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untouched apart from a repaint in the familiar London Transport red and cream livery, meaning that it remains in ‘as-withdrawn’ condition.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.