London 60 at Crich Tramway Village

On 5th July 1952, the city of London bid a fond farewell to its extensive tramway network. Sixty years and three days later, a commemorative event took place at Crich Tramway Village, to showcase the superb fleet of preserved London trams in the National collection. This co-incided with the completion of the Museum’s latest restoration, London United Tramways 159, which provided the perfect excuse for a weekend-long feast of London trams. Andrew Waddington reports on the ‘London 60’ event held on Sunday 8th July.

The ‘London 60’ event suffered a major blow before it even begun, when London United Tramways 159 suffered a failure during its inaugural public run the previous day and was subsequently pulled from service. This meant that the tram’s role was limited to that of a static exhibit for Sunday’s event, depriving the day of its star attraction. This left just two London tramcars available for passenger service; Metropolitan Electric Tramways 331 and London Transport 1622. Of these, 1622 would steal the show, being decorated with ‘Last Tram Week’ banners on its between-deck panelling. Other additions, such as headlamp masks and painted graffiti on its bumpers, featuring the phrases ‘Here Now Gone Tomorrer’ and ‘Streetcar Named Desier’ (complete with authentic spelling errors!) added greatly to the period appearance of a typical London tram from the final days of the city’s tramway network. Incidentally, it had been hoped that the car would be able to operate in this guise in the week leading up to the event, but instead a curatorial decision was taken that the decorations could only be carried for two days.

Another tram to play a key role in the day’s events was, perhaps surprisingly, Johannesburg 60. Although nothing to do with London, the car was featured as it closely resembles the early West Ham balcony cars (such as car 102 now displayed at London’s Transport Museum) later inherited by London Transport and painted in a mainly red livery similar to that carried by 60. The tram’s appropriate fleet number also doubtlessly contributed towards its starring role, and to emphasise its Britishness, the tram was decked out in bunting, including large Union Jack flags at each end, as many trams were similarly decorated for special occasions in the twilight years of London’s trams. Perhaps it would have been better to apply ‘London Transport’ stickers to 60’s bodysides, in a similar fashion to the temporary renumbering of Stockport 5 as 53 at Heaton Park last year, as this would have effectively created an extra London tram for a minimal effort. However, the general public certainly seemed to enjoy seeing and riding on the decorated tram and probably didn’t realise that 60 had spent its entire operating career either in South Africa or Derbyshire!

So, the day began with a three-car service featuring 60, 331 and 1622 but this did not last for very long as all three trams were run in at lunchtime for photo opportunities on the depot fan, where they were displayed along with LUT 159 and non-runner London County Council 106, both of which had already been positioned in front of the Exhibition Hall. Three other trams – Glasgow 22, Blackpool 40 and Leeds 180 – were duly called upon to take over the service, representing three different systems which continued post-1952. The opportunity was not taken to line up all of the London cars together, as was done with the Blackpool fleet a few weeks earlier, which was a little disappointing although at least the trams were individually very well positioned, allowing the many photographers to capture some excellent shots.

One London tram which did not appear outside for the event was London Transport 1. Unfortunately the positioning of this unique tram inside the Exhibition Hall makes it difficult to extract it, and it therefore remained in situ. However, in an attempt to include the tram in the event, a small display on the history of London’s tramways was placed alongside it which was a good compromise, although sadly many visitors did not appear to notice the effort which had been made to create this extra display.

Shortly before 2:00pm, LCC 106 was put back in its usual spot inside Depot V, which involved moving the tram on the traverser, and this attracted considerable interest as it always does. Then it was time for arguably the biggest event of the day: a mini-procession of operational London trams from Cliffside and along the Tramway Street. Obviously the absence of 159 had major implications for this event and the parade could easily have been cancelled, but to the organisers’ credit, the show went on! A row of eager photographers lined up outside the depot gates waiting for the London trams to emerge from the yard to form the procession, but there was an unexpected surprise as a tiny shrew appeared on the nearby path, scurrying around in rather a hurry but seemingly not knowing where it was going. This extra entertainment saw many of the assembled crowd turn their hands to a spot of wildlife photography! As an animal lover myself, seeing this cute creature so close up was a very rare treat and I even managed to capture it on film, although as it moved so fast this was not an easy task!

