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The Rise and Fall of British Tramways and Visiting Crich Tramway Village in Derbyshire

By Edited Jul 1, 2016 1 2

The British tramways were an important means of transport for many decades, until they started to decline and were eventually mostly removed. Crich Tramway Village celebrates the history of the tram.

George Francis Train

George Francis Train
Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1829, George Francis Train was an American businessman and politician. He was orphaned at the age of four when his parents and family were killed in the yellow fever epidemic whilst they were visiting New Orleans. After his parents' death, Train was raised by his grandparents in Boston.

Train went to Britain where he founded the first British horse drawn tramway in Birkenhead in 1860 and then London. Train's trams were popular with the passengers, but the design of his rails stood above the level of the road surface which obstructed other traffic.  This resulted in Train being arrested in 1861 for "breaking and injuring" a street in London. Although Train tried again in 1862, starting the Darlington Street Railroad Company, this was again short lived and closed in 1865.

Although Train's tramway systems were short lived, he was responsible for the introduction of trams to Britain - which were the first in Europe as a whole - from America.

Train also made a 'round the world' journey in 1870 that was widely covered by reporters, and the character of Phileas Fogg from Jules Verne's novel Around the World in 80 Days is believed to be modelled on George Francis Train.[4]

British Tramways

The Rise of the Trams

Horse Drawn Tram
The first horse drawn trams provided a much better passenger experience than the existing horse drawn buses did. These early trams were simply carriages on rails that were pulled by horses. The rails on which the trams rode were much smoother and more level than the streets which the buses used, so the ride was commensurately less bumpy.

Later trams were electric driven, through a variety of collecting methods. The majority of electric trams took their power from overhead cables, but others used studs in the ground or collecting troughs. With the invention of electric trams, tramway systems started to spread across Britain with 14,000 trams across the country by the 1920s.


Trams starting to decline in popularity after the end of the First World War, even though some tramway systems continued to spread. Improvements in the efficiency of the internal combustion engine caused an explosion in the number of private vehicles available and an increase in the number of buses.

New areas such as the growing suburbs needed new public transport systems to serve them. Buses were much more flexible and easier to setup than trams. To create a new tram line required new track to be laid, and the trams could only go on the routes created. A bus service could be started by simply buying a bus and the route could be changed much more easily.

The 1931 Royal Commission on traffic held that trams were a hindrance and held up motor cars.

Lack of investment in the tramways, combined with their intensive use and destruction, during the Second World War proved to be the thing that finally caused the fall of the trams. Lines were dismantled and most had vanished by the 1950s. By the 1960s after Glasgow's extensive tram network was dismantled, only the Blackpool tramway survived.

Rise Again

Trams have started appearing in cities once again. In the 1990s the potential of modern tramways for city transport was realised. Modern tram networks have been constructed in Manchester, Sheffield, the West Midlands, Croydon and Nottingham, with several more under construction and extensions to existing networks either authorised or under construction.

As the number of private vehicles in use skyrocketed during the 20th century, so did traffic. The increase in traffic lead to much slower journeys into urban areas during peak times, for all types of transport including buses. This also caused an increase in the amount of city centre pollution.

The new urban tramway systems help here. Due to them being electric, trams do not increase the amount of pollution in urban areas like forms of transport powered by internal combustion engines do. Their passenger capacity is often equal to or greater than buses and modern tramways tend to have designated lanes and as a consequence rush hour traffic doesn't slow down the journey. Modern tramways have the potential to reduce city centre traffic and its ensuing pollution as well as decreasing the travel time during rush hour and the cost of commuting.

Crich Tramway Village

Crich Tramway Village Get Directions
Crich, Matclock, Derbyshire, DE4 5DP, UK

Crich Tramway Village is in the town of Crich in Derbyshire and is the home of the National Tramway Museum. The Museum hosts many trams and exhibitions related to the first generation of British tramways.

Buildings, tracks, overhead cables and street furniture have come from all over the country; some dismantled brick by brick and then rebuilt on site.

