top of page
  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Old Dockyard = New Transport Museum

Constantinople and its Ottoman overlordship Istanbul has been a leading destination for tourists for centuries. The current government's announcement that the world famous Hagia Sofia iconic structure synonymous with Istanbul is to revert to becoming a mosque from its museum status established during the 1920s - has created worldwide attention. I had the personal pleasure of visiting the immense interior of this World Heritage Site last year with my family. It was very much a salutory experience.

Istanbul, like Rome, Venice, Paris and London is redolent with history. Unlike these cities however its central districts resonate with the vibrancy of electric tramways - nearly always busy. German influence in the city's transport system reflected the era of the Kaiser and dreams of a Berlin to Baghdad railway; among more strategic aims. Its first electric trams were typically German in design (single deck two axle cars and trailers) - with a longevity which saw them running into the 1960s. With foresight and a popular following locally the city's transport operator set aside several examples for storage and eventual display,

The 'tramvay' shop on the lengthy commercial street along which vintage Istanbul trams run to Taksim Square. It even attracts passing feline visitors.

Several have found a second working life on Istanbul's two heritage tramlines in similar fashion to Blackpool's long lasting tramway history. Unlike Blackpool however Istanbul also has a marvellous transport museum founded (and funded) by a private family on a waterfront site on the 'Golden Horn'. The Koc Museum is an eclectic collection of vehicles and artifacts (and models) of everything from steam locomotives to US Airforce aircraft from World War Two. Istanbul fire engines stand alongside English made cranes and a London Routemaster (why not); whilst the former dock itself has a menage of vessels moored within the complex. One of these is a Brooklyn built tugboat brought over by the Allied forces in 1944 to assist with military landings and port logistics in Europe.

The frontage of the (extended) transport display exhibition.

This is how a historic dock should be utilised to economic purpose. The US wartime built tugboat is moored on the lefthand side of the three vessels in view.

A purpose designed glass walled structure encompasses several railed vehicles including one of Istanbul's early trams and a centre entrance two axle model also of German design in the 1920s. An Italian railcar of the 1930s heavily restored with original fittings recalls the Facist era styling in its motifs and interior design. These are all displayed in proximity to the waterfront whilst a larger hall contains a diverse collection of classic cars from different makers including the USA. Turkey lacked its own automobile industry (and much else) being reliant on imports from Europe and North America. Its railways likewise reflected similar influence.

Below : the Fiat railcar preserved and on display with its prominent fascist emblem on the front (centre) and inside the driver's controls to the left of the power equipment. Below - the passenger compartment interior complete with acceptable 'art' from the 1930s. The fixtures and fittings have all been retrieved and are authentic.

Visiting this marvellous collection last year brought home the loss that Fleetwood is experiencing through lack of official and private patronage that the efforts of the FHLT met with over the past eight years - to create a not dissimilar heritage visitor 'anchor' attraction in the redundant Wyre Fish Dock. No doubt more farsighted and visionary support would have seen the town's waterfront similarly have become a must visit venue on the Fylde coastline - for future generations. At least Morecambe (with Lancaster) grasped a green leisure opportunity for their waterfront when it presented itself. And of course there's the small matter of reconnecting the town's railway link to the national network - running as it does alongside the same riverside land now derelict as silent condemnation of past indifference and ongoing apathy. All Images : John Woodman

Featured Posts
bottom of page