Heaton Park Tramway - Showtime
Picking up where I left off yesterday in the visit to Heaton Park's tramway treasures - my afternoon provided a helpful insight into the efforts of a compact volunteer group taking forward originating efforts of founder members in the 1980s and 90s'. Having 'rescued' the remains of the solitary extant Manchester 'California' car from a farm well removed from the city - a small team of dedicated enthusiasts set about a comprehensive restoration and rebuilding of MCT 765 over a number of years. Their efforts, together with a cleverly engineered acquisition of tramtrack inside Heaton Park Gates off Middleton Road together with a very large period 'shelter'; put in place the foundations of a great heritage tramline and growing collection of considerable merit.
Staying focussed (more or less) on Manchester area trams, the resulting labours have seen extension of the original trackage to more than double its length, the erection of a further (and badly needed) depot, and fortuitous acquisition of several Blackpool trams in need of a second home after 2011. An Eades Reversible Horse tram (again unique in Britain) was painstakingly restored to operating condition, whilst an original open top early Manchester car is more or less complete. Stockport Corporation which had a joint running service with Manchester is now represented by open top double decker 5, and both a Rawtenstall and Oldham car bodies are in store pending long term restoration projects being taken up probably by a further generation of volunteers. Hull Car 96 found a working home with the Heaton Park tramway after storage following closure of the Leeds tram system in 1959 where it had functioned as a works car, being cut down from double deck by its original owners in Hull.
Blackpool naturally has been a source of parts, track and trams in latter years. Grinder Car 1 being acquired with Brush railcoach 623 and Motor Unit 680 in quick succession. The 'one-off' open 'rack' numbered 619 from the truck, controls and frame of an OMO car also joined the Blackpool delegation, together with Balloon Car 702. A second Balloon car is 'on the books' but remains stored in Rigby Road Depot. Most impressive has been the Heaton Park Tramway's acquisition of Metrolink 1007 which formally inaugurated the second generation tramway in Manchester and is now stored by Metrolink's current operator pending transfer to Heaton Park where it is hoped it will provide a working link on a new extension from Lakeside to a nearby Metrolink station (but with no connection to that system!).
Restoration of Stockport 5 in the group's cramped workshop space illustrates the effort and spread of skills needed to comprehensively rebuild (more or less) even a simple two axle open top double decker with all its components in place. Those who press for a 'new' tram's appearance should consider the time, the costs, the energy, the dedication of inevitably a very small number of active volunteers to realise what at first glance might seem to be a relatively simple objective. Larger cars need even more extended effort, even for well endowed museums such as that at Crich. Keeping restored trams 'on the road' is in itself a persistent task; particularly needing to observe safety requirements and mandatory regulatory oversight by public sector bodies.
Several further images from a delightful afternoon of observance this past weekend : A nice load of regular passengers to make 765's trip worthwhile. An equally busy interior of Hull 96 and its superb exterior finish (Below).
Stockport 5 surrounded by the diverse equipment, parts and tools in Heaton Park's cramped workshop - illustrating the constraints of overhauling and restoring their collection in the present resource. Amazingly the finished results are outstanding. Images : John Woodman