Replica Manchester tram for Crich?

The publication of the Tramway Museum Society’s Annual Report & Accounts for the last financial year has revealed a rather unusual donation to the operators of the National Tramway Museum at Crich. The hefty sum of £200,000 has been bequeathed to the TMS – for the sole purpose of constructing a replica of a Manchester tramcar!

The notes accompanying the Society’s statement of funds clearly indicates that this money has come from a ‘legacy received towards the re-creation of a Manchester bogie car’. The subject would be a 1928 double-deck Manchester bogie car. However, no other information about this legacy is offered, which throws up a number of questions. For example, has this money simply been left to the TMS without any forewarning, for a project which is a personal fantasy rather than a genuine project which the museum has agreed to undertake? Or, did the Society agree beforehand with the donor that their money would be used in this manner?

Although recent Crich restorations have been virtually replicas – London United Tramways 159 being a good example – to actually build a brand new tramcar from scratch would be a major first for the TMS. However, this would be a significant change of direction for the Museum, and one which is unlikely to gain universal approval. With the TMS having often used a shortage for space as an argument against acquiring more vehicles, with a Blackpool Centenary car being one such example that was recently declined for this reason, the argument for constructing a replica tram seems very weak. The type of tram concerned would not particularly fill a gap in the collection, although it would give the museum an operational Manchester tram which it currently lacks. Presently the only representatives of the city’s first generation trams in preservation are three trams, all owned by the Manchester Transport Museum Society who operate the Heaton Park Tramway.

On the other hand, it would be a terrible shame to see such a large sum of money sitting idle in a Society bank account, as it will be considered ‘restricted funds’, meaning that it cannot be spent for any purpose other than that specified by the donor. Hopefully any decision on whether to actually build a replica tram will be taken following full consultation with members of the Society, as such a move would undoubtedly be a game-changer for the National Tramway Museum, and as such this matter needs careful consideration.

This entry was posted in Crich Tramway Village. Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Replica Manchester tram for Crich?

  1. Nigel Pennick says:

    Indeed several recent rebuilds of historic remains are close to being replicas, and now a 100% new old tram is proposed. But is it possible to build a true replica of such a car? And what is its purpose in a museum that keeps, displays and runs authentic trams that did run on British streets in the past? This may mark the beginning of the transformation of Crich from museum to theme park. I hope not. At least the imaginary Sunderland 101 at Beamish is an authentic Blackpool Balloon. Perhaps it would be better for Crich to use the money to preserve a Manchester T68 car.

    • Arthur dawson says:

      To build a complete car with this money they should go to people that have built similar trams for recent use. Suggest the group that built the 3 Seaton cars in recent times as a starter, or a good joinery group that can read old drawings and have access to lots of photos.

  2. WatcherZero says:

    Being a legacy it could have been written into a will a long time ago, we just dont know.

  3. Ralph Oakes-Garnett says:

    I think it is a great idea especially in view of the fact that there are none of the classic bogie cars for which Manchester was famous survive. On another subject I am at present repainting my Crossley bus into pre war Manchester Streamline livery. Authentic no but as the only vehicle surviving that could authentically wear it is being restored at the back of our depot and will not be out for years. It seemed a shame to deny present generation and older people the chance to experience this classic livery for real. The Manchester bogie tram and the Streamline bus are important gaps in the world of preservation. Lastly at the end of 2 years my bus will go back into it’s correct livery. As far as the tram project is concerned I would hope that some pieces of the originals survive to incorporate into the original. Let’s be honest the Eades tram is largely new.

  4. From 1924 til 1962 I lived in Ashton & have fond memories of the old bogie trams ! They were certainly a classic vehicle & Ihave always regreted that none survived.

    Hope the project gets off the ground & that I live long enough to see the end result.

  5. Paul says:

    I’m sure there will be criticism that the money can be put to better use on restoring other genuine historic cars, but if this money has been bequeathed on condition it is only to be used for this replica, the NTM have a choice only of a) Build the replica or b) Decline the gift. It a choice of a replica tram or no tram at all – I know which I prefer…

    In assessing that decision I’d be more concerned about the unintended consequences for the present Crich operational fleet: – building this will occupy workshop space for a long time and consume many man-hours of labour, during construction diverting those resources from day to day maintenance of the operational fleet and overhaul of other cars; then when complete, it will occupy a depot space.

