The long-running remedial work on Leeds 345 in the Crich workshop has now been completed. After being reunited with its repaired truck towards the end of July, the tram received a few finishing touches but quickly commissioned for testing. Following extensive testing and further paintwork touching-up, it finally re-entered public service on Monday 15th October.
Leeds 345 first ran with passengers at Crich Tramway Village on 1st April 2006 following a major restoration which was funded by the Tramcar Sponsorship Organisation. As a basic fully enclosed car equipped with a bow collector, it proved to be an instant hit in the running fleet, clocking up the highest mileage of any tram at the Museum during 2006 and going on to win our very own ‘Tram of the Year’ contest. Unfortunately, after a fairly short stint of use 345 was withdrawn part way through the 2009 season with a number of defects and has had to wait another three years for these to finally be resolved. Problems with the axles, bearings and bodywork have all required major work to resolve, and even so it has been admitted that some of the structural defects which have come to light may well re-occur before the tram should normally be due for its next full overhaul.
Unfortunately, 345‘s comeback on this day was not a great success. After operating a few return trips along the Crich tramway without incident, the car later suffered a controller defect and had to retire to the workshop for repair. Thankfully this would only appear to be a minor fault and the tram should soon be back in regular use, justifying all of the time and money invested in it. Indeed this was a rather eventful day at Crich for all the wrong reasons, as Chestefield 7 was also involved in a minor dewirement incident, although the third service tram, Blackpool Brush car 630, performed faultlessly as usual!
It is obviously most disapointing that so much work has had to be re-done on a tram that was restored in the fairly recent past at considerable expense, and hopefully the problems which arose with Leeds 345 have been investigated to ensure that such costly mistakes will not be repeated at Crich. For now however, at least the tram is back in operation serving the useful role for which it was intended and hopefully its second stint of museum service will be longer and more succesful than the first.