‘Bluebird’ to fly again, at Crich?

London County Council 1, arguably one of the most neglected vehicles in the National Tramway Museum collection at Crich, could be set for an upturn in its fortunes, if proposals by the London County Council Tramways Trust come to fruition. Following a condition survey undertaken by workshop and curatorial staff at Crich, the Tramway Museum Society’s Board of Management have agreed to carry out a full restoration on this car, subject to it being fully funded by external sources.

The LCCTT have been keen to support a full restoration of car 1 for some time, but had previously faced some opposition as some key TMS personnel had questioned whether the tram would be more valuable kept as it is. Since arriving at Crich in the seventies, car 1 has sat untouched apart from a repaint in the familiar London Transport red and cream livery, meaning that it remains in ‘as-withdrawn’ condition. However, its condition has deteriorated badly during this time, and this may well have led to the decision being taken that restoring it to operational condition would be a preferable option than keeping it in its current condition. Should the required work go ahead, a full forensic survey will be undertaken and any key parts that are unfit to be incorporated in the restored tram will be carefully removed and conserved. This would ultimately form the basis of a special display explaining the important technological advances that this tram represents.

The work on LCC 1 would see the tram regain its original blue and white livery which was applied to emphasise its importance as the prototype of a planned new fleet of trams, which sadly never materialised due to changing policies in favour of motor buses. The unique colour scheme also earned it the charming nickname of ‘Bluebird’. Despite being a one-off, 1 is considered to be a very important vehicle by many people as some of its innovations were incorporated in later tram designs elsewhere, notably in Liverpool.

Although the announcement regarding LCC 1 is potentially very exciting, the tram may have some time to wait before it receives the full rebuild it deserves. The statement released by the TMS seems rather vague, but seems to indicate that work may not commence until the full amount which its restoration is expected to cost has been raised. This is expected to be the most expensive restoration ever attempted at Crich, with an unofficial figure of around half a million pounds being mentioned recently. This could well prove to be the obstacle that prevents this tale from having a happy ending. However, the LCCTT have acheived remarkable success in the past; their invaluable support has enabled fellow London cars 106, 159 and 1622 to be restored for operation at Crich, and their ability to fund large projects cannot be dismissed. Whilst some enthusiasts have already bemoaned the possibility of another London tram being rebuilt in the Crich workshop so soon after the completion of LUT 159, the saying “he who pays the piper calls the tune” ultimately rings true and if the LCCTT manage to find the required money, then we can expect to see Bluebird rise from the ashes and become a stunning operational tram after more than fifty years of sitting idle.


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8 Responses to ‘Bluebird’ to fly again, at Crich?

  1. Nigel Pennick says:

    It is good to read that at last something is being done to return Bluebird to working order. It is an example of the lost opportunity for trams to have played an important role in London’s transport, arriving just before the formation of London Transport and the decision to convert all the tramways to trolleybus operation. All the experimental innovations of the London tramways of the 1920s and early 30s, including trailer operation, multiple-unit cars and pantograph current collection were never progressed because of London Transport’s anti-tram policy. The restoration of this significant vehicle in London tramway history is essential to record London Transport’s role in needlessly destroying the tramways of the capital.

  2. James Robinson says:

    The TMS can find workshop space and funds to repair/restore the numerous Blackpool trams, many of which are not unique. Yet there are protests about No 1. The South of England is severely underrepresentated in the TMS collection.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      James – I would hope that nobody would disagree with you that trams from the South of England are terribly underrepresented in preservation (not just at Crich), but it would be nice to see some systems other than London represented. As for Blackpool trams, most of what is running at Crich has entered service at minimal expense, e.g. Brush car 630 which received some minor body work and a repaint. The only recent major restoration of a Blackpool car for Crich was Boat 236, and there have been plenty of suggestion that the huge sum of money spent on it was a waste.

