Rare chance to see trams in Southampton

On Sunday 5th and Monday 6th May there will be a rare opportunity for the general public to see three rather elusive trams as the Southampton Maritime Festival takes place at the city’s docks. Although it doesn’t sound as if a Maritime Festival would be the place you would expect to see three trams the Southampton Tram Project moved Southampton tramcars 11 and 38 and Lisbon 715 to a warehouse in the docks in 2011 and this will be the first time that there has been a public open day there since this happened.

The Southampton Maritime Festival takes place between 1100 and 2000 on Sunday 5th May and then from 1000 to 1800 on Monday 6th May at Southampton Ocean Cruise terminal Dock Gate 4 and will be the largest gathering of heritage vehicles on the south coast. The main interest for readers of this website will likely be the chance to see the three trams but there will also be plenty of other things to keep you occupied with obviously a mainly maritime theme although road and air will not be left out.

The Southampton Tram Project are the custodians of three trams with the prize exhibit being number 11 which is the only domed roof Southampton car still in existence. Originally built as an open topper in the 1920s it received a cover to the top deck although because of the Bargate arch in the City Centre this involved lowering the double deck and fitting the unique domed roof and small wheeled truck. The other Southampton tram in the collection is number 38 which is from the same batch of trams as the familiar 45 at the Crich Tramway Village. It is intended in the long run to restore this tram to a pre-war condition so that is something different to 45. As well as the two home trams the Southampton Tram Project have Lisbon 715 which has been repainted and is intended to be a display item. If it wasn’t for the fact that it remains on its Lisbon truck it would be able to run tomorrow.

The Festival will enable you to see the current condition of the trams – with 11 said to be 80% restored already – and also to find out more about the Southampton Tram Project and their aims for the future. The workshop the trams were moved to is next to berth 49 at the docks and will be open on both days along with the workshops of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships.

The highlight away from the trams will be the return of the Steam Tug “Challenge” to Southampton following its recent Heritage Lottery Funded refit – this tug was not only the last steam tug to operate on the Thames but also took part in the Dunkirk evacuation in World War Two. It will arrive in Southampton led by a grand flotilla from the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships. The dry dock will be taken over by the Historical Diving Society with their standard or hard hat diving gear, the National Oceanography Centre and their Puffersphere display and other surface displays. There will be World War Two re-enactors, a display of vintage Rolls Royce cars, the historic SS Shieldhall will be in steam and there will also be a flypast by a Lancaster bomber. In addition there will be numerous exhibitors and stalls and some live music to keep you entertained.

Tickets for the event cost £5 in advance for over 18s and £6 on the day with under 18s able to get in for free. A special offer is currently available that if you buy two adults tickets in advance online you get a free parking space inside the festival site (subject to availability). Anyone intending to attend the festival is advised if coming by car to park in a Southampton City Council car park and then either walk or catch the free heritage shuttle bus service running between the City and the docks. More details on the Festival can be found on their dedicated website at http://www.southamptonmaritimefestival.com/.

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