Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 149,664 pages of information and 235,472 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

George Francis Train

From Graces Guide

George Francis Train (1829-1904), promoter of the horse tramway

1829 Born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of a merchant, Oliver Train.

c.1833 He was sent to England to be brought up by his grandmother.

c.1845 he got a job as shipping clerk with his uncle, Enoch Train.

c.1850 He was sent to manage the Liverpool end of his uncle's very successful White Diamond shipping line. He also seems to have had a financial interest in shipping from California during the Australian gold rush.

1853 He was working in Melbourne from 1853 to 1855.

1856/7 When Enoch Train's business got into difficulties, his nephew went back to America.

Train was hired to secure franchises for American-style street railways, first in the USA and then in Europe.

1859 his proposal to operate in Liverpool was turned down so he promoted the idea in Birkenhead.

1860 The road authority at Birkenhead agreed to his proposal; he obtained financial support for the Birkenhead Street Railway Company Ltd locally; the company would lay track from Woodside Ferry to Birkenhead Park, about 1¼ miles. This took six weeks; it was opened on 30 August 1860. Train himself contributed a quarter of the capital and had nothing to do with the actual construction of the line. The double-deck tramcar was made by Robert Main, a local coach builder. This tramway managed to survive but the main local shareholder soon replaced the rails with a type that did not protrude above the road surface.

Train then started to promote his scheme in London. He had three acceptances; unlike at Birkenhead, only single-decker trams were used. The line running down Bayswater Road was opened on 25 March 1861 but closed before the end of September. The Victoria Street line opened on 15 May 1861, but was removed on 7 March 1862. The Surrey Side Tramway, from the south side of Westminster Bridge to Kennington Gate, opened on 15 August 1861 and was removed on 21 June 1862.

Other tramways in the provinces based on Train's scheme were similarly short-lived: one outside Liverpool along the Prescot turnpike, another in Darlington and one in the Potteries.

1862 Train returned to the USA

1904 He died in New York.



Obituary 1904[1]

"...the omnibus proprietors and the very imperfect construction of hill tramways brought about his defeat, the tramway came to London and other cities, and has remained to vindicate the soundness of his opinions. But his life was not wholly spent in introducing tramways. He is said to have made large fortunes several times over, always losing his money in wild speculations, and then making it again, either by luck or good judgment. It is by no means generally remembered that with George Francis Train originated the Union Pacific Railway, which was opened five year after he had turned the first sod at Omaha, in Nebraska, on December 2nd, 1863. He was born in Boston, Mass..."More


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Sources of Information

  • Biography of George Francis Train, ODNB