|Last Updated Sunday 9th December 2012|
The Future of British Tramways|
by Andrew Waddington
Having recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of British Trams Online with a trip down memory lane, looking back at some memorable moments from the past decade, it now seems appropriate to look forwards towards the next ten years. Andrew Waddington offers a taste of what is likely to be in store for the UK’s tramways over the next few years, and provides a selection of more ambitious predictions for the future.
The last few years have been excellent for the heritage tramway sector in Great Britain, with an unprecedented number of tram loans, special events and new acquisitions ensuring that there has rarely been a dull moment on our museum tramways. This looks set to continue over the next few years, with some momentous milestones likely to dominate the proceedings. As has been widely documented already on this website, 2013 sees the 40th anniversary of the Beamish Museum tramway, and a very ambitious event is being planned to celebrate this occasion. Although final details remain under negotiation and have not yet been released into the public domain, this event is expected to feature a number of visiting tramcars, and the Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society have already confirmed that Lisbon 730 is due to attend. Judging by recent events at Beamish, this is likely to be THE ‘must-see’ tram event of 2013, and hopefully will see a huge number of tram enthusiasts flock to this superb attraction.
In 2014, attention is likely to return to Derbyshire with another important anniversary, as the 50th anniversary of the first electric tram service at Crich will be reached in July. It is fortunate that the tram which inaugurated the public service all those years ago, Blackpool & Fleetwood 2, remains serviceable and hopefully it will be able to play its part in any celebrations which might be arranged. It is tempting to suggest other trams which could feature, but hopefully the Tramway Museum Society will make a serious effort to put on a fantastic show worthy of such an important milestone in British tramway history. If some of the enthusiast events held at Crich during 2012 are anything to go by, we could be in for a treat!
Back to 2013, and the Heaton Park Tramway in Manchester should enjoy a bumper year as its long-awaited second depot building should be completed during the spring, which will allow the resident tram fleet to be expanded considerably. The entry into service of Blackpool 680 at the park, expected in March 2013 (subject to the depot being completed on schedule, of course!) is sure to be one of the first tram-related highlights of the year ahead. Hopefully, fellow Blackpool tram Balloon 702 will be able to follow later in the year, whilst Leeds 6 should also return from a lengthy stay at Beamish. With several interesting events, aimed at both tram fans and the general public, planned for 2013, the best times for Heaton Park appear to be ahead of us.
There should also be a number of newly restored tramcars entering service at various museum lines across the country in the next few years. Leeds horse car 107 is likely to be the first; the Leeds Transport Historical Society have recently announced plans for this tram to be launched at the Middleton Railway next summer, indicating how much faith exists in their ability to complete its reconstruction imminently. After that, the tram is expected to move to Crich in 2014 where it should see further service for special occasions, and perhaps it will revive the lost tradition of operating two horse-drawn trams simultaneously if Sheffield 15 can be used as well.
Other long-running restoration projects which should be completed over the next decade include Lowestoft 14 at the East Anglia Transport Museum; the tram which inspired the creation of the museum in which it resides, and a car which will doubtless be much admired, especially as some eighty years have passed since it last carried passengers! The Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society should soon have two reasons to celebrate, as work on returning both Warrington 2 and Liverpool ‘Baby Grand’ 245 to a serviceable condition is well advanced. With the recent upheaval at Birkenhead, it is to be hoped that this tramway will see a major upturn in its fortunes soon, and newly restored trams are always a good way of attracting extra visitors. Hopefully Manchester 173 will also come back to life before too long – the tram currently resides at the Greater Manchester Museum of Transport, but is eventually expected to run at Heaton Park where it will surely prove to be a hugely popular attraction. The long-held intention to carry out a major overhaul on Sheffield 264 at Beamish Museum should also become a reality.
For many years there have been hopes that a tram museum would be established on the Fylde coast, and finally this seems to be a realistic prospect. However, both the Lancastrian Transport Trust and the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust have submitted plans to achieve this goal, and whether both of them will ultimately succeed is highly doubtful. Hopefully at least one of the two organisations will turn this dream into a reality and create a really special visitor attraction which the area can be proud of.
Above I have offered a glimpse of some of the exciting things which, it can be predicted with some confidence, will happen at some point in the next ten years. However, that is all too easy – and so, I am also providing ten of my own, more optimistic predictions for the decade ahead! I have been nspired by a similar feature in the Fylde Tramway News, but naturally focussing on various British tramways rather than just Blackpool. So, in no particular order, here are my personal predictions for the next ten years of UK trams:
Bid to fund Blackpool North Station tramway extension submitted
Blackpool Railcoach 279 to run at Heaton Park
Manchester T68 preserved locally
Leeds 602 returns to service
More trams to visit Beamish Museum
Major overhaul for Glasgow ‘Coronation’ 1282
Recently sold Blackpool trams broken up for scrap
Lottery funds for steam tram restoration project
Gateshead 52 restored and running at Beamish
Bombardier Flexity trams spread across the country
So, there are my predictions for the next ten years of British trams. I sincerely hope that British Trams Online will be around in some form to review my predictions a decade from now, and see how right or wrong I was! For the time being though, readers are invited to offer their own views, especially on our Facebook page. Am I living in cloud cuckoo land, or could I be on the right tracks?
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