One of the most popular annual events held at the Crich Tramway Village is the Edwardian Weekend, normally staged over two days in early July. As well as featuring vintage vehicles and re-enactors in period costume, this is usually the only chance to ride on a horse-drawn tram at the Museum – and indeed, for 2011 this was the only opportunity to ride on a horse car anywhere in mainland Britain! As well as this, the 2011 event co-incided with an enforced closure of the Heaton Park Tramway due to a ‘Race For Life’ event taking place in the Manchester park. So, several members of the Manchester Transport Museum Society decided to sample some trams at Derbyshire instead, and regular British Trams Online contributor Andrew Waddington tagged along for the day!
The weather forecast for the weekend of 9th/10th July was not especially promising – made all the more worrying by the fact that the Edwardian event features early electric trams in service, trams that are generally not designed with wet weather in mind! Thankfully despite a damp start on Saturday morning, the weekend was mostly dry and so all three open trams in the current operational fleet at Crich were in action on the day of my visit.
A total of six electric trams maintained a frequent service throughout the day, these being Blackpool & Fleetwood ‘Rack’ 2, Glasgow 22, Blackpool ‘Standard’ 40, Southampton 45, Sheffield 74 and Blackpool ‘Toastrack’ 166. With the exception of 22 – which took an extended lunch break on the depot fan – these trams ran all day. Star of the show however, was the Museum’s operational horse tram, Sheffield 15, which as usual ran between Town End and the depot crossover. Indeed there was even a special horse tram stop, with 15 loading passengers outside the Library extension. The main line activity was completed by Berlin 3006, which made a brief appearance around lunchtime by request, and Cardiff 131 which operated a few journeys later in the day.
The day started for me with a look around the latest attraction at the Village, the George Stephenson Workshop & Discovery Centre, better known as the Stone Workshop. As reported on these pages and elsewhere, this has undergone an extensive renovation with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and is now open to visitors for the first time in more than two decades. I will not pass critical judgement on the new facility as clearly its target audience is the general public rather than the hardcore tram enthusiast, except to say that it adds something a bit different to the site. It’s certainly a strange experience to stand on the first floor of this very familiar building having seen it disused for so many years! A glass walkway has also been constructed between this building and the Workshop Viewing Gallery which is once again open to visitors, providing good views of the recent progress on London United Tramways 159.
One of the highlights of the day, however, was a guided tour of the workshop which had been arranged for the Manchester Transport Museum Society members who were in attendance. Having caught up with some friends in the depot yard, we stepped into the workshop to be greeted by the sight of Leeds 399 which was receiving some routine maintenance. On Road 3 was Cardiff 131, with Leeds 345 behind undergoing some fairly extensive remedial work. Sandwiched between the two was a bogie from underneath Blackpool 167, with 345’s partially stripped truck frame placed on top! We were told about the various problems that have been experienced with 167’s bearings since completion of its most recent overhaul last year; the other bogie had been sent away to the Museum’s regular contractor for examination, in the hope that the cause of its failings can be identified and resolved once and for all. Meanwhile the tram itself was to be found inside the main depot complex resting on accommodation bogies.
The tram of most interest to those who were being shown around the works, however, was undoubtedly LUT 159 which looks absolutely stunning. To be honest when work started on this tram I was less than thrilled at the prospect of another London tram being restored, especially seeing its condition before work began. I’m happy to admit that I have been proved completely wrong, and having seen 159 up close I can now understand why some people have been saying that it will be the pride of the Crich fleet once complete. The work that has gone into reconstructing the tram is absolutely first class; not only is the livery very ornate, but the interior frankly puts other trams of its period in the shade, and really must be seen to be believed! The MTMS members were also given an insight into the construction of the replica bogies that have been built virtually from scratch for LUT 159, and it was interesting to see this close up before they are fitted underneath the tramcar itself. Thanks must go to all those who organised the workshop tour and made it possible, especially Andy Bailey and Lawrence Dutton for taking the time to show us around and explain the current projects to us.
Moving back outside and it was time to sample the delights of ‘Edwardian’ Crich, which included an Edwardian wedding, with the bride arriving in a beautiful horse-drawn carriage. A children’s entertainer kept the ice cream queue happy at Stephenson Place, and despite a few spots of rain the open trams proved popular as always.
There were a few disruptions to the tram service during the afternoon; some planned, some not! A demonstration by suffragettes held up several trams in the Village, whilst at around the same time, Sheffield 74 suffered a minor defect. It looked as though this tram’s day would be cut short when it was driven back from Glory Mine to Town End empty, but clearly the problem was not a serious one as the tram was then pressed back into service. Later on there was another protest in the Village – this time from a group of stable boys who were upset at the prospect of losing their jobs and seeing their beloved horses sent off to the knacker’s yard due to the takeover by electric trams. Funnily enough, once assured by a tram inspector that their jobs would be secured, their concern for the animals’ welfare was soon forgotten and the trams were allowed to continue! After this, Sheffield 15 was moved back to the depot fan for cleaning, and the ‘modern’ electric cars were left to round off the day’s action. There was also a taste of daylight for Leeds 399 which was being put away in the depot following its day in the workshop.
However, that wasn’t quite it for the activity as having boarded Southampton 45 with the rest of the MTMS visitors, it was announced that we may have to turn back at Wakebridge as another tram had broken down. The culprit was in fact Blackpool 166 which had suffered a minor electrical fault and was spotted at Wakebridge heading back towards the depot for repair under the supervision of Workshop personnel. This meant that we did manage our full length run on car 45 after all, rounding off a very enjoyable day.
It would probably be fair to say that Crich Tramway Village has developed a fantastic reputation for its period events, and the Edwardian Weekend is arguably now one of the highlights of the annual events calendars. Whilst some may feel that their enthusiast events have stagnated a little in recent years, this event proved that Crich still know how to put on a good show – and with the mix of entertainment, education and of course an interesting tram service, this particular weekend provides something for all.
For The Record…
Trams in Service:
Blackpool & Fleetwood ‘Rack’ 2
Sheffield 15 (Town End – Depot crossover only)
Glasgow 22 (Morning and mid afternoon)
Blackpool ‘Standard’ 40
Blackpool ‘Toastrack’ 166
Berlin 3006 (briefly at lunchtime)
Other Trams Moving:
Cardiff 131 (on the mainline during the afternoon)
Leeds 399 (shunted from the workshop to depot late afternoon)
Related Content on British Trams Online
Gallery 265: Crich Edwardian Event 2011 – 15 photos from Tony Waddington