A Grand Day Out: Crich Tramway Village

Tucked away in a quiet corner of Derbyshire is a remarkable place. Crich Tramway Village is home to the National Tramway Museum. Obviously there are trams (I’ll get to them later), but there’s also some time travel going on.

The quick jaunt back to the first age of trams begins as you enter the village. After coughing up your entrance fee you are handed an old penny along with your receipt and welcome leaflet. Don’t lose this valuable coinage – it’s the only way to pay your fare on the tram.

Then you enter the sort of place that normally only exists in dreams. The whole museum is laid out as a small village, but this village is made up of parts from everywhere: the beautiful ironwork on the Bowes-Lyons bridge came from Hertfordshire; the Victorian bandstand is from Stretford , Manchester. A large sign informs you that you are in Doncaster but then a German tram trundles past.

Fleetwood Tramway

Overall the effect is quite magical, I feel like I’ve wandered back a few decades when I visit Crich. I enjoy that marvellous feeling of nostalgia as I wander along the cobbled street, past the ornate Red Lion pub and the traditional sweet shop before stopping off at the printer’s shop with its old press. I know that the good old days weren’t really like this and that this is the cleaned up version for tourists like myself, but who cares? It’s fun.

TARDIS Telephone Box

Where else would you find a TARDIS? This one originally stood on London’s North Circular Road and has been beautifully restored – like everything else in the museum. Nearby is a telephone kiosk with a button A and B telephone – which works! According to the guidebook, it is the only button A and B telephone still working on the British Telecom system.

The tram sheds are always full of trams that need to be maintained or restored. A gallery on the first floor allows visitors to watch the process.

Restoration in Progress Tram to Renfrew Ferry

Of course, the fleet of trams is the highlight. There are trams from just about every corner of Britain. They have been lovingly restored (I suspect that most of them are in better in condition then when they were originally in use) and you get to ride up and down the valley in some of them. Your 1d coin pays for your ticket which allows you to ride the trams all day if you wish, but don’t lose that ticket, because another hit of nostalgia appears in the form of the conductor – who checks every fare!

Only a few trams are out on the tracks and in service at any time, most of the rest of the fleet is on display in the tram sheds, with some trams forming part of an exhibition.

345 to Elland Road

106 to Woolwich Sheffield's Last Tram

We found Sheffield’s Last Tram tucked away in the back of the shed, although it seems a bit ironic to call it that, firstly because trams returned to Sheffield some years ago and secondly because Sheffield’s Last Tram has now been in service at Crich for longer than it was in Sheffield.
We had a great afternoon out, but we didn’t see everything. We missed both the exhibition about lead mining – once an important industry in this part of the world – and the woodland walk and sculpture trail (mainly because we took my Mum, who isn’t as mobile as she once was). I also want to ride on a Sheffield tram – and none were in service on the day that we visited.

There will definitely be a next time – the cost of entry to the museum is on the high side at £10 each for adults, but that does cover for admission for a year. Oh, except on gala event days (about five weekends a year). And except that the museum will be closed from November 2008 until February 2009 for engineering work. Hmm. However, it is still pretty good value for money for us, since we were planning to go back anyway. Not so good if you don’t live nearby and just want to visit once though.

Links
Crich Tramway Village
My Flickr Photoset from the Tramway Museum

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