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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Brush Car Resurgence - 1937 - 2017

The ultimate and finest tramcars built by the Brush Engineering Company's factory at Loughborough emerged in 1937 in the form of twenty luxury single deck cars. Following the centre entrance streamline styling of the English Electric Company's Preston plant on Strand Road - the new trams numbered 284 to 303 had enhanced design features both external and internal. Notable among these were air powered sliding doors on the centre platforms and elegant art deco lighting decor. Enhanced 'Alhambrinal' ceiling panels competed with elaborate moquette seating to provide an interior level of comfort and class unequalled in British trams.

It is pertinent to record the company's design drawings and ceiling pattern detail in the run up to Blackpool's heritage tribute to this outstanding class of pre-war streamline tram. Amazingly a handful of examples remained in service right up to the final weeks of traditional tram operation before the upgraded light rail operation took over - nearly seventy five years after their construction and delivery to Blackpool. Even more remarkable is the number of examples surviving from this unique class - unique in the sense that these were the only trams purchased from Loughborough by Blackpool Corporation Transport. By contrast none of the forty five rail coaches built earlier in 1933-35 by English Electric have survived in their original form.

Remaining firm favourites with the public in their summer season duties, and even more so with tram enthusiasts who valued the iconic features of these very classy cars. Despite the varied modifications which simplified their appearance and removed many of the original design features, the Brush cars have been firm favourites in museums and heritage operations since their final withdrawal. It is fitting that the eightieth anniversary of their construction is favoured with a tribute being arranged by the Heritage Tours staff of Blackpool Transport Services later this month.

The FHLT were responsible for saving two examples 284 (621) and 290 (627). Number 284 is now with the BHT heritage fleet after some travels via Kirkham Prison and Beamish Museum; whilst 290 remains at Rigby Road Depot stored for the FHLT pending resolution of an ambitious scheme in Fleetwood (given local publicity recently). Also in Fleetwood is 637 stored for its Owner and now undergoing an exterior clean ahead of the tribute events planned in Blackpool (although it will remain at Wyre Dock).

Above : fine detail of ornate design and colouring of the Alhambrinal ceiling panels fitted to the Brush car interiors in 1937. Below : The Manufacturer's scale bodywork drawing - note (just) the fold up seats fitted on the centre platforms which were not used and soon removed after entry into service. Images : John Woodman Archive

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