A surprise new arrival at Crich Tramway Village during the final days of 2013 was the unrestored body of a North Metropolitan horse tramcar, which has been housed at the Tramway Museum Society’s Clay Cross store for many years. However, this development is not a good one, and actually marks the end of the road for this tram which is destined to be broken up at the museum, rather than restored. A review of the horse tram’s future was deemed appropriate as it was one of two derelict horse tram bodies positioned in front of Gateshead 52, which is shortly to be removed from the building and transferred to a new home at Beamish Museum, where it will eventually be restored to full working order. With this in mind, a rare shunting exercise took place at Clay Cross to move two horse trams in order to clear a path for 52 to make its escape early next year. First to move was the Society’s unrestored Eades reversible car, and this was followed by the North Metropolitan car. This tram is in an extremely delicate condition, with supporting beams used to hold it together! The car was carefully moved outside and onto a waiting low loader provided by Scott’s Heavy Haulage, before making the fairly short journey to Crich. There, it was unloaded in the depot yard where it was briefly posed to be photographed by staff and volunteers on site, before being moved into track 1 of the workshop. There, the tram will be dismantled although some parts are expected to be retained for potential re-use in connection with other horse tramcars in the distant future. The decision has been made to dispose of the horse tram as its extremely poor condition would make any restoration of the vehicle effectively a replication, and with other similar cars in existence it was decided by the Society’s Tramcar Conservation Committee that it was not worth retaining in its current form. It was also felt that the tram was in too poor a state to be transferred to another organisation – despite at least one preservation group having shown some interest in acquiring it! This is clearly a very sad end for a vehicle that has clung to life for more than a century, although as stated above some components will survive. It is also believed that this is the tram which had one side cut away and used to create a display cabinet which can now be seen inside the museum’s Exhibition Hall, so at least some of it will remain on display as a reminder of its existence.
The disposal of such an old tramcar is never likely to be a popular decision, although the official Crich Tramway Village website describes the operation as ‘deconstructing’ it, presumably in an attempt to make its destruction seem less brutal. Hopefully if the TMS decide to get rid of any other unrestored trams, it is to be sincerely hoped that other museums will have an opportunity to re-home them, rather than an assumption being made that the vehicle in question is beyond salvation simply because it is not required in the national collection.