The initial service ran from High Street in what was then the town centre (Cardiff did not become a city until 1905) to the Docks, and eventually 6 miles of route were operated. The company was a member of the Provincial Tramways group, which also operated horse tramways in Plymouth, Portsmouth and Grimsby.


Unidentified horse tram on the Canton, High Street & Bute Docks route, the first tram route to operate in Cardiff. Photograph by kind permission of WalesOnline

This particular tram operated on the town’s Cathays route, which helps to explain the colour scheme since each route was colour-coded, to ensure that all passengers could tell which tram they needed even if they couldn’t read. Unlike earlier double deck horse trams, which tended to have back-to-back ‘knifeboard seats’, this one had reversible transverse garden seats on the upper deck, enabling it to carry up to 40 passengers, though two horses were needed for such loads.

Horse tram 41 on the Royal Oak to Pier Head tram route, circa 1890.

Horse tram 41 on the Royal Oak to Pier Head tram route, circa 1890.  Photograph by kind permission of WalesOnline

The warning at the top of the stairs to upper-deck passengers to remain seated under bridges was a sensible precaution in view of the number of low railway bridges on many of Cardiff’s horse tram routes. As a “low height” tramcar with a flat ceiling, it was well adapted for service on such routes.

The service continued to operate until the company was taken over by the Corporation on 1 January 1902 and a programme of electrification commenced almost immediately. It is not known precisely when the tram was taken out of service, though the conversion of the Cathays route was completed on 13 June, just six months later.


Type of tram
Double deck open-topped horse tram with transverse seating on the upper deck. The tramcar is a "low height' car with a flat ceiling.
Primrose yellow and white with red outlining
Seating capacity
Up to 40
Date built
Manufacturer of body
Falcon Works, Loughborough
Manufacturer of truck
4’ 8½”
Current collector
Withdrawn from service

Probably 13 June 1902.

Subsequent history

After being taken out of service, the tram was used as a tea-bar for over 60 years before being donated to the National Museum of Wales in 1971.

Restoration history

Its restoration was complete in 1983.

Current status
Restored but not currently operational
Current location
National Museum of Wales
Future plans

Formerly on loan from the National Museum of Wales but now back in their care.

  • 1890 – 1902Operational on original tramway
  • 1902 – 1971Converted into dwelling or similar
  • 1971 – 1983Undergoing restoration
  • 1983 – 2009On display in Wales
  • 2009 – 2021On display at Crich
  • 2021 – dateIn residence at the National Museum of Wales

Crich Tramway Village is a brand name for the National Tramway Museum (Accredited with Arts Council England), solely owned and operated by The Tramway Museum Society, incorporated in England with liability by guarantee (no. 744229). Registered charity number 313615. Our ICO number is Z6700136.