Ambitious target set for LCC 1 launch date

The major restoration of London County Council 1, the tram popularly known as ‘Bluebird’, may not have started yet – but that has not deterred its sponsors from revealing a target date for its return to service. The London County Council Tramways Trust are funding the tram’s reconstruction in the workshops at Crich Tramway Village, and aiming to have the work completed in time for a special anniversary in 2018.

It was on 15th May 1938 that the newly formed Light Railway Transport League held a special charter from Waltham Cross to Purley, using LCC 1. With the car due to enter the Crich workshop imminently, it is hoped to have it fully operational in time to mark the 80th anniversary of this event, in May 2018. This would allow four years to completely rebuild the tramcar, which is comparable to other major projects undertaken at Crich over the years. However, ‘Bluebird’ is likely to present one of the museum’s biggest challenges to date and although a significant sum of money is already available for its rebuild, it is estimated that a further £150,000 will be needed to finish the job, and the LCCTT are appealing for supporters to donate whatever they can to assist with this aim. The mix of wood and steel used in the construction of the body structure will make rebuilding this car a huge challenge, as will the more intricate details of its ‘Art Deco’ style interior. Little is known about how this tram was constructed so it will literally be a case of learning more about the tram by taking it apart! The fact that LCC 1 is completely unique does not help matters, although of course it influenced the design of various other trams and is therefore highly regarded by many.

Meanwhile, the debate on whether car 1 should be restored at all, or preserved as a historical artefact which has barely been touched since entering preservation, goes on with a letter on this subject published in the latest edition of the Tramway Museum Society Journal. This has generated a lengthy response from representatives of both the TMS and the LCCTT, explaining the need to carry out some work on the tram before its condition deteriorates to the point where its longevity is in serious jeopardy. It is also explained that the primary aim of the TMS is to showcase historic trams as they would have been in their heyday, and to allow the public to experience these trams doing the job they were built to do. However, the process of dismantling and then rebuilding ‘Bluebird’ will be carefully recorded in detail, and it is intended to retain various parts of the original car which cannot be re-used in the restoration for conservation and possible future display. Hopefully this will satisfy the desires of those who have expressed concern at the thought of the tram’s originality being lost, whilst also putting out a good message about the role the museum has to play in preserving Britain’s tramway history.

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10 Responses to Ambitious target set for LCC 1 launch date

  1. Christopher says:

    I dare not poke the bear regarding the debate around conservation versus preservation. Both sides views are well entrenched with little point in really debating it.

    But one point i will make is 150k…. MORE. Certainly in sharp contrast to the era Trams Today currently visiting 1964. Where the group stretched the money further. A massive amount of money to spend on a car whilst others with minor problems sit idle and wider funding issues remain.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      I do agree to an extent, and I find it very frustrating to see such a vast amount of money being spent on a single tram when lots of others could probably be restored to running order for the same amount or less. However, we have to remember that the LCCTT are paying for it to be done and so it is up to them what the money is used for… and there aren’t really many other London trams at Crich that they could have donated towards!

      • Christopher says:

        You raise a excellent point Andrew. Very much agree that they should be allowed to choose where they spend their groups money.

        But have noticed the emergence of a debating regarding the direction of the museum as a whole. To what extent does their seemingly dependence on other groups have negative skewing effect on the groups financial priorities. Could it be argued that inadvertently this kind act of generosity is actually a unhelpful distraction whilst the wider group continues to experience severe turbulence.

        Cant help but thinking the organisation donating the vast sums of money would be better off exploring the viability of establishing a dedicated centre focusing on their own specific interests whilst still maintaining strong ties and future collaborative projects with the NTM & Others. Or should their projects look to safeguard the London Trams Future as Crich. Perhaps money ensuring the Crich site has a better section displaying and showcasing the London Cars.

        My worry is that these mammoth London projects inadvertently distract from the groups larger more time critical problems.

  2. Phill says:

    Excellent! Looking forward to getting on with 1. Regards the 60′s, do bear in mind that the trams we were getting were in much better condition (i.e. sans 60+ years of internal rot), and I suspect things were pretty lax in some respects. I remember reading about how, in wet weather, Southampton 45 was notorious for giving the driver electric shocks…
    LCC 1 looks a bit rough inside, and externally has been painted with a yard broom. After restoration it’ll outlast most of us reading this, and be a pretty handy thing too.

  3. James Robinson says:

    I wonder how many of the preserved vehicles are in their as built state, overhauls, especially on the larger systems involved the replacement of many parts by spares to speed up works down time. Even smaller systems replaced timbers, sometimes trucks, etc. Seems a case of “paddy’s shovel” for many of them.

  4. Graham Feakins says:

    Remember that several members of LCCTT are still around to remember No. 1 in service and they are likely to be willing to donate their last penny to this. Amongst those I know, the excitement is palpable at the prospect of seeing it run again.

    As to Phill’s comment that it looks a little rough inside, I can assure you that it did even back in the days when it was on display at the Clapham Transport Museum, complete with mildew aroma!

    The LCCTT has an excellent pedigree and I fail to understand the criticism here. We can all do that; I for one could start on the Blackpool bias in the TMS collection, except the very one for which many have similarly donated over the years and nothing recently has been done (298).

    • Daniel says:

      Agreed, I am personally happy that there are a growing number of London trams given that it is the capital and there isn’t much other representation of the South in the collection. It’s also highly significant to tramcar history too.

    • BigG says:

      I am not a member of the LCCTT but was one of the ‘young brats’ who roamed the remnants of the system in the late forties and early fifties, notebook and pencil in hand, and also got in the way at Penhall Road whilst grabbing old tram tickets. I never logged No1 but nevertheless developed an affection for a car which clearly showed its antecedents but also offered so much potential for what was, then, the future.

      In the ‘conserve or restore’ debate around the future of LCC 1 I was always firmly in the ‘conserve’ camp but the decision has now been made for restoration and we have to respect that decision. Now, I am convinced, we should move on and look forward, with anticipation, to the resurrection of “Bluebell”.

      • BigG says:

        Don’t pick up on the error, I’ve noticed it myself already; must be Freudian and something to do with spring!

  5. Daniel says:

    I wonder when it will enter the workshops? Only 4 years to complete this tram before it’s ambitious launch date.