Andrew Waddington reports on the annual Enthusiasts Day at the Crich Tramway Village, a day which always brings up some pleasant surprises…
I’ve written for British Trams Online a few times before about various events at Crich Tramway Village, and in the past I’ve commented on how much more ambitious the events organisers are becoming lately, and how I fail to see how they can keep on making more interesting and unusual events for us. Well, they did it again on Saturday 24th September 2005, with the annual Enthusiast’s Day taking place. After last year’s damp and miserable weather, it was wonderful to get a beautiful sunny day one year on – providing the perfect opportunity for visitors to…
SAY HELLO, WAVE GOODBYE.
One disappointing aspect of the day was that Leeds 345 was unfortunately not ready to be launched into passenger service. However, to make up for this a little, the car was extensively tested throughout the day and proved to be a great attraction – now sporting its ornate fleet numbers and crests, the tram is looking truly superb. Seeing the car out and being enjoyed so much has no doubt whetted appetites for the tram’s appearance in service next year.
Enthusiast’s Day always provides an opportunity to see trams doing things they wouldn’t normally do, and other cars that are normally buried in the depots or the Exhibition Hall are dragged out for all to see. So when I arrived at lunchtime, a fine selection of trams greeted me in the depot yard… amongst them Blackpool Conduit car 4, which is on the verge of being categorised as ‘ordinary’ rather than a novelty! Leeds railcars 600 and 602 were displayed alongside Halle 902, and close by were a trio of Sheffield cars – 46, 189 and 264. These had been used in a Sheffield tram procession along the museum street earlier in the day, and were waiting to be put back away.
Better was to come though. The doors of the PCC Exhibition were partly open, and the museum’s small red electric tug had been hooked up to New York 674 and was ready to tow it onto the traverser – however, 674 was rather camera shy and refused to move. Apparently the last time the tram was moved its brakes had been locked on too tight, and as a result the mechanic’s best efforts were refusing to encourage it to move. However, the TMS team have never been beaten yet, and so the tug was moved away and the heavy gang was called for, in the form of diesel loco GMJ. However, this presented a problem as two of the Sheffield cars were in front of it – so 189 was quickly put back into the Exhibition Hall, whilst 264 was shoved into the main depot to get it out of the way. Then GMJ made the task of shifting New York 674 look incredibly easy, and left the tug to finish the job. Another job well done!
After that bit of excitement, it was time for a ride, and it proved to be an eventful one on Leeds 399. First off, the tram was undergoing brake tests, but the most notable part of the trip came at Glory Mine. We were following Halle 902 on demonstration runs, and as it came out of the reversing stub at the end of the line rather fast, there was a very loud BANG, and 399 ground to an immediate halt, startling its passengers and crew. Behind 902, a small string of overhead wire hurtled towards the ground, and landed on the ballast with smoke coming off it! Clearly 902‘s pantograph had snagged the overhead and damaged it, and I have to admit I was rather worried that we might be stranded at this point. Luckily the incident was not too bad, and after the wire was looked at by various people, 399 was “trollied” out of Glory Mine passing loop, and then returned to Town End as normal.
Next it was time for the second big line-up of the day, with all six Leeds trams in the national collection to run down the street together. Representing five different Leeds liveries, this proved to be a very colourful procession, and a total one-off as until recently no blue car could be operated at Crich. Also, as Leeds 600 will soon be going to Clay Cross, this occasion will soon be unrepeatable. The cars ran in the order: 399, 345, 180, 600 (pushed by the Blackpool Loco), 602, and bringing up the rear, Works Car 2. Various combinations of these trams side-by-side were then done at Town End, and great effort was gone to for the benefit of the small army of photographers present, such as moving trams up so that they wouldn’t be in the shade, and showing a range of different destinations on car 600.
600 was then taken back to the depot yard and placed beside Sheffield 46 for yet another photo opportunity. This would be quite an emotional moment, as all three cars that are to depart for Clay Cross shortly were going to be lined up together. The only missing one was Glasgow 1100, because amazingly, this tram had spent the day on the little used siding at Glory Mine! I have recently found out that this car last ran before the extension to Glory Mine had opened, so this was almost certainly the first time that it had ever used this rare piece of track. At about 4:00pm, GMJ appeared with 1100 in tow, and soon it was back outside the depot, next to Sheffield 46 and Leeds 600. By this time the New Yorker had been put back to bed, and thoughts were turning towards bringing the service cars back in. Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to three old friends, and I’m sure that they will be very much missed. I never like seeing trams move to Clay Cross as it always seems rather final, more so when they’re making space for foreign cars which I have less interest in – in my opinion it’s a particularly great shame to see Sheffield 46 go, as it is completely different from anything else at Crich. I hope that all three will return one day, but in the meantime, at least we had one final chance to enjoy them and get some good photographs.