  3. John Woodman says:

    The Crich Museum Workshop have expended the equivalent of almost eight years of workshop time on just two complete reconstructions of London trams in the past decade (1622 and 159). Both trams requiring further remedial workshop attention following their official launch. MET 331 was an earlier substantial restoration project albeit subsidised by the Gateshead Garden Festival. Southampton 45 has been given considerable tlc over the years and remains a star performer and attraction.

    The early closure of most of southern England’s tram systems meant there is precious little representation of the many other tramways in this part of the country for Crich (or anyone else) to give attention to. Bournemouth’s 85 (narrow gauge) is a classic representative from that town but now threatened with expulsion from its exhibition site to pastures new. Lowestoft 14 is undergoing restoration at the excellent East Anglia Museum (with a single deck body awaiting attention there as well). EATMS are also proud owners of HR2 1858 which is a classic tram if ever there was one. The Cheltenham tram once intended as an exhibit at Crich has been exiled elsewhere down south – and that’s about it.

    The expenditure in workshop manhours on the two more recent London tram renovations were subvented by the LCCT (and others) producing most excellent replica vehicles that build on both LCC 106 and MET 331.
    Londoners have of course the benefit of trams preserved at Covent Garden although two are in hibernation elsewhere. Perhaps those with especial interest might seek to persuade the London Transport Museum and conservators of these two LT trams stored out of view to place them on display for public benefit.

    Southampton (and Plymouth by a few weeks) were the only other tram systems to continue on (‘stagger on’ more appropriately) at the end of
    World War 2. It is therefore unsurprising given that the tram preservation movement only got started in 1949 with purchase of Southampton 45 by enthusiasts (and its subsequent sanctuary in Marton Depot, Blackpool courtesy of that system’s General Manager) – that the
    National Tram Museum’s geographic representation on the south of England is perforce inhibited. One may well ask if Welsh tram preservationists feel somewhat left out given that the Principality is represented solely by a works car (excellently restored and more recently hard at work in Blackpool). Likewise Northern Ireland tram enthusiasts and indeed those in the Republic – must make the best of the Hill of Howth tram which fortunately found its way to Derbyshire (and Blackpool) over the past fifty years.

    I applaud any initiative to see the pride of the LCC – Number 1 – being brought back to life but without substantive sponsorship running well into six figures – the chances of this tram restored faithfully to 1931 condition at the Crich Workshop are slender indeed. Certainly there are far more worthy candidates for the limited workshop resources in the near and medium term. The two Sheffield cars 264 and 189 being foremost and Blackpool railcoach 298 being very close behind. Scottish enthusiasts will have their own rightful views on this subject as well.

    There is no question that ‘Bluebird’ is deserving of its place in the sun – as an operating exhibit. I for one would certainly be in the queue to ride it. However with finite resources might I suggest that those motivated to see this tram brought back to life look hard at alternative ways of raising the capital funds, and restoring the tram elsewhere instead of tying up years of workshop time at Crich – to the disadvantage of lines of trams owned by the TMS and representing equally important constituencies around the country. In the meantime 331, 1622, 106 and 159 are all eminently capable of satisfying the demands of London visitors travelling ‘up north’. Alternatively a trip to Lowestoft, where they will be made most welcome to ride (soon) not only on the surviving HR2 but a slew of London Transport trolleybuses under wire; the most recent of which has just returned from a lengthy sojourn in Paris. I think London has more than adequate options to offer the most hardy of tramcar preservationist.

    The Blackpool rail coach saga will roll on and on – half restored, half funded and in a twilight existence ever since it arrived at Crich. Just like Number 1 it represents an important chapter in British tram development. 298 already has a six figure dowry sitting in some account or other – time that these well meant financial contributions by diverse individual enthusiasts past and present were applied to the purpose they were intended.