    Thinking more radically to get the benefit of a new operational tram, without the impact on the existing fleet, could it be built under the direction of the TMS, but work outsourced – Several Heritage Railways are potential candidates, or possibly even the Blackpool Heritage Workshops, and then outstation the tram as an ‘ambassador’ on other tramways that have depot space (or will by the time it is completed) e.g. Heaton Park (particularly appropriate), NEETT, Blackpool…

    Yes it is unfortunate the gift has apparently come with strings attached but rather than beat up Crich for what else could be done with that amount of money think about how to make the best of it within those restrictions…

    • Ken Walker says:

      I don’t think the gift should be viewed as having strings attached, but more as a challenge and an opportunity to fill a gap in our heritage which otherwise might not have been possible. It might become a problem if the bequest is insufficient to cover the costs of building it though, bearing in mind the Blackpool Brush railcoach at Crich which apparently has a sum well in excess of this figure sitting in a ‘ring-fenced’ bank account, but which the TMS allegedly reckon is nowhere near enough to complete the restoration – I can’t remember the details but seem to recall it was discussed on this site a while back. As far as having the tram built elsewhere is concerned, the Boston Lodge works of the Ffestiniog Railway seem to have gained a good reputation for building replica locos and coaches for narrow gauge railways, and new builds are currently taking place of several extinct loco classes at places such as the Llangollen and Severn Valley Railways, either all-new or partly using components from ex Barry scrapyard locos.

      • Ken Walker says:

        Correction – just found the reference to Blackpool 298 in November last year. The funding available was stated as £145,000 which of course is less than £200,000! But the point is still valid in view of the cost of the significant amount of work said to have been already carried out, which presumably came from the same funding source.

  6. Paul Penders says:

    The collection of museum trams at Woluwe transport museum, Brussels, contains a few replicas. People don’t notice this fact and just love to have a ride aboard one of the old trams to Tervuren.
    If building a replica tram for Crich remains the exeption, this will not make a theme park of the NTM.
    In Brussels plans to build a replica of a famous pre war series 4000 tram exist. I hope this will be done in the not to far future.

  7. Ken Walker says:

    Most of the visitors are members of the public rather than enthusiasts, and won’t be bothered (in most cases probably won’t even know!) whether it is an original tram or a replica – they will probably just want to experience a ride on a tram that used to run where they live, probably before they were born. As has already been said, which is better? A replica of a Manchester bogie car, or no bogie car?

    I went to north Wales last month and travelled on the Ffestiniog Railway with Prince (1863) at the head, and the following day on the Talyllyn Railway with no. 1 Talyllyn (1864) leading the way. It’s only when you dig into the history of these locos that you realise that they both suffer from the “3 new ‘eads and 4 new ‘andles” syndrome, but how many of the people travelling would actually be bothered (before I get showered with bricks, I realise these comments are probably purgatory to devotees of these systems!)

    • Colin Smith says:

      True, both these locos are heavily “rebuilt.” But at least they started life, literally, as originals. A “Replica” Manchester tram would be just that, a replica. Having said that the Ffestiniog Railway get away with calling one of their locomotives, “Taliesin,” a rebuild of a machine that was scrapped and broken up in the 1930s. How and why they get away with their description is that they found the reverser from the original. Not suggesting anything, but how about a couple of insignificant small parts from Manchester and this new project might officially be described as a “rebuild!”

      • Ken Walker says:

        If I remember correctly the previous ‘Taliesin’ was a double Fairlie and not a single as is the present one, and that loco had previously been named ‘Livingston Thompson’. But re-use of names of previously-scrapped locos is nothing new. The same applies to ships: some of the vessels which the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co. has operated in my lifetime for example are the 5th or 6th of the Company’s ships to carry the name.
        As far as Talyllyn is concerned she was subject to a rebuild almost as soon as she had entered service due to the rough riding which her original 0-4-0 wheel arrangement generated leading to a rear pony truck being fitted, and I believe she was also substantially rebuilt in the early 1900s.
        As I have said previously, I have no problem with replicas being built to fill gaps in our transport history, but I accept that other people have, and are entitled to, different opinions on the matter. At the end of the day,all that matters is that if the TMS accept the bequest, it needs to be used in a manner which is at least in line with the benefactor’s wishes.

