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The Case of the Missing Cab Windows

The recent handwringing post on social media concerning one of our Trust's trams acquired two years ago by a private group (621) and subsequently transferred to the ownership of the excellent Beamish Museum tramway through a mutually agreeable arrangement led by James Millington warrants comment.

The FHLT through its own initiatives and embryonic grouping 'Friends of Fleetwood Trams' purchased several redundant Blackpool trams during a period when BTS determined a large number were to be arbitrarily disposed of. Through our immediate efforts two Balloon Cars, two Brush cars, a Motor Unit, Centenary 641 and Jubilee 761 were saved with intention of their eventual display in Fleetwood. The not inconsiderable costs of moving these trams, and importantly finding a place locally for their storage were achieved solely through the Trust's efforts. More recently Trailer Unit 687 (T7) has been added through collaboration with a private individual who single handedly secured from scrapping four Blackpool cars stored at Knowsley formerly in ownership of MerseyTravel. His deeds speak volumes.

Given that well over 50% of the twenty 1937 Brush cars are now 'preserved' or otherwise extant in different forms; with many being in the care of either FHLT or BTS / BHT on the Fylde coast - this particular class are more than adequately represented in preservation terms. The two examples acquired by our Trust (621 and 627) were taken from Rigby Road in 2011 and immediately placed under cover in a secure part of HM Prison, Kirkham where one, (627) was extensively worked on to repair its roof and gantry base by Colin MacLeod. Repainted to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year it was then put on display at the Pleasure Beach with its original fleet number 290; being transformed further over two successive years before returning to storage at Rigby Road Depot courtesy of BTS management.

Before their removal from Rigby Road Depot to Kirkham Prison both 627 and 621 were the victims of pillaging by person or persons unknown with four of the curved cab side windows being professionally removed. BTS carried out internal investigation (under previous management) to determine the identity of the person responsible. Thus both 621 and 627 arrived at Kirkham minus cab side windows. Whilst the trams were under cover - this posed no problem. Prior to 621's departure from the prison to Beamish it was moved out of the building to await collection. Both Colin MacLeod and myself taped vinyl sheeting over exposed bodywork apertures ahead of this transfer, and additionally over one of the side windows which had been broken during its stay at Kirkham. Thus 621 was transferred north 'as is' to await attention of the Beamish Museum tramways team.

The car's recent move to outside storage is entirely a matter of the Museum itself. Brush Car 627 also had cab side windows taken before leaving Rigby Road Depot. These were replaced by Colin MacLeod with assistance from two volunteers in the prison before display at the Pleasure Beach. Subsequently strong winds managed to dislodge one of the perspex replacements which also disappeared so that a further version was necessarily fitted. The tram later arrived at Rigby Road for storage with all four cab side windows in place, together with all of the swing back seating, controllers and requisite fittings - and in green and cream livery.

Any insinuation elsewhere online that the FHLT have been intentionally failing in care for either of these trams does disservice to our Trust's role and our efforts. Much like Brexit and the Government's strategies - we are not placing in the public domain details of ongoing discussions we are having with third parties concerning a scheme being initiated at Wyre Dock. Outline and visuals have been however been posted on this website by way of background. Details and final proposals requires engagement and approval from a number of Principals. These objectives for Fleetwood's benefit are mirrored in other transport heritage initiatives elsewhere on the Fylde coast - with whom our Trust is collaborating on a strategic basis. Offhanded, casual and insensitive comments made elsewhere regarding this Trust's efforts are understandably unwelcome. Where missing windows on 621 are concerned the actual facts require restating for the record.

Number 621 departing Rigby Road 2011 in sunlight - for HM Prison Kirkham

Installing 621 inside one of the special warehouses at Kirkham Prison - a tight fit but out of the way for its 'tariff'.

One of the missing cab windows on 621.

Below sister car 627 also safely esconced within Kirkham Prison prior to work commencing on its makeover for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Year. Note two of the missing cab windows - a third was on the offside. It is worth mentioning that none of the other Brush cars at Rigby Road in 2011 destined for sale were similarly targetted for extraction of these expensive glazing fittings.

This awful disfiguring 'design' in which the tram ran in its final years was quickly removed by the Trust with prison assistance. Now just a distant nightmare. All Images : FHLT

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