Blackpool Hybrid - rebuilt Marton Box 32 seen here in the late 1920s with its extended lower saloon clearly identifiable at each end. The inpanelled staircase is a notable feature not copied on further conversions. Neither is the top deck saloon design which looks vey much like a make it up as you go along creation. Photo : John Woodman Archive
Urgent requirement for more capacity on the existing tram fleet during the Great War - when new trams were unobtainable (except through loans or deals between systems), meant that Blackpool's Tramway Department was pressed to find ways of making the loaf bigger from existing cars. The Marton 'Box' cars 27 to 41 had proved to be less than satisfactory in a number of ways and became the focus of efforts to increase their capacity.
Six cars were authorised to receive major rebuilds extending their bodywork and at the same time remodelling the ungainly reversed stair design. The later 1911 deliveries from Preston (four axle versions) with neat top deck balcony saloons were to be the template for a resulting experiment starting with number 32 which was withdrawn in 1917.
Utilising the lower deck saloon and little else, a transformation was wrought which saw a new extended frame introduced on to which the lower saloon was positioned with short sections and platforms added at each end. The bulkheads were retained 'as is' so the end sections had bench seats outside of the saloon. New quarter turn stairs were positioned on extended platforms and the top deck was provided with longer enclosed saloon with open balcony ends.
In this way the rebuilt tram offered seating for 79 passengers - a serious improvement over the original 63. New bogies were fitted of course, doing away with the awkward two axle truck and thus providing a far more balanced ride for crews and passengers. Number 32 in this new form entered service the following year to be followed by four further rebuilds (27/29/30 and 31). The subsequent conversions had the lower deck bulkheads moved outwards to accomodate the extended saloon area, while the top deck saloons varied somewhat in style on each tram - a reflection of wartime conditions and material constraints. The five examples all managed to stay operational into the mid 1930s, being given the later green and (ivory) livery before final scrapping. Of course sister car 31 saw a much longer working life having been selected as the Engineering Car and numbered 4. All five former Marton 'Box' rebuilds were immediately identifiable by their split lower deck side windows which originated from the 1901 design of Midland Railway Carriage firm. Number 31 in open top form will soon be heading northwards to Bispham and Red Bank Road from Easter- returning to its former haunts as Engineering Car 4 - but now resplendent in the 1920s' colours thanks to the staff at the Beamish Museum workshops. It will be joined later in the summer by Standard open balcony 143 similarly repainted to the same 1920s style making a wonderful duo of the pre-Luff era.