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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Remembering the Brush Cars - 5

Whilst the survivors of this class are getting a justifiable 'airing' over the weekend in Blackpool - they are of course far removed in style and finish from their original appearance produced by Brush Engineering in 1937. Two examples manage to retain the dual end indicator fixtures on the cab roofs. Number 298 at Crich is the best examplary ambassador of this class (even though it is currently hidden away in Clay Cross store); whilst Blackpool's former 'Permanent Way' car is very much in a woebegone and skeletal state but never succumbed to the fibre glass end mouldings which were applied most of the class.

This is but one of many distinctive features which marked these trams out from the far more numerous products from Preston's English Electric factory in the 1930s. Brush cars were fitted with air powered dual sliding centre entrance doors up to the 1960s. At the time of construction (1937) these were of the similar approach to the new buses Blackpool was taking delivery of from local builder HV Burlingham (121 - 195) all on Leyland Titan chassis. The air powered doors were first evident in a trio of centre entrance buses delivered to Blackpool by English Electric in 1935 (99 - 101) and then becoming a standard feature on all subsequent new (double deck) bus deliveries right up to 1951. English Electric products were all of the jackknife folding door (single deck trams) or double panel folding door variety providing conductors with continual labour and manual exercise throughout their duty shifts.

The Brush cars interior lighting was encased in chrome edged angled fittings above the saloon windows and on stylish fixtures facing into both saloons from the platform bulkheads. The design cleverly allowed the same lighting to shine through green tinted glass apertures embedded above the side windows - giving off a highly distinctive nighttime flavour differentiating them from their more numerous English Electric cousins. One Blackpool bus was trialled (195) in 1937 with the same features above its lower deck side windows and at the same time fitted with similar chrome edged light enclosures on both decks. This experiment was not repeated. Tram 300 in the FHLT care and privately owned retains the original green glazing in these side apertures.

The end fenders were somewhat shorter than the English Electric design and also had chromed metal strips individually affixed to each of the three 'bars' complementing the chromed alternate side window pillars which were another distinctive feature on the Brush cars (originally).

Sliding ceiling panels in each saloon were designed so as to permit the panels to partially slide under the centre tower gantry base whereas the English Electric design was of a shorter length that avoided the need for this adjustment to the gantry base. In time of course the onerous exercise of manually pushing and pulling these heavy features was eliminated by removing the panels entirely. This also had the benefit of reducing rainwater ingress into the saloon area. A welcomed improvement by passengers (and crews).

Avoiding English Electric's strict ownership of its patented design for Blackpool (and other customers) Brush cars were fitted with bogies built by EMB to a wholly different design. EMB in this period (1930-40) were doing OK in the provision of trucks and bogies for tram operators - or at least those still in the market for new trams. Their products being evident in Glasgow, Liverpool, Aberdeen, Sunderland among other systems. The fact that the Blackpool examples are still regarded as reliable and fit for a further century on the heritage fleet is testimony to the company's workmanship.

Now more or less stripped down to their basics interior wise - the surviving examples on display in Blackpool are of course of high interest to enthusiasts; particularly given the tram's classic 1930's profile and despite singular simplifications of bodywork features over successive visits to the Body Shop through the years. A quick sampling of the very smart looking examples on Blackpool's tramway today - snapped on a drive from Cleveleys to Waterloo Road this afternoon. Number 621/284 passes Waterloo Road stop heading for Cleveleys with a neatly done indicator blind taking us back to the 1950s. Walter Luff's trademark green frontal 'vee' and the side sweeps aka 'moustaches' being a definite novelty in the 21st Century.

Modernised 630 returns to its former haunts in Anchorsholme bound for Cleveleys. Its original stylish appearance having all but disappeared in the tram's final refurbishment at Rigby Road. Number 630 is now a 'regular' at the Crich museum having been loaned to Blackpool's heritage team this year.

Heaton Park's wartime liveried car heading north with few takers given the competition from rival visitors for this weekend's celebration. Note the irregular trolley tower which was necessary in order to ensure the pantograph reached the overhead wire which is at a higher level than that normally encountered in Manchester (Heaton Park).

A wet afternoon at Wyre Dock where Brush Car 637/300 resides in splendid isolation.

All Images : John Woodman

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