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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Scotland's Working Tram Museum

Driver's position in large end platform area of an 'Aufbau' 1950s German tram - Number 392 of the Rheinbahn fleet serving the Dusseldorf area.

The Summerlee Museum in central Scotland is the closest thing to the Beamish Museum in Co. Durham, complete with working tramway and robust displays of industrial heritage.

Located in a constrained site on former industrial land Summerlee manages to pack a lot of interesting displays which reflect the former years of great Scottish manufactur-ing firms. Among the railway artifacts when I visited some time ago, were contrasting diminutive tank engines for local industry, and a massive returnee from South Africa in the form of an articulated steam locomotive.

Glasgow's 'Blue Trains' the then new electric passenger sets which appeared in the 1960s just as the city's own great tramway was undergoing final decline and closure - have an example hidden away at the back of the museum. Of course there are two Glasgow trams at Summerlee, one of which now operates. A diminutive single deck car (1017) which served a lengthy shuttle service with sister cars up until the 1950s - a low bridge naturally being reason for single deck trams (all cut down from Glasgow 'Standards'). Number 1017 went on to be the designated 'Schools Car' used to train tram drivers on what was a complex system (unlike Blackpool's straight north south single route). Saved by the bell and deposited in a local enthusiast's garden it served as a meeting room for like minded colleagues over many years. Finally it gained a new operating role (and truck and equipment) plus restoration into Glasgow's glorious colours in which it now operates - albeit with limited seating capacity.

All the way from South Africa - An expatriate Beyer Peacock Articulated Locomotive:

A second Glasgow car is 1245 - one of the famous 'Coronation Cars' which made Glasgow's system so distinctive. This tram firstly moved to the East Anglia Museum under private ownership, then travelled north to Rigby Road for a short stay before finally returning to Scotland and a welcoming restoration still ongoing at Summerlee.

They are joined by Lanarkshire Tramways Number 53 - originally a traditional open top double deck tram which later was 'modernised' with balcony top cover. Found in a field its remains were carefully rebuilt to open top condition where it represents one of the larger company tramways in central Scotland - complete in dull green and white.

Summerlee also saw a succession of 'foreign' cars arrive, both to provide a 'ride' as well as vital components for the Lanarkshire and Glasgow 1017 restorations. Graz, Brussels, Rheinbahn (Germany) and Oporto examples could be found at one time or another. Only the Rheinbahn tram from Dusseldorf still remains and operates in regular service along the single track half mile line. An 'Aufbau' - rebuilt type from the immediate postwar period in Germany it is a neat single truck car typical of many German (west) tramways needing replacement rolling stock and utilising components, usually trucks, controllers and electrical equipment from damaged wartime rolling stock. Numbered 392 in plain overall pale cream colours it was in evidence during my last visit - always crowded on its short run. The Graz car ended up (I think) with a group restoring the last surviving Brighton tram - down south, whilst the Brussels car was sadly burnt in a vandals attack (we all know about those); and the Oporto car gave up its primary fittings to restoration with the body being dismantled.

Below : an anonymous sheeted frontage of a 'Blue Train' unit stored onsite at the Summerlee Museum. The blackline shows the route of the tramway (Right).

Whilst the tramway offer is modest compared to other working 'museum' lines it is nonetheless the ONLY working heritage tramway in Scotland and deserving of support from visitors scouting that country's tramcar history.

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