A cable car for Crich

It isn’t very often that the National Tramway Museum gets the opportunity to fill a gap in its extensive collection of trams, in either technological or geographical terms – yet a new addition to the national collection actually satisfies both criteria. The Tramway Museum Society has just announced via its ‘Contact’ bulletin, that it is to acquire the remains of a Birmingham cable car, a type of tram which was used by a number of British towns (notably Matlock, providing a local connection for the museum) but which was previously unrepresented in their fleet.

The unrestored Birmingham Central Tramways cable car had been preserved by the Black Country Living Museum at Dudley, although unlike many of the museum’s tramcar bodies it has been stored securely away from public gaze rather than being deposited outside their tram depot. Clearly its owners have recognised that they are unlikely to ever restore this unique tram, and in view of its significant national importance, it has been accepted into the collection of the Tramway Museum Society. The car is being donated free of charge, so the only costs incurred by its acquisition will be that of transporting it to Derbyshire. This will add another very important aspect of tramway history to the Crich fleet, joining the electric, horse-drawn and steam trams already housed there. At present it is not known what plans exist for the tram and whether it will initially be housed at Clay Cross or moved straight from Dudley to Crich, however it has been suggested that its eventual role is likely to be as a static exhibit as a contrast to the other types of tram which illustrate the evolution of tram design in the Great Exhibition Hall. Whatever happens to the Birmingham cable car in the short term, it is fantastic news that it will be joining the national collection and the TMS deserve full credit for acquiring this most unusual survivor. As well as being their only cable-hauled tram it will be their sole representative of the Midlands, and as such could be a most interesting exhibit to many visitors.

Obviously this good news will create one challenge for the museum, as not only the depots at Crich, but also the off-site storage facility at Clay Cross are already full to capacity. The most obvious solution to this problem would be moving one of their cars away on an extended loan arrangement, perhaps to Blackpool where storage space is not presently an issue. However, this can be considered in due course, but for now receiving a unique new vehicle is the most important matter – and one that we can surely all agree is one of the most positive developments of 2016 for the tram preservation movement.


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15 Responses to A cable car for Crich

  1. Mark Andrew Pardoe says:

    But can Crich afford to restored this tram? After all I was, reasonable, told in an earlier post there was no money (I paraphrase) to restore Nottingham 166. I think others would agree a Nottingham tram missing from the main collection at Crich is also a gap in geographical terms.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Technically it could be argued that Crich don’t have the money to restore any of their trams… that’s why people like the London County Council Tramways Trust and the Tramcar Sponsorship Organisation have appeals to finance restorations. In fairness I doubt this new addition would be a high priority for restoration to running order for fairly obvious reasons, although in theory it could be run on batteries – but it is hugely significant because it gives the national collection an example of a cable tram. Perhaps it could be a cosmetic restoration? The main thing right now is to grab the opportunity to get it!

      • Paul says:

        There’s also the issue of track gauge in restoring for operation – like all the Black Country systems is was 3ft 6in gauge hence they being unrepresented in the Crich running fleet…

        As a static car it makes a lot of sense in filling a gap in the current exhibition hall display. Space could be created relatively easily in that section of the hall by rearranging the horse trams, they being significantly smaller than most electric vehicles, possibly also a good time to return another horse car to operation while they’re at it?

        • John says:

          Or return the Oporto one home? Crich has a large number of Horse Trams so losing one fr a Cable exhibit is no hardship.

          • Steve says:

            Except that Oporto car is a very important exhibit dating from 1873. It is an example of the UK export market being built by Starbuck of Birkenhead and EXPORTED to Oporto. Technically although referred as a horse tram is was pulled by Mules. Also unlike other horse cars it is actually owned by the TMS and not on loan. I am sure by the time the cable car goes on display we will have the new depot suit, which everyone will find amazing.

  2. Kev says:

    It will be much safer inside as well and can dry out over the next xx years. Whilst local cars are desirable a cable car is much more important in the overall story of the Tram. Well done Crich, though I do wonder what will have to move to get it in somewhere as they are supposedly very full.

  3. John says:

    Totally agree – wonderful news. Whilst BCLM would have been the ideal place as its local they have seen their limitations and sent the car somewhere it will be properly conserved. Here’s hoping if it goes to Clay Cross then something tasty may come out – 59 perhaps? Personally I would like to see an appeal launched (there may even be lottery funding for a unique vehicle?) and the car restored to exhibitable condition, then Crich can display horse, steam, cable and electric and be a truly national museum.

  4. Geoff, Isle of Man says:

    “…it will be their sole representative of the Midlands” – what about Leicester 76?

  5. John says:

    That depends what you are calling Midlands. Leicester is Leicestershire and Derby Derbyshire. I would call Midlands Birmingham area.

    • Mark Andrew Pardoe says:

      Sorry John,

      Most people would thing as Nottingham, Derby and Leicester as the East Midlands along with Northampton and Rutland.

      However, I do remember watching the “local” television programmes in Nottingham in the 1960s which came from Birmingham and they thought the Midlands Area was only Birmingham much to my annoyance. This was put right when the Midlands television area was split into East and West at a later date.
      Thanks – rant over.

      • John says:

        Please rant away! It opens a question on geographical identification and representation. Different generations will view areas differently but I am not sure as to the geographical labelling in the days of the Tram. Its like the age old discussion of Manchester areas. Greater Manchester or Lancashire? And how many of these ‘labels’ are officially recognised? Fascinating!

  6. This is wonderful news! The Birmingham cable car is more than 100 years old and needs protection from the elements. Even if restoration is a long way off, it certainly needs conserving now for future generations.

  7. John Stewart says:

    I would recommend anyone who wants to see a modern cable tramway (as opposed to a mountain climber) to look at Perugia’s Minimetro. I had not idea of its existence until I got a map from their tourist information office and decided to investigate this facility out of curiosity.

  8. Christopher Callan says:

    Interesting and very welcome news.

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