In 1887 the Light Railways (Ireland) Bill was passed which allowed for Light Railways to be subsidised out of local area (baronial) rates. One such area was Lucan. Situated nine miles West of Dublin it seems to have been well served by public transport. Lucan had two railway stations, Coldblow or Lucan North on the Midland and Great Western Line and Lucan South on the Great Southern and Western Line. However both of these stations were some distance from the village and were mainly used by the residents of the big houses in the area who could travel to and from the stations in their carriages.
Lucan was developing, the mills of Shackleton and Hill had opened and the Spa Hotel, with its sulphur springs, was much frequented by the citizens of Dublin seeking cures for rheumatic ailments. It was therefore obvious that there was a need for a more direct link with the city, which would also service the intervening villages of Palmerstown and Chapelizod. Approval was given and The Dublin and Lucan Steam Tramway Company was established. In December 1880 the first rails were laid. The line started 12 yards from the end of the Dublin Tramways line at Parkgate Street, continued along the north side of the road to Chapelizod, crossing the Liffey on the east side of the bridge. From there to Lucan it ran on the south side of the road. The line to Chapelizod opened in June 1881 and the full line to Lucan was completed by February 1883.
By August 1883, 82,968 passengers had been carried, showing the popularity of the line. By February 1887 passenger traffic had risen to 135,177 and goods traffic had risen to 150 to 200 tons per week. The tram line was later electrified in 1900, making it more reliable.
The Lucan tram was the only service in Dublin to keep running during the Easter Rising of 1916, a fact that was referred to in an advertising post card issued by the Spa Hotel, which read:
“This district has been favoured with a unique experience during the rising. It remained absolutely free from local disturbance, and owing to the energy and resource of Mr. Grosart, the manager, the Dublin and Lucan Electric Railway continued its service without interruption. The village and the Spa Hotel were crowded with visitors from all parts of Ireland […] ‘peace and plenty’ reigned in Lucan, disturbed only by the boom of the distant guns in the city and the glare at night of the conflagrations.” Freeman’s Journal 9th May 1916.
The end of the line
The Civil War with its disruption of traffic, competition from motor bus services, and declining passenger numbers saw the closure of the Dublin and Lucan Electric Tramway in January 1925. The last service left each terminus at 10.15 pm on 29th January 1925. After a period of forty-one years this tramway, which had serviced the outlying areas of South County Dublin, had come to the end of the line.
The Lucan tram was to be commemorated in a unique fashion when in 1923, Jack B. Yeats painted In the Tram, which shows two young women gossiping with an older woman in the corner of the Lucan Tram. Yeats chose the subject of trams as he saw them as an illustration of modern urban living. When first exhibited Yeats titled this picture In the Lucan Tram, or the Merry Wives of Lucan. The painting can now be seen in the National Gallery.
Joe Williams, Clondalkin Historical Society.