Oporto Tramways No. 9

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Oporto 9

Photo: Jim Dignan

Oporto 9 was built by Starbuck Car & Wagon Company of Birkenhead in 1873 to a design that was derived from the very first tramcars to be imported into Britain by George Francis Train, who founded tramway operations in this country in 1860-1. As one of the oldest and longest-serving tramcars in the world it occupies a very important place in the history of British tramway development.

The tramcar was almost certainly built as a two-horse single deck tramcar (though similar double deck cars are also known to have existed) with an 8-window design that had also been supplied for a tramway in Buenos Aires. This particular car was destined for Portugal’s second city, Oporto, which had opened Portugal’s first urban tramway in 1872.  Similar tramcars were also supplied by Starbucks to tramways in Birkenhead, Govan, Hoylake, Leicester and London.

The motive power was initially provided by mules (at least two, though four or even six mules were required for one particularly steep section of track) but subsequently this particular car was converted into a trailer for use with both steam and electric tramcars.

The tramway in Oporto was somewhat unusual insofar as it also operated – in addition to its regular passenger services – a number of freight and goods services including the carriage of coal and also sardines. In fact it is unlikely that such a venerable tramcar as Oporto 9 would have survived but for the need to convey workers to and from the sardine fisheries, for which purpose the services of wooden-seated trailers such as number 9 were retained, often with a board reading “Operario”, which designating them as being reserved for the use of workmen, whose clothing might otherwise ruin the rattan seats of the company’s electric tramcars.


Type of tram
Originally built as a single deck two-horse tram, but later converted to a trailer tram for use with either steam or electric tramcars
Yellow, white and red
Seating capacity
Date built
Manufacturer of body
Starbuck Car & Wagon Co.
Manufacturer of truck
4’ 8½”
Withdrawn from service


Subsequent history

Placed in storage and repainted in 1960, prior to purchase by a member of the Tramway Museum Society and eventual repatriation to Britain in 1964 with assistance from Geo. Sandeman, shippers of port wine.

Restoration history

Repainted in 1960, and returned to older-style livery at Crich in 1971.

Current status
Conserved and on display
Date started operating at Crich
October 1964. Occasional operation in the very early days (1964-8)
Total mileage covered at Crich
Unknown. Formal records not kept during the earliest phases of operations.
Current location
Exhibition Hall
  • 1873 – 1960Fully operational on original tramway
  • 1960 – 1964In storage
  • 1964 –On display

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.