The Origins of the Society, Museum and Village

The first tramcar bought by what would later become the Crich Tramway Village was an open topped tram, number 45, from Southampton Tramways purchased in 1948 for £10 - it's hard to accurately calculate what that would be in today's money, but probably in the range of £274 to £1,220 (about US$441 to US$1,964) - after a farewell tour of the companies trams.

The Tramway Society

The Society was founded in 1955, incorporated as a company limited by guarantee in 1962 and finally became an educational charity in 1963.

Purchase of the Quarry

The Society was looking for a place to build a museum for trams and a derelict limestone quarry in Crich, Derbyshire was brought to their attention. Cliff Quarry, as it is called, was bought by George Stephenson so that the limestone could be used with coal from the Clay Cross area of Derbyshire to produce burnt lime for agricultural purposes. At the time that the Society was drawn to the quarry, the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society was taking track from George Stephenson's mineral railway for a Preservation project in Wales.

The Society originally leased, and later purchased, some of the quarry and buildings and brought a collection of tramcars and tramway equipment to build a working tramline at Crich.

Blackpool 166 Tram
Development of the Village

In 1967 the Society decided to create a more realistic surrounding to the existing tramline and developed the village by creating a streetscape similar to those which trams would have originally travelled through. Buildings, some of which were adapted to house the Society's collection, and street furniture was collected from around the country to build Tramway Street at the heart of the Village.

The Museum

In 1995 the Secretary if State for Culture, Media and Sport announced that the National Tramway Museum was one of the original 26 museums that were assigned Designated status as being a collection of great importance by the Arts Council England under the Designation Scheme.[1]

The Museum and Village is mostly run by volunteers and funding is received from visitors as well as recent grants from the Designation Challenge Fund of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, the DEFRA Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

A Guide to the Village

Red Lion Pub and Restaurant Get Directions
Rita's Tearooms Get Directions
Barnett's Sweet Shop Get Directions
Frederick's Ice Cream Parlour Get Directions
The Eagle Press Get Directions
Derby Assembly Rooms Get Directions
Yorkshire Penny Bank & Burnley Tramways Company Get Directions
Scothern & Williamson Get Directions
Stephenson Workshop Get Directions
Workshop Get Directions
Tram Depots Get Directions
Great Exhibition Hall Get Directions
Bowes-Lyon Bridge Get Directions
Bandstand Get Directions
Woodland Walk and Sculpture Trail Get Directions
Wakebridge Tram Stop Get Directions
Stephenson Place Tram Stop Get Directions
Town End Terminus Get Directions
Victoria Park Tram Stop Get Directions
Glory Mines Terminus Get Directions

Red Lion Pub & Restaurant
(1) Red Lion Pub & Restaurant

The Red Lion Pub & Restaurant is a public house originally from Stoke on Trent where it was due to be demolished before being transported to and rebuilt at the Museum. The Red Lion contains the Lower Deck Major's Bar and the Upper Deck Resturant. Mostly open during school holidays, busy weekends and event days, hot food can be purchased at the pub.

(2) Rita's Tearooms

The Tearooms serve hot meals, sandwiches, cakes and drinks every day.

Barnett's Sweet Shop
(3) Barnett's Sweet Shop

This period sweet shop sells old fashioned sweets from the jar as well as various confectionary gifts and pre-wrapped sweets.

(4) Bluebells Ice Cream Parlour

This shop serves snacks and ice creams, and is only open on event days and during school holidays.

The Eagle Press
(5) The Eagle Press

This is a small museum next to the tramline that includes a 1959 Columbian printing press. The Eagle Press is dedicated to what is known as Letterpress Printing, a type of relief printing that was invented by Johannes Gutenberg which revolutionised printing in the 15th century.

