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A Trip to Crich Tramway Village
a living electric tram museum in Derbyshire
Crich Tramway Village, Derbyshire
Crich Tramway Village is the home of The National Tramway Museum. The museum restores and preserves trams. They go back to the time of the horse-drawn tram through to more modern electric trams such as the Sheffield Corporation No 510 from 1950. On any given day, several trams operate for visitors to ride. The three trams running today are the Metropolitan 331, Leeds 180, and Blackpool 630.
The village of Crich lies in the Peak District National Park in the county of Derbyshire. It’s on the edge of the Derbyshire Dales. The Tramway Village is built on the site of an old quarry. The track for the trams is just under a mile long.
To view the photos in full size, click on the image
Let me tell you about my visit made on May 2nd.
It’s always lovely to spend time with my daughter and family. My grandson, Albie, is just 30 months old and this is a good opportunity to arrange a visit and let him enjoy the trams too. When you arrive at the visitor reception, you are each given an old penny coin for your first ride on the tram. Rides are unlimited, and on your first ride, the penny is exchanged for a paper ticket. As some other attractions offer, this one also allows 12 months of admission, except for special events.
Crich Tramway Village Buildings
There are several buildings that the museum has rebuilt, brick by brick, on the site. The Red Lion Pub was originally in Stoke on Trent. Today at Crich, visitors can enjoy a drink in this pub which has a decorative exterior as well as a traditional pub interior. The impressive facade of the Derby Assembly Rooms, built in 1775, stands proud, having been installed here following a fire on its original site in 1963. You can see how the village looks in the photos throughout this article.
As we approached the village centre, we decided to take a tram first to get the visit properly underway. It’s the Metropolitan 331 (opening photo) with centre passenger access. Albie gets a little worried as we board the tram and clings to me for dear life! We set off along the track with Albie looking out the window over my shoulder, unsure of his safety on the tram! Our pennies are handed to the appropriately dressed conductor (halfpenny for Albie), and we receive paper tickets for more tram rides. All the tram volunteers look smart in their uniforms.
The drivers of these old trams don't have the luxury of seats. They have to stand as they operate the tram along its route, tooting the horn at points during our journey. Part of the line is single-track, so trams with the right of way carry a token that will be passed to the driver in the waiting loop. No token - no entry onto the single track. It’s a simple safety system that works, so there is no need for electronic signalling.
Many cities and large towns used to have a tram system, with most of them being closed and the lines ripped up by the 1960s. It’s good to see that many new electric tramways and light railways have been built, such as in Sheffield and Nottingham, with more planned. Trams form an efficient and clean transport system to help reduce motor traffic in congested cities. If good, clean, affordable and safe public transport is available, people will use it.
At the end of the track, we alight at Wakebridge to look around the lead mining display. From this point, visitors can walk to the top of the hills and visit Crich Stand. This is a memorial built in 1923 to the memory of the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment who died in World War One and subsequently the Second World War.
Crich Tramway Woodland Walk
We decide to take a walk back to our starting point, Town End Terminus, through the woodland walk. It’s a very pleasant walk with, at times, extensive views over the Derbyshire countryside. There are many interesting sculptures along the route, including a grandfather clock, a sofa and many characters. The trees have also been decorated with fairies for the little and not-so-little to enjoy during the month of May.
Derbyshire has a history of lead mining, going back to the Romans. At the end of the walk, there is a viewing platform which overlooks the ruins of the Stokoe Lead Smelter. The information boards tell of the terrible conditions workers endured while producing the lead. There is a lovely view across the countryside from this vantage point. It will give you a minute to pause and think how fortunate we are that we don’t have to work as those poor folks did a few hundred years ago.
Next is the children’s play area; Albie quickly looked around but didn’t want to stop. It’s mainly designed for children older than him. We now cross the Bowes-Lyon Bridge. The ironwork was cast in 1844, and the bridge once provided a focal point at Stagenhoe Park in Hertfordshire. Standing on the bridge gives a great view in both directions over the tramway.
What better way to finish the walk than a stop at the ice cream parlour? You pay for your ice cream selection at Barnett’s Sweet Shop, next door, or at the Gift Shop across the track. I can recommend the salted caramel. The ice cream is made locally in Matlock by Matlock Meadows. It’s delicious. In case you’re wondering, Albie had vanilla, his first cone, and although he didn’t want to eat the biscuit, he demolished the ice cream.
Once refreshed with the iced delights, we had tea and coffee at Rita’s Tea Rooms. As a side note, the sweet and gift shops stock some really nice items. The gifts are not the usual tat you might find at many attractions.
Once ready, we head off to the Stephenson Discovery Centre and the viewing area of the workshop. The famous engineer, George Stephenson, had this two-storey workshop built in the 1800s (now fully restored) as a smithy and wagon works. It was to serve his one-metre gauge mineral railway to transport limestone from what was then Crich Cliff Quarry to kilns at Ambergate, near Belper. A one-metre gauge is most unusual in a non-metric society, and that is a story in itself.
The Discovery Centre
The Discovery Centre is ideal for all ages to have hands-on experiences and learn about the area’s history, trams and more. When standing on the viewing platform, there is that unmistakable smell of an engineering workshop. Oil and grease! I love it, and I know many others who also do.
Of course, we must spend a few minutes in the soft-play area next door. A certain young man loved the slide.
In the Derby Rooms, there is Survive and Thrive - The Electric Era exhibition, which looks at the reintroduction of modern tramways in cities in the United Kingdom. There is also a temporary exhibition, The Art of Trams. It displays how trams have inspired creativity, and it includes artwork, memorabilia and decorative items for you to see.
The Great Exhibition Hall
As we walk across to the Great Exhibition Hall, we can peek into the tram depot and the rows of trams ready to take their turn on the tracks in the coming months. To get the trams out of the shed and onto the track, there is a transverser. It slides in front of the trams allowing them to run onto it. The transverser then slides to the track and allows the trams to leave the yard.
Inside the Great Exhibition Hall, there is a large display of trams from all eras. A horse-drawn tram is one the first to greet you. There is plenty to see, along with an amazing collection of model trams. I have added some photos below so you can get an idea of the fine collection here.
The Crich Tramway Museum is a charity that relies on visitors, donations, and wonderful volunteers to survive. It costs £170,000 a year to operate, and this excludes restoration work. It can cost as much as £500,000 to restore a tram.
I had a great day, and I know Albie did too (along with his daddy and mummy), although he didn’t want to take another tram ride. We will return using our 12-month option on the entry tickets, and maybe by then, Albie will like riding on the trams!
For more information about Crich Tramway Village - visit their website. The website has an extensive collection of photos.
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