  8. Tommy Carr says:

    A replica tram will take the strain off the other cars which seem to take the strain if they have to be overhauled every 8 years!

  9. Andrew Waddington says:

    I think the suggestion that most visitors to Crich are not enthusiasts and won’t know if the tram they are riding on is a replica is irrelevant – as a designated national museum, surely they have a duty to inform the public if this is the case? It is also worth noting that the TMS collecting policy is based on tramcar type rather than geography, and therefore if a Manchester bogie car is built it will merely be an ‘Operational Duplicate’ to the similar Blackpool Standard cars.

    • Ken Walker says:

      We seem to be at risk of getting into a lather because someone has left a very generous bequest but had the audacity to state that it is for a particular purpose. Of course, the TMS are perfectly at liberty to decline it if they don’t want to build a replica, but I don’t see there being any winners in that situation. From comments made so far the legacy seems to have left the TMS in a no-win situation, which is a pity and surely not the intention of the person making the bequest.

  10. Nigel Pennick says:

    This whole debate shows the change over time in the function of British tramway preservation. When it started, it was by and for people who remembered the trams running in their home towns. Now 60 years later most of those people are dead and those who see and ride the trams only know them in their museum context. Curating of transport museums seems to have a different ethos from other museums, where replicas of items are always clearly labelled and are there to demonstrate what a damaged original in the collection probably looked like.

  11. Craig Farrington says:

    I am personally delighted to see this happen. I think it’s bloody marvellous that someone has had the goodwill to make a MCT standard a possibility.

    I was born well after they burned the last standard and have spent all of my life wishing that I could experience a ride on one of the old MCT double deck cars..I have a few O gauge examples at home to prove that.

    The old standards were constructed and painted in a way that made them look imposing from the side and quite different to all the other cities in the UK. We don’t have one single example (I except that 173 is still around, but we’re talking standard cars here) of a MCT standard from what was once a massive fleet. Even Birmingham has one example preserved. So there is a significant gap in the historic collection.

    I agree that many of the preserved trams are like grandfather’s axe….having been rebuilt so many times that they retain only minor portions of their original build. In similar manner, I’m sure there are some components out there from the old MCT cars that could be incorporated into the new build.

    If there is not enough cash to complete the tram then I and many others like me will “chip in” with extra money.

    Maybe Hong Kong could build it? (sacrilege!) – it might be cheaper to have them construct the base car and then finish it in the UK. I’m sure people won’t like this idea but I put it up for discussion, anyway!

    Finally, I am confident that there would be plenty of work for this tram and being new, it would be well up to the challenge.

    I am excited to hear of progress, shame that I’m in Australia right now, but I would travel to the UK just to see this one project become reality.

    Good luck to everyone involved with getting this off the ground. It has to happen IMHO!

    Craig F.

  12. David Holt says:

    An ethical equivalent in railway terms is “Tornado”. Imagine that loco on display in the National Railway Museum and you have an exact parallel with displaying a replica Manchester Standard in the National Tramway Museum.

  13. john woodman says:

    The NTM Workshop has significant limitations on its ability to tackle the ongoing requirements to maintain an operable core fleet. It is reliant almost entirely on external funding to take on restoration of trams that require enormous skill content and of course capital cost.

    The examples of such external funding at work on restoration are more recently evidenced through the completion of LUT 159 funded by the LCCTT contributions, and the Cardiff Works Car restoration funded through (I believe) the TSO. The TSO maintain a substantial fund for completion of restoration work on Blackpool rail coach 298 – a victim of
    incessant lethargy on the part of the Society and Museum. The most
    recent Financial Report of the Society states that a further London tram
    restoration – that of LCC 1 will require extensive planning and curatorial
    research before that tram even enters the Crich Workshop for what is likely to be an extended and expensive rebuild. Again funded through the efforts of the LCCTT and fellow supporters. LCC 1, like Blackpool rail coach 298 are both worthy candidates for ‘intensive care’ and resuscitation to deserved operating state. I applaud ALL efforts to bring this about in our lifetime.

