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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman


One important aspect of saving and preserving old trams is the thorny matter of moving them. The Trust has plenty of experience in organising and finding the finance to move its trams in and around the Fylde coast. It isn't an easy task to take on; but compared to the challenges facing enthusiasts with similar objectives fity years ago - resources now available are comparably much easier to work with.

Our own experience has so far been nearly free of dramas (well almost - but that's for another time). Consider then the challenges facing two American streetcar enthusiasts when contemplating both finding, and then retrieving, a classic PCC car to augment the excellent working museum in Baltimore. Having visited this venue which focusses almost exclusively on 'trolleys' which once ran in this US city I was fascinated by its website and the article describing the eventful saga involving one particular PCC car.

Three classic 'trolleys' at the Baltimore Museum terminus. A 'Peter Witt' car at the rear, convertible 264 ready to roll, and a PCC car at the ready.

The Museum is a must visit destination adding to the modern light rail system in the city.

The search for a St Louis Car built PCC of the type which was once familiar in Baltimore eventually took the duo to a small community in New Mexico of all places. Here a former San Diego car which subsequently operated in El Paso (one of twenty exiles) had been turned into the office of a real estate brokerage. The tale of how 1503 (El Paso number) was acquired and transported across the US to Baltimore is well worth a read. I managed to see El Paso's 'frozen in time' PCC cars after that system's international line closed (it crossed the US Border into Mexico). The fleet remained intact for many years inside the closed depot and on adjoining trackage. Attempts to resurrect part of the El Paso operation have so far failed but perhaps in the light of other heritage trolley success stories in the US (Tucson/Memphis/New Orleans etc) one day they may well succeed.

An El Paso PCC car (ex San Diego) in bright Texas sunshine - on the depot storage tracks after that system had closed for some time. The flag of Mexico is clearly visible.

Of course moving trams within the USA is a doddle compared to transporting them from Europe. Blackpool 603 awaiting removal from Newark Container Terminal New Jersey to a workshop in Dushore, Pennsylvania in 1976. The Late Joe Saitta, of Traction Slides Intl fame - a great friend who helped me with 603 and the import of Burton & Ashby 14 - stands in front with hard hat. The red logo is that of SEPTA - the Philadelphia area transit operator who would take on the task of placing 603 in public service as part of that city's US Bicentennial Celebrations. This was the first time a British tram had operated on the streets of an American city. The tram subsequently returned to Blackpool, only to 'set sail' yet again, this time to California. With its original fleet number 228 - it soon became a very popular member of San Francisco's tourist trolley service; joined last year by a further Blackpool 'boat' car. Blackpool's loss is indeed California's gain. There are now more of these attractive trams in the USA, than there are in Blackpool.

Boats Ahoy ! The 'prow' of 603 on its low load rig - sits behind a real vessel with more distinctive features in Newark Terminal.

I am sure there are many other colourful tales of tram moves both in the UK and elsewhere. In most cases they involve just a handful (at most) of individuals who dealt with the 'grunt' work and shouldered the costs - for others to benefit.

All Images : Copyright John Woodman

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