Crich – on the right track to the future?

The Tramway Museum Society’s 2015 Annual General Meeting was preceded by a discussion regarding plans for the future development of Crich Tramway Village and a series of interesting proposals to improve the visitor offer. A number of these will hopefully be in place by 2019, whilst looking further ahead, thoughts are turning towards some much-needed improvements to the museum’s tram depots.

Most regular visitors to Crich will have noticed that the last few years have seen increased efforts to make the site attractive to the general public with numerous improvements to visitor amenities. This should continue, and by 2019 it is hoped that a new outdoor play area for younger visitors will be open, along with new toilets and increased exhibition space. Following the opening of a proper tram stop at Glory Mine in 2014, it is intended to further develop the terminus with a shelter planned as well as a footpath back to Wakebridge alongside the tramway. Other plans include the provision of catering facilities at Wakebridge (the Octagon kiosk hasn’t been used for a number of years but presumably this may soon change), and most ambitious of all, the TMS hope to open a period school in order to expand the village aspect of the site. Hopefully this proposal will get further than the idea of a police station mooted some time ago, which was quietly dropped due to a lack of funding.

Longer-term, and even more optimistic, ideas which have been discussed include more evening opening, more traditional catering, and creating an authentic Edwardian street scene. The Society is also keen to explore the possibility of more community outreach projects to introduce the collections to a wider audience, including supplying trams for display in various towns and cities. This is nothing new of course; recent times have seen a number of cars including Grimsby & Immingham 14 and Southampton 45 leave the museum for short visits to events elsewhere.

Perhaps most importantly though, the depots at Crich are becoming a major talking point for members. It is well recognised that the present running sheds are barely fit for purpose; the issue of condensation is a particular concern and it is acknowledged that the trams within are not being adequately protected from the harsh winter weather. It is also felt that the lack of space between vehicles when the depots are full is less than ideal, and does not create a very welcoming environment for paying guests to view the collection of trams housed inside. Ideally a new depot complex, located away from the present facilities, would be the first choice option but this is likely to cost in the region of £3 million and may not be a realistic target. The main obstacle to upgrading the existing depots, is the problem of what to do with the trams whilst work is taking place. The displacement of trams from Crich to other locations at this time is one possibility which has been mentioned. Another, more radical idea is to cover over the depot yard; this would also increase available storage space, creating more scope to acquire more trams in the future and also offering the possibility of the new undercover space being made available for conferences and meals. The TMS also appear increasingly keen to exploit the potential appeal of an operating steam tram which would see the restoration of Manchester, Bury, Rochdale & Oldham 84 which is currently stored in kit form at Clay Cross, as well as the building of suitable facilities to house and maintain it. This could be something that would attract external funding as it would create a unique working exhibit and allow the national museum to demonstrate another aspect of tramway operations.

There are lots of other exciting ideas in the pot but as always, money is likely to be the deciding factor in how much of it actually becomes a reality, and when. Nonetheless it is good to see the TMS are playing host to constructive discussions regarding future plans and hopefully we can look forward to at least some of the above happening in the coming months and years.

A recent view of the Crich depots seen at night, with Chestefield 7, Blackpool 166 and Southampton 45 most prominent. Although difficult to tell here, already trams are showing signs of serious condensation before winter has fallen, highlighting the need to improve the tramcar storage facilities at Crich to conserve these irreplaceable vehicles. (Photo by Andrew Waddington)


This entry was posted in Crich Tramway Village. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Crich – on the right track to the future?

  1. When I visited the site early June this year, it was readily apparent that storage and display of exhibits is a big problem.However, visitors primarily want to view and ride on the trams. If creation of a “period” village is envisaged then Crich wil be directly competing with Beamish. When I first set foot in Crich ca 1971 the raison d’etre of the TMS was the restoration and display of trams. Any deviation towards creating a village should be carefuly considered. I think the final say should rest with what visitors are asking for within feedback questionnaires provided. To extend display areas, (if not already pursued) surely an application for Lottery funds wouldn’t go amiss ?