    The Society are beneficiary of a purpose linked bequest that could see a
    clone of a Manchester ‘Standard’ car created from scratch. The funds now in the Society’s care are a substantial (and hopefully interest bearing) funding base by which this could be realised. I would equally welcome the creation of 1008 in not too dissimilar circumstances to the
    recreation of a typical Arnhem bogie car from that city’s unique final design – all of which disappeared in the bombing of that city in 1944 which resulted in premature closure of the tram system. The excellent
    Arnhem Open Air Museum with a ‘cloned’ building recreating one of the city’s former tram depot is home to this representative example of Arnhem’s tramcar development at its zenith. The wonderful ‘Tornado’ steam locomotive recreation in Britain is a further example of what can be achieved to bring back to life a railway engine formerly extinct.

    And so we have the potential to realise a Manchester ‘Standard’ through a private bequest. However the resources to realise such a comprehensive project – not previously attempted in tram museum circles – will need more than the restrictive resources of the Tramway Museum Society to bring this about any time soon (if ever).

    There are now several centres of excellence in tramcar restoration (and rebuilding) now extant in England. Several have done amazing work in more recent years – from the wonderful Liverpool bogie car 762 and soon to be realised Warrington tram and Liverpool ‘Baby Grand’ of the Birkenhead team; the ongoing work at Beamish which seems to never end, the small but dedicated and productive workshop of the East Anglia Transport Museum with Blackpool Vambac 11 and London Transport HR2 as flag bearers, and of course the expanding efforts of the Manchester Tramway Museum at Heaton Park which is about to grow its resources through a new depot, extended line and increased fleet.
    Blackpool Transport Services can point to the wonderful rebuild of a Blackpool ‘Standard’ car 147 on its welcome return from the USA – and ongoing efforts to return some of the heritage trams to original appearance, if not condition. The implementation of work to bring about a second Blackpool ‘Standard’ – 143, will be no doubt a priority in the near term. And worthy of enthusiasts support.

    My own view on creating a Manchester ‘Standard’ tram is to draw on the
    involvement of ALL of these wonderful tram heritage organisations in a shared and cooperative endeavour. No one museum has the ability to take on a task of this magnitude with a sharing of tasks between contributing Partners. The days when a preserved tram stayed forever marooned in some display when it has the ability to be seen and ridden by the public – are over. Examples of our tram heritage travelling distances to participate in special events and on loan – are now commonplace. Of course this started with Blackpool (as always) when Bolton 66 made its way from a dedicated restoration scheme to become a much loved feature on Blackpool promenade.

    I would urge on the Museum manager (recently appointed) to consider convening a meeting of interested Parties with the agenda of discussing ways and means by which this wonderful and substantial bequest can become the cornerstone for a funded project that realises the wishes of the benefactor within a reasonable? timeframe. The danger of this fund becoming yet another unrealised objective under the aegis of the Society – gathering incremental interest but deferred on a continuing basis is all to real. Most of the informed enthusiast body are well aware that the NTM has reached a plateau in its ability to restore trams – and faces increasing financial constraints on maintaining its existing operation. A new approach to tram restoration at the Crich Museum workshop is needed not just to realise the ‘Manchester Standard’ but also to take on a lengthening list of dormant projects of which Blackpool rail coach 298 is a classic example. Winston Churchill had the right approach when he marked papers to Ministers and Generals ‘Action This Day’. It would be worth taking a leaf from his wartime sense of urgency.

    In case readers of BTO are wondering about the Fleetwood Museum – they can hear firsthand at Tram Sunday on 21 July – but the Trust has been given the go ahead to submit a capital funding application to the Coastal Communities Fund this week – and is now beneficiary of tram rail from the former Blundell Street tram depot courtesy of contractors working with the Trust. Onwards.

  14. Keith Riley says:

    Surely Crich already is a theme park. There were no trams there until a museum was established.

    It seems like a sinple choice …. can the project be completed for that amount of money? If not then are there additional sources of funds available? If not then it probably can’t be done. Finding reasons NOT to do it before trying seems a disappointing approach though.

  15. roger woodhead says:

    If like the A1 pacific you call this project a new tram, a lot of publicity and debate problems go away. I would suggest that if the tram is to be built (and it should be) perhaps the responsibility for supervising its construction could be taken on by the MTMS, I am pretty sure the late Cliff Taylor would have jumped at this! A picture of 765 alongside say 1008 and a (hopefully) preserved Metrolink 1001 would be a marvellous scene to create and no green and cream in site!

