A remarkable discovery has been made over the Cambridge Horse Tram currently being restored at the Ipswich Transport Museum. It had previously been worked out that the tram was second hand to Cambridge having previously been part of the fleet in Bradford but now further work has revealed that the vehicle actually originates from Bath meaning the second hand Horse Car is in fact third hand!
As we have previously reported on British Trams Online this Horse Car is currently being restored at the Ipswich Transport Museum with the assistance of a £49,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant. Numbered 7 in the Cambridge fleet original investigations had shown that the tram had operated in Bradford and this had helped to fill in some of the questions which had been raised over various discoveries on the body. But during the ongoing dismantling process further question marks were raised which led to a startling discovery.
As part of the dismantling process the opening toplight windows were removed to allow restoration work to take place on these. When this was done it was noted that there were some faint pencil markings on them, presumably written by the original craftsmen when the vehicle was assembled, saying “3 car” and “6 car”. These were handwritten but there were also some numbers stamped in the end of the frame in the 50’s series. But the more intriguing discovery was that there appeared to be “Batch” written on the first frame removed, but as further frames were removed, it was seen on clearer examples to be “Bath”!
With this discovery the restoration team started to research a logical sequence of events which explains why it has a Starbucks builders plate rather than a Milnes one. The Bath Tramways Company (another 4’ gauge line) started operations on 24th December 1880 and had six Starbuck single deck 18 seat cars. The team have only been able to find one photo of a Bath car so far but the lining out on part of the car is identical to that found by further careful rubbing down on the relevant section of bodywork on the Cambridge car. As there were 10 opening toplights on each tram, numbers in the 51-60 series would be from the sixth car built, so it is currently assumed that the tram was original Bath car No. 6.
The Bath company changed hands in 1884 and the original trams – including this example – were disposed of and replaced by a new fleet of cars. It is not known for certain what happened next but it is presumed that they either returned to the manufacturer for refurbishment before resale or went directly to one of the Bradford companies.
This discovery was completely unexpected and has clearly excited the restoration team especially as it has opened up the chance that the tram was originally constructed at Starbucks works at the same time as the Ipswich cars which were also being built in 1880.
The restoration team at the Ipswich Transport Museum are seeking further information – especially photos – of the cars on the 1880-1884 Bath operation. If you can help please contact the Museum directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.