The weather forecast was good, so we decided it was time to introduce anorak Grandson to the joys of trams …
Crich Tramway Village is a fascinating museum catering for all ages. For those of us who remember trams, there is the thrill of seeing them in action again. For the youngsters there is the excitement of climbing the narrow spiral staircase to the top deck and turning the seats round for the return journey. Trams are different.
Link this in with viewing the workshops with trams being restored, an excellent collection of working trams in the tram shed, some beautifully restored trams in the Great Exhibition, and unlimited tram rides, you can’t go wrong.
The Tramway Village is set in the midst of the Derbyshire Dales, near the small village of Crich. It is a lovely setting with views across the Derwent Valley. The land was bought from the disused Cliff Quarry next to the site and some of the old stone quarry buildings have been kept in the village site, like the Eagle Press. The other buildings have been rescued from towns and cities around England. The Derby Assembly Room Facade is the first building you see as you approach the museum. The Red Lion Pub with its splendid tile frontage came from Stoke.
There are old street lamps, Victorian post box, Gents pissoir, cattle trough and drinking fountain, Metropolitan Police Box (Tardis for fans of Dr Who) as well as the only button A & B phone in Britain still working on the British Telecom system. Don’t miss the School sign still with its beacon symbol.
There is a ten minute tram service running along a mile of track, which takes you through the village, past the closed Cliff Quarry and out onto the open hillside with views of the Derwent valley. With admission you are given an old penny (children a ha’penny) to buy your first tram ride. This ticket them gave you unlimited rides for the rest of the day. The first part of this through the village ran along the line of the mineral railway from the quarry, which was built by George Stephenson. The upper part of the line was built specially for the trams.
There are several stops to allow trams to pass (look out for the use of the token) or to get out. Victoria Park with its band stand, gives access to a picnic site and childrens play area. Wakebridge the mid stop has a selection of artefacts from local lead mines including a circular crusher. Just below the track is the substation with an exhibit explaining how electric current is used to fee the trams. It is also the start of the woodland walk, a lovely trail through the tress back to the village. look out for the different sculptures along the way including the giant ant.
The end of the line, Glory mine allows visitors to get off and walk up the hill to the Sherwood Foresters Memorial Tower, erected in 1923 to commemorate those of the regiment who had died in battle. For those who stay on the tram there is chance to see the conductor pulling the trolley round.
When we visited, there were three trams running. The oldest was a double decker open top Chesterfield tram from 1904. There was a double decker tram from Paisley from 1919 which is presently running in Glasgow Corporation livery. The last tram was a single decker Blackpool ‘boat’ tram from 1934.
As well as tram rides, there is plenty of other things to look at. The Great Exhibition Hall (with Childrens indoor play area attached) covers the history of trams, beginning with horse trams from the 1860s through to some of the last working trams in 1960. There is a lovely single decker Chesterfield and Brampton horse tram as well as an open top, double decker tram from Cardiff. This must have been a novelty as there is a sign painted on the tram reminding passengers to remain seated under bridges….
There is a Beyer Peacock steam tram from 1885 with covered wheels. This was shipped to Sidney, Australia to demonstrate the capabilities of tramways. It proved expensive to operate, so was returned to the manufacturers where it ended up as a works shunter. The exhibit covers the development from outside staircases and drivers standing outside to the enclosed separate driver’s cab with a seat. Early seats for passengers were would, but in the later trams were padded moquette.
All the trams are in beautiful condition. Compare them with the small unrestored Leamington and Warwick tram. A wall display shows how this finish is achieved with three primers, three undercoats, three top coats and a final layer of varnish. Depending on the tram they can cost between £300,000 to £500,000 to restore to working order.
The Tram Depot contains the working trams and has examples from Glasgow, Sheffield (including Sheffield’s last tram) Southampton, Leeds, London. Don’t miss the transverser, a clever way of getting trams in and out of the depot.
Next to it is the workshop. There is no admittance to this, but there is an upstairs viewing gallery from the George Stephenson Discovery and Learning Centre. This looks at conditions of life in the rapidly growing towns and the development of trams. Don’t miss the information about how much food a single horse needed as well as the volume of urine and manure it produced….
The Derby Assembly Rooms has maps of all the tramway systems operating in Britain. Some like Lincoln were just a single short route. It also has information about the development of the museum and its volunteers.
There is a small shop selling a range of models, books and small items aimed at the kids. For the kids (or those of us who are still kids at heart) there is Barnett’s Sweetshop selling a wide range of confectionary (including sugar free) from big glass jars. Bluebell s Ice Cream Parlour sells a range of locally produced ice creams. The chocolate is very good with a very cocoa-y flavour and chunks of chocolate in it.
The Red Lion Pub serves local beers with pie and mushy peas (£3.50) at lunchtimes. Alternatively there is Rita’s Tea Rooms. This serve bacon or sausage butties for early arrivals, a selection of hot food from 12-2.30 as well as cakes throughout the day.
Visitors are allowed to bring in their own food and there are picnic areas and plenty of benches around the village to sit and eat.
Allow plenty of time for a visit, especially if you are planning on several tram rides. We spent four hours and didn’t have time to read all the information.
Dogs, if kept on a lead, are allowed. Take care of your ticket as it gives free admission for the rest of the year. Drivers of pre-1973 vehicles are allowed free admission if their vehicles are parked in the museum street for a minimum of three hours. When we visited, there were several Morgan sports cars parked.
This makes an excellent day out. Grandson loved the tram rides and there was plenty to interest older visitors. It was busier after lunch. There were all ages from babes in arms to geriatrics. There were family groups as well as grandparents and grandchildren. If in the area, it is definitely worth visiting.They also offer tram driving experiences…
DISABLED VISITORS The museum has gone to great efforts to accommodate disabled visitors from disabled parking by the ticket office to very generous concessions for disabled persons with carers are admitted free. Wheelchairs are available for hire.
It is a short walk from the ticket office down to the village site. This is along stone paving slabs which are slightly uneven. There is disabled access to all buildings on the site, either by ramp or a lift to the George Stephenson Discovery and Learning Centre.
There are disabled toilets at the Red Lion Pub, Assembly Rooms and Wakebridge tram stop.
Although there is no wheelchair access to most of the trams, there is a special access tram, a Berlin 1969 tram which has been adapted to lift and carry people in wheelchairs. This runs daily at 11.30 and 2.30 on demand. Talk to the Inspector at the tram stop for further details.
Read my second review which gives a bit more background and information about the site.