    • Phill says:

      Directly competing with Beamish? Not at all. The two are over 200 miles apart, to begin with. The idea as I understand is to display the large tram collection in a suitable setting.

      The main issue though, is depot space and quality. Already trams such as 159 have to be wrapped up carefully to prevent damp and mould issues over winter.

  2. John says:

    I really don’t think a few period buildings would cause any serious competition to Beamish! Beamish exists to showcase the vehicles, Crich would be showing buildings/life served by the Trams. There is, in my opinion, a difference. The restoration of a Steam tram should be a priority as it would be unique in Britain and is a large missing piece of the puzzle. Certainly the plans look interesting. I do wonder about the condensation issue, though. Other museums don’t seem to suffer as badly so waht do they do different? Or is it the geographical location?

  3. Nigel Pennick says:

    A period school like in so many ‘re-enactments’ – what period? Horse tram, Leeds 602 or Blackpool 1980s? Corporal punishment for the children like when I was at school? Of course not. Is this history or someone’s idealization of the often harsh past? This period confusion is a serious problem for living museums like Crich and Beamish, as is the disneyfication of the poor living conditions for many in the past. Better to put together some more tramway equipment such as period generators and service vehicles, even working examples of conduit and surface contact track, rather than more falsification.

    • John says:

      I think you will find that most museums are a falsification and glamourisation of the period – even international giants such as Beamish. These places serve to illustrate buildings, materials etc and and element of conditions. Certainly the more grimy and brutal aspects of the past are glossed over.
      As for the period Crich should display – a generic feel of early 20th Century when the tram was king. They must stretch beyond purely tram to survive. We all visit because we have an interest in trams. the poublic visit because they have a PASSING interest in Trams and history. A more rounded view of the era adds the interest for them and keeps them there longer!

      • Andrew Waddington says:

        I wholeheartedly agree with John here – whilst I’d love to see every penny Crich make spent on trams/tramways, things like demonstrating conduit operation are unlikely to have any real effect on visitor numbers and profits. So for now, I think the Society is quite right to look at ways to make the place more appealing to the public. So long as the trams are not completely overshadowed, this is a good thing in my opinion and could even result in increased profits in the long-term, which may allow for some of the projects that us enthusiasts long for becoming a reality!

        • Nigel Pennick says:

          A couple of observations – indeed I can see the reason for making Crich a general attraction to non-tram people in an era when trams are no longer something of the past and thousands travel on them every day in the British cities where they operate. Money is needed always just to keep going. People with a passing interest in trams now includes those who are only interested in those they can see on the streets now. One can even ride on heritage trams now in the street at Birkenhead and on authentic reactivated tracks in Heaton Park (as well as Blackpool of course), more authentic rides in every way. If the ‘feel’ of the place should be early 20th century despite far more modern vehicles operating, then this may bring the need to operate historic road vehicles (including horse-drawn ones) among the trams as an everyday ‘scene-maker’, along with permanent street entertainers and other ‘colourful characters’ including period beggars wounded in the Boer War.
          Whilst it is clear in which direction Crich is going, it is also necessary to have dissident voices, even though we will be ignored.

  4. Steve says:

    Having been at the meeting, one of the things mentioned was the need for more depot space and plans were presented on this topic, the new depot would act as an overflow and allow the old depots to be rebuilt. Andrew’s report makes mention of the steam tram concept, which a lot of members support. The rebuilding could allow for this. The other important thing to remember (and a lot of us do) is that tramway development does not stop with the likes of the Sheffield Roberts cars, but continues to evolves (even fitting 648 would have been tight), the revamped complex should be able to accommodate this and other “modern” trams.

  5. Chris Rose says:

    It would be good if some of the Crich fleet could go out on loan to Blackpool to run as part of the heritage fleet. It could bring in more visitors to the Blackpool tramway.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      No arguments here – and the tram(s) could potentially be used to promote Crich Tramway Village to a wider audience as well. Rack 2 to Blackpool please, I felt very sad seeing it in the Exhibition Hall last week!