  4. Brian Down says:

    I am a member & regular volunteer at EATM & also a supporter of the LCCTT having regularly assisted with their previous restoration work & also on their sales stall at numerous events over the years. Having read John Woodman’s comments I am concerned to note that he is not correct in some instances & hope the following will clarify the situation.

    Firstly HR2 1858 is not owned by the EATM, they are merely custodians of this tram it’s ownership still remaining with Peter Davies who, fortunately, had the foresight to rescue 1858 from Penhall Road & certain destruction. After a sojourn of 12 years at Chessington Zoo she was then given a home in East Anglia & restored to operating condition so that we are now very fortunate to be able to continue riding on an original London tram.

    Regarding the funding of the restoration of LCC 1, the LCCTT have a reasonable sum of money left over after completion of LUT 159 & this will now be used to begin the restoration of No 1, something which has been on the wish list of the LCCTT & it’s supporters for several years & will now definitely be happening at last but funds do need to continue to be raised to allow stage payments to take place as the restoration proceeds, as was done with LUT 159. Regarding it taking up space in the Crich workshop for several years at the expense of other trams, Crich no longer fund any restorations themselves so this work is now entirely dependant on outside funding which the LCCTT can provide but, within the terms of it’s charitable status, only for trams which previously operated in London & are in the ownership of a museum or registered charity. They cannot fund vehicles which originally operated in other parts of the country or those in the ownership of private individuals. Other funding for restoration work at Crich has been provided by the Tramcar Sponsorship Organisation who will, hopefully, continue to do so, the TSO not being limited to specific former areas of operation. If anyone wishes to pay for or contribute to the restoration of any Sheffield or other operator’s trams I’m sure the National Tramway Museum would be pleased to hear from them. If the funding organisations such as the LCCTT & TSO did not exist it is questionable whether the current number of employees could be sustained in the Crich workshop.

    There is no doubt whatsoever that No 1 will be restored & to the very high standard for which the Crich workshop is known. The estimated timescale for No 1’s restoration is five years with the work hopefully commencing fairly soon when space in the workshop is available & although a sum of money is already in place there is still a considerable shortfall on the full amount needed therefore if Mr Woodman, or anyone else who is not already a supporter of the LCCTT, wishes to add to the fund for this restoration, a form for that purpose can be downloaded from the LCCTT website at http://www.lcctt.org.uk & anyone who is a UK taxpayer can also complete a Gift Aid declaration which will enable the Trust to recover 25 pence in the pound from HMRC on the sum donated & for which the LCCTT would be most grateful. LCC 1 will definitely be restored to full operating condition & any additional financial help which anyone can provide will be much appreciated. Thankyou.

  5. John Woodman says:

    I appreciate Brian’s comments and stand corrected on the ownership of 1858 which I first saw many many years ago in a fenced off ‘pen’ at Chessington Zoo. Despite being outside the site proved to be a safe and worthwhile home for several years following Mr Davies’s private initiative in saving this very worthwhile tramcar. Please change ‘owners of’ to ‘custodians of’ in my original contribution. On Brian’s other points however :

    Blackpool rail coach 298 has had a substantial capital fund in place for some considerable period of time – awaiting decision by the Crich Museum (workshop and all) to complete the already extended work carried out on this tram over many years by a core team, with faithful supporters around the country. My understanding is that the 298 rail coach fund is well into six figures. This should keep some of the workshop team busy if the Board found time to sanction phased work on this very worthwhile example of 1930s’ tramcar development. A start date (and end date) would allow the many supporters of Blackpool’s trams to dig into their pockets to ensure a continuance of funding to the projected total capital costs of work as long as these are substantiated and described in detail before work commences.

