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The Costs of Tram Restoration

Blackpool Centenary 648 with its excellent retro livery to 1985 appearance as the GEC test car (minus test bogies) representing the final 'traditional' British tram design.

Immaculate Glasgow open balcony 'Standard' car 779 accessible to visitors

Beamish Museum Tram Workshop and Depot with one trolleybus just visible. The quite eclectic running fleet includes an Oporto 2 axle car; ex Gateshead bogie car in its BR malachite green 'electric' livery of final years at Grimsby and Immingham, Newcastle finely restored open top car from a derelict lower saloon, and equally fine Sunderland 16 enclosed car also from a derelict lower saloon body. Sheffield 264 just in view at the rear now in open balcony top cover form - see earlier blog this month.

As the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust starts to prepare for developments intended to

make the most public use of its acquired tram collection - planning for capital costs of work required to restore several of its cars to an operating condition is now underway.

The 'Fleetwood Quays' development planned at Wyre Dock envisages a working line to convey visitors around the waterfront site, reflecting the success of the Beamish Museum tramway carrying out a similar (and much larger) service on that eminently popular visitor destination in the north east.

A selected property for a display and restoration centre has been identified in conjunction with the Owners. This will allow secured covered facilities able to support a sustained restoration programme of up to four trams at a time. Given the lengthy time that the Trust's trams have been exposed out of doors - in some cases a total rebuilding of bodywork and equipment is essential. It is likely that offsite resources will be needed for overhaul of running equipment and electrical controls.

As examples of current tram restoration show, the costs of detailed specialist work in bringing veteran trams 'back to life' runs into six figures. Even a simple two axle single deck wooden framed tram such as the recently restored 34 at the Black Country Museum shows, was budgeted at £120,000 to completion. The ongoing work on LCC 1 at Crich subvented by generous grants and donations from London tram enthusiasts in a collective group - requires seven figure sums before the resplendent prototype double deck car appears after several years diligent attention in the Tramway Museum Workshop. It follows a similarly lengthy construct of an earlier London open top four axle tram utilising new material and components based on a derelict lower deck.

It is heartening to see the TMS gifting original two axle trucks with motor to individual groups and projects around the country, Notably the small team diligently bringing back to life the last surviving Brighton Corporation tramcar - on a rural site; whilst in comparison a similar restoration now well underway at Birkenhead is recreating a Warrington Corporation Tramways double deck car which also benefits from a two axle truck courtesy of the TMS. Finally and much less well known - a Swindon tram (13 I believe?) with its own dedicated local volunteers has received a further truck from Crich/Clay Cross to aid restoration. The amount of labour and private expense on these relatively simple wooden framed trams is itself an incalculable investment over extended timeframes running into equivalent six figure sums.

Crich Workshop - one section - with Leeds 180, 345 and LUT 159 getting attention

The FHLT plans for total rebuilding of Balloon Car 710 and Motor Unit 678 to their later operating condition. Twin Set 673/683 is expected to need attention to bogies and electrical equipment; whilst Centenary 641 will remain as a static display unit and part of a wider heritage transport exhibition at Wyre Dock. Brush Car 290 presently in storage at Rigby Road will be joined by sister car 300 retained in private ownership both intended for service on the Wyre Dock tourist line.

Double ended operation will be required for the route. Two firms have been identified to work with Wyre Dock Development Ltd. and its joint venture Partners. They bring tram and rail infrastructure capability to this aspect of the £150 Million scheme. Private sector funding will be needed both for infrastructure and restoration / rebuilding of the Trust's trams. Given the numbers of Blackpool trams needing intensive care at Rigby Road and assumed restoration objectives of other groups - the finite ability of the enthusiast sector to underwrite large scale financing suggests a temporising of objectives will become necessary; unless alternative financial resources are identified. The success of London area enthusiasts in coming together to focus on singular projects that have produced both a rebuilt E type double deck tram, and an open top LUT car (both four axle), together with the ambitious reconstruct of LCC 1 to its original condition - are exemplary pointers as to what hopefully may well emerge in Blackpool over time. Equally the success of Beamish Museum where the extensive circular line around the visitor areas is another pointer to ensuring the viability of operating old trams through provision of a localised travel mode - adding to a wider leisure offer drawing very large numbers year round whilst using a core number of trams for regular service. Just maintaining those trams used for visitor service itself is an arduous task for a handful of staff - so much work is needed behind workshop doors to deliver the output on the Promenade year in year out.

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