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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

What Goes Around Comes Around

Presumably these images could have been taken last week but instead we are witnessing 621 being towed OUT of Rigby Road to embark on its great tour of northern England via Kirkham and Beamish.

Whilst in Scotland last week it seems I missed all the excitement at Rigby Road with the arrival of Brush Car 284 (621) more or less in the same condition as it left for HM Prison Kirkham in 2011. The trolley gantry had been previously removed and was deposited at the Illuminations depot where for all I know it remains. The quirk of fate which sees the prototype car now back in the depot to which it was delivered from Brush in 1937 has had many 'godfathers'. Colin MacLeod was responsible for putting the deposit down to secure this tram for the then 'Friends of Fleetwood Trams' scheme when our small group (of three) were confronted with a sizeable disposal list by BTS in 2010. A second preference was 290 (627) being the last tram to run from North Station to Fleetwood and complete with reversible seating. We were fortunate in securing support to allow the purchase of both cars and their subsequent transfer to Kirkham Prison where they were immediately placed in a covered store facility.

Work proceeded to get 290 ready for its intended role to commemorate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee - which it successfully performed with the aid of two Fleetwood Schools and the Blackpool & Fylde College School of Art. Plus some hard work on the tram's roof and gantry base by Colin. 284 was left very much 'as is'. It was a chance approach by James Millington acting for a number of supporters offering to purchase the tram on behalf of the Beamish Museum - that triggerered its transfer to the Museum's transport team for eventual restoration and a new operating life in Co. Durham. The success of the LTT's initiative which saw Balloon car 703 transformed into a remarkable rendition of Sunderland Corporation livery and placed in service at Beamish Museum was a useful precedent which facilitated our decision to see 284 similarly treated in a working environment.

Having reached Beamish the initial enthusiasm for bringing 284 'back to life' apparently waned to the point where the concept no longer became viable. Ironically the costs of a heavy overhaul of 703 at Beamish have precluded further use of this second Blackpool tram (albeit masquerading as Sunderland 101). So it too is now destined to join its growing list of sister cars at Rigby Road. So both 'exiles' will go full circle (Sunderland had a Circle tram Service) and the capital costs of their eventual restoration will fall back on the Rigby Road Workshop.

The most recent development in which the lower bodyshell of Glasgow 1016 (ex Paisley) is also to become part of the BHT collection adds even more exotica to Rigby Road's collection. Coincidentally the FHLT have the top deck (or at least part of it) from a former Edinburgh Cable car converted to electric - this being donated to the Trust some years ago and delivered to Kirkham Prison. It is now wrapped up in storage at Fleetwood. Another remarkable museum to museum transfer story is of course Glasgow Standard 488 originally displayed in Paris at the St Mande transport museum (now closed) and destined for operation at the East Anglia transport collection near Lowestoft (after major overhaul in Wales). This will duly appear in GCT cadmium orange cream and green colours - which those of us of a certain age well remember. One other Glasgow Standard (585) lingers on at the Science Museum store near Swindon. Hopefully it too will find resurrection to an operational state - ideally in Scotland. Is there no end to these remarkable tales?

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