Almost at the end of his Presidential year, John took us for a day out in Derbyshire for a visit to the National Tram Museum. The day started at 09.30 when we meet together at our headquarters for morning coffee, croissants, sticky buns and fruit on a stick. It was unusual in that the weather refused to rain.
The charabanc drivers took the long route, along the A6 through the beautiful countryside of Derbyshire. On arrival at Critch, everyone was given an old penny; this was to pay your fare on any of the trams running that day. In return you received a ticket that could be used all day to travel from the Town End terminus to Glory Mine, about 1.5 miles. Before the return journey, the fee paying passengers had to vacate their seats, turn the squabs (seat backs) to face the other direction before sitting down again.
On the hillside, above the tram track you can see The Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment) monument. It was opened in August 1923. This infantry regiment of the British Army existed for less than 90 years, from 1881 to 1970.
George Stephenson, the great railway pioneer, had a close connection with Critch and the present tramway follows part of the mineral railway he built to link the old quarry with Ambergate. While building the North Midland Railway from Derby to Rotherham and Leeds, Stephenson had found rich coal seams in the Clay Cross area and he saw a new business opportunity.
Critch was already well known for the quality of the limestone and Stephenson recognized that he could use the local coal and limestone to produce burnt lime for agricultural purposes, and then utilize the new railway to distribute it. Cliff Quarry, where Crich Tramway Village is now located, was acquired by Stephenson's company.
In the period after the Second World War, when most of the remaining British tramways were in decline or actually closing, the first event in the history of the National Tramway Museum took place. A group of enthusiasts on a farewell tour of Southampton Tramways in August 1948 decided to purchase one of the open top trams on which they had ridden. For the sum of £ 10 they obtained number 45 – now the doyenne of the tramcar collection at the Crich Tramway Village.
In 1959, after a sustained search across the country, the Society's attention was drawn to the then derelict limestone quarry at Crich in Derbyshire, from which members of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society were recovering track from Stephenson's mineral railway, for their pioneering preservation project in Wales. After a tour of the quarry, members of the Society agreed to lease – and later purchase – part of the site and buildings.
Over the years, by the efforts of the society members, a representative collection of tramcars was brought together and restored, tramway equipment was acquired, a working tramway was constructed and depots and workshops were built. Recognizing that tramcars did not operate in limestone quarries, the society agreed in 1967 to create around the tramway the kind of streetscape through which the trams had run and thus the concept of the Crich Tramway Village was born. Members then turned their attention to collecting items of street furniture and even complete buildings, which were then adapted to house the Museum's collections of books, photographs and archives.
The Museums Tramcar fleet consists of over 70 historic vehicles, which illustrate the development and evolution of the British Tramcar. The large majority of the collection can be seen at the Museum either on display in the Great Exhibition Hall and in the depots, being worked on in the Workshop or carrying visitors up and down the one and a half mile long. A number of vehicles from the collection are also on loan to other museums/locations across the U K, or in storage awaiting restoration
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