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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Thank you James

A brief encounter at the Heritage Tour tram stop near North Pier with James Millington fortuitously provided advance notice of the rare outing of Birkenhead open top car 20 on a private tour to Bispham today. James and colleague were crewing immaculate Boat Car 225 aka 600 on what has been a brilliant sunny day in Blackpool. Some images of James's dextrous? handling and driving skills are seen below. The traditional bamboo pole is held ceremonially (so it would seem) whilst James converses with his 'Guard'.

And below : James heads into the sun with official sunglasses on the crossover at North Pier.

Without an exact timeframe of the Birkenhead tram tour other than 'roundabout 4 pm' I drove up to Lowther Avenue and parked to be alerted to the fact that a strange chocolate and cream coloured tram was approaching in the distance from Bispham. A prompt run across the Promenade managed to get across in time to see the approaching visitor sedately travelling south with a full load of enthusiast and supporters from the Wirral - and Merseyside. The tram looked distinctly genuine with period advertisements between decks that made all the difference in its appearance.

Birkenhead Corporation Tramways Number 20 heads past the Author at Lowther Avenue Stop this afternoon on its private tour which is evidently a sell out (and deservedly so).

The MTPS are noted for the sustained effort and teamwork which has created a popular and highly regarded memorial to the former tramways on the Wirral and of course the great Liverpool system. A previous visitor to Blackpool from the Birkenhead Museum was Liverpool 762 some years ago. The tram was paintstakingly recreated from the lower deck saloon (minus platforms and just about everything else) and beneficiary of the unfortunate collision in 1984 between 705 and 706. Whereas 706 of course has gone on to immortal fame in open top original condition - 705 was dismantled but gave up its electrical equipment and bogies to the MTPS. This allowed completion of work on their Liverpool bogie car 762 to operating condition. It was later joined at the Birkenhead museum site by Liverpool 'Baby Grand' 245 which managed to survive through the decades after closure of the system in 1957 (unlike its semi derelict sister the 'Official Last Car' 293 which ended up in the Seashore Museum and has lingered there (just about) ever since. My first encounter with a Liverpool tram was sitting inside 293 many years ago and contemplating how utilitarian its interior was when compared to the Blackpool trams built in the 1930s.

In addition to 762 the MTPS also have recreated a former Wallasey 'Bellamy Roof' car which typified this Wirral operation, and are currently advancing the restoration of a Warrington Corporation tramcar for the Birkenhead museum. Apart from a solitary standard gauge Lisbon two axle tram - the museum and its supporters have focussed their efforts very much on local tramways in proximity to the Wirral and Liverpool. An ambitious scheme to extend the tramway into what is known as 'Wirral Waters' saw a group of Blackpool trams acquired ahead of that development. In the end the tram idea did not eventualise and the trams were sold off (except for a Brush car which has been retained by the development company - Peel). Both Manchester and Merseyside now have firstclass operating heritage tramways to delight visitors and both deserve fullest support.

chocolate and cre

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