Call it the blessing of a growing collection.
The Manchester Transport Museum Society, operators of the Heaton Park Tramway, have launched an appeal to raise funds for a new depot capable of housing three Blackpool trams and two four-wheel trams.
The vintage tramway is situated in Heaton Park, a large municipal facility located 4 miles north of Manchester city centre, with an eponymous Metrolink tram station nearby. Called one of the largest municipal parks in Europe, the park forms the gardens of 18th Century Grade 1 listed Heaton Hall.
According to its website, Easter 1980 saw the official opening of the vintage tramway by the Lord Mayor of Manchester. It incorporates a double-track siding, built for Manchester’s original tramway system and uncovered from beneath layers of tarmac; as well as a former tram waiting shelter converted to a depot.
Until recently the museum’s own fleet consisted of three electric trams and one restored horse car, with the star of the fleet being 1914 Manchester ‘California’ car 765, which was the centrepiece of the original project. Over the years, the park’s own cars have gone on tour elsewhere (notably with 765 at Blackpool), while cars from other museums and Blackpool have been visitors to Heaton Park.
Now, as Blackpool prepares for the rebirth of its seaside tramway as a modern light rail line, much of the resort’s historic fleet is being sold off. Happily, many of these cars have found good homes with preservation groups, including MTMS and Heaton Park.
And therein lies the rub.
According to its website, MTMS now has six tramcars in storage: 1901 Manchester car 173 (at the Museum of Transport), the remains of Rawtenstall car 23 of 1912, and four Blackpool cars — 623 (1937 Brush), 680 (1935 Railcoach), 702 and 708 (1934 ‘Balloon’ cars).
“All of these vehicles ultimately need to move to Heaton Park, some will have to move by the end of 2011,” the museum says on its appeal webpage, adding that “we are currently in discussions with a number of parties including Manchester City Council as to the location …”
The museum has set an initial figure of at least £20,000 for the project, which they hope to complete in 2011. Their appeal offers donors the opportunity to sponsor a square foot of depot for just £10. Each sponsor will receive a certificate and their name on the ‘foot chart.’
“There is no limit to how many square feet you can sponsor,” according to the appeal, as “any surplus funds will be used for moving trams and go towards the next phase.”
To donate, visit the museum’s appeal page (including PayPal link and postal sponsor forms). For more information on the museum and its collection, visit the museum’s home page. For more information on the many other attractions of Heaton Park, visit the park’s homepage.