A Capital Weekend – Crich

On the weekend of 6th & 7th July 2013, Crich Tramway Village held ‘A Capital Weekend’ – a celebration of all things London. Although held primarily to commemorate 80 years since the formation of the London Passenger Transport Board, the highlight of this event was undoubtedly the return to service of London United Tramways 159. Both members of the British Trams Online team were present at Crich on Saturday 6th July, and Andrew Waddington provides the following report of the day’s activities. .

Some of our readers may remember that Crich held a similar London themed event one year ago, although this was a major disappointment, mainly due to the LUT 159 being unable to operate in passenger service after it unfortunately derailed on its launch day. However, following a period of workshop attention and then further test running, the car was approved for service the day before the event, and unsurprisingly became the star of the show! It was advertised beforehand that 159 would be joined in service by the other two operational London cars at Crich, Metropolitan Electric Tramways 331 and London Transport 1622, along with a fourth car in the shape of Chesterfield 7, because… well, to tell you the truth I’m not entirely sure why this car was supposed to be part of the event! Maybe it was due to 7 bearing some vague resemblance to a West Ham car, or maybe it was supposed to look like LCC 106 with a top cover – but whatever the reason, ultimately it didn’t matter, as due to glorious sunny weather, it was sensibly decided to use Glasgow 1068 in service on the Saturday instead. This proved to be a popular choice as the open top decks of both 159 and 1068 were the most popular seats of the day, with the enclosed trams performing some journeys virtually empty as Crich was drenched in sunshine and heat – yes really! One other tram did also operate in passenger service on this day, which was Berlin 3006. As usual this tram generally ran as required by disabled visitors, and was stabled at Town End when not required.

One of the main criticisms of the 2012 London event at Crich, was the decision to keep all of the London trams in the depot yard for a large proportion of the day, meaning that although the many photographers on site were well catered for, those of us who prefer tram riding were left with little time to ride on them. Thankfully this was not the case in 2013, with the main photo opportunities taking place at the beginning and end of the day, allowing all three London cars to remain in service for most of the day. However, there was an additional photo opportunity during the afternoon with three trams lined up on the depot fan, to represent some other capital cities of the British Isles and the rest of the world. The familiar Cardiff water car 131 was posed alongside Prague 180 and Edinburgh 35, neither of which has operated for many years, and adding these non-runners to the event was a very welcome touch. The trio were superbly positioned with the fantastic weather allowing some superb photographs to be taken of these trams. This was probably done partly to compensate for the fact that neither of the other London trams on site, London Transport 1 and London County Council 106, could be extracted for display. However, there was a chance to visit the workshop under supervision during the day to view the partially stripped LCC 106, in the early stages of a major body overhaul.

The street scene was also enhanced by a number of visiting vehicles, including two preserved Routemaster buses, and a beautiful vintage van which was driven along the street a few times, creating some additional interest. Less welcome, however, was ‘Crich FM’, a glorified student radio broadcast from Town End which was blasting out modern pop music by the likes of One Direction during the early part of the day. Although presumably aimed at appealing to younger visitors, a big part of the Crich experience is the period atmosphere of the street area, which was ruined by this distraction. Thankfully later in the day some older music was being played, and although this was no more to my taste at least it didn’t seem so misplaced.

After a generally positive start to the day, there was some disruption to the tram service at lunchtime when LUT 159 split the points on entering the Wakebridge passing loop on its way back from Glory Mine. I was actually on board the car at the time, and for an awful moment I was afraid that lightning really had struck twice and that the car had derailed again, just like it did on its first day in museum service! Thankfully the incident was nowhere near as bad as feared, with the track being blamed, and following some attention by the Duty Engineer, the points were declared safe to use and 159 returned to Town End, continuing in service for the remainder of the day. However, whilst the incident was being investigated the other trams in service were forced to terminate at Wakebridge for about half an hour, which created some novel riding and photographic opportunities.

Additional interest was created in the early afternoon by a number of shunt moves in the depot area. First, Blackpool ‘Boat’ 236 was moved from the workshop to the main depot following routine servicing. The traverser was then used to move Oporto 273 and Johannesburg 60, both of which had been moved earlier in the day in order to release Edinburgh 35 for inclusion in the capital line-up. Having been placed in Depot V, 273 was dragged outside and then moved back onto track 12 in the depot, before 60 was moved in front of it having spent a few hours stabled at the top of track 11. Edinburgh 35 was then put away at the front of the foreign duo, so that it could be easily extracted for display again the next day. Finally, Prague 180 was moved onto the traverser with assistance from the Blackpool electric locomotive, where it remained for a few hours before it was finally returned to Depot V in the space vacated by Oporto 273. Cardiff 131 was then sent out onto the main line, initially being used to clean out the points at Wakebridge, which was probably a good idea after what had happened earlier in the day! This tram also briefly ran in passenger service, with visitors allowed to stay on board as it entered the depot yard on its final trip, which was an unusual treat for a lucky few. Then it was the turn of Croydon 058, the diesel-powered works vehicle which shuttled between Town End and the depot crossover for a while. As with 131, a small number of passengers were allowed to ride inside it which was another enjoyable experience, even though 058 is probably best described as a mobile sauna!

One of the highlights in the day was a parade of London vehicles along the village street, which took place at around 4:30pm – about an hour later than billed, and by which time some people seemed to have given up on it! Unlike last year’s London parade which was bizarrely led by Johannesburg 60, this year’s procession consisted entirely of London vehicles, and was quite rightly led by the beautiful LUT 159. This was followed by the aforementioned van, itself a former London resident, and then LT 1622, MET 331 and a Routemaster bus, with the KLV 058 joining the procession from the depot crossover to represent more recent transport in London. These vehicles were then posed in the street, making a magnificent site and providing an excellent climax to what had been a very enjoyable day at Crich.

Despite some reservations beforehand, I am very pleased that I decided to attend this event. Although I mainly visited to see and ride on LUT 159, other nice touches such as the procession and the display of trams from other capital cities made this an enjoyable event, helped by the wonderful weather. It was therefore very disappointing to note that the Saturday was very poorly attended, with a few visitors and uniformed staff commenting that it was no busier than a normal summer weekend. Despite this undeniable fact, those who went seemed to enjoy the day and went away happy. However, perhaps it would now be wise to rest the London concept for a while, now that this theme has been extensively explored over two consecutive years. With the likely return to use of LCC 106 next year, it remains to be seen whether a third capital event is held at Crich in 2014, and if this can improve even further on the same concept.

Article by Andrew Waddington

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