Derby Assembly Rooms
(6) Derby Assembly Rooms

This is the Georgian frontage of the former Derby Assembly Rooms. It was built between 1765 and 1774. After a fire in 1963, the surviving frontage was moved to Crich in 1972 and reopened by the patron of the museum, HRH the Duke of Gloucester in 1976. Inside is the Village's video theatre as well as other displays recounting the history of tramways in Britain.

The exhibition in the Assembly Rooms is currently being redone to cover the spread of the modern tramway systems.

Yorkshire Penny Bank and Burnley Tramways Company Offices
(7) Yorkshire Penny Bank and Burnley Tramways Company Offices

These house the John Price Memorial Library and The Archives of the National Tramway Museum. John Price was a founder member of the Tramway Museum Society.

The library has a collection of a variety of documents of all types covering the history of the tramways, as well as other forms of public transport such as buses and trolleybuses; not just in Britain but across the world. Additionally, there is an extensive archive of photographs and collections of maps, technical drawings and various physi13:51 13/09/2012cal artefacts such as buttons, signs, badges and uniforms.

Access to the library is only by appointment; anyone wishing to visit must contact the Museum in advance.

Scothern & Williamson
(8) Scothern & Williamson

A souvenir and model shop, Scothern & Williamson sells a variety of books, items and models related to the tramways as well as various other gifts.

(9) Stephenson Workshop

The Workshop was built in the 1800s and originally used as George Stephenson's smithy and wagon works for his one metre gauge mineral railway which operated from Crich Cliff Quarry to nearby Ambergate. The ground floor houses a Learning Centre funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and has a dedicated learning space for educational groups.

Stephenson Discovery Centre

The Centre, opened in 2011, can be accessed from the Worshop Gallery as well as from a ground floor entrance. The Discovery Centre is housed on the first floor of the Stephenson Workshop. There are interactive displays covering the village and the history of trams in Britain.

(10) Workshop

Tram Workshop
Many of the trams the museum acquires are in a poor state of repair when first obtained. Repairs can often cost several hundred thousand pounds. In the Workshop the trams are repaired and restored with their original livery, often becoming part of the Village's active fleet afterwards. The operating trams also require regular maintenance and service which is performed on site.


The gallery allows visitors to watch the work carried out in the Workshop below from a safe vantage point. In addition, various displays cover the history of trams and the tools used to maintain them.

Tram Depots
(11) Tram Depots

The tram depots house many of the trams that have been purchased and restored to full operating condition. These trams are used to transport visitors along the Village's tramline, with different trams being used all the time.

(12) Great Exhibition Hall

Tracks in Time Exhibition
Tracks in Time

The Tracks in Time exhibition was created in 2010 and features trams from each decade of the first generation from 1860 to 1960. Interactive panels and archive films dating from the period, as well as smaller displays, cover a century of trams in Britain - as well as a few from other countries.

Children’s Play Area

The Play Area is a separate part of the Great Exhibition Hall and houses an indoor play area with a soft tram climbing frame, a ball pit and a soft play area for toddlers, as well as seating for parents.

Bowes-Lyon Bridge
(13) Bowes-Lyon Bridge

The Bowes-Lyon bridge was cast in 1844 and came from Stagenoe Park in Hertfordshire. The late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was born into the Bowes-Lyon family.

(14) Bandstand

This Victorian Bandstand originally came from a park in Stretford, Manchester.

(15) Woodland Walk and Sculpture Trail

The Woodland Walk and Sculpture trail is funded by the Countryside Agency and stretches from the Wakebridge tram stop to the playground and picnic area. The walk and      trail features a number of different sculptures as well as views over the surrounding countryside.

Playground & Picnic Area

The playground and picnic area is at the town end of the Woodland Walk.

Wakebridge Tram Stop
(16) Wakebridge Tram Stop

The cast iron and stained glass tram shelter at Wakebridge comes from two sources. The cast iron shelter itself came from Birmingham; the stained glass came from the cable tram shelter at Crown Square in nearby Matlock.

