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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Those classic 'Brush' Cars

Left : 636 in its unique Metro Coastlines livery - which it still carries under its new Owners. Apart from the omnipresent 'Balloon' cars which came to symbolise the Blackpool promenade tramway in later decades - the 1937 Brush cars twenty strong numbered 284 to 303 have proved to be remarkably resilient by their longevity and numbers. The first of the class to be scrapped was 303 when it joined the Marton Vambacs and sister experimental car English Electric 208 which also acquired 'VambaC' control equipment and resilient wheel bogies in the Marton Depot scrapyard in 1963.

Thereafter Number 298 was 'rescued' through the initiatives of a small group of enthusiasts intent on seeing it returned to its 'as built' condition. The saga of this particular endeavour ended abruptly when it was handed over to the Tramway Museum Society, together with a six figure 'dowry' raised from a great many individual donors over the years. The tram, after extended period 'on display' was then exiled to the Clay Cross offsite storage site 'as is' without any further work being carried out.

Left : The Permanent Way Car in better days.

One Brush car gave itself over to another experiment in 1970 when 638 was modified to operate as a one-man unit. This was singularly unsuccessful and the tram hastily repanelled sans front entrances (at either nearside end) to rejoin the fleet for several years before it too found itself on Rigby Road Yard scrap line. A more drastic conversion was the scrapping (more or less) of a further Brush car to allow it to operate as a rail carrier complete with onboard crane, but motorless and devoid of any identifiable features as to its origins - other than the EMB bogies. A further Brush car was assigned to Permanent Way Duties (this ensuring its future in another life). Much later a Number 633 was subject to a sponsored rebuild as approximation of a Fleetwood trawler - and provided with external illuminations whilst remaining double ended with centre entrances and capable for regular service. In this form it remains - being subject to an overhaul currently. Two other examples were scrapped diminishing the class. Number 636 miraculously (or so it seemed at the time) retained its roof glazing and managed a 'Metro Coastlines' repaint before being assigned to contracted testing for the Derby based technology firm which now owns it (and has maintained it in excellent condition as 636). In the great cull of 2010 many survivors were 'pensioned off' to diverse homes including three which travelled to Merseyside where one remains, and two came back to the Fylde coast. The Crich Museum decided it wanted another Brush car - this time to operate, and so did the Heaton Park group. A private enthusiast acquired a further example and following a remarkable makeover has decided to donate it to the Blackpool Heritage Trust who are now conservers of the heritage trams at Rigby Road. Of course the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust (that other group!) saved 621 and 627 - with 621 then subsequently making the journey north to Beamish where it will no doubt receive first class attention before entering service in the future.

In the meantime 627 now renumbered 290 has itself been 'taken into care' at Rigby Road Depot pending decisions on its future role. In fact Rigby Road is the caretaker of six survivors from this class - soon to be joined by a seventh following the decision of the owner of 634 to donate it to the Blackpool Heritage Trust. Two more survivors remain in Fleetwood under private ownership thus increasing the tally even more. Not bad going for trams built nearly eighty years ago - British workmanship at its best ?

One car that didnt make it. Brush Car 301 heading to Squires Gate & Airport in 1960 in a busy scene at North Pier. This was one of several examples repainted with white (cream) front cab surrounds. Below 638 passing Victoria Street stop and the expectant queue. Note the Duty Inspector in both images by John Woodman.

This 1970s scene includes the still extant Lewis's store on the Promenade and one of the shelters of this period with its 'Q' sign.

Number 638 would be given a repaint into the half green half cream style of the late 1970s before it was withdrawn. The author was offered it by the Transport Manager at the time but had to decline.


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