Event Review: Crich Tramway Village Enthusiasts Day 2006

Regular BRITISH TRAMS ONLINE contributor Andrew Waddington reports from the annual Enthusiasts Day at the National Tramway Museum in Crich, Derbyshire. Each year the organisers manage to surprise tram fans in attendance with rare trams out on the main line, or even just out in the depot yard – what did they come up with for 2006? Read on to find out…

Organising a major enthusiast-based event at Crich Tramway Village must be quite interesting. Looking back at the past few years, so many unusual things have been done that it is becoming increasingly challenging to come up with new ideas. I’ve mentioned words like ‘how on earth can they top that?’ in the past… well, guess what? Yes, they’ve done it again!

So, I arrived at Crich for this year’s Enthusiast’s Day just in time to witness what has become something of a tradition for this particular event: a themed line-up of tramcars in the museum street. Following on from last year’s Sheffield and Leeds line-ups, this year a ‘Scottish Spectacular’ was on the cards. This included Glasgow 812, 1282 (with help from the electric loco) and 1297, plus honoury Scot Liverpool 869 which of course ran in Glasgow before entering preservation. The star of the show however, had to be Edinburgh 35 – and as an added bonus, the tram was being pushed by Paisley 68 instead of a works car or diesel as is more usual practice. The row of trams made a splendid sight in the street, which continued to grow as service cars terminating at Town End joined the back of the procession. As the Scottish cars reversed, the opportunity was taken to park similar cars 1282 and 1297 side by side in the street, before 1282 was returned to the depot yard. The only strange thing about this procession was that Glasgow 22 was a noticeable absentee (or did I just arrive too late?), but with Edinburgh 35 on the main line for the first time in years, who cares!?

With the big line-up being dissolved, 35 and 68 were returned to the depot yard where they were parked alongside the steam tram and trailer… yes, you read correctly! John Bull and its partner Dundee 21 were parked up outside the Exhibition Hall, and for me this alone made the visit extremely worthwhile. I’ve wanted to see this pair outside for as long as I can remember, so it was wonderful to see them out in the yard after so many years of waiting for it to happen. Sadly by about 2:00pm both were being put away, but that was in order to get out even more unusual vehicles!

While the workshop staff took a well earned lunch break, it was time to sample a tram ride and look at a couple of other trams that had been parked in unusual places earlier on in the day. This year the siding at Wakebridge was occupied by Sheffield railgrinder 330, whilst more interestingly, Grimsby & Immingham 14 had been put on the spare track at Town End terminus, making for some very rare photo opportunities.

Visitors could also ride on Leeds 399 over parts of the tramway that aren’t normally used by service cars, such as Glory Mine siding. This trip actually started from the back of Depot 2, and as this particular track is normally reserved for pantograph and bow collector cars, 399‘s trolley produced a very impressive light display on the way out. Then there was ‘The Roe Tour’ which took place three times during the day. A 1953 Doncaster bus built by Roe was posed alongside Roe built tram Leeds 602, built in the same year, and there was an opportunity to ride on them both as well. Yet more unusual rides were offered on Blackpool electric locomotive 717, and on Sheffield horse car 15 pulled by GMJ.

In order to get the horse car out of the Exhibition Hall, the steam tram and trailer had to be put away, and Prague 180 was put into the depot. Then, the fun began all over again! At both 3:00 and 4:00, there was to be a ‘surprise photo opportunity’, and both of them were actually surprises to most of the Crich team as well, who had absolutely no idea what was going on!!! The 3:00pm star was Blackpool 298, the most recent arrival at Crich, and which is currently displayed in a partly restored state. Despite not being fitted with any brakes as yet, 298 was moved to the depot fan fairly easily.

Next up was a big shunting exercise. First, Sheffield 189 came out, but to the surprise of the lady operating the traverser, it was then announced that the tram was merely being moved to a different track in the Exhibition Hall. Then London Transport 1 was towed out, but it too was simply being moved out of the way, and was dumped in the depot. So, why were these trams moved? The answer: to allow Hill of Howth 10 to be brought outside, for what is thought to have been the first time in fifteen years, if not longer. Understandably the tram took a bit of shifting initially, but once the workshop crew had taken their tools to it, the 4:00pm ‘surprise’ was towed on to the traverser and displayed in the late afternoon sunshine. However, there was one final surprise in store. Apparently someone had requested to have a good look at Howth 10‘s bogies as they were restoring some that are similar, so the Blackpool loco was attached and the tram was pushed into the workshop. This was clearly the last thing that the nearby Inspector had expected, as she had already told the driver of Berlin 3006 to put his tram in the workshop, so a bit of quick thinking was needed as to what needed to be put where. Of course, everything worked out in the end.

As I left the site, the depot yard was a bit of a mess. There were trams scattered everywhere, nearly all of which were in the wrong place. For example, Blackpool 166 was parked outside, but couldn’t be put away as its spot was occupied by LT 1, which in turn needed to be put back in front of Howth 10. I’m sure everyone involved had a lot of fun juggling all the trams about in order to get everything back in again, but then, that’s part of the fun of Enthusiast’s Day.

Finally, trams that were operated in ordinary passenger service during the day were: Glasgow 812 & 1297, Leeds 345 & 602, Blackpool 166, MET 331, Southampton 45, Gateshead 5, Chesterfield 7, Liverpool 869 and Berlin 3006. London 1622 was briefly out on test, whilst Sheffield 330 and GMJ did a few demonstration runs.

In conclusion, it was another excellent day and everyone who put together such an action-packed programme and made it happen should feel very proud of their efforts, even the sun acknowledged them by shining brightly all day. But this time, they really, really can’t do another one as good as this…. can they!? Only time will tell!!!!

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