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Remembering the Brush Cars - 1

September 19, 2017

Classic view of a classic tram - in service pre-war running into Fleetwood and almost new in service.     John Woodman Archive  

 

Memories of this class extend way back to the 1950s when Bispham Depot and Rigby Road shared the honours in stabling the twenty strong fleet.   As the class never found their way on to the Marton service and were predominant on the North Station to Fleetwood route, particularly in the winter season, their usage was fairly predictable.

 

The class retained their distinctive air powered centre sliding doors operated by the conductor from a circular switch over the entrance and uniquely kept their individual identities difficult to read except closeup.  This was due to the small gun metal numerals fitted above the entrance on both sides of the car.  No doubt the novel numeral styling was again to avoid any conflict with English Electric's patented designs for Blackpool Transport, down to the individual numeral treatment, as well as the fenders at each end.  These were of a shorter design than those on the rest of the 1930s cars.  Internally the cars were fitted with chrome edged lighting translucent panels and more distinctive seating, whilst their overall profiles were sharper and more angled at the cab ends than the relatively flat fronted English Electric design common to both the double deck and rail coach deliveries.  It was only in the final delivery from Preston of the 'Sun Saloons' than the improved Brush bodywork design was copied to an undoubted benefit on the 10-21 1939 delivery.  The deeper driver cab windscreens also helped enormously in this regard.  Evidence of the Preston design team's appreciation of the improved styling introduced by Brush on 284 - 303 can be seen in their various design drawings and blueprints submitted to Walter Luff post 1937 for potential orders which never came (other than the Sun Saloon class). These included double deck replacements for the Marton Standard Cars - shorter versions of the Balloons delivered in 1934/35.

 End profile and cut away internal section from Brush Engineering Drawings.

 

When the new Manager (J.C. Franklin) took over in 1954 economies resulted in the replacement of the dual destination indicators on the double deck cars, and subsequently introduced on the 'Brush' cars began to significantly alter (and detract) from the builder's styling and overall appearance of the cars.  Number 288 (625) was the first to be dealt with in the bodyshop. At the same the centre destination apertures and screens were eliminated - probably to the relief of conductors.   

 

Many other cost saving steps were taken in subsequent visits to the Works - including the internal fittings and decor.  All of this resulted in the bare bones effect inside the cars with exposed light bulbs, plain painted panelling and elimination of the roof side lights (except on Car 636).   The very distinctive backlit green glazing apertures above the side windows went the same way - a feature which naturally identified these trams at night.  Only the partially restored 298 still stored away at Crich's Clay Cross site has these marvellous classic features reinstated by a dedicated team of volunteers over many years of diligent labour, not to mention the sliding roof panels which were a feature of all of the streamlined fleet (excepting of course the Sun Saloons and open top double deck cars latterly fully enclosed).  

 

What is left to admire in the current Anniversary proceedings are a far cry from these earlier years in service.   Only when 298 finally gets attention and brought to an operating condition by the Tramway Museum will tomorrow's enthusiasts get to appreciate just how impressive these trams actually were and the quality of finish which was expended on them by the Brush Engineering Company - the very last trams ever built at Loughborough.  A fine finale for the company underlined by the sizeable number of examples still in preservation, even though in vastly modified form.

 

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