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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Holland's Beamish Museum

John Woodman

Very much like the Beamish Museum's circular tramway around its site, the Gelderland Open Air Museum on the outskirts of Arnhem has a similar operation complete with working tramway. Thanks to the movie 'A Bridge Too Far' the battle for control of Arnhem's vital road bridge over the

River Maas in 1944 gave a comprehensive rendition of that major conflict. One side consequence of the actual battle was the total destruction of Arnhem's tram network and its main depot. This ended the town's tram services and most of its rolling stock. Arnhem trams went their own way in terms of design and styling. The most 'modern' cars in the fleet were a batch of centre entrance bogie cars to a unique design. None survived the war.

The distinctive frontal design of Arnhem's final tram delivery is shown by the carefully created replica built specifically to operate on the Open Air Museum line. It was given the fleet number 76 continuing the original series ending with 75. The Dutch font in the destination blind is noteworthy. All Photos : John Woodman

When the concept of an open air museum replicating or otherwise resiting many traditional old structures still retrievable in the 1960s and onwards - the large rural site required some means of internal visitor transport. Replicating Arnhem's former city tramway (in part) was given funding and material from the original system plus imported cars from Rotterdam - the frame of one being used to recreate replica number 76.

Further evidence of Arnhem's original tramway was created with the design of the main tram depot frontage for the museum line in a downsized format. Seen below it follows almost exactly the frontal styling of the depot building destroyed in the war.

The unusual angular end profile of 76 is clearly seen in these two images. The tram was double ended with centre exit doors and capable of one man operation (note the signage on the front dash). Shades of Blackpool's One Man Car design some four decades on.

The Open Air Museum at Arnhem - accessible by trolleybus service from the main railway station, is perhaps lesser known to British tram enthusiasts but well worth a visit during the summer months when a frequent service is operated. Painstaking work on recreating both tram and depot structure are lessons which could well apply to Blackpool's intended tram museum at Rigby Road when demolition of World War One era workshop structures will remove traces of the original Tramway Workshops erected in the early 1920s utilising War Department surplus hangars for the RFC. Recreation of Arnhem car 76 also commends itself to recreation of Pantograph Car 176 of 1928 utilising the frame, bogies and controls of a surplus tram in the present Rigby Road collection.


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