The Leicester Transport Trust have confirmed plans which could see a local tram depot which still stands today, revamped for use as a Road Transport Heritage & Research Centre. The organisation have been leasing the Stoneygate tram depot, which is believed to date from 1904, since April 2013 with a view to securing full ownership of this historic building in the future, subject to obtaining the required funding to develop their proposals.
At present, the Leicester Transport Trust are in the final stages of compiling a bid for funding which is to be submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund early next year. If approved, this will allow the Trust to refurbish the Edwardian tram depot for use as a new attraction to educate visitors about local transport history. The organisation already cares for a number of historic buses with further vehicles owned by individual members, and there is now a desire to expand the collection by representing the city’s tramway heritage.
Stoneygate depot is itself a valuable artefact, having been built in 1904 to coincide with the opening of Leicester’s electric tram system. It only served in this guise until 1922 however, making its survival to the present day all the more remarkable. In subsequent years, the building was leased to various parties and then from 1968 it was used to house a small railway museum. When this closed in 1975, it was once again made available for lease but is now being offered to the Leicester Transport Trust if their ambitious proposals become a realistic proposition. The site is also close to the route of the original horse-drawn omnibus service which ran in Leicester from 1863, adding even more to its historic value.
The Trust have already spent a great deal of time clearing out accumulated rubbish from inside the building now in their care, and the next priorities will be to ensure that it is watertight and to deal with some adjacent trees to ensure that their roots do not cause any damage to the building. Thoughts have also turned towards the possibility of displaying a tram in any visitor attraction in this depot, with a number of possibilties. One would be to provide a home to Leicester 31, of which the restoration is likely to be a long process, or alternatively a replica of one of the original fleet of open top tramcars could be constructed. Another suggestion is to seek to borrow Leicester 76 from the National Tramway Museum, whilst some thought has also been given to the possibility of trying to repatriate Burton & Ashby 14 from the USA; indeed it is the search for more information on the whereabouts of this tram which led to the discovery of the current situation regarding it being put up for auction imminently. Whether any of these ideas will become reality remains to be seen, but the aspirations of this group are certainly very interesting and we hope to provide more details on this fascinating project as it unfolds. Watch this space!
Grateful thanks go to Mike Greenwood of the Leicester Transport Trust for providing the information contained in this article.