Metropolitan Electric Tramways No. 331

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Photo: Jim Dignan

In the early years of the electric traction era, tramcar construction was mainly concentrated in the hands of two or three specialist manufactures such as G F Milnes of Birkenhead, Brough of Loughborough or English Electric of Preston. In later years, however, and particularly as competition from motor buses and coaches intensified, a number of operators turned to other suppliers, some of whom were themselves involved in bus manufacture or even, as in the case of MET 331, the construction of underground trains. Very often their products differed markedly in appearance from those emanating from more traditional manufacturers just a few years earlier (such as Blackpool 40, which is less than five years older than 331 but looks as if it hails from a much earlier era)

Metropolitan Electric Tramways was always a pioneer in tramcar modernisation and number 331 was built as the third and final prototype in a batch of experimental tramcars (each incorporating slightly different design features) in a quest for the most suitable kind of vehicle for contemporary traffic needs. Elements of each of the prototypes’ design were incorporated in a fleet of 100 modern trams that came to be known as “Felthams” because they were built by the Union Construction Company that was based in Feltham

The most distinctive and radical design feature of 331 was the incorporation of a central entrance doorway with twin internal staircases instead of the normal access via the end vestibules. This arrangement was intended to facilitate rapid loading and unloading and could have lent itself to a cost-saving ‘pay-as-you-enter’ system, particularly as the driver had a clear view of the nearside doors from his compartment.

Specification

Type of tram
Fully enclosed electric double deck central entrance bogie tram
Livery
Red and cream
Seating capacity
70 (28 in lower saloon; 42 on the upper deck)
Date built
1930
Manufacturer of body
Union Construction Company
Manufacturer of truck
UCC Equal Wheel Type bogies
Gauge
4’ 8½”
Motor
GEC WT18 4 x 35 hp
Controller
BTH B49 S
Current collector
Twin Trolleys
Modification

Replacement of trolley poles with pantograph in 1937 on joining the Sunderland Corporation fleet as car no. 100. The drivers’ seats were also removed at this time, as was the air-powered door mechanism.

Withdrawn from service

Placed in store in 1939 until after the war. Final withdrawal from passenger service in Sunderland in May 1951.

Subsequent history

Sold to a group of LRTL members in 1953, and stored for a number of years in West Aukland and Bradford before arriving at Crich in June 1961.

Restoration history

The tramcar was restored to working order mechanically and electrically in the early 1970s by volunteers at the museum but a full restoration was only possible once funding became available.

Initially restored as Sunderland 100 in 1989 in readiness for service at the Gateshead Garden Festival the following year, where it appeared for a time in non-standard British Steel livery as part of a sponsorship deal. On returning to Crich it reverted to its original MET livery.

Current status
Restored to operational condition. Commissioned for service as part of the operational fleet during the current season.
Date started operating at Crich
1991
Total mileage covered at Crich
14,835
Current location
Depots
Timeline
  • 1930 – 1936Operational on original tramway
  • 1937 – 1951Operational on a different tramway
  • 1951 – 1988In storage (arriving at Crich in 1961)
  • 1988 – 1991Undergoing restoration as Sunderland/Gateshead 100
  • 1991 –Operational at Crich as MET 331

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.