The first of the events to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Tramway Museum Society’s site at Crich in Derbyshire, which was of course to become the National Tramway Museum, took place on Wednesday 20th May 2008. The main purpose of this day was to re-enact the arrival of the first tram at Crich, which incidentally is also the latest restoration project! Although this was advertised as a day for specially invited visitors, including one very special Royal guest, the general public were admitted as normal, and so regular British Trams Online contributor Andrew Waddington was there to report on all that happened.
Unfortunately due to a morning appointment, I was unable to get to Crich until shortly after 1:00pm, meaning that I missed the first event of the day. This was the ‘delivery’ of Cardiff 131 to the depot yard on a low loader, in a re-enactment of the car’s arrival back in 1959. Technically the tram was only moved from Town End, but it was still good to see such a big effort put into this re-creation of such an important part of tram history. I understand that 131 was actually loaded up the previous day and stored in Depot 2 overnight, to ensure that everything was ready in time on the Wednesday.
So, by the time I arrived, Cardiff 131 had already been unloaded, and was positioned in front of the workshop along with Leeds 399 (the second tram to arrive at Crich) and Berlin 3006. Chesterfield 7 was being shunted and was sent to the spare track at Town End, and the aforementioned low-loader was also still present, and was being prepared to depart once some of the trams had gone out. Sheffield 189 was displayed on the siding nearby, to acknowledge the fact that it was the search for somewhere to store this tramcar that brought the founder members of the Tramway Museum Society to the Crich quarry site. Finally, there was a line-up of trams from capital cities of the British Isles, consisting of London Transport 1622, Edinburgh 35, Hill of Howth (Dublin) 10 and Cardiff 21. The latter was initially at the front of the depot, but was later moved onto the traverser for a while. The owners of 21 are keen to ensure that their tram is well looked after during its stay at Crich, and apparently one of the conditions of the loan is that it is not supposed to get wet – hence when the heavens opened again later that afternoon, it was hastily pushed back into the depot!
Meanwhile, the tram service was being terminated near to the depot crossover rather than at Town End, due to most of the day’s events taking place in the street, and a temporary tram stop sign had been placed nearby. There were only three cars in service at this point – Glasgow 22, Leeds 345 and Glasgow 812 – but as this was after all a weekday, it was a reasonable turnout.
There was a great sense of anticipation around the depot yard, and it was soon revealed that the Deputy Lord Mayor of Cardiff and his wife were in attendance, as well as Tramway Museum Society patron, HRH the Duke of Gloucester. Before 2:00pm, Cardiff 131 was driven through the depot gates and onto the main line; then, after a brief lesson in tram driving, the Deputy Lord Mayor of Cardiff drove 131 down to Stephenson Place, where he was greeted by a loud applause. After giving a speech from the platform of the tram, he then handed over to HRH the Duke of Gloucester, who gave a very well-received speech, including reference to Crich as ‘Tram Heaven’, as apparently it is where the trams go as a reward for being good, as opposed to ‘Tram Hell’, also known as the scrapyard! It was clear from his kind words that the Duke has the highest respect for the TMS, and his presence was greatly appreciated. The Duke was then invited to drive the tramcar, which he duly did, from Town End to Wakebridge and back again. Meanwhile, the many other invited guests – who included members of the Board of Management, plus other TMS pioneers and representatives of other museums, organisations and funding bodies – followed on Chesterfield 7, Leeds 399 and Berlin 3006. All three trams were full to capacity, proving how many people were in attendance on this historic day.
Once the four-car convoy had returned to Town End, the guests had an opportunity to tour the John Price Memorial Library, the workshop and the woodland walk to Wakebridge. The Duke of Gloucester was introduced to many people, and took great interest in all that he saw. After a guided workshop tour, the Duke and some of the other dignitaries posed for photographs in front of Cardiff 131, which was then moved to the front of the depot where it was parked next to Cardiff horse tram 21 for yet another photo opportunity. Unfortunately this had to take place inside due to a shower, but it was still fantastic to see the two Welsh trams posed side by side.
Once the celebrations were over, all that was left to do was to put away the various cars that had been drawn out for display. Howth 10 was pushed to the back of road 12 in the depot by the electric tug ‘Postman Pat’, then Edinburgh 35 was put in front. Cardiff 21 was returned to its current home in Depot V, and finally Sheffield 189 went in front of it. This left just a basic five car service, as the original service trams had now been joined by both Chesterfield 7 and Leeds 399, with 3006 at Town End on stand-by. 131 also did some more trips along the line, and was driven by a couple of the people who had been responsible for preserving it. By this time most of the VIPs had left, and the trams that were out were operating very lightly loaded. This was a surprisingly calm end to a very busy, but extremely enjoyable day.
Although most of the day’s events were targeted more at the invited dignitaries than the average tram enthusiast, I think it is fair to say that there was something for everyone to enjoy, and that everyone present was thoroughly entertained. The TMS put on an excellent show for their guests and gave a superb insight into the many different aspects of the work that they do to maintain not just the world’s greatest tramway museum, but also a world-class library and a great family visitor attraction. The day was obviously a major team effort, and all who were involved in putting together the events programme should feel justly proud of what was a very special day.
All that is left to say is that, the official British Trams Online score for this event is…