Eventually, the shrew decided it had had enough of being in the limelight and headed for cover, and soon afterwards the trams began to leave the depot yard with the Croydon works vehicle, Tramlink 058, being first out. The other cars all left in the reverse order of the actual procession and headed to Cliffside, where they all stopped just beyond the single-line staff post before reversing. After a brief pause at the car park stop, the trams then ran slowly through the bridge and along the street with Johannesburg 60 leading MET 331, LT 1622 and Tramlink 058, in that order. Obviously this would have been so much more spectacular had LUT 159 led the way, but nonetheless a good line-up had been organised, although having Jo’burg 60 leading a parade of London trams certainly seemed very bizarre! On arrival at Stephenson Place the three passenger cars were hastily pressed back into service whilst the Croydon KLV also performed a few demonstration runs to Glory Mine and back, with a few lucky visitors (including your writer!) treated to the novel experience of a ride on this unusual vehicle. This was quite unlike anything else I have ever experienced at Crich and it is certainly capable of an impressive turn of speed! Meanwhile, Glasgow 22 and Blackpool 40 returned to the depot whilst Leeds 180 was stabled on the spare track at Town End, allowing the London cars to bask in the glory once again. The museum was quite busy at this time and perhaps it would have been better to keep these trams in service to help shift the crowds, as long queues formed at Town End, particularly during an unwelcome downpour. When the heavens opened, 159 scuttled back into the nice dry workshop and remained there for the rest of the day.

The final event of the day was a small re-enactment of the London ‘Last Tram’ ceremony, with well-wishers greeting London Transport 1622 as it headed back towards the depot for the final time that day. A brief pause was made adjacent to the Red Lion with a chorus of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, before 1622 was allowed to continue its journey back to depot, although inexplicably MET 331 was positioned behind it and therefore became the last London car to be run in. It was then left to the Blackpool, Glasgow and Leeds trams to complete the day’s running once the curtain had fallen on London – although of course ‘the end’ thankfully wasn’t as final as it was back in 1952!

So, what can we conclude from the day’s activities? The event was an enjoyable one and certainly seemed well attended, but a few minor tweaks could have elevated it and created an even more special occasion. The absence of any classic London buses in particular was disappointing, as their presence would have added greatly to the atmosphere and would have made the ‘Last Tram’ re-enactment ceremony more poignant. Had a few small details been slightly better thought out, the event would have been even better without the need for an increased budget. However, it was undoubtedly pleasing that the TMS did something to acknowledge the London anniversary, and it is only thanks to the efforts of a small number of volunteers that an event took place at all. Despite facing some challenges which were not their fault, those involved did their best to put on a good show and this deserves to be recognised.

Finally, I would like to emphasise my thanks to those who enabled me to have a ride on the KLV – a nice gesture which I very much appreciated, and this made up for a few minor disappointments. Whilst this vehicle may not be to everyone’s taste, it serves a valuable purpose at Crich and, as its driver rightly pointed out to me, it is a genuine tramway works vehicle, and thus its place at Crich is highly appropriate. I would also like to thank the aforementioned shrew for providing extra entertainment, but somehow I doubt it will read this article!

The Organiser’s Response

It was pleasing to read Andrew Waddington’s recent review of the London 60 event at Crich, for which I was the organiser. I welcome all feedback on the event, both good and bad, and so it was refreshing to hear about some of what didn’t work – as well as what did. All too often it’s hard for an event organiser to get carried away! I wondered if I might possibly comment on some of the points raised in Andrew’s article, for purposes of ‘putting the record straight’ and giving my perspective on how things went?

The initial event plan was to have seen Johannesburg 60 receive London Transport vinyls, as well as a couple of other alterations, however these unfortunately had to be dropped from the plan for a couple of reasons. The primary one of these was the available capacity of the workshop department – a number of staff holidays fell during the weeks running up to the event, and all remaining staff were required to devote their effort to the completion of LUT 159 for its launch on the preceding day – arguably a larger attraction. I was therefore asked to limit any decorations to just one tramcar and, I think, made the correct decision that this should be the far more ‘crucial’ 1622. Additionally, similar curatorial concerns for 60 were raised to those which limited the time we could ‘alter’ 1622 for, linking back into the previous reasoning. However, the addition of the bunting was well received by visitors – and the link was explained as I understand it – who always seem to be attracted to decorated trams.

