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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Another Blackpool Classic - 147

Standard 147 contrasts with a Balloon car - both show 'Central Station' on summer extras in 1960. Image : John Woodman

A traditional favourite which has been out of the limelight this year is of course the representative enclosed 'Standard Car' 147. It is however getting its own share of attention at Rigby Road with a spruce up of paintwork. Along with several surviving examples 147 was part of a small cadre of 'Extras' which appeared each summer season and for illuminations nights into the early 1960s - all based at Marton Depot up to 1962. They could be glimpsed traversing the Marton tramway (in both directions) in a stately fashion from the depot - to access the promenade either at Talbot Square through the town centre tracks, or rumbling along Waterloo Road to Royal Oak where they made a lefthand turn to Station Road crossover, before reversing and heading up Lytham Road to Manchester Square. For some reason crews avoided taking the right hand connecting track on to Lytham Road from Waterloo Road on the three way junction at Royal Oak. It was indeed used from time to time as I recorded a trio of restored trams heading to Rigby Road Depot from Marton Depot using the northbound curve - Number 1 !, Rack 2 and Dreadnought 59 - now there was a rare sight.

My next personal contact with 147 was when it inhabited a purpose erected shed at the Trolleyville Museum of the late Gerald Brookins. The wheel profile ill fitted US track gauge while the wire height (for an extensive single deck collection) was somewhat on the low side for a double deck tramcar. So 147 was destined to stay immobile and on its own (again due to its height) over successive decades until rescue came in the form of BTS engineers to recover it for Blackpool. Whilst not ideal the covered accommodation was fortunate and allowed the tram a second lease of life in Blackpool thanks to initiatives of then BTS MD Tony Depledge, whose foresight brought this survivor back to the UK. A major overhaul and reworking on the body, frame and trucks saw 147 proudly re-enter service in Blackpool nearly twenty years ago. But continuous service takes its toll on veterans and a further visit to the workshops has been due.

Back in Rigby Road after a transatlantic holiday - 147 undergoing major work in the Body Shop with its refurbished bogies. Image : John Woodman Archive

A second Standard car is also at Rigby Road in the form of 143. This tram has had its own colourful history in its later years - managing to survive into a heritage conscious age, despite a severe fire in the lower deck which brought its final operation to an abrupt end. Rescued by the LTT and taken to Brinwell Road for initial restoration on the lower deck and with a new open balcony top deck, Number 143 was on its way to becoming a second operating example in Blackpool. However events dear boy events, interrupted these high aims which led to withdrawal of the LTT from the tram preservation business. The baton as it were was picked up by newly formed Blackpool Heritage Tours into whose care the tram was transferred. Given the amount of work necessary to keep a substantial operating heritage fleet on the road - it is hardly suprising that continuance of work on 143 has stalled in the past year or so. But hope springs eternal. One day in the not too distant future, this open balcony open platform 'as built' version of the 1920's Standard car will make a welcome appearance alongside the final condition of this class in the form of sister car 147 thus giving us contrasting fleet liveries - 'pre Luff' and 'Luff era' versions. Something worth looking out for.

Now in the Paint Shop undergoing preparatory work in 2017. Image : John Woodman Archive

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