THE cobwebs are to be blown off a transport collection of immense national importance which has been mothballed out of public view for the last decade. It's the latest stage of a masterplan which will see St Helens utterly transformed for the better over the next few years.

Thanks to a European grant of more than £500,000, St Helens Transport Museum on Hall Street will once again be able to throw open its doors to visitors for a nostalgic ride back in time.

The grant gives the green light for a £1.3 million restoration of the former tram depot, due to re-open this time next year after being closed for the last decade.


The building, opened in 1881 as a depot for privately owned horse trams, and now houses around 100 historic vehicles, some dating back to the 1930s.

Its range spans from old cars, a single-deck 1935 bus from Widnes and a St Helens bus from the 50s

There are even plans to organise tours around the area in the more roadworthy vehicles.

The first stage of the restoration will be to repair the roof and rebuild the front of the building. It is hoped the revamped museum will attract around 20,000 visitors each year.

Welcoming the grant, Arts Minister Estelle Morris said: "This exciting project is a good example of relatively modest European funding being used not only to boost the local economy and uplift a rundown area, but also to improve access to an important national asset. The restored museum will also play a key educational role."

Councillor Ken Pinder said: "The museum would form an important part of the borough's heritage."

The refurbished building will have a new glazed faade opening into a street scene display area. It will also help in the plans to regenerate the town centre boosting trade for local shops.

One of the original founders of the museum and author of a book on St Helens Trolley buses, Geoff Sandford was delighted with the news, claiming it will be a great advantage to the town.

"A lot of people, who are no longer with us, worked hard to keep the museum going."

He paid special tribute to the museum's greatest advocate and co founder Mervyn Ashton who died almost a year ago.

Mr Sandford, who knew Mr Ashton for 40-years said: "Mervyn worked tirelessly behind the scenes and was always ready to show people around and make them aware. Sadly he's not here to see this happen."

Mr Sandford continued: "This has been a long time in the making and we are all looking forward to the day when we reopen. This is a very important building because it is one of the original tram sheds. Most have long since been demolished.

"People don't realise what's on their doorstep and will be in for a pleasant surprise.

"Once the roof has been repaired and the alterations have been completed I think the people of St Helens and Merseyside will flock in to see the collection."

l Pictured: Geoff Sandford with a 1950 AEC Regent III bus back in the early 70s.