The Manchester Transport Museum Society used their recent Spring Gala event on Sunday 24th March as a platform to announce exciting plans to restore another historic tram from the Greater Manchester area. The MTMS have owned the remains of Rawtenstall 23, currently stored in kit form, for many years, but have now revealed that plans are afoot for this tram to be reconstructed for service at Heaton Park.
Rawtenstall 23 is a four-wheel single deck electric tram built in 1912, which has had a somewhat chequered career since being preserved. It has changed owners a few times and, after spending time in London, it returned to Manchester. By the time the MTMS had acquired 23 it had been dismantled for ease of storage, and the various components that make up the tram are now stored in several different locations. A suitable, and almost brand new, truck has already been acquired from overseas and is currently residing at Heaton Park awaiting its turn for attention, along with the roof canopy structure. Controllers for the car are also held in stock along with most of the bodywork – so the restoration will be more like putting together a very big jigsaw puzzle!
MTMS working member Shaun Whitehead has recently volunteered to catalogue all of the surviving parts that are to be used in the restoration of car 23, and his hard work has already uncovered a bulkhead which has survived in astongishingly good condition. This was displayed inside the Heaton Park tram depot at the recent gala day, showing that details such as the fleet numbers and builder’s transfers are clearly visible. It may not have looked much to many casual passers-by, but to anyone with a bit of imagination, this provided a tantalising glimpse of a long-lost tram which could be operating in the park in the not too distant future.
As with all projects of this nature, funding will be the main stumbling block and once the new depot at Lakeside is completed it is intended to launch an appeal to support the restoration of this car. No cost estimates have yet been revealed but should be made available once a more detailed assessment of the remaining parts and their condition is made. However, with virtually all of the car surviving it is hoped that this project will offer excellent value for money. It has already been stated that the MTMS believe they can rebuild the car within two years once funding is in place – an ambitious target, but looking at the amount of volunteer labour which they have attracted of late, one which seems achieveable. Hopefully it won’t be too long before Rawtenstall 23 can join the likes of Stockport 5 and Manchester 765 in regular service at Heaton Park, and add to the line’s growing collection of local vehicles.