Seaton Tramway in East Devon held their End of Season Gala over the weekend of 25th and 26th October 2008 – a unique event in the UK tram world in that it stretches over two days. The weekend promised an extensive tram service, works cars in action and behind the scenes tours of the, normally closed to the public, Depot. British Trams Online Webmaster Gareth Prior attended Day One of the event – Saturday 25th October.
Before visiting Seaton for the 2007 End of Season Gala I hadn’t been for about 13 years but after a good event I decided to return just 12 months later for their 2008 version of the same event in the hope that it might be a bit warmer and the sun might make an appearance – some hope!
The publicity for the event promises a three car service plus extras and that is exactly what you get throughout the day – although the timetable tends to go to pot with so many trams out, especially with some only working between Seaton and Colyford. All in all eight different trams operated in normal passenger service although of these 14 only operated in the morning as it was used for a Private Hire in the afternoon and 10 suffered technical problems which saw it miss passenger runs for a period of time. For the record of which trams were in passenger service during the day see the end of this article.
In 2007 there was a set plan of which trams would be running the full distance and which trams would only run Seaton-Colyford shorts but this year it seemed to be anything goes! Both 10 and 19 ran some short journeys but they also both ran through to Colyton – I presume that those in control of the day knew exactly what was happening.
There was also a Tram Driving Experience during the day and as in 2007 this was run between Colyton and Colyford and was again, rather disappointingly, in the hands of 16 a former Bournemouth tram – meaning on a personal note I was still unable to ride on this tram. Any member of the public could turn up on the day and pay £5 for a single journey or £10 for a return on this Experience. This tram, running between the two Colys, also caused service problems as it would often get in the way whilst reversing at Colyford.
The Works Car 02 was also seen running out and about on demonstration runs in both the morning and afternoon. Its afternoon run saw it go as far as Colyford, reverse the Colyton side of the road crossing and then run back towards Seaton before reversing into the siding by the Seaton bound platform and in front of the demic 10. For a time I thought it may be about to tow the tram back to Depot but in the end 10 was fixed and was able to resume a journey to Seaton.
One of the big plus points of the End of Season Gala is the behind the scenes tour of the Riverside Depot. In 2007 to attend one of these tours you had to ride on a service tram and get off at the Riverside loop but for 2008 this had changed and a tram came especially from Depot to run from Seaton terminus into the Depot confines. The tram tasked with this journey was 2. The tram ran from Seaton to the Riverside loop from where it reversed and ran into the front of the Depot.
The Behind the Scenes tour was very informative and the 50 minutes literally flew by. One of the most interesting things we were shown was the board on the wall which gives details of when trams are due have their regular services. Of note here is that the older trams seem to have services after every 60 days in service whilst the newer trams can go 80 days before needing their service.
In the depot were 7 (still undergoing a major overhaul and still looking a while away from returning to service), 4 (a shame really as this is the Blackpool Boat type tram and I would have loved it to have been out) and 11 (which was displayed alongside 7 to show the difference in sizes between the older and new trams).
Also out the back of the Depot remains Bournemouth 101. You may remember that last year Seaton were saying they were planning to restore this tram as their number 15 but the enthusiasm for this project seems to have dampened down over the course of the year. They are now saying that as they are a business and not a museum and they think they have enough trams it is unlikely they will undertake any work on this tram. The tour guide did mention that 101 could now go to Amberley where they are keen to undertake a full restoration of the tram to its original state.
In mid-afternoon 14 was taken out of service and was used for a Private Hire from Seaton to Colyton and back to the Riverside Depot via all the various sidings and loops. This Private Hire was for the Sidings Club who wised to traverse every bit of track they could. Later on in the afternoon 11 also came out to assist with the Private Hire, it was seen travelling from Colyton to the Depot just before 1700.
The Saturday of the End of Season Gala was once again an enjoyable day with an extensive tram service and an excellent Behind the Scenes tour of the Depot complex being personal highlights. The only disappointing aspects of the day were the weather (a cold wind coming off the River Axe and miserable clouds for much of the day) and the fact that tram 4 was not in service during the day – although it should have been in service on the Sunday of the event. Talking of the Sunday of the weekend the main difference to the programme of events for this was a grand cavalcade of trams from Seaton to Colyton departing at 2 minute intervals before the service began and followed by a display of all trams at Colyton at 1015 (although how you got there to see this is unknown as the first service tram wasn’t due to depart Seaton at 1100!). Unfortunately I couldn’t attend this day of the event so don’t know how this Cavalcade went.
And now I’m sure it is what you’ve waiting for – the official British Trams Online score out of 5 for the event is:
(if I had gone to the Sunday and seen the Cavalcade it would probably have been 4!)
Trams in Service During the Day:
6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19
Behind the Scenes Depot Tours (Seaton-Depot):
Trams also out:
11 (Private Hire – late afternoon), 14 (Private Hire – from 1500 had been in normal service before), 16 (Tram Driving Experience), Works Car 02 (Out and About)
Trams in Depot:
4, 7, Bournemouth 101 and numerous works vehicles.