Moving onto the ‘lunchtime line-up’, again the initial plan was to have seen all the London cars lined up together as per the Blackpool event. However, this was ultimately dropped on the day due to popular demand from the photographers, who were keen to get photographs of a number of the trams in the positions we had them in. All positions were devised with the help of the gathered photographs to ensure the best angles for sun and surroundings, and I would like to record my thanks to all of them! Additionally, I had the issue of the KLV being ‘stuck’ in the centre of the depot fan due to the non-availability of its driver at this time, effectively putting it in the middle of what would have been a chronological line-up.

It is pleasing to hear that the effort for the London display was appreciated, although I agree it perhaps wasn’t as well ‘patronised’ as it could have been. I should also mention at this point my thanks to the Museum Guides who were stationed around LT 1 and LCC 106 throughout the day, offering additional ‘live’ interpretation for visitors. The display is expected to make additional appearances at the Museum – most likely around July 5th each year – and indeed is still on display around LT 1 for anyone interested.

Having Johannesburg 60 lead the cavalcade was something that I toyed with throughout Saturday night and during the day on Sunday, and I fully accept and agree with the point that it was less than ideal to have a non-London car leading it. Ultimately, it came down to either dropping the car from the line-up, leaving just three cars; placing it behind MET 331, spoiling the chronology and development; or run it at the beginning of the line-up, the option that I, of course, went with. Indeed, as noted in the article, the lack of 159 did put a spanner in the works and it was due to lead the cavalcade. Discussions were had about allowing the car out just for the cavalcade, too, but it was decided not to risk any further problems with the car following it’s defect on the Saturday.

The decision to return the ‘non-London’ cars to depot was another one that came about from the lack of 159. The original spec was to have seen all but one car in service throughout the day, however a decision was taken by the DI (And thus out of my hands) to drop down to the split three-car service instead, in many ways simplifying both the shunting, ‘jiggling’ and crewing requirements, and, in many ways, allowing a much smoother transition for each of the events.

MET 331‘s appearance as the ‘Last Tram’ was something that we all overlooked until the ceremony had already been set up, and was a genuine mistake on my part. Again, this had been set up on the proviso of the inclusion of 159, and required some alterations to eliminate the car, and slot Leeds 180 into the equation. I fully hold my hands up to this part and say that I got it wrong, but hopefully it didn’t detract from the event too much.

I should highlight that the event came together in a very short space of time – for reasons that I shan’t go into here – and, although every effort was made to attract some visiting buses, in the end the timescales and budget constraints proved too tight to make this possible. I was as disappointed as everyone else was with this, but ultimately we just ran out of time. Although not mentioned in the article, the lack of a handout has also been raised with me. As I hope can be understood, this is due to the non-availability of LUT 159. Many of the ‘replacement’ parts didn’t get finalised until Sunday morning, and there was therefore no time to prepare a ‘fresh’ hand-out reflecting the updated state of play. Using the ‘old’ version would probably have just created further confusion, particularly when all the tram crews and other volunteers had received a full briefing of the order of events.

 

For my first event at Crich there were always going to be niggles, and I hope I’ve explained and clarified why some of these came about. If anyone has any further questions – or, indeed, feedback – please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me via email – tram@bgseven.com.

Finally, I would like to express my sincerest thanks to everyone who was volunteering on the day, and helped to make the event happen behind the scenes in the run-up. There are too many to name individually – and they probably won’t thank me for it! – but your help was extremely appreciated. The Operations, Engineering, Curatorial, Learning, Marketing, Retail and Guide departments all contributed significantly to the event, and it certainly wouldn’t have happened without any one of them. It was a very enjoyable – albeit stressful – experience, and one that I have taken a lot of experience from. Hopefully the visitor numbers reflect the hard work put in by everyone. Many have also asked ‘When are you doing another one?’ – well, although I can’t say much more at the moment, I will suggest that readers keep an eye out for the 2013 Events Calendar – and if you have any suggestions of improvements, please do get in touch.

Many thanks to Gareth for allowing me to publish my response to the article.

Jack Gordon

London 60 Event Organiser

July 2012

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