The next major restoration project at the National Tramway Museum is London County Council 1, the prototype for a new fleet of double-deck tramcars that was launched at a tramway-industry conference in 1932. LCC tramways were amalgamated into London Transport the following year, and a policy of tram-replacement meant that the design never went into production.
Nicknamed “Bluebird” because of its distinctive original livery, it has been red for most of its life – first as London Transport no 1 and – after it was sold to Leeds Corporation in 1951 – as Leeds 301.
Because of its historic significance it was donated to the then Museum of British Transport at Clapham in 1957 and eventually found its way to Crich.
There it remained a static exhibit, mouldering quietly, until its condition became a matter of concern and controversy. The materials used in its construction – aluminium in contact with steel – have caused galvanic corrosion, which if unchecked would cause it to disintegrate. Should it be brought back to working order, which would involve dismantling and the inevitable replacement of mechanical parts and bodywork? Or should it be treated as a relic, too important to be touched?
The resolution has been to go for full restoration, with a forensic, meticulously documented survey of its condition to ensure that historically valuable parts that can’t be reused are kept for future reference.
It will be a particularly arduous restoration of a unique vehicle: one commentator remarked, “Little is known about how this tram was constructed so it will literally be a case of learning more about the tram by taking it apart.”
It has also proved to be exceptionally expensive. The London County Council Tramways Trust has apparently raised around half a million pounds to put this magnificent vehicle back in service for the first time since 1957.
I’m more than happy to see another magnificent, significant historic vehicle brought back to life.