This weekend we will be holding a new, and possibly one-off transport event, titled ‘Fares Please!’
This was originally going to focus on the Tramway’s fiftieth anniversary (May 1973 – May 2023) but has been expanded to include all passenger (buses and trams) transport at the museum.
I originally had great plans for celebrating the Tramway’s birthday, but unfortunately it won’t be quite the party that was planned! Gateshead 10’s overhaul was targetted at completion for this event, but with a number of challenges facing the engineering team, including the temporary closure of the machine shop to allow us to upgrade this vital facility, several staff leaving for other roles elsewhere and some breakdowns that required urgent action, 10’s overhaul will not be completed until spring 2024 at the earliest. This is disappointing, but we remain committed to maintaining the full scope of work for this project.
We were also hoping to have a visiting tramcar for the anniversary celebrations, but in the end we were not able to pursue this either. Sheffield 264’s recent motor troubles struck again and so we are down to four trams for this coming weekend, though we have a good number of historic buses visiting (and in passenger service), as well as the model tramway exhibition in the Welfare Hall on Sunday and Monday. We have prepared a display, charting the development of the Tramway over the last fifty years and this will be viewable in the Bus Depot.
Below: A promotional view taken ahead of this weekend’s event.
This does lead me to wonder about holding this event annually, and then really showcase the tramway at a point in the future when we are better able to do so. It is obviously disappointing for us not to be able to deliver the event we hoped for and know that others have come to expect from us, but these are still challenging times for heritage transport operators and we face one of the greatest of these in the recruitment and retention of suitably skilled staff; without whom none of it is possible – so this must remain the focus for now. That said, we’ve invested huge amounts in the Tramway infrastructure in the last six months, and will continue with this through the next few years to make sure that it continues to be robust, reliable and safe.
Of the tramway itself, the next phase of PW work is currently being costed, which will focus on the route between Foulbridge and the Entrance (a section that sees a degree of movement in hot weather). Blackpool 31 and Newcastle 114 venture out when the weather permits (it’s been a dreary spring so far!) and Oporto 196, Sunderland 16 and Sheffield 264 have therefore seen the majority of use so far this year. 264’s motor cooling fan failure prompted the removal of the motor and we are considering whether to go ahead and have the motor overhauled at the same time as the fan is repaired.
Below: New transfers for the crests for Gateshead 10 (and 52 – in fact, there are nearly enough printed for a fleet of G&DT tramcars!).
This means a large proportion of the next mechanical overhaul of 264 has been carried out so we may withdraw it when 10 returns, to carry out the truck overhaul too. The tram is tired, but it offers the best route towards restoring fleet capacity, when compared to Oporto 196, which needs work on the truck and the body condition thoroughly exploring. Both options are allowed for in the strategic plan, and ideally both would be completed within the timescale of that plan – but we shall have to see how we get on with recruitment over the next few months to fill the vacancies that have recently emerged.
Lots to work on, therefore, but plenty to reflect upon as the Tramway reaches this significant milestone.