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Horse tram that went from cobbles to cobblers restored at Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 12:01 02 November 2019

The Cambridge horse tram is now back to its 1880 condition. Picture: MEL RINGER/ITM

The Cambridge horse tram is now back to its 1880 condition. Picture: MEL RINGER/ITM

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A horse tramcar that spent almost a century being used as a workshop has been lovingly restored to its former glory at Ipswich Transport Museum - thanks to thousands of hours of work and a lottery grant.

A horsetram in Cambridge in the 1890s. Picture: MEL RINGER/ITMA horsetram in Cambridge in the 1890s. Picture: MEL RINGER/ITM

Now the tramcar, which operated in Cambridge during the last years of the 19th century, is due to be formally unveiled at a special ceremony at the museum on Wednesday.

It has taken nearly seven years, 10,000 hours of work, and a £50,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund - but now it is ready for its unveiling.

The horse tram was used as a cobbler's workshop in Ely. Picture; MEL RINGER/ITMThe horse tram was used as a cobbler's workshop in Ely. Picture; MEL RINGER/ITM

Horse trams were common towards the end of the nineteenth century and offered new mobility possibilities for workers although their active time was shortened as electric trams were introduced early in the 20th century.

The old horse trams were dismantled and the bodies used as holiday homes, garden sheds and workshops and it was in this guise that the tram was found in Ely in 2001, having been used as a cobblers workshop.

The horse tram arrived at Ipswich Transport Museum in 2003. Picture; MEL RINGER/ITMThe horse tram arrived at Ipswich Transport Museum in 2003. Picture; MEL RINGER/ITM

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It was moved to the Museum in 2003 and work started in 2013 to identify and restore the tram.

Work about to start on the horse tram in April 2013. Picture: MEL RINGER/ITMWork about to start on the horse tram in April 2013. Picture: MEL RINGER/ITM

Mel Ringer, who helped restore the tram said: "Many hours of investigation and careful cleaning identified it as the last remains of the Cambridge horse drawn tram No 7. It had previously been in Bath and Bradford before joining the Cambridge fleet. "These trams were in essence identical to the ones used in Ipswich but sadly none of the Ipswich ones remain. In its life it has been single decked in Bath, double decked and steam drawn in Bradford and finally double decked and horse drawn in Cambridge."

The tram originally carried 18 people but adding the second deck in the 1880s allowed 41 passengers to travel - all pulled by a single horse!

Work started on restoring the horse tram in 2013. Picture: MEL RINGER/ITMWork started on restoring the horse tram in 2013. Picture: MEL RINGER/ITM

Having discovered original labels and adverts from Cambridge it was decided to complete the tram in that livery, making it the only non-Ipswich vehicle in the Museum.

The completed tram will be in the main display area of the Museum next year and visitors will be able to climb aboard and read about its history.

Mr Ringer added: "Working at the Museum is enjoyable and sometimes challenging but always rewarding. Volunteers are always welcome whether it be in vehicle restoration, managing archives, driving buses, stewarding or running the shop or café."

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