Tramway Museum Society 50th Anniversary Cavalcade

The Tramway Museum Society celebrated their 50th Anniversary over the weekend of 28/29 May 2005. Andrew Waddington reports on the events of the Saturday when there was a major cavalcade of trams – with a few surprises…

In the last few years, Crich Tramway Village have staged some truly memorable events. Things that would have been considered too much effort a few years ago, now seem to be regarded as an exciting new challenge to the staff and volunteers, and events such as the Enthusiast’s Day mean that new ideas are always being tried out, giving regular visitors such as myself many new things to see and do.

So, when I found out that the Tramway Museum Society would be celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of its formation on the late May Bank Holiday weekend of 2005, I was excited, and wondered what they would do to commemorate such an important milestone. The main event of the weekend would take place on Saturday 28th May – a cavalcade of trams along the Museum street, which would serve as a visual representation of half a century’s worth of achievements. This was the day of my visit.

On the way to the Museum entrance, I was amazed to see Blackpool conduit car 4 outside the workshop! Having never seen this tram outside before, just seeing it parked up there was enough to make the visit worthwhile. When I arrived, preparations for the cavalcade were just getting under way – I saw Paisley 68 running wrong-line from Stephenson’s Place up to the Depot crossover, where the points were changed enabling it to proceed as normal. The depot yard was a scene of great activity, and it was not only hard to know where to look, but hard to know where to go to avoid being run over! Several cars were driven out of the depot and onto the main line ready to take part in the big event, whilst as well as the conduit car, Blackpool 40 and the new arrival Halle 902 were on display in the yard.

Soon afterwards, I spotted the Blackpool conduit car leaving the depot yard, and wondered what was pulling it. The answer was that nothing was – the car was in fact running on battery power, just as it did at Blackpool for the tramway centenary celebrations in 1985. The car charged up the main line and under the bridge before disappearing under the bridge, watched by an impressed crowd! The cavalcade actually took a great deal of setting up, and I was told that four pages of text had been written about how to prepare for it so that the trams involved would be in the correct order. Trams were sent up from depot in stages: some went to Glory Mine, some of them ran to Wakebridge and others only went as far as Cabin Crossing. The cars that were already out were slotted in between these, and then an impressive procession of no less than nineteen tramcars and two diesel locomotives began. From Cabin, the trams were all stopped by an inspector at the car park tram stop, before being called forward one at a time and running slowly along the street. Southampton 45, the tram which began it all, led the cavalcade, but the other trams were arranged in an order which aimed to illustrate the development of trams over an eighty year period. The line-up in order was as follows:

Southampton 45

Oporto 9 – pulled by ‘Rupert’

Sheffield 15 – pulled by ‘GMJ’

Blackpool 4

Leeds tower car 2

Blackpool & Fleetwood 2

London County Council 106

Sheffield 74

Chesterfield 7

Leeds 399

Glasgow 812

Sheffield 189 – pushed by Blackpool loco 717

Oporto 273

London Transport 1622

Metropolitan Electric Tramways 331

Liverpool 869

Sheffield 510

Leeds 602

After this had finished, there was inevitably a huge queue of trams stretching from Town End terminus, almost up to the Bowes-Lyon bridge! Two cars in service which missed out on the fun of the cavalcade (Paisley 68 and Blackpool 166) helped to keep the tram service going in the meantime, while crews returned many of the cars to depot. No time was wasted in doing this – the two horse cars were quickly put away, and I watched Sheffield 189 being pushed down to Town End, before it was moved on the traverser and put to bed in the Exhibition Hall. Even so, it took about an hour to eliminate the post-cavalcade bottleneck of trams completely, and then the cars that were still out settled down into a routine resembling some sort of normality. Meanwhile, Blackpool 4 was stabled on the depot headshunt, and it was later moved back to outside the workshop, where it appears to have been recharging its batteries.

So, was all that effort really worth it? The answer was most definitely a huge YES! Everyone involved in organising this fantastic event and actually making the plans become reality deserve a huge thank-you, especially the many volunteers who must have given their time to get extra trams out to make a more impressive procession. The star of the show was undoubtedly the conduit car, and this small tram’s appearance proved that pretty much anything is possible at Crich these days. What on earth will they think of next!?

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