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Sunday, 13 September 2009

The Tramway in a Quarry

Fifty years ago, a museum was established in a Derbyshire quarry, well, next door, anyway. High above the valley of the River Derwent – not the first place you might expect – in the village of Crich, the collection was started that has become the National Tramway Museum. This was the time when the UK’s last street tramways were closing: Leeds abandoned trams the same year, Sheffield the year after, and Glasgow in 1962. Liverpool had already said goodbye to its trams in 1957, and London back in 1952. Only Blackpool survived.

Many trams from that time found their way to Crich, including Sheffield’s official Last Tram. Others were painstakingly restored. Some arrived from overseas: one such, from Prague, left the then Czechoslovakia as the Prague Spring was being put down by the Red Army. As the collection grew, so did the archive of memorabilia, documents and photos, and the museum site expanded. Now its period “Tramway Street” centrepiece pulls in visitors in large numbers, despite the location being well off the motorway network.

At first, the adult admission charge of ten and a half quid might seem pricy, but it’s valid for a whole year, so you and your party can make a return visit – or more than one, if you’re really enthusiastic. Yesterday, for example, you could ride open top trams from Southampton and Paisley, or an enclosed car from Sheffield. There is a fully accessible tram also available. It’s a fascinating look into what is now well in the past for many towns and cities – well, those in the UK.

If only we’d not been so hasty.

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