Two of the UK’s museum tramways are using the winter shutdown as an opportunity to carry out some vital work on their infrastructure, with major track renewal taking place at both the East Anglia Transport Museum and Crich Tramway Village. Indeed, work at the former is already well underway, having begun the day after the last day of operation for 2014!
Much of the tram track along Tramway Avenue, which has served the East Anglia Transport Museum well for more than forty years, has now been excavated and removed ready for replacement. The setts which form part of the period scene have also been taken up although these will not be restored. The ‘new’ rails have in fact been obtained from Crich, but it is believed that there is still plenty of life left in them as the top surface remains in good condition. Indeed, most of the wear on the track being used is underneath where it had been fixed to sleepers; as there are no sleepers used at Carlton Colville this should not be an issue. The extent of renewal stretches from a point just past the tram depot and leading up to the location where the track curves into the nearby woodland; it is hoped that the rest of the rail along Tramway Avenue will also be replaced in the next three years or so, but for now only the very worst of the track is being dealt with due to time restrictions, as it is considered imperative that trams are able to resume operating next spring when the museum re-opens. As well as the obvious financial burden this project places on the museum, there will also be a loss of income due to the inability to the run the popular ‘Santa Tram’ service this year, but for the long-term good of the museum and its vehicles, the investment should definitely be viewed as a positive development.
At Crich, one of the more novel parts of the tramway is set to be relaid during the winter months ahead – the interlaced track passing beneath the Bowes Lyon bridge. This will form part of a major investment programme in the tramway infrastructure with £500,000 allocated to work on the track, overhead and power supply over the next couple of years. Again, this is very important to secure the future of tram operation at this museum despite not having any obvious benefits like a new attraction would. Other likely projects for the closed season will include the erection of a basic buggy shelter at Town End, deferred from last winter. Some spare traction poles are being refurbished for installation near to the car park and at Glory Mine, whilst another was installed at Wakebridge over the summer. This has resolved a problem with the overhead line at this location which had led to the temporary withdrawal of those tramcars in the running fleet fitted with bow collectors, which has resulted in Leeds 180, Leeds 345 and Glasgow 812 achieving lower mileages than usual this year. Thankfully this was dealt with in good time to allow these trams to operate at the ‘Electric 50′ event last month, and all three will come in useful as the cooler and darker autumn days set in.