The National Tramway Museum proudly unveiled their most recent restoration project, Sheffield 510, in its spectacular “Sheffield’s Last Tram” livery, in May 2014.
One of two surviving Roberts cars – the other, 513, is now at the East Anglia Transport Museum, Carlton Colville – its carefully restored livery commemorates its status as the very last tram in the procession which closed Sheffield’s first-generation tramway in October 1960.
These fine trams, a logical and elegant development of the pre-war standard Sheffield trams, ran at most for ten years from 1950: indeed, the last three were delivered in 1952 after the decision had been taken to abandon the tramway in favour of diesel buses.
Along with the Glasgow Corporation’s longer, bogie Cunarder trams, they represent the final development of sixty years of double-deck street trams in Britain.
The detailed log of 510’s restoration, which began at the end of August 2012, shows that it was a complicated and extremely careful operation: http://tramcarsponsorship.org/news.html.
At the time it was taken out of service at Crich in 2007, 510 was making a great deal more noise than these famously quiet cars should do. The resilient gearing by the Sheffield manufacturer, Metropolitan Vickers, had worn out and has been completely renewed in the restoration.
The other concern was that the Last Tram livery, with hand-painted murals illustrating episodes in the history of Sheffield tramways, was deteriorating badly. The original panels have been conserved, and new panels coach-painted with meticulous reproductions of images which, in 1960, were intended only to last a week.
The seats, red leather upstairs and green moquette downstairs, are fresh and the whole tram has been repainted inside and out.
510 now looks as good as new, and in some respects it is new: metal, wood, paint and fabric deteriorate over time, however sheltered their surroundings. No museum piece can be preserved in aspic, and the painstaking restorations that the National Tramway Museum carries out year after year enable visitors to experience the past in the present, knowing it’ll roll on into the future.