Crich Tramway Village unveils its "geatest challenge" - London United Tramways 159

By Richard Moss | 12 July 2012
a photo of an Edwardian Tram
The restored London United Tramways 159 on display at Crich Tramway Museum.© Photo courtesy Crich Tramway Village
As the national repository of some of the finest preserved trams in the world, Crich National Tramway Museum and Tramway Village near Matlock in Derbyshire has countless specimens that it’s rightly proud of, but a recently unveiled restoration project has been turning the heads of staff, volunteers and visitors alike.

London United Tramways (LUT) 159 was donated to the museum back in 1978, and, like many of the trams in the peerless collection, its life since retirement from service in 1923 has been an interesting one.  

Built in late 1902, it served 21 years on the capital’s tramlines before being sold and converted into a house, along with two similar type trams, and became a home to a couple in Ewhurst Green in Surrey for 55 years.

Following its donation, the tram was stored offsite until 2005 when the museum decided it filled an important gap in the collection for an early Edwardian tramcar. And so began a long, final journey towards a remarkable restoration.  

It has taken an extraordinary level of work and perseverance from the staff and volunteers in the museum’s Conservation Workshop, but thanks to grants from the Prism Fund and a major cash injection of £300,000 from the London County Council Tramways Trust, the team at Crich were eventually able to research, rebuild and locally source the new components needed to match the tramcar’s original high-grade features.

“Bringing this magnificent Edwardian tramcar back to life has probably been the greatest challenge yet faced by the Conservation Workshop,” says Ian Ross, the museum’s project manager for the restoration.

“Many of the parts have been designed and made in-house with very little information to work from, and there have been problems in finding suppliers able to produce the components that we wanted.”

Now at last the thousands of man hours invested in the project are paying off. Since its launch on July 7 by Sir George White  - the great grandson of the founder of the company which built London 159 - visitors have been marvelling at the standard of interior furnishing in the tram.

“Many visitors are amazed when they are told that it is not a ‘first class’ tram,” adds Ross, “but just one of three hundred cars built to the same high standards of finish and comfort.”

More pictures:

a colour photo of two tram shells converted into a home in a field meadow
London 159 spent 55 years as a home in Surrey.© Photo Caroll Taylor. Courtesy Crich Tramway Village
a photo of an unrestored tram shell on a flat bed rail carriage
London 159 arrives back in Crich in 2005 for its restoration.© Photo courtesy Crich Tramway Village
a photo of a tramcar wooden framework in a restoration workshop
Stripped back to its frame in the Restoration Workshop.© Photo courtesy Crich Tramway Village
a photograph of a tramcar during restoration
The restoration begins to take shape.© Photo courtesy Crich Tramway Village
a photograph of the ornate interior of a tram
The ornate interior fittings.© Photo courtesy Crich Tramway Village
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