2009 marks the 50th anniversary of the Crich Tramway Village or National Tramway as was. A short term lease was originally taken on in 1959 and since then the museum has gone from strength to strength. British Trams Online Webmaster Gareth Prior takes a brief look at the origins of the Crich site and then previews the events taking place to celebrate the anniversary.
The Tramway Museum Society was formed in 1955 and celebrations were held back in 2005 for the 50th anniversary of that event (details of what happened then here with photos here). But on the Spring Bank Holiday weekend we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the original lease for the Crich site.
The site – which was part of Cliff Quarry and had a railway originally built by George Stephenson in 1841 – was discovered by members of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society when they needed rail for their project in Wales. Members of the TMS were informed of the site and the committee inspected the site on 31st January 1959 being hauled by diesel locomotive Ted on the tracks which remained. The next milestone was reached on 11th April 1959 when an Extraordinary General Meeting was held. This meeting agreed to take a three year lease on the site, and for the first time the TMS had found a permanent home for their trams.
The first tram on site was Cardiff 131 – arriving on 8th May 1959, and this tram will form a major part of the celebrations having undergone a major overhaul in the Workshops over the past 18 months. Other trams soon followed with Leeds 399, Sheffield 15, Leeds 180 and Leeds 345 next to arrive on site.
The first passenger runs were undertaken on 2nd June 1963 with horse tram Sheffield 15 used as no overhead electric power had yet been installed. Public services continued to run throughout the 1963 season on a 200 yard section of track and then again between April and the end of June 1964. Then on 5th July 1964 the first electric public services were run with Blackpool & Fleetwood Rack 2 in charge of this.
After these major developments in the early years of the Crich site the Museum has continued to develop with the line reaching its current limit at Glory Mine (giving a total length of 1.37 miles) in 1978. Other more recent developments have seen the Exhibition Hall open in 1991, the Bowes Lyon Bridge in 1992 and the Workshop Viewing Gallery in 2002.
Obviously this is just a very brief overview of the history of the Museum site and many other developments have taken place over the years with trams arriving and departing and the construction of buildings (such as the depot buildings). If you wish to have a more detailed history of the Tramway Museum Society and the Crich site why not read “Tramway Museum Society” by Ian Yearsley – available at the Museum’s shop.
So, that is a brief history of the site and now we move on to how it is planned to celebrate the anniversary. Although the events are only days away released details are still quite sketchy. Cardiff 21 – a double deck horse tram – arrived at Crich in the middle of May and is expected to play a part in the celebrations over the next few days along with fellow Cardiff tram 131. Other than that which trams (apart from the usual suspects!) are to feature remain a mystery! But here is a preview of what is know to be happening!
Wednesday 20th May: Official Day
This is a day for the Tramway Museum Society’s Board and senior management to greet and entertain people from the world of museums, funders, colleagues from heritage and modern tramways and representatives of local and central government.
The Museum remains open to general members of the public and the highlight will be a re-enaction of the arrival of Cardiff 131 on site just after 1400.
Saturday 23rd May: Local Residents Day
A day for the residents of Crich Parish to visit the Museum and see behind the scenes. An evening tram service will operate and the Major’s Bar will be open until 2300.
Sunday 24th May: TMS Members & Guests Day
An open day for all TMS members and their guests with guided visits to the Conservation Workshop and the Museum Archive and Library.
Events due to take place are:
* The initial inspection visit of February 1959 will be re-enacted using quarry diesel GMJ and Sheffield Horse Tram 15.
* A display of trams from capital cities of the British Isles will be arranged on the depot fan (quite where they are getting a tram from Belfast remains to be seen!)
* In the afternoon there will be a cavalcade of all available tramcars operating in date of arrival order at Crich. No details of which trams will be involved in this have been revealed.
A tram service will operate into early evening and the Red Lion remains open until 2300.
Monday 25th May:
Although no official events are planned this is described as “an ideal opportunity to observe the museum as seen by our visitors, and to observe and enjoy the fruits of the work of the previous fifty years.”
All events are open to everyone at the standard admission prices of £10.50 (adults), £5.50 (chi