  6. Mark Andrew Pardoe says:

    Oh dear, it looks like the restoration of Nottingham 166 will be put back another few years.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Was it ever even in the queue? LCC 1 is likely to take several years to complete – after that, the Scottish group are raising funds to carry out a major overhaul of Glasgow 1282, there is £350,000 in the pot to restore Sheffield trams, a six figure sum for a replica Manchester car, another six figure sum for Blackpool 298 and the TSO are also looking at a new project (possibly Newcastle 102). In addition, the need for a second Access Tram seems to have been somewhat forgotten of late but should probably be a high priority, and there is also a clear desire to get Blackpool ‘Dreadnought’ 59 restored. I’m struggling to see the Nottingham car tackled for quite some time with all that lot in the queue, and it would make sense to prioritise trams that already have funds allocated to them.

  7. John Stewart says:

    There is the wonderful facade of the former Derby Assembly Rooms with nothing more than one room’s depth of building behind for stability. it looks like a “wild-west front”. With a more worthy structure behind this could be the entrance to the display areas instead of the somewhat mean entrance we have at the moment.

    • Rich Westman says:

      Don’t forget John that behind the Assembly Rooms frontage and the adjacent Burnley Tramway Offices frontage is all the offices, the Library and the Archive, a whole warren of information, artefacts and knowledge about British and international tramways. The small exhibition space (which has received many positive comments regarding the current temporary exhibition on WW1) is but a small part of the whole. The offices, Library and Archives have to go somewhere!
      (Posted as myself irrespective of my connection to the TMS)

  8. Responding to Andrew’s comments, it’s unfortunate that the Scottish group appear to have ignored the “oddball” tram 1100 which was recently the subject of “Picture in time”. As far as I’m aware there are at least 3 other Coronation class trams extant whereas 1100 is a one off !

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      I suspect that 1100 being an “oddball” is precisely why it isn’t a priority for restoration; some museum bods seem to dislike one-offs, particularly when their innovations didn’t lead to anything else. I can certainly see your point though – indeed it strikes me as odd that Scottish enthusiasts are raising funds to restore a Glasgow Coronation car at Crich when there is another one being restored at Summerlee!

  9. LCC 1 is a “one off” yet time and monies are now being expended on it. As I’ve stated above, it’s a pity that my fellow Scots have chosen to ignore 1100 which admittedly has no real historical claim to fame. I’m sure that Blackpool tram followers must be disappointed that Dreadnought 59 is, like 1100, languishing in store.

    • Steve says:

      I’m sure if the “Blackpool Tram followers” waved a nice big cheque, like the TSO, LCCTT etc do then a slot could be arranged for 59. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

  10. Clifford Stead says:

    There is a rather large contradiction with authenticity here, taking the issue of Leeds 602 restoration and altering it with new parts which was considered faux pas and yet recreating Edwardian streetscapes with 1930`s trams in them. There needs to be a sea change in attitude. Bigger depots, more trams on show and running. A radical rethink on the catering offer. The general public are coming to ride on trams and have a hearty meal. Get those two things right and you are onto a winner.

    • Nigel Pennick says:

      I agree – heritage railways in the UK and USA gain revenue from catering on trains, indeed it is an essential part of luxury heritage train travel. Whilst British tramways had no tradition of catering onboard (unlike US interurbans and some German tramways), there is nothing to stop Crich from acquiring an old German ‘Party-Tram’ (they already have other trams from outside the UK) and adding this to the ‘revenue stream’. Thinking outside the ‘box’ of building yet another boring pre-World War I replica town is needed urgently.

  11. Tony Spencer says:

    Space and shelter must be the priority. At some point vehicles on the Croydon tram-link will pass into history. The visitor interest will change with the generation but the ride will always be the first choice. Sadly my childhood favourite (ex Bournemouth) L&CBER Tram 7 languishes somewhere down South in need of TLC. Just hope the valued efforts to restore LT no. 1 are successful, but it remains the money ever needed. This is where I came in. Look after what we have.

Comments are closed.