Last week I visited the tramway museum in a village called Crich in Derbyshire where there are old trams not only on show in a museum and workshop but working on tram lines. These date back from the start of the last century therefore being over 50 years old and classics in the eyes of those who remember when they were the main means of public transport, or younger kids who see them as antiques from yester-year (it was half term so quite a few kids and families).

A great day visit, particularly when you start looking into how they operated both in terms of the construction of trams but also the way they were managed. Old and simple technology, with eight good lessons to be meant:

1. They had a physical object to make sure only one tram was only ever on the single track. So in a couple of locations there was only one set of tracks yet trams moving in both directions. The system of making sure only one tram was only ever on these to stop any collisions was simple, no complicated digital means of communication – just have a rubber object hung on a pole, and when a tram went past the driver grabbed it and then placed it back on the pole at the other end when finished. Whoever has it can drive on the track, simple.

2. Difficult slippy areas of track are dealt with by pouring sand on them. This are stored in sandbanks inside the tram, with foot pedals next to the driver which then release sand onto the tracks, even two different ones for each track. If slippy or problems, then just release.

3. Pop-in ploughs are possible for snow. So there were gaps in the under-carriage where ploughs could be installed to help plough snow etc out of the way, or even have special ones on the front of some trams. No need for separate vehicles (and cost), just use the same one.

4. They are amazingly safe and long-lasting. You’re talking decades, not just years compared to say traditional buses, hence why they’re still operational over 50 years on. They keep on going, safe-as-houses apparently, and although they were phased out because of the initial cost being too high, when you look longer term over the decades they’re very cost efficient (interesting how modern trams are in existence now).

5. Excessive turning circles can be controlled by a chain. Yes, literally a link chain dangling between the bottom carriageway which turn when tracks do, against the bottom chassis of the tram – if it turns too much then the chain will stop it. Crude, but I guess does the job.

6. They’re powered by live electricity cables above rather than batteries. A metal ‘prong’ then reaches up to the top cables to provide electricity for the motors – may not be all pro Health ‘n’ Safety nowadays with exposed electricity, plus the cost of installing these high cables, but they provide quiet and efficient power (and a revolution at the time following say engines and even horse power).

7. You literally turn everything around when you go backwards. No turning the vehicle needed, the driver simply goes to a similar area at the other end of the tram like with a train, and you even get to stand up and change the direction of your seats to face the correct way rather than then travel backwards.

8. Smoking (with style) was permitted on the top deck. Even sometimes with a rough ‘patch’ next to the windows to strike your match down to light up.