A Streetcar named….No.31

Tram Banner (small)Recently our colleague Dr. Eujin Pei and our team have been creating a highly accurate and detailed model of a Leicester Tram for our AHRC / HLF Community Heritage partners the Leicester Transport Heritage Trust. The tram in question is Car No. 31 (see http://www.leicestertrams.org.uk/car-no-31/ ). It was a four wheel open-top, electrically powered vehicle with seating for 22 inside and 34 outside! Leicester’s electric tramway system opened on the 18th May, 1904 and by the 1920’s there were 178 tram cars on the city’s network. Car No.31 was eventually withdrawn from service in 1949 after 45 years of continuous service when the great majority of the Leicester tram network was closed down and many of the tramcars ended up being recycled as chicken sheds and domestic outbuildings. But these early Leicester trams are not only nostalgically remembered for their smart red and cream livery and their efficient service, they were in their own way a part of transport research and development. Steven Foxon of the Leicester Transport Heritage Trust tells us that: “The revolutionary or unique point about these Leicester cars was that they incorporated a reverse staircase. Standard staircases twisted the opposite way to Leicester’s clockwise assent. The ‘reverse’ staircase was known as the ‘safety’ staircase. In the event of the driver performing an emergency stop a descending passenger would not be flung off the moving vehicle. Liverpool pioneered the design and Leicester followed. Very few other cities adopted it but there were cases in the UK of passengers being thrown from abrupt pull-ups in the early years.” It’s great to have experts like Steve and his colleagues available to get the skinny on these fascinating vehicles and we’re very pleased to be able to assist the Leicester Transport heritage Trust in their Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) funded project to visualise this iconic passenger vehicle. But Car No.31 is not lost, it has recently been rescued from a farmyard in Leicestershire where it has lain for over half a century and is going to be restored to working condition. Hopefully the kind of imaging and visualizing that the Digital Building Heritage Group at De Montfort University is doing will help to speed No.31 onto a full restoration.

6 Tram Bogey (Small)

About Douglas Cawthorne

Reader in Digital Heritage at De Montfort University.
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