  16. Wim Beukenkamp says:

    When it comes to building almost new trams from scratch: what about LUT 159 at Crich? Though nominally a restoration this is for more than 95% a new tram including new bogies, frame, most of the bpdy, interior, etc. At present the TMS can not be accused of incompetence, such as regarding 298. First of all there is a baglog in overhauls to be done. Second the TMS has not enough funds to support major restoration projects. This is now fully dependend on external funding, such as by the LCCTT for LCC 1 or the TSO for Sheffield 510. The STTS in Scotland is busy raising funds to get Glasgow Coronation 1282 overhauled as soon as possible. The TMS is investigating funding into the very important working steam tram project, the missing link at Crich. Although important a Manchester Standard doesn’t add something to the fleet that Crich hasn’t got already. At present there are some 14 important trams from the national collection at Crich waiting for a major overhaul or full scale restoration: LCC 1, Southampton 45, Sheffield 46, Blackpool 59, Leicester 76, MBRO 84 + Dundee 21 (the steam tram), Sheffield 189, Blackpool 245 (712), Sheffield 264, Blackpool 298, New York 674, Glasgow 1115, Glasgow 1282. That is a job list for the coming 30 years at least!

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Surely this depends on your definition of “important” though. From that list of trams I don’t feel that 189, 264 or 1115 would add very much to the running fleet, whilst New York 674 contributes nothing to the story of the British tram. The Balloon is also an iffy one – visitors would like it I’m sure, but with other examples elsewhere I wouldn’t say it should be a high priority for restoration. Even Southampton 45 could be questioned as presumably its importance is based on the fact that its preservation started it all?

  17. Jamie Guest says:

    I think that we are going to hear much more about replicas in the years to come. In the railway field there are many such projects ongoing and the term ‘Lazarus Locomotives’ is in common use. In Leeds 107 is nearly complete and the team have been discussing what to do on a Wednesday for some time. We have decided to try and recreate a ‘Roundhay Electric’ the first overhead powered type of tramcar to run in Great Britain. The project is at a very early stage but already several areas such as safety approval and electrical equipment/standards are being dicussed. Initial discussions about accommodation have also taken place. I hope that some sort of meeting as suggested above can take place as there is much scope for sharing of experience.


  18. peter says:

    if creating a Manchester standard bogey car is basicly duplicating other standard bogey cars in the collection, could the money be used to restore one of the none operational standard bogey cars in the collection and repaint it as a Manchester car ?

  19. Nigel Pennick says:

    With replicas there is always the question of what they are for, and this bequest has focussed the question upon Crich. If they are exact reproductions from working drawings of scrapped vehicles made to demonstrate bygone engineering principles, and the vehicles behave in operation as closely as possible to the originals, then they are true replicas of the original. If the original designs are modified for contemporary operating requirements, or the design faults of the originals are corrected by new design, then they are not replicas but contemporary vehicles constructed in a bygone style. The operational necessity for air brakes on some of the Birkenhead trams that never had them originally is an example of this. Transport museums are generally places where people go to admire old vehicles, and perhaps get nostalgic pleasure in seeing and riding again upon vehicles they knew in former years. Information and experience of the technical side of the limitations of old vehicles compared with present-day ones, surely part of the function of museums, is a low priority, and vehicles of the past are presented in a uniform manner as though they were all paragons of virtue when some were notoriously underpowered, handled poorly, were prone to breakdown or were notoriously uncomfortable to ride upon.

  20. Pete C says:

    The gift as mentioned before is a “restricted fund” and can only be used for the specific purposes laid down in the late donor’s will. If, as seems to be the case, it was given to be used for a new replica then that is what it must be used for. Charity law is quite strict on this and it can be a problem for beneficiaries who can think of better ways of using the money. From the little information that has been released, it does not look as if this gift could be used for the restoration/repainting of an existing vehicle in the collection. I suspect the gift is quite a headache for the TMS.

  21. Bill Monks says:

    I think it’s a great idea. Lack of a representative of one of thes fine cars is a big gap in our collection. I well recall how well they ran on Stockport’s new track on Wellington Road North after the war despite their grossly neglected maintenance.
    Can anyone explain why E.F.E. never made a model Pilcher? With 5 liveries to choose from I would have thought it would be a good seller.

  22. The Manchester Pilcher cars went to other operators including Aberdeen.If not all scrapped restoration of one of these in its original livery would make a good compromise!

Comments are closed.