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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Ugly or what ?

The final years of traditional tram operation in Blackpool (up to 2011) featured some particularly obnoxious treatment applied to a handful of cars going through the Works.

In particular three of the rail coach fleet were subjected to their own version of the 'Ugly Sisters'. One can make the same case for equally destructive modifications fitted on some of the Balloon cars; in particular prototype 237 aka 700. The

decision to destroy the relatively recent retro styling on this tram to a rendition of wartime appearance - was a particularly wanton act akin to blowing up temples in

Palmyra (albeit on a slightly lesser scale).

To add salt to wounds the application of the Blackpool Council corporate livery on 'light rail balloons' is reprehensible and does absolutely nothing in terms of visual improvement to what were once classic trams. The term 'classic' can be discarded when setting retro rebuild 717 and 706 against some of the remaining streamline double deck cars still extant. The dour purple, white and black Council branding hardly enhances the light rail fleet (or anything else). Blackpool's new buses with their Palladium style - launched this year : well now this is a class styling which could make a difference if anyone is listening out there !

In 1949 when Rigby Road Works had the job of installing 'Vambac' equipment on ten year old 'Sun Saloons' (and the prototype Rail Coach 208) an neat enclosed base was added on the car roof which melded with the tower gantry. This format was followed in the design of the Roberts built Coronation cars, and also the two Roe rail coaches for Leeds. (Above) The Marton Vambac at South Pier terminus shows how new control technology can be integrated without ruining a tram's overall design. Photo : John Woodman

How Blackpool Transport's workshops ended up installing grotesque solid green enclosures on two of the Brush car rebuilds - instead of taking just a bit more effort to follow the eminent design work of the late 1940s is quite amazing. Seeing Blackpool's solitary working Brush Car solemnly parade up and down the Promenade with a vertical green 'coffin' on its roof does nothing for 'heritage trams'. Neither does a TMS decision to acquire the second similarly bastardised Brush car in the name of evolutionary design: more like retrogressive ill thought-out make it up as you go along school of engineering.

The one classic and deserving Brush car awaiting its turn for some audacious decision making at Crich is of course Number 298 which has languished in an almost completely rebuilt to 1937 condition for far too long. To have that tram parading up and down the Quarry line (or any line) now that would really be something worth seeing. But mobile green vertical coffins - no thanks.

This Blackpool hotel managed to retain its classic and impressive appearance through the years - not so the tram, with a paint job unlikely to win any points in a design competition. All that money gone to waste - even the BTS logo is now out of date. Image : Tony Armitage

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