The Leeds 602 Debate: An open letter to the Tramway Museum Society Journal

The following has been received by British Trams Online and is an open letter to the Tramway Museum Society Journal regarding the decision not to restore Leeds 602. It is written by Jim Soper, a senior member of the Tramway Museum Society, who was responsible for building the Red Lion and the Bowes Lyon Bridge and has authored the extensive Leeds Transport books. It is produced in its entirety.

Dear Sir,

I was astounded to receive a circular from the Chairman announcing that the Board had rejected a legacy of £250,000 for the restoration of Leeds 602 on the grounds that it was to be “conserved.” Is the Board unaware that a future Board of Management, not familiar with the superb riding qualities of this car, will want to restore it to running order. A sum of £250,000 in a restricted account accruing interest would go a long way towards financing this project.

I know in my profession as an Architect that it is impossible to conserve anything indefinitely – except solid gold. Everything crumbles to dust. The temples of ancient Egypt are restored with new stone, the Parthenon in Athens is currently being restored with new marble, all the Cathedrals of Europe are under constant restoration with new materials, and the old castles and abbeys in this country are also restored with either reclaimed stone or new stone suitably distressed.

Art Galleries do not conserve paintings. They are restored, often at very great expense.

Conservation of buildings and paintings is not possible and the same applies to any vehicle be it tram, bus, railway locomotive, motor car, etc. etc. With conservation a vehicle is condemned to a slow lingering death.

A previous curator had recommended that LCC No.1 be conserved. This car has deteriorated considerably in the 50 odd years it has been in so called “preservation” and the Board wisely decided to restore the tram.

Conservation is a fetish of some curators and I think the Board would be wise to abandon the conservation myth forthwith and concentrate on restoration. By adopting this policy our trams will still be running not only in hundreds, but in thousands of years from now. Surely this is the way forward for the Museum.

Yours sincerely,

Jim Soper.

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