Saturday 17th May 2014 was not only the first day of a new event at the Crich Tramway Village – Best of Sheffield – but was also saw the return of Sheffield 510 into service following a Tramcar Sponsorship Organisation sponsored overhaul. The day was met with warm sunshine and a healthy number of visitors including the Editor of this very website who traipsed his way up the steep hill from Whatstandwell Railway Station to enjoy the day’s events.
Best of Sheffield was the first of a new style of events at Crich with rather than taking place over one day or a weekend lasted a whole week with the main idea being to try and encourage more people from the Sheffield area to visit the Museum. Although not directly aimed at the normal tram enthusiast it was certainly an event which encouraged many enthusiasts to visit the Museum with a promised six electric tram service plus the horse car Sheffield 15 (which rather conveniently fitted into the Sheffield theme).
The main highlight, and purpose for many enthusiasts, was the relaunch into service of the stunning Sheffield 510 which has just had a thorough overhaul in the Crich workshops to return it to service. This included a full repaint into its special “Last Tram Week” livery which had originally been conceived as a livery which would just last for a week but had in fact been on the tram for 50 years and had started to show signs of wear and tear. After undergoing an extensive commissioning and testing period in the weeks leading up to the event 510 was ready for its starring role on the day with a launch ceremony presided over by Tramway Museum Society Chairman Colin Heaton taking place at 11am. After a presentation of a cheque from the Tramcar Sponsorship Organisation, who provided a large chunk of the funds for the restoration, members of the TSO and other key figures were invited to take their place on board 510 for its inaugural run from the Depot fan north to Glory Mine and then back to Town End.
Whilst all this was going on several other trams entered service for the day with the only other operational electric Sheffield tram, Sheffield 74, also in use alongside Chesterfield 7 (chosen for its locality to Sheffield). The morning saw two further electric trams in service and the weather dictated that these were to be open trams and the stunning pair of Glasgow 1068 and Blackpool 236 were the chosen ones. Around mid-morning a sixth passenger tram started to carry passengers with Sheffield 15 running trips from outside the entrance to the Library to the Depot crossover with regular horse Joseph in charge of these journeys. Come the afternoon the seventh and final passenger tram of the entered service with another open car chosen as Blackpool 166 carried more eager passengers. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the star of the day with 510 having to return to depot in the middle of the day with a fault but fortunately this proved to not be too big a problem and it was swiftly returned and the tram returned to service for the remainder of the day.
Two other trams also played a starring role on the day, both of which originated from the city of the event. Firstly, Sheffield 189 was on static display on the Traverser with representatives from the TSO on board to tell anyone who would listen all about their organisation and to try and encourage more people to become members. The other tram was a regular performer at enthusiasts’ events over the past few years – Sheffield Works car 330. This tram was both displayed on the Depot fan alongside 189 and also made a number of demonstration trips on the main line.
Away from the trams there was also plenty to keep general transport enthusiasts happy with a number of visiting Sheffield buses – including some fairly modern vehicles (don’t ask me what they were a bus is a bus as far as I’m concerned!) – and some other vintage vehicles with a Sheffield connection. And then come lunchtime the Museum was taken over by yet more vintage vehicles as the Wirksworth Assessment Trial stopped for lunch. Although only one of the vehicles involved in this had a connection to Sheffield the chance to have so many, mainly steam, vehicles visiting the Museum for a couple of hours over lunch was something which could not be resisted! The vehicles came in their numbers and were parked at the side of the main street in the town and then when that space was full parked up at the Bandstand. This produced some unique photo opportunities as it isn’t that often that you get to take photos of the tram of Crich alongside such a varied combination of vehicles. For trams such as Glasgow 1068 it was a case of déjà vu following its loan period at Beamish in 2013 and for some of the other trams who knows maybe it was a case of what may come in the future?
Once the Wirksworth Assessment Trial had departed the trams continued to operate in service until the end of the day and even by 1600 when you would normally expect there to be ever more empty trams the open trams were enjoying near capacity loads showing what a bit of decent weather coupled with an above average number of trams in service can do. There was also time for a mini Sheffield cavalcade of trams to be formed with 15, 74, 510 and 330 all involved in this (although to be honest your Editor didn’t see this as he was too busy riding on trams).
Only time will tell whether this was a successful event in that it managed to encourage people from Sheffield to visit the Museum but from an enthusiasts point of view it was a very enjoyable day and shows just what Crich can do when it puts on a show. Sure it didn’t reach the levels of an Enthusiasts’ Day with the number of trams in service but seven trams on one day surely can’t be sniffed at and enabled your Editor to actually take plenty of photos and get a ride on each of the trams, something which usually he doesn’t have the chance to do!)
Trams in Service:
Blackpool 166, Blackpool 236, Chesterfield 7, Glasgow 1068, Sheffield 15 (hauled by horse “Joseph”), Sheffield 74, Sheffield 510.
Other featured trams:
Sheffield 189 (on display on Traverser), Sheffield Works 330 (on display on Depot Fan and demonstration runs on mainline)
This review is based on a visit on the first day of the event – Saturday 17th May – only. Best of Sheffield was a 7 day event between 17th and 23rd May.
* Full photographic coverage of the event (mainly Saturday 17th May but also a few photos from Sunday 18th and Wednesday 21st May) is also available on British Trams Online. You can find the photos at http://www.britishtramsonline.co.uk/gallery461.html.