Laura Waters

Tramspotting in the Peak District
Museums Association
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Laura Waters is the curator of collections and library at the National Tramway Museum in Crich Tramway Village, Derbyshire.

What’s new?

The depot that houses the tramcar collection got a new roof, walls and lighting over the winter. Crich has its own micro-climate and weeks of rain can cause havoc. We are still on snow watch because we are at the top of a hill in the Peak District and, ironically, not connected to a great transport system. We get a lot of groups visiting us, along with Chatsworth House and Cromford Mill, and we don’t want them stranded.

Do you get hordes of tramspotters?

There are passionate enthusiasts who get up in arms if they see us doing something with which they don’t agree. We don’t restore everything and there are often clashes between our collections ethics and their enthusiasm to save every last drop of history, even if there are better examples elsewhere.

What does your job entail?

Just about anything. For example, one day recently I was hopping around outside as two artists installed sculptures made from old tram rails. One represents the first world war as a time when female clippies – or conductors – worked on the trams and another remembers the men who went off to war. The next day, I was in the workshop overseeing our restoration of London County Council No 1, an experimental tramcar from the 1930s, which is proving to be a challenge. We have spent hours arguing over paint and have had to order new moquette for the seats as the previous one wasn’t right. I also look after our archive of documents, photographs and models.

What was your route to the museum?

I did work experience at the DH Lawrence Birthplace Museum in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, checking insect traps and talking to visitors. It turned into a summer job while I was at university, where I did an internship at an art gallery, which bored me. I hardly saw anyone all day, while at the Lawrence, there were loads of people wanting to share their passion for the author.

Did you know anything about trams?

At the interview, I was asked about my knowledge. I said I had read Lawrence’s short story about the local Ripley Rattler trams. That was probably the clincher.

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