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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Remembering Keith Terry Blackpool Brush Car 298

Original Brush Engineering Design Drawing for the 1937 Contract for twenty trams

Brush Car 298 installed in the Exhibition Hall at Crich some years past.

One of the future 'stars' to emerge from the Work Shop at the National Tramway Museum in Crich, Derbyshire is a restored 1937 rail coach built by Brush Engineering. Number 298 has been the object of extended work and attention focussed on it over many years by a small dedicated team of enthusiasts led by the late Keith Terry.

Starting during the 1970s the tram was the subject of a preservation initiative formed by the private group keen to see one of the classic 'Brush' cars returned to its original design complete with opening roof panels, art deco interior fittings, airpowered sliding doors and original controllers.

Whilst Blackpool continued to operate several remaining survivors of this twenty strong class well into the current century, there was only limited support for this ambitious but deserving objective. The project was sustained by regular donations and 'standing orders' paid into the 298 Railcoach Fund with an annual newsletter and statement of accounts distributed by Keith to the tram's supporters and contributors. This was before the advent of email and the internet and required manhours of work just to print and mail the document after its typewritten production. As a subscriber of sorts I recall receiving and reading with intense interest the trials and tribulations which Keith and a handful of stalwart workers had encountered over the previous twelve months.

Noteworthy was the intention to restore to working order the two sliding roof panels inset into each saloon roof, as well as the airpowered sliding doors on these cars. Whilst English Electric never got as far as such improvements it is equally notable to record that the Brush cars arrived more or less at the same time as Blackpool's then new streamlined double deck buses (from HV Burlingham on Leyland Titan chassis). They all were fitted with similar sliding centre doors and also an opening roof panel.

Saving the last such roof panels and valuable other fittings was a job which Keith and his colleagues went to great lengths to achieve. Equally the need to create new end cab roof domes with twin indicators was another complex task as it turned out the two ends of 298 required slightly different roof dome measurements to fit neatly with the saloon frame and cab design. As the years passed on volounteers and specialist help came and went as did need for a further move of the tram from its 1980's home to a new residence in Salford where it shared space with varied other restoration projects. These contributed to the overall costs of the industrial property rent all of which Keith had to juggle and deal with in an ever patient manner.

Below : Platform ceiling detail closeup now in place on Brush car 298 as a result of the endeavours of Keith Terry and the Railcoach 298 restoration team over the years.

Such was the amount of work needed to bring the tram to completion as an operating exhibit that eventually the effort involved became too much for Keith's small band of brothers. A decision was taken to transfer 298 to the care of the Tramway Museum Society - now nearly two decades ago. The expectation of enthusiasts was lifted by this encouraging development, given the workshop capability on offer at Crich as well as a sizeable dowry which had accumulated through donations to the 298 Railcoach Fund ably managed by Keith over the years and sufficient to see restoration completed - or so it was thought at the time of the tram's handover to the Workshop.

So 298 travelled to Crich and found itself esconced firstly in one of the depots, and then in the Exhibition Hall - and back again, sadly without any evidence of work or effort being given to completion of its restoration. The internal saloon space being stuffed with all manner of fittings and material waiting for continuing restoration to begin. Grave reports on the tram's underlying condition suggesting need for a replacement underframe or similar structural impediments somehow presented barriers to the the tram's inclusion in the workshop programme.

A particularly harsh decision was taken to move 298 to the Clay Cross store where it has remained out of sight in recent years. Word of a change in the TMS Board's attitude in 2018 suggests that finally the Brush Railcar will gain its rightful place in the Museum's pantheon of classic trams after all. The work of Keith Terry and his supporters will therefore be accorded appropriate acknowledgement when 298 finally runs again resplendent in 1930s condition. A fine fitting tribute Keith and all his endeavours.

destined to continue its days in the bricked up mausoleum at Clay Cross to allow space for other arrivals in more recent years.

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