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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Taking a last heritage ride (in 2016)

Finding myself at the Visitor Centre last week with an hour or so spare and seeing Box Car 40 standing by at the Heritage Stop I availed myself of a sentimental ride to the Pleasure Beach in glorious sunshine - although it had turned sharply cold after a mild few weeks. The former Blackpool and Fleetwood Tramroad car built in 1914 is a marvellous representative survivor from the original company service between Bold Street, Fleetwood and Talbot Road Station in Blackpool. Only the Manx Electric company and the Snaefell Mountain line used this type of tram with its untypical corner step loading and angular features. Fortunately both of the latter operations are still very much in business on the Isle of Man - itself a veritable lode of heritage transport attractions

Crew Change at the Pleasure Beach from Box 40 to Marton Box 31 - Above

I've ridden on this tram many times previously but its austere wooden panelled interior and lack of any decoration never fail to amaze/impress me. Of course the bright red transverse seating were part of the 'upgrade' given to this class in their final years before the rail coaches arrived on the scene in the mid 1930s. Previously wooden seating was the order of the day - passenger's comfort being the least priority of this private sector company. Not much seems to have changed - the hard unsprung seats on the Bombardier products are only a marginal improvement from the Edwardian era - comfort wise.

Box 40 was latterly furnished with neat driving end doors to give the driver at least a modicum of protection from icy blasts and inswept rain and sleet of former times. This 'upgrade' only occurred during the tram's lengthy transfer from the Crich Museum to Blackpool quite some time ago.

On arrival at the Pleasure Beach my return ticket of £3 allowed me a fortuitous change of cars for the ride back to North Pier. Marton 'Box' car 31 was waiting for a crew change before departing and a hurried exchange of items took place between the two crews as Box Car 40's driver and conductor transferred their attention to Number 31. The conductor introduced himself as an avid? reader of this Blog and after his duties both 'inside' and 'outside' we had an informal exchange on current affairs. All whilst this veteran tram smoothly rolled its way along the promenade with a decent load of passengers, several braving the cold wind by riding 'Outside'. The driver was well protected, although goggles might have been of further benefit given the sharp cold wind and total lack of cover. I am not sure when 31 will return to its longstanding home at the Beamish Museum, so this was an exceptional chance to remind myself of the features of this class - of which 31 is the sole remaining survivor. My first acqaintance with this tram was in far different circumstances several decades previously when it was Bispham Depot 'Engineering Car' numbered 4 in matt dark green and somewhat tarnished paint work. In those days it was always stood at the ready on the eastern most track of the Depot complete with all manner of wiring, tools and components inside its lower deck. On replacement by former Standard 143 (Engineering Car 3) in 1958 complete with smart new paint job and retaining the end saloons on the top deck - 4 (31) was demoted to a more mundane role aiding pole painting and odd 'jobs' along the tramway. In this final assignmen it gained an all over lighter green paint job with gill sans '4' on each end and of course the Manager's name and details on the sides. Happily it survived into an era of tramway preservation destined now to give continuing pleasure to successive generations. Works cars tend to have second lives in Blackpool. Pantograph 167, Grinders 1 and 2, Rack 2, Toastracks 166 and 163 (for a while anyway), the Electric Locomotive, and the two examples on this page. At least one English Electric railcoach momentarily it seems evaded scrapping by being assigned to Permananent Way duty only to be quickly rebuilt as an OMO car whilst a Brush railcoach survives for the same reason. The illuminated floats became second homes for Pantograph Cars 170 and 174, English Electric railcoach 222 of course. The list seems to go on and on.

Light shades of a certain era add considerably to the 'Inside' of 31. The well muffled driver is dressed for the weather. Below : The tram makes a splendid sight as it sets off on yet another Pleasure Beach bound shuttle from North Pier.

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