Friday, July 18, 2014

Visit to the Crich Tramway Village - Part One

Frank writes...

After visiting the Great Central Railway and having lunch, our English adventure continued as we drove the 45 minutes or so to the Crich Tramway Village, formerly known as the National Tramway Museum.  In my post about the GCR I sorted British rail preservation outlets into three categories, and the CTV falls into the third, an "outdoor museum" or preservation village.  They have a streetcar line of a mile or two with several stops, each of which has some point of interest.  At one end there is a cobblestone street with buildings on both sides, basically a British version of the "Main Street Scene" planned for IRM.
When we arrived we paid our fare and immediately arrived at one of the tram stops, the stop for the parking lot.  The first car to arrive was a Sheffield car built in the company shops in 1950, quite late for British tramways, though unfortunately it was only on a training run and was not taking passengers.  Visible following it is a double-truck Oporto wood car which I believe was built by Brilll; we took this car over to the street scene and main museum site.
The first place to which visitors are directed is the museum building, which has a variety of informative displays like the one shown above.  These displays cover the development and history of trams, some basic concepts (such as what "gauge" refers to and why rails cause less friction than roads), and also provide some history about the museum site, which was once a quarry railroad owned by George Stephenson of steam locomotive fame.  For any IRM volunteer who has ever had a person wandering along Depot Street stop them and ask "so where's the museum?" - I'm guessing this is what they've got in mind.
From there, one enters a second-floor viewing gallery above the museum's workshop.  The facilities are very impressive: clean, organized, solidly built and well equipped.  CTV employs several paid shop staff, who do major restoration projects and have a regular maintenance schedule for all operating equipment.
And here's the view from the other end.  This is just the first bay; there are two other tracks with inspection pits.  When we were there, not much was happening in the inspection pit area but in this first bay there were three "bogies" (two "doubles" and a "single") being worked on, one up on stands.
The apron to the shop is a large cobblestone area with a fan of tracks, the endmost of which leads to a transfer table, shown above.  This is what is used to access the row of storage barns at the museum on one side (to the right in the photo) and, on the other side, to access the Exhibition Hall, which we will see in Part Two.  As you can likely tell, the weather was not cooperative for our visit.
And that leads us to the storage barns.  They're not dissimilar from IRM's barns except that they've got paved floors and are turned sideways, i.e. there are many tracks but each is only 2-3 berths deep.  Bob Bruneau always used to joke that we needed to turn our barns sideways so that EVERY car was the first out, that way nobody would get mad that their favorite car was buried behind something else!  Anyway, what's shown above is a rather distinctive four-wheel steeplecab from Blackpool dating to 1927.
And this is an interesting piece: a car from practically the only interurban line in the whole of England, the Grimsby & Immingham, which was of sufficient length to become part of British Railways in its later years.  This car dates to 1915 and looks like it was spliced together from two shorter cars, but I believe it was built new like this.  It ran until the line quit service in 1961.
One of the unusual features of this car is its electro-magnetic track brakes, shown above in between the axles.  During my recent visit to the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum it was pointed out that this is fairly similar to what was used by the West Penn on their 700-series center-door cars.
And here we have what in Britain was known as a "toastrack" car, for obvious reasons.  Blackpool 166 was built in 1927.
Here's a general view of the display barns.  As can be seen, there is not much space between the tracks; they're designed for storage more than for viewing, though these buildings are all open for the public to walk through.  The tracks coming towards the camera lead to the transfer table.  The car on the left is a car built in 1900 for Sheffield; car 330 is a 1919 rail grinder from Sheffield that was converted from a double-deck passenger car; and 131 is a purpose-built rail grinder from Cardiff in Wales.
The CSL logo isn't bad, in my biased opinion, but what it really needs is a Latin motto underneath it.  This car, a 1921 double-decker, was acquired as a body and completely restored in the early 2000s.
And we have this sign about the PCC car.  There are several displays in different places at Crich that reference the PCC car (and are quite clear about its American origins), but the museum doesn't own an American PCC, having only a Belgian example to represent the type.

Part two will cover the Exhibition Hall, the street scene and the tramway line.  Don't touch that dial!


Bruce Duensing said...

A wonderful tour that seems to have everything one could want or need. It must receive an enormous amount of support..paid restorers? Seems to have had a well thought out master plan at the outset.
Its definitely on my bucket list if I ever go back.
Thanks for sharing your visit.

Randall Hicks said...

The owls are saying: "For the King and the law". Don't ask me why.

Anonymous said...

England was a constitutional monarchy, so rule of law and rule of the king went hand in hand. The crest, "for the king and the law", makes sense in the context of England.

Tony Gura said...

I have heard stories at the Western Railway Museum that in the past visitors would ask "Where's the museum". However, ever since they opened the visitors' center in 2001 nobody has asked this question.

In addition, WRM owns a Blackpool Boat Tram that is currently out of service which can be seen behind the "Toastrack". San Francisco Muni now owns two that are popular with tourists.

Tony Gura