Ashley Best’s


Ashley Best’s model trams have received universal acclaim. His latest is a break from the tradition of immaculate models, beautifully painted. Its downright dirty. But it still won a well-deserved Gold Medal.

Two models were shown at Sandown Park, both examples of Salford Corporation trams.

First is tramcar No. 157, a super model of the tram in the late 1930s. No. 157 is one of a batch of ten small open top cars built originally in 1913/14 by Brush using recycled parts from scrapped trams. In 1923/24 they were fitted with English Electric Co balcony top covers.

The model incorporates 21E Brill style trucks, fully sprung with working hand brakes. It includes full interior lighting plus diode operated head and tail lights. It has working life-guards, swing over upper saloon seats and working sliding doors on both decks.

It is entirely scratch-built; painted, lined and lettered by hand.

In contrast, the second tram, No. 350, is shown in its final maroon livery applied in 1943. It was the last tram in public service in Salford in 1947.

Ashley says: “The model is an attempt to represent the car in its last years in the 1943 over-all maroon livery with the inevitable Salford grime which afflicted the whole fleet.”

He points out that “Salford’s tramways, in early days, were well-maintained with smart attractively painted vehicles. Their intended demise would have seen them replaced by about 1941. The Second World War intervened and the system struggled on with minimum care until 1947. At the end the once proud system was notorious for being the most decrepit and run down of all the surviving local tramways.”

To build the model Ashley prepared scale working drawings from research, photographs and known dimensions. The Brill 27G trucks were fabricated - no castings were used. The original tram had been built in 1903 and the upper enclosed saloon was added in 1925 along with the enclosed driver’s platform.

The model took 1480 hours to build over a 20-month period. That does not include research time.

Everything is scratch-built. Bogie truck frames were built up from brass, silver-soldered and hand filed. All the painting, lettering and coats of arms were done by hand using model-makers’ enamel.

The trucks are fully sprung and fitted with hand-operated brakes. Axle boxes are hollow and lubrication is by filling with oil-soaked wadding.

Current collection is by swivel head trolley with roller bearing base.

Lighting is mainly grain of wheat bulbs plus red diodes for tail lights. The switch gear is in a tool cupboard under the end stairs.

Sliding doors work on both decks, and the driver’s windscreens have drop windows. The wing mirrors are adjustable. It has working upstairs hopper ventilation and swing over seating.

It totally captures the end of the tram era.