    Likewise I have seen estimates bandied about on just how much the restoration (rebuilding) of LCC 1 will in fact cost. At the high end the sum of £500,000 has been mentioned and at the lower end something like £350,000. These are not insubstantial amounts of money for any group or Museum to contemplate. If the LCCTT residuals from the extended work on 159 (is it now operational?) are substantial enough to warrant commencing a five year programme of work on the LCC 1 – and sureties that the balance of the total capital spend will be made available from LCCTT resources and supporters – then certainly a commitment to essentially reconstruct this tram from scratch would be warranted. But is this in fact the case? Are we to know how much is in the ‘kitty’ at the present time and hust how much ‘shortfall’ is Brian alluding to? Certainly Society Members at large must be informed of a reliable and independent assessment of the costs of work to completely restore this tram to operating condition before decisions are taken by the TMS Board on this matter?

    As a life member of the Society – I am certainly concerned over the basis by which major commitments are made in assigning workshop expenditures both in labour and material expenses – without reference to the Membership in the first instance. It is one thing for the Workshop to undertake essential maintenance and repair work on already operational trams in the now burgeoning Society’s collection – paid in the main from
    revenue streams to the Crich Tramway Village set up and generously supported by the TSO over the years in its expanding role. It is quite another to willy nilly ordain that this tram or that tram be allocated up to five years of workshop time in a complete reconstruction – without identified funding commitments in place and a demonstrable support from a substantial number of the Society’s membership.

    The two Sheffield trams I referenced are themselves excellent candidates for returning to operating state – it is sad there is not the equivalent of a Sheffield based patronage group able to optimise funding streams to allow these trams to be brought back to life. London’s tramway heritage is indeed fortunate in this regard. But there we have it – a classic case of north south divide.

    Whether it is LCC 1 or Blackpool 298 that is in a position to bring about underwriting of a credible and identified restoration budget, I will be glad to ride on either at the end of the day. The TSO issues its own appeals for contributors to this or that project – and the TMS Accounts provide evidence of capital funds in place for all kinds of contingencies. One of these is for the restoration of Brush rail coach 298 which arrived at the Museum complete with a substantive dowry accruing interest (albeit at a modest rate).I see no fund in place held by the Society for restoring LCC 1.

    I am concerned that due care and attention is given to assigning workshop labour to any major restoration project. These need to show that there is funding in place and demonstrable and significant levels of support from the wider enthusiast body. I believe rail coach 298 has these attributes and they need to be recognised when it comes to assigning significant workshop time (and expenditures) in coming years.

    Another London tram restoration project at Crich following on from LUT 159 ? Show me the budget and the money and I will vote for it. Otherwise lets make the best use of the 298 Railcoach Fund and see this tram given the attention and recognition it richly deserves.

  6. Simon Turnbull says:

    I would think that getting Bluebird up and running would be a good idea if the money is there. While the argument of North vs South will always be there it would be nice to see it running. I can remember when the Sheffield cars and Leicester 76 ran as did all the Glasgow cars. But, the running fleet now appears smaller and if the money for LCC 1 is available then go for it. Some exihibits are too fragile. I personally would like to see Grimsby & Immingham 14 run as it is the nearest we had to an American Interurban.
    If you are do not want to see them running, what is the point of a running track? The same argument about not running items because they are “as withdrawn” has been raised about a loco repatriated from the USA. The owner is going to steam it to make it earn its way.If LCC 1 can be made to run then it hopefully will pay its way. People like seeing trams running from where they live, and London had a lot although poorly represented. Think of all the trams from Glasgow, Blackpool and Sheffield at Crich and then look at the number of London ones.

    If the powers that be decide on what is next for restoration then let them get on with it, be thankful that they run and that people are willing to fund them,especially in this current financial climate

  7. Paul says:

    While there is a good case for preserving an example in “as withdrawn” or “as found” condition, LCC1/Leeds 301 doesn’t really fulfill that role having been repainted back into LT livery.

    So it’s a case of he who pays the piper calls the tune. If there is funding available specifically for London trams it is as worthy a candidate as any other. If anyone wants another tram from another system to be done first, they need to identify/raise the funds for it. As far as I am aware the only other tram which comes with a dedicated fund is Blackpool 298…


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