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National Tramway Museum (Crich, Matlock)
Member Name: C-J-C
National Tramway Museum (Crich, Matlock)
Advantages: Good family day out . Plenty to do . Unlimited rides
Disadvantages: Ques at busy times . Quite a way from anywhere .
Despite living only about an hours drive from Crich, and being interested in things like Trams, my last visit to Crich was probably about 10 years ago, and the visit before that I was so young I can hardly remember it. After all these years, I finally went back over the Bank Holiday for another visit.
The museum itself houses the largest collection of trams in the country, ranging from 19th century horse trams to some fairly modern ones, from Britain, Europe and the US. It is on a large site in Derbyshire, which contains a period street scene, workshops and exibitions, and about a mile of track out into the hills above the site. There is also a woodland walk and sculpture trail, and a small mining exibition at the halfway point.
On arrival visitors are given an old penny, which they use to buy a ticket on their first tram ride. These tickets are valid all day for as many rides as you want. The number of trams in service varies, on the two days I visited, a event over the August Bank Holiday, about 6 trams were in service. This was a little bit of a downside, because both afternoons the crowds built up to the point where people were queing for fairly long periods to get a ride. The weather was nice, so the open toppers and the "toast-racks (open sided single deckers)" were most popular. A full round trip takes around half an hour, 2 intermediate stops. The first is for the car park, the next being at the passing loop half way. After that, the trams travel up a steep gradient along the side of a valley, giving spectacular views, to the terminus at the top. It is possible to alight at the halfway point, where the mining display is situated, and from there it is possible to walk back to the main site. You cannot alight at the terminus though, due to the many old mine workings in the area, some of which have been found and made safe, but many which have not. Whilst waiting to return though, passengers have the unusual experiance of moving the seat backs so they can face the correct way for the return, aswell as on some trams watching the conductor turning the trolley pole. There will often be a small wait at the loop just after the terminus for the next tram to clear the single line section, and during this time many drivers will give a small talk about the museum and the tram.
The trams are restored to very high standards, although retain a working feel to them, they are not static museum pieces afterall. Comfort levels vary widely, from open top or open sides trams with wooden seats, to fully enclosed ones with comfortable upholstory, which rival (or even better) the modern trams. The long, steep track gives the a chance to show what they can do, and some of them really do move. The bogie trams ride nice and smooth, but the 4 wheel ones can be a little rough.
Aswell as the tram rides, you can also explore the period street. This includes a traditional pub, and a traditional sweet shop, aswell as a cafe and a gift shop. Most of the buildings on site have been saved from various parts of the country. You can also look in the depot where the trams that are not in service are stored, and also the workshops where trams are restored. There is also a large exibition building which shows the history of trams, details of different towns and cities tram systems, and you can learn about things like how power is supplied, and see all sorts of artifacts from bits of track and overhead to tickets and uniforms, aswell as more trams that are restored but not in use, including some which are of different gauge so unusable. The exibitions are such that they are of interest to anyone from the likes of me who knows a lot about trams (having conducted and driven and restored them at another museum) to those with little or no knowledge. For children, there are a couple of play areas.
The staff are professional but very friendly, and oviously passionate about what they do. Nearly all are volenteers, and there is a fair range of ages, and both sexes were represented aswell. On my visit, we did have some problems, with a tram breaking down, then ironically the one put into service to replace it breaking down aswell. This was delt with fairly well, and a full service was resumed as soon as possible. Staff tried there best to keep the visitors informed of what was going on, although perhaps communication was not best. Then again, I know myself what these situations can be like, having been involved with many myself.
Entry (2008) is £10 for adults, £5 for children, £9 sceniors and £28 for families. This not only includes access to the site and unlimited tram rides, but also free return admission for 12 months. Opening is daily 9th - 24th February (half term), and weekends in March, from 10:30 to 16:00, and daily 21st March - 2nd November from 10:00 to 17:30. Various events are held throughout the year, including Enthusiasts days, Tramathon (with all working trams running), 1940s weekends, and a Transport Extravaganza. On some events, extra admission charges apply (usually £1 on normal entry).
Crich is situated 8miles from Junction 28 of the M1, and near the A38, A6, A61 and A52. It is fairly straightforward to find, and well signposted.
Buses run every day from Matlock, Alfreton, Belper and Ripley. The first three are served by East Midlands Trains at least hourly. Whatstandwell is the nearest station, also with hourly EMT service, but it is a steep uphill walk of around a mile to the museum.
For those looking for something different, the museum also offers "The Ultimate Driving Experience", the chance to drive one of their trams. For £250, this could be a good gift for the person who has everything.
Crich Tramway Village provides a great day out with interest for the whole family. It provides nostalgia for those who remember "proper" trams in service, and enlightenment for those who are too young to have seen them. At £10, it's not the cheapest, but worth it IMHO. The only real downside is the possible ques on busy days, and the fact that it is a little out the way.
Summary: A great day out
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