Peak Mines Display

Peak Mines Display

The Peak Mines Display is situated at the Wakebridge tram stop and is run by the Peak District Mining Association, rather than the Tramway Museum. The display began in 1968 and features various mining artefacts and machinery related to the Derbyshire lead mining industry as well as a small shop selling books, gemstones and mineral samples.[5]

Amelia's Refreshments

Police Box

This small refreshment stand at Wakebridge is only open at certain times of the year.

(20) Glory Mine Terminus

In late 2013, passengers became able to dismount from the trams at the Glory Mine Terminus, and then use a footpath to visit the Sherwood Foresters Memorial which overlooks the village whose tower can be seen from many points in it.

Street Furniture

As well as the various buildings, the Village contains a selection of street furniture, such as a Victorian cast iron public urinal, gas street lamps from Oldham and including an old British Police Box, the design of which is the inspiration for and familiar to many as that of the Doctor's TARDIS from the BBC television series Doctor Who, from the North Circular Road in London.

Riding the Trams

Tram Tickets
When entering the Tramway Village, visitors will be given an old fashioned penny or ha'penny which can be used to pay for a ride on a tram. This isn't absolutely necessary for every tram ride; you can take as many or as few rides as you like. The trams go from the Town End Terminus to the Glory Mine Terminus and back. Tickets are in the traditional style and are hand punched in a variety of ways using; some of which using punches that date back decades.

Trams may be boarded at the Town End Terminus and boarded and disembarked from the Victoria Park stop - serving the car park - and Wakebridge on the way to the Glory Mine. They cannot be boarded from or disembarked from at Glory Mine. On the way back, they can be boarded and disembarked from Wakebridge and Victoria Park again, and must be disembarked from at Stephenson Place before the trams are turned around to go back again.

Several trams - a minimum of two is aimed for - are in operation every day; the particular trams being used changes as the museum has many different trams. Trams arrive at the stops every 10 to 15 minutes during operating hours.


The museum has a collection of over 70 trams, many fully restored and operational, others on permanent display, loaned out to other locations or museums or awaiting restoration.

These are not just trams from the British Isles, but some of the collected trams are from other countries as far away as New York, USA, Johannesburg, South Africa and New South Wales, Australia as well as a number from Europe.

The museum's collection policy, determined in 1963, is to acquire and restore trams that portray the different stages in the evolution of the British tramcar. Tramcars from other countries either fill in the gaps, or provide comparisons.

Trams are acquired from many sources. Some were purchased directly from the companies and towns that ran them, others which have had a varied life after being retired from active service. Former trams has served as site offices on housing estates and as holiday homes.

Historically when the trams were originally in service the needs of disabled people were rarely considered. Many of the trams are therefore not suitable for disabled visitors. A 1969 Berlin tram was adapted in 1997 to cater for visitors with mobility problems.

Other Details


Throughout the year the Village hosts a number of different events, some featuring trams and other vehicles relevant to periods of the tramways.


Each ticket is valid for an entire year. Once purchased, you may visit the Village with paying again, excluding during some of the events.


Dogs are welcome on a lead except within the children's indoor play area and catering establishments.


Crich Tramway Village also offers a variety of sessions linked to the National Curriculum for early Years, Key Stages 1 and 2 and for ages 14 to 19.



Oct 4, 2012 2:01am
Excellent choice for a feature. I have never been able to get to Crich, but I enjoy the traditional tramways; just a shame Blackpool went all modern on us!
Oct 4, 2012 2:27am
Thanks, yes Crich is an interesting place to visit.
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  1. "Designation Scheme." Wikipedia. 14/09/2012 <Web >
  2. "National Tramway Museum." Wikipedia. 14/09/2012 <Web >
  3. "Welcome." Crich Tramway Village. 14/09/2012 <Web >
  4. "George Francis Train." Wikipedia. 14/09/2012 <Web >
  5. "Crich Project and Lead Mining Display." Peak District Mines Historical Society. 14/09/2012 <Web >
  6. Crich Tramway Village Guide. Crich: Crich Tramway Village, 2012.

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