The Edwardian Weekend has become a major part of the events calendar at the Crich Tramway Village – home of the National Tramway Museum – not only for the general public but also for the tram enthusiast with the only opportunity to ride behind a horse tram at the Museum. British Trams Online regular Andrew Waddington reports from the event…
Crich Tramway Village has staged an Edwardian Weekend as part of its annual special events programme for a number of years now. The idea originated from the old horse tram operating days – sometimes referred to as ‘The Mane Event’ – which boasted a rare opportunity to ride on a horse drawn tramcar at Crich, but not a lot else. This event was not much of a crowd-puller, so in recent times the event has been extended to a full weekend, whilst also being enhanced by scenarios acted out by characters in period costume, as well as visiting vehicles and live entertainment. Having not visited this event before, and after becoming disillusioned after a couple of disappointing Tramathons, I decided that 2008 was the year to give it a try! Saturday 5th July was the date of my visit which I enjoyed immensely.
Arguably the biggest attraction this year was Mike Sutcliffe’s collection of eight beautifully restored vintage Leyland buses. Some of these have visited Crich previously, but this was the first time that all eight had been gathered together anywhere, let alone at Crich, making this a very exciting prospect for transport enthusiasts! The buses were actually at Crich for a Leyland Society event day the following Sunday; however, as all eight buses needed to be transported to Crich on low-loaders, it was decided to bring them early so that they could all participate in the Edwardian Weekend as well. The buses, one of which is the oldest surviving British omnibus and is celebrating its centenary this year, were all operated along the street and really added to the nostalgic atmosphere. As the newest of the buses date from the 1920’s, their appearance at this particular event was very appropriate and they drew a great deal of interest. Dare I say, they actually threatened to upstage the trams!
The star of the show tram-wise was of course Sheffield 15, the Museum’s operating horse tram. On this Saturday it was hauled by a magnificent horse called Major, who made light work of the small tramcar which proved extremely popular, carrying full loads all afternoon. Understandably the horse is unable to walk along the ballast, so the horse tram service only operates between Town End and the Depot Crossover before returning to the normal unloading stuff. A special horse tram stop was set up outside the Library Extension and attracted some very big queues.
Four electric trams were also in service on this day: Glasgow 22, Blackpool 40, Southampton 45 and Johannesburg 60. Berlin 3006 also did a few journeys for the benefit of visitors unable to ride on any other tram. All of these trams operated successfully, including 45 despite a couple of heavy showers! Despite very poor weather forecasts it was very warm and sunny for most of the day, and visitor numbers seemed to be very good in view of the anticipated rain.
The Edwardian Weekend is not really an event aimed at tram enthusiasts, however the operation of a horse tram is always a good attraction, and as an extra bonus there were some interesting movements in the depot yard. Cardiff 131 has recently vacated the wash bay in the Workshop extension as its body reassembly is virtually complete, so the opportunity was taken to wash some of the service fleet. First up for attention was Sheffield 74, and once it had been cleaned, it was parked up outside the Workshop, allowing Chesterfield 7 to take its place. Although these two trams were probably only moved because they needed cleaning, it was still good to see two more Edwardian trams out in the open, albeit only for shunting purposes. Another interesting movement occurred when Major the horse (and his handlers of course) took their lunch break. Major was used to pull Sheffield 15 to its loading stop before being unhitched, and the tram was then carefully pushed downhill and parked up on the spare track at Town End. It remained there until it returned to service later in the afternoon.
As well as the aforementioned tram and bus activity, some colourful characters kept the crowds amused in the street. A suffragette demonstration near the Eagle Press building proved to be a big highlight of the day, with lots of audience participation. It was especially good when a Policeman dragged away the suffragettes who dared to suggest that women were deserving of equal rights to men! I was delighted to see so many people enjoying this event – this is the fun element that some recent Crich events have been missing, and it was good to see lots of people learning whilst also being entertained. The demonstration really brought history to life and was especially popular with visiting families.
There were also music performances in Depot V, which had necessitated the transfer of Gateshead 5 to the front of the Workshop in order to provide space for an audience to stand and watch. Halle 902 remained in its usual position, however. The attention to detail with this event was absolutely superb; for example, instead of simply issuing a list of the day’s events at the main entrance, some Broadsheet-style papers with a list of the day’s events and some information on the trams and buses were given out for free, with the date ‘July 5th 1908’ printed on them!
Towards the end of the afternoon, a ceremony took place to recreate the hand-over from horse to electric trams. People in period costumes posed for photographs with the Sheffield horse tram, before boarding Johannesburg 60 for a ride to Glory Mine and back. Unfortunately this event caused considerable delays to the tram service; I was riding on Blackpool 40 at this point, which was first stuck behind the horse tram during the photography session, and was then stuck at Wakebridge awaiting the arrival of 60 and another service car! I think this part of the day needs re-thinking, as a number of passengers on 40 were grumbling about the long delays, which was understandable.
After this ceremony, Sheffield 15‘s day was over. However, one final treat was in store, as the tram was parked outside the Workshop, next to Sheffield 74. The chance to photograph these two early Sheffield cars together was a must, and was a nice way to end a very enjoyable day out. 15 was then put into the Workshop, ready for more trips on the main line the following day.
Overall, I am very glad that I chose to attend this superb event, and I feel that the organisers put on an excellent show. Everyone at Crich seemed happy that day, and visitors went away full of positivity. Despite a dismal weather forecast, the sun shone and although there was a bit of a blip at around 4:00pm due to the photo opportunities at Town End, this was a minor black spot on what was an otherwise excellent event. My faith in the Tramway Museum Society’s ability to put on high quality events has been restored – let us hope that some of the more enthusiast-orientated events that are coming up will be just as good as the Edwardian Weekend turned out to be.