New underframe signals start of Leicester No. 31 restoration

AT A private location, deep in the heart of the Leicestershire countryside, one of the most ambitious tramcar restorations yet seen in the UK is getting underway.

For inside sit the mortal remains of ex-Leicester Corporation double-deck car No. 31, which the Leicester Tram 31 Group has set on the comeback trail after the car spent six decades as a hen house.

The lower saloon and upper deck sides of ‘flat-pack’ Leicester tram No. 31 may look like they are beyond hope, but they have survived in remarkably good condition. ALL IMAGES GARY BOYD-HOPE (unless stated OTHERWISE)

No. 31 emerged from Dick, Kerr & Co’s Preston works in 1904 as part of an initial order for 58
open-top cars for Leicester Corporation Tramways. It took part in the official opening of the Leicester system on May 18, 1904, after which it became just another tram in a fleet that eventually totalled 178 vehicles.

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At some point in the 1920s No. 31 had its upper deck fully enclosed, but otherwise little is known about its working life, and it succumbed with the rest of the Leicester tramways in 1949.

Later that year the body of No. 31, together with the lower saloons of four other Leicester cars, found its way onto a farm in Markfield, near Leicester, where it would serve as a hen house for the next 60 years in spite of a number of attempts to preserve it.

During that time the other four cars – Nos. 20, 27, 59 and 95 – were lost and No. 31’s upper deck collapsed after a tree fell on it, but it remained on the farm until 2009 when a renewed bid to save it was finally accepted by the farmer.

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