The National Tramway Museum, like all good tourist sites, needs novelties to encourage visitors to return repeatedly: http://www.tramway.co.uk/plan-a-visit/opening-times-prices-2013.
This year’s pride and joy is London United Tramways no 159, built in 1902 and now newly restored after twenty-one years of service in London and fifty-five years as part of a residence in Surrey.
It was originally used on the routes out to Twickenham, Hampton and Hampton Court, where expectations were understandably high, so this W-class tram was one of the LUT’s “Palace cars”, its palatial lower deck fully fitted in a manner thought suitable for its upper-class passengers, with an inlaid walnut ceiling, plush carpet, velvet curtains and upholstery and silk tassels instead of leather hanging straps.
It was not, as such, a first-class vehicle, simply what the residents expected. (Liverpool tramways did have first-class trams in which workmen could not ride so that passengers could travel without fear of dirtying their clothes on their fellow passengers’ overalls. Presumably the LUT didn’t expect workmen in Twickenham and Hampton: they are, after all, a long way from the docks.)
The National Tramway Museum, in conjunction with the London County Council Tramways Trust and the Arts Council’s Prism Fund [Preservation of Industrial and Scientific Material], has spent £400,000 on bringing 159 back to its glorious original condition. The original cost in 1902 was £669.
It’s the biggest restoration project the Museum has tackled so far.
The London County Council Tramways Trust’s album of the restoration of 159 shows how much work is needed to turn a recovered tram body back into an operational vehicle: http://www.lcctt.org.uk/159m.htm. A smaller but more comprehensive gallery is at http://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and-heritage/transport/trains-and-railways/art392208.