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Coventry Transport Museum launches appeal to locate ‘lost’ Co-op sleighs

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Co-op Sleigh Coventry

Coventry Transport Museum launches appeal to locate ‘lost’ Co-op sleighs for new seasonal display

Coventry Transport Museum has launched a seasonal appeal to find images and memories of the ‘lost Co-op sleighs of the UK’ – vintage mechanised sleigh rides that once thrilled children and families at Co-op stores across the country including Dartford.

The appeal has been launched after Coventry Transport Museum agreed to house the Coventry Co-op Sleigh Ride, believed to be the only vintage motorised sleigh ride in the UK remaining in working order, at their city centre site following the closure of the Coventry Co-op store last year.

As part of the appeal Coventry Transport Museum is looking to track down the ‘lost Co-op sleighs’, the fleet of mechanised sleigh rides that were once a major Christmas attraction at Co-op stores across the UK but have now seemingly disappeared forever.

A Christmas institution, the sleigh ride became a tradition for many families across the UK with children and families flocking to local Co-op store’s such as the one in Dartford  to enjoy the magical festive experience of the sleigh ride each year.

Running since 1956, the Coventry Co-op Sleigh Ride has transported an estimated 1.3 million children and adults to meet Santa during its lifetime with family members from across the world making a trip back home every year to enjoy the sleigh ride.

On the eve of the Coventry Co-op Sleigh Ride’s 60 year anniversary and Coventry’s bid for City of Culture Status, the appeal has been launched to find photos, film footage, memories and anecdotes to complete the national sleigh ride story to display with the sleigh each year and share online.

The museum team are also appealing for any of the original engineering team or the company responsible for building the sleigh to get in touch, with a view to them being invited for a special sleigh ride on the 23 December before Santa departs for his trip around the world on Christmas Eve.

Jo Muskett, Director of Marketing and Communications at Coventry Transport Museum, said: “We were absolutely thrilled last year to become the new custodians of the Co-op sleigh ride, as it’s such an institution in the city.

“As we delved into the history of the Co-op mechanised Sleigh Ride, we became aware of how popular the sleigh rides were in other parts of the country with sleigh rides in store at places such as Dartford, Birmingham, Belfast, Dalston, Ashton-under-Lyne, London, Sheffield and York to name a few.

“Online forums are filled with references to magical memories of moving rides at the Co-op, from traditional winter scenes to a space themed ride. Many people have spoken fondly of the sleigh ride in Dartford and we are now appealing for people in the city to shares their photos, memories and information they may have on what happened to the Dartford sleigh ride.”

“Given the popularity we thought it would be great if we could capture all those photos, memories and joyous experiences into a shareable online archive and display that celebrated the Co-op mechanised sleigh ride.”

“We are appealing to people in Dartford and across the UK to help us in our quest to find out as much as we can about the ‘lost sleighs.’ By helping us fit together the missing pieces, we can finally complete the story of this magical Christmas institution so fondly remembered by people as part of their childhood.”

The Co-op Society created a number of motorised, moving scenery sleigh experiences around the country since the 1950s to accompany their in-store Christmas Grottos.

Largely unchanged in design, the sleigh is a capsule of nostalgia in an era of smart-devices and touch screens, offering a physical experience that harks back to times gone by.

Once seated, children travel to Lapland, watching as buildings fly past them on a sleigh pulled by two of Santa’s trusty reindeer. As the sleigh slows, children are guided through another door where a surprise waits in store. Sat by the fireplace is Santa, with a present for every boy and girl, waiting to hear all their Christmas wishes.

Any photos, film, memories and anecdotes can be submitted either by post to Sleigh Ride Appeal, Coventry Transport Museum Millennium Place, Hales Street, Coventry CV1 1JD, e-mail to ashleigh.moore@culturecoventry.com or  share on Twitter @CovTM Using the hastag #SleighMemories, Facebook /CovTM or Instagram  @CovTM

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