For 2018, the annual enthusiasts event at Crich Tramway Village was given a brand new name – ‘Simply Trams’ – and the main theme was that of ‘Birthdays & Anniversaries’, with Blackpool & Fleetwood 2 returning to service for one day only as the star of the show. In addition to this, the event promised the usual mix of an intensive tram service using all available trams, works cars operating, photographic opportunities, a sale of archive materials, working model trams and more. Read on to find out more about what happened on the day…
As has become the norm for events of this type at Crich, all of the currently operational tram fleet were rostered to operate, with some cars retiring at lunchtime to allow their crews to bring out different trams in the afternoon. Some, however, were due to stay in service all day. A total of seventeen passenger trams and four vehicles made it onto the main line in total.
The day began with a series of photo opportunities, with cars from the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad – namely Blackpool & Fleetwood ‘Rack’ 2, Blackpool 167 and the Blackpool electric locomotive - posed in the street, whilst Leeds 180 was parked up at Town End in recognition of the 50th anniversary of its entry into service at Crich. The tram service commenced at 1030, initially running to Wakebridge only, marking 50 years since the line was extended to this location. At around 1100 a number of trams then proceeded to Glory Mine where they were posed together for another photographic opportunity; the trams chosen were those from the active fleet when the line to Glory Mine was opened 40 years ago, which are still operational today. Meanwhile, on the depot fan, Prague 180 was brought out and posed in the sunshine, to celebrate 50 years since its dramatic arrival in the UK at the inaugural Crich Extravanganza in 1968. There were also further unadvertised photo opportunities in the depot yard with various trams lined up as they waited to enter service later in the day.
The morning tram service was worked by eleven different trams: Blackpool & Fleetwood 2, Glasgow 22, Blackpool 40, Blackpool 166, Blackpool 167, Leeds 180, Leeds 345, Leeds 399, Sheffield 510, Blackpool 762 and Liverpool 869.
At lunchtime, various trams were either returned to the depot or parked up on the spare track at Town End whilst their crews took lunch breaks. This enabled a line-up of ‘birthday’ trams, with ‘Rack’ 2 and Blackpool 167 - celebrating their 120th and 90th birthdays respectively this year – posed together with 110-year old Prague 180 and London Tramlink 058, which turns 40 this year. Sheffield 74, which is currently out of service again despite being recently repainted, was also posed outside the depots.
Unfortunately there was a bit of a lull in the proceedings mid-afternoon, when your writer got stuck in a very long queue at Town End! It seemed that most of the trams that people wanted to ride on were all gathered together on the depot fan at around the same time, with a succession of fully enclosed trams departing on what was, by this time, a lovely warm and sunny day. The situation was not helped by a mini-cavalcade featuring birthday trams; led by Tramlink 058 and also featuring Blackpool cars 2 and 167, this ran straight from the depot to Glory Mine, and with a large gap between service departures from Town End this did little to appease the people who had been waiting some time for a tram. Happily, the cavalcade soon arrived as more trams began to enter service for the afternoon shift. All-day trams 2, 167, 510, 762 and 869 were joined in service by Chesterfield 7, LCC 106, LUT 159, Blackpool 236 and Blackpool 630 which provided a much better selection of trams for the weather. As well as the Tramlink rail-mounted crane, Cardiff water car 131 and the Blackpool electric locomotive were offering rides to visitors, whilst diesel locomotive GMJ also joined in on the main line action.
In the depot yard, Metropolitan 331 was brought outside – sadly this tram is out of service at present due to a broken window and therefore did not run on this day. Prague 180 was moved on the traverser back to its usual home in the depot, and then two very elusive vehicles were extracted from the Exhibition Hall – Douglas Head Marine Drive 1 and the Manchester horse drawn tower wagon. The latter was particularly welcomed by the writer of this piece who had never seen it outside before and his gartitude for its appearance must go on record here!
As the various trams headed back to the depot at the end of a busy day, it was left to ‘Rack’ 2 to perform the final journey at 1730. The same car then operated a further trip for volunteers who had helped to put on the event, before returning to the Exhibition Hall, where it is likely to stay until resources become available for the mechanical overhaul it requires to return to regular service. However, this one-off outing was very much appreciated and those who rode on it will no doubt agree that it was a real treat to have another chance to enjoy this fantastic tram one more time!
Despite a few niggles, mainly concerning the rather slow mid-afternoon period, ‘Simply Trams’ delivered as expected, another quality day out and a great showcase of the collection of the National Tramway Museum. Thanks to all involved for putting on an impressive show, and now we look forward to the 2019 event – and the 60th anniversary of the very first trams to arrive at Crich. Yes, more anniversaries are coming!