Works Car to Heritage Tram - Number 4
Blackpool's practise of utilising redundant service cars in secondary lives was a feature of the system almost from the very beginning. Indeed a great many of today's valued preserved Blackpool trams owe their new status to having been relegated to a works role (or secondary use) at the end of their service careers. This practise continues right up to the present day with pending restorations.
The early Conduit car fleet were the first 'victims' of an economic policy which saw the 'recycling' of withdrawn trams for alternative use. Several of the ten two axle cars in the initial conduit fleet found themselves in more mundane roles prior to 1910. The most famous of these is of course Number 4 which became the Tramways Department's first overhead 'engineering' tram in 1905. Repainted into a fine rendition of the then new maroon and white livery number 4 would begin a longer career in this form than its initial pioneering existence from 1885.
Conduit 4 in its newly repainted guise as an overhead car with inset double doors. The positioning of the Tramways Department coat of arms in the centre of the opening doors was perhaps not of the best! A 'Lancaster' and Motherwell car provide the background in Blundell Street Depot.
The tram was also fitted with opening double doors on one side of the bodywork. During the Great War this aided the delivery of trays of bread and other products to the important military convalescent hospital then established on the site of what much later became Squires Gate Airport. Latterly given a dull all over dark green colours, the tram saw less and less use once a replacement overhead car was introduced in 1934. Number 4 was then pensioned off (but not written off) and shunted to the very rear of Bispham Depot before the onset of the next world war. Here it remained - an item of great curiosity to visiting tram enthusiasts (and the author) gathering dust but safely secured until the call for its revival in 1960.
1960 saw the 75th Anniversary of Blackpool's Electric Street Tramway commemorated with reappearance of four early veterans in a procession along the Promenade as far as Little Bispham. Number 4 was the subject of reverse engineering which removed the side doors, provided new stairs and top deck knifeboard seating, among other features. Incorrectly number '1' it gained a rendition of Tramways red and white colours which were completely unauthentic but nonetheless served the proceedings well. Seen on several enthusiast tours for a few years thereafter, 'Number 1' was donated to the British Transport Commission's collection at Clapham before finally ending up at the National Tram Museum to await a further and even more significant anniversary in Blackpool.
This time the Centenary of the tramway was celebrated in fine style of which much has been written. Number 1 reverted to its original fleet number; regained its early Company colours and saw its truck removed to be replaced with trunnion wheel sets - for greater authenticity. Even more than this, the tram's trolleymast and controllers were also removed to be replaced with batteries (courtesy of Chloride) and a rendition of the early primitive controller arrangement fitted at both ends. This work being carried out at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester with considerable care and attention to recreating the tram's 1885 appearance, and close semblance of its conduit operating state (but without conduit power supply!).
Number 4 was one of several stars in the 1985 Centenary Year featuring at the head of the official procession in glorious sunshine and seen by a huge gathering of visitors and enthusiasts. Finally returning to Crich after another short sojourn at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry - it is now secured in the Exhibition Hall of the National Tramway Museum over 130 years old and one might say still going strong..... Who can say it may not again reappear on Blackpool's Promenade to enact yet a further major anniversary event?
Image closeup courtesy BCVM, Leyland