Engineering Car heritage lives
Somewhat overlooked amid the cooing over this or that newly repainted 'heritage' tram is Engineering Car 754 which alone among the light rail fleet sports a singularly bright colour scheme - all over yellow. Also built by East Lancashire Coachbuilders this tram is inheritor of a line of overhead cars ('Engineering Cars')
starting with the former ex Conduit Car 4 which provided an additional role of shuttling bakery items from the town centre to the important military convalescent hospital built at Squires Gate during the Great War. Being fitted out with double opening doors in the sides - allowing removal of the large wooden trays of bread,cakes and other comestibles, number 4 had an extended life until replacement in the 1930s by its successor. Following a lingering afterlife at the very rear of Bispham Tram Depot over many years painted in a dingy all over dark green it resurfaced in 1960 as one of the quartet of vintage trams commemorating Blackpool's 75th Anniversary of electric tram operation. One thing led to another with number 4 of the very first tram fleet becoming a prized exhibit at the National Tram Museum - revisiting Blackpool for the memorable Tramway Centenary in 1985 carrying passengers in the formal procession.
The successor was a former passenger tram with an interesting pedigree. Built originally as a two axle open top car number 31 in 1901 it was radically rebuilt with extended bodywork and given bogies until withdrawal. It was one of five similar rebuilds from this class - and through virtue of its new role as 'Engineering Car' numbered 4 in the somewhat haphazard Works Fleet roster - it gained immortality when after withdrawal it came under the custodianship of Beamish Museum. Here it was brilliantly restored to late 1920s appearance, regaining its original fleet number.
In 1958 Standard 143 was designated as replacement Engineering Car emerging from the Bodyshop retaining its top deck enclosed balconies and renumbered 3. The lower saloon became home to a pensioned off diesel engine from a pre-war Blackpool bus allowing the tram to travel without need for the overhead power supply. Quite soon the confines of the upper deck features saw the end 'cabins' removed but Engineering Car 3 continued to sport its Standard car livery unlike the all-over green usually assigned to Blackpool's works fleet. Eventually it too saw its days ended, with a premature withdrawal due to an extensive fire in the lower deck . By then it had been relegated to pole painting work with the advent of a brand new bespoke Engineering Car 754 ordered by Blackpool Transport - the very first instance of a completely new works tram on the system. Fortuitously yet again, longevity of works cars - saw 143 transferred to the LTT whose well
meant aims saw work begin on returning the car to its early 1920s open ended appearance. As most readers know - 143 returned to Rigby Road to see eventual completion of this important restoration which will provide comparison between the original design for the Standard class in 1922, to the final all-enclosed condition demonstrated by sister Standard 147 - itself a marvellous survivor.
Surety of a tram's preservation certainly involves becoming a works car in Blackpool. Numbers 4, 31, 143 and eventually 754 ? We also can't overlook Box 40, Rack 2, Grinders 1 and 2, Permanent Way Cars 167, 624 and the electric locomotive.
Images : John Woodman
Above : 754 newly out- shopped in its gleaming paint job and Left :
less inspiring but still retaining its 1958 paint job - former Standard 143 shows fire damage before being transferred to Brinwell Road by the LTT. It has
since returned once more to Rigby Road looking very different indeed and now awaits its final restoration to original condition as an open balcony open plat-form Standard of the early 1920s. A great survivor with many willing hands on the way.
Equally fortunate is ex Brush rail coach 624 seen here in respectable all over Permanent Way Car green colours and twin destination blinds towing the extended frame of a sister car used as a rail carrier and in contrasting yellow livery in 1980. This car is also now in the care of the Blackpool Heritage Trust but will require total restoration to return to a semblance of its later passenger carrying years.
Photo : John Woodman Archive