Reproduction or Original ?
ABOVE : REPLICA 1622 BELOW : 1858 ORIGINAL (at Chessington Zoo)
The excitement of a number of enthusiasts at the thought of a Lytham 'Pullman' tram emerging from Rigby Road at some point in the future is understandable. A considerable amount of research, work, assembly of most of the tram's structure outside of the lower saloon reconstruction - has to take place first. Not to mention the cost of recreating a 1920s' open balcony tramcar more or less from scratch. The remains of Lytham 43 have survived through sequential initiatives since the 1940s - however they were limited to side panels and parts from the lower saloon bodywork. All the rest went for firewood and wartime metal recycling.
Several remarkable creations have been produced at Crich for well funded groups - notably LUT 159 and London Transport 1622. Funds have been promised for a reproduction Manchester bogie car - of which none survived in any form thanks to the anti tram bias of that system's management from the 1930s. The Crich workshop is now enmeshed in taking apart LCC 1 (formerly Leeds 301) and putting it all back together - a major task in and of itself. However in this case the structure, running gear, control equipment and internal fittings are all for the most part original to the tram. This is definitely an Original. Below : stripping underway- 2015
Many more original British trams await their turn at Crich for a return to some form of operating condition but lacking deep pocketed support, it is unlikely we will ever get to ride on a dome roof car or Sheffield Standard 189 ever again. The Beamish operation is fortunate in it being a wholesome visitor attraction with hundreds of thousands of visitors arriving for more than simply a ride on an old tram. The revenue stream from this ever expanding heritage landmark is able to sustain continuing work on both maintenance, overhaul and new restoration of tram bodies held in storage. Here a former Sheffield car is in the throes of major overhaul to open balcony state. I well remember riding on it in the depths of winter on the initial short single track line when it was an open top car painted in a version of Gateshead colours. Of course Marton 'Box' Car 31 was equally fortunate in benefitting from the 'Beamish' treatment and returning to open top bogie car condition following very closely styling and design of its 1920s service in Blackpool. This also is an original.
Blackpool is full of originals. The work now underway on Standard 143 does involve a reconstructed top deck, among other features, but the precedent set by Bolton 66 - similarly acquiring a new build top deck (it says so inside) provides riders and visitors with transparancy at least. Lytham 43 will be a replica of that system's ten Preston built trams when it is finally completed. The deep leather armchair type seats in the lower deck - themselves will require considerable replication. Ironically this system is able to marshal a sizeable number of well preserved (and restored) buses from the 1930s onwards to its takeover by Blackpool Transport. They are all originals and come complete with period advertisements, seating and the rest.
Comparing a ride on LT 1622 at Crich and LT 1858 at Carlton Colville is a lesson in preserving original trams and replicating them. LT 1622 masquerades as a refurbished E class car - which in fact it never was. But then who pays the piper calls the tune - its always been that way.... Images : John Woodman