SEEING DOUBLE - THE WONDERFUL BRUSH CAR
The lasting legacy of Brush Engineering from the 1930s lives on. By a quirk of fate the twenty-strong class of rail coaches built by the company in 1937 for Blackpool - their final tramcar contract; has survived well into this century with no end in sight. The photograph below of BTS Heritage car now 631 formerly 294 standing close to sister car 290 on its display track at the Pleasure Beach is definitely one for the album (courtesy of Tony Armitage).
Number 290 owned by the FHLT is due to be moved to storage after three years (with three different liveries) in full public view. BTS have two other examples in store at Rigby Road. Elsewhere in Blackpool a local school has a unique classroom in the form of a Brush car.
Merseytravel acquired three examples in 2011 and is now putting them up for sale. A Derby energy technology company purchased 636 for extensive and ongoing testing work, whilst the Beamish Museum received into its care former 284 (the first of the series) in 2014. This tram is likely to receive a serious makeover to restore to 1930s’ condition prior to full operation at the ever expanding attraction. Not as lucky is 298 which has been the on again off again victim of restoration which began in Blackpool nearly forty years ago; continued in the hands of a dedicated group of volounteers led by Keith Terry, until transfer to the NTM collection at Crich, where it then lapsed into storage out of view despite the substantial fund accumulated for its restoration. A less attractive example was acquired by the TMS at the conclusion of traditional tram service in Blackpool. The Heaton Park Museum has its own example; whilst the NEETT Museum near Sunderland has a further Brush Car on loan from its private owner.
Thus fourteen of the original twenty trams delivered to Blackpool in 1937 from Loughborough - have achieved permanent fame in a diversity of locations in England. All the more remarkable that of the 45 English Electric rail coaches not one has survived in its original form. One exception is a retro-build project started by the LTT and now awaiting renewed attention at Rigby Road. Many English Electric rail coaches were subject to extensive re-builds during their working lives, notably into Twin-Car Motor Units (10); One Man Operated Units (13), Experimental rebuilds (2) and the basis for Illuminated cars (2). Quite a number of these redesigned examples do however survive.
The stalled completion of restoration of number 298 has been and will continue to be the subject of considerable discord among followers of Blackpool’s traditional trams. At the very least the tram could be placed on display within the Exhibition Hall at Crich in the manner of other 1930s classic designs - and the hard work over many years of dedicated enthusiasts, combining with the six figure fund assigned for completion of the tram’s restoration could be used for this immediate purpose. Instead 298 has been shunted into the great tram mausoleum at Clay Cross, unlikely to be seen again for decades to come. In contrast the Beamish Museum now have means of delivering a fully restored example in our lifetime; and no doubt will move a damn site quicker in delivery - without the benefit of a purpose assigned fund.
Number 290 is being held for potential public display in Blackpool as an iconic feature in the Transport Interchange now planned for North Station and locale redevelopment. It will make a fitting memorial to the first tram service from Fleetwood to North Station (or Talbot Road Station as it was up to 1934), to stand alongside new generations of trams arriving and departing from this point. No doubt if English Electric were still in business they would be lobbying hard for one of their own rail coach products to fill this space. The Brush version was lauded as the most luxurious tram to be put into operation in the UK when it appeared - and shown off to countless transport professionals at the time - its art deco features and striking design added lustre to Blackpool’s transport system. Many features have of course been discarded over the years but there is no mistaking a ‘Brush Car’ - for which fourteen examples remain to remind us of an era now past.