Cardiff Corporation No. 131

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Photo: Jim Dignan

At the dawn of the electric tramway era, horses were still the predominant mode of traction for road vehicles and in London alone 300,000 plied the city streets at a time when the total number of motor vehicles in the whole of the country was just 17,000. Moreover, the state of the roads was often deplorable as the patent for tarmac, which involved the mechanical mixing of tar and aggregates to form a more durable weather-resistant surface, was not granted until 1901.

Not surprisingly, therefore, an abiding preoccupation for early tramway operators was the need to keep the streets reasonably clean to ensure that tramlines did not become completely blocked with mud and animal waste. An important weapon in their armoury was the water car and many operators found it necessary to incorporate at least one as part of their fleet even though – partly because of their unglamorous role, perhaps – only one was to survive into preservation.

This was built in Preston by the Electric Railway & Tramway Carriage Works as a 1000-gallon rail-cleaning car for Cardiff, at a cost of £600. It was delivered as a completely open car, with a central water tank, gaining the number 131 in 1905. By 1913 the tank had been enclosed, and in 1919 it was fitted with slipper brakes. From 1920 it was used for grinding out corrugations on the track around Cardiff, and it was also used to take the traffic superintendent home to Cathays after the day’s operations had been completed.

Specification

Type of tram
Works car (purpose-built water car)
Livery
Maroon and cream.
Seating capacity
Date built
1902
Manufacturer of body
Electric Railway & Tramway Carriage Works of Preston
Manufacturer of truck
Brill 21E
Gauge
4’ 8½”
Motor
GEC 200K 2 x 30 hp
Controller
BTH B510
Current collector
Trolley
Modification

In 1913 the previously open sides were enclosed by matchboard panelling and a roof structure. In 1920 track-grinding equipment was added.

Withdrawn from service

1950, on closure of the system.

Subsequent history

Acquired for preservation on withdrawal

Restoration history

It was preserved by members of the Light Railways Transport League, who overhauled it after its withdrawal, and repainted it back into the attractive livery of the Cardiff passenger trams. They arranged for its temporary storage in a variety of locations before its arrival in Crich in May 1959, the first tramcar to appear on site.

Current status
Restored to operational condition. Commissioned for service as part of the operational fleet during the current season.
Date started operating at Crich
2009
Total mileage covered at Crich
452
Current location
Depots
Timeline
  • 1902 – 1950Operational on original tramway
  • 1950 – 2007In storage
  • 2007 – 2009Undergoing restoration
  • 2009 –Operational at Crich and elsewhere

Crich Tramway Village is a brand name for the National Tramway Museum (Accredited with Arts Council England), solely owned and operated by The Tramway Museum Society, incorporated in England with liability by guarantee (no. 744229). Registered charity number 313615. Our ICO number is Z6700136.