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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

678 and 680 (and 679)

Three of the modified English Electric series railcoaches which went through the Workshops in the early 1960s (is it so long ago) were turned loose to operate as solo motor units after their trailers were put into storage and subsequently disposed of. Numbers 678 to 680 thereafter had solitary lives until withdrawal themselves.

Sister Motor Unit Number 677 was cannabilized to provide a replacement frame and equipment in the HLF sponsored remake of the 'Western Train'. Its Trailer 687 has ended up with the FHLT at Wyre Dock Depot and is undergoing a makeover.

Trailer 687 now in an anonymous grey undercoat at Fleetwood awaiting a rebranding in 2017. Two Brush cars (288 / 300) stand guard.

The two remaining units could not be more dissimilar (at least internally). 680 was the subject of a major upgrade which saw its 1960s features replaced with new Darvic style plastic panelling and new lighting fixtures along with fixed bus frame seats. 678 on the other hand was more or less left with its 1960s interior intact, except for the half drop windows which were replaced with hopper style units recovered from OMO cars. Swing back seats, varnished wood interior trim, chromed hand rails and other period detail remains in place. Disguising this timewarp is a depressing black paint job courtesy sponsorship of a local radio station. This understandably gave the tram a visibly downmarket appearance in its final years of operations - but looks do deceive.

Another Motor Unit (679) is the subject of a retro restoration at Rigby Road in what is likely to be a protracted project when it returns to a rendition of its original English Electric rail coach styling . A scheme initiated at Brinwell Road under auspices of the Lancastrian Transport Trust several years ago.

Tram 680 is fortunate in being acquired by the Manchester Heaton Park group and now performs superbly in its travels along Blackpool promenade on Heritage Tours. On loan to Blackpool for two years the tram also benefits from a repaint into a rendition of the BTS scheme from the 1990s - unique to this tram. By contrast 678 remains in its now weatherworn all over black paint job that disfigured the tram in its later years. Stored at Fleetwood and in the ownership of FHLT there may well be a brighter future for this classic Motor Unit. The Trust have submitted a bid for a grant from an energy group which would provide for restoration of the car for static display condition in 2017.

Now a double ended unit (like 680) 678 will bring back memories of the days when Rigby Road Works was kept busy rebuilding a series of ten rail coaches to form the motor units for the 'Progress Twin-Car' sets. A great deal of craftsmanship was involved in this very hectic period. Of course the same level of engineering prowess was evident a decade later with a further programme of re- building similar trams to become the famous OMO cars 1 to 13. The Trust will be focussing attention on 678 next year with parallel attention being given to Trailer 687 (T7) also for events display.

The antiseptic interior of 680 is also hidden by a smartly turned out exterior finish.

Two sister cars with different fortunes both living reminders of a more distinctive chapter in Blackpool's tramway history. All Images : copyright FHLT

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