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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

143 Sixty Years On

Standard Car 143 repainted postwar standing outside Marton Depot on Whitegate Drive looking supremely smart. The Indicators had been moved from the earlier position above the top deck end glazing to a lower and more easily read fitting over the driver's windscreen. A wartime adaption on a number of enclosed Standards. Image : John Woodman Archive

It was 1958 when Standard Car 143 was selected to become the replacement 'Engineering Car' replacing duties carried out by former Marton 'Box' Car 31 based at Bispham Depot. Required to provide overhead repair duties on the extensive reserved tracks north from Cabin to Ash Street, Fleetwood - the need for a double deck open tram (with gantry) had been essential for the upkeep of the Fleetwood service.

Reconfigured ex 143 now Engineering Car 3 posed on Bispham Depot track fan with duty and offduty fitters standing alongside. Image : John Woodman

A decision was taken provide a replacement independent of overhead wire power. Number 143 was given its second career from the diminishing list of Standards withdrawn and stored in Marton Depot. Six examples were to be despatched to Thornton Gate Sidings that same year - and during open storage stripped of glazing, seats and other fittings to be scrapped on site.

One of the final pre-war Leyland Titan buses withdrawn in 1958 'gifted' its engine and fittings for incorporation in the lower deck of the tram, thus permitting alternate motive power independent of overhead wires. The reconfigured tram was proudly shown off to the press at Rigby Road having been repainted in an updated version of the Standard car livery and renumbered '3'. The top deck unusually retained its end cabins with a neatly sculpted open mid-section which permitted the gantry tower to be swung sideways from its centrally mounted position. The end cabins being provided with tool and storage cabinets. However this careful work was undone after the end cabins were removed within a couple of years. The overhead crew finding it difficult to move around the top deck and retrieve items from the overhead wiring encumbered with limited open area. Thus 143 achieved its final appearance, complete with platform doors retrieved from a scrapped English Electric coach - the only such Standard to benefit from this feature.

Below : Engineering Car 3 minus its top deck end cabins posed in Blundell Street Depot (after closure of Bispham Depot). Its predecessor (4) can be seen behind in the later all green works car colour. The overhead wire trailer (former Tramroad) is alongside. Image : John Woodman Archive

Number 3 replaced its predecessor Engineering Car 4 always positioned ready for any call out at the top of the easternmost track inside Bispham Depot. The tram never received any further attention from the Paint Shop and over the decades became decidedly scruffy and clearly wearing its age. A flame in the lower deck during a duty run grew into a consuming fire requiring emergency crews to douse the flames. This brought an abrupt end to the tram's second working life and it was consigned to dead storage in Rigby Road. Far sighted efforts of the Lancastrian Transport Trust Members would ensure its rescue for preservation and intended return to original as built state with open platforms and balconies. This work started at the Trust's Brinwell Road premises and a new open balcony top deck was commissioned and installed. Replacement top deck garden type seats were built following on pattern of an original.

The LTT produced this visionary rendition of how the retro restoration would look on completion. Blackpool Corporation Tramways 1920s red, white with lining out and teak waist panels making a stunning contrast with the later green and cream Standard style.

The embryonic (partially restored) 143 was transferred to Rigby Road Works where intention to fit bogies, controllers and running equipment was planned in conjunction with Blackpool Transport. However this all stalled as a result of a difference in priorities between the two partners. The tram returned to Brinwell Road awaiting renewal of cooperative engagement and funding to complete the outstanding work. Happily this interregnum ended with a renewed working relationship involving BTS, Blackpool Heritage Tours group and volunteers, together with the renamed Fylde Transport Trust - allowing yet a further transfer of 143 to the Works where it is now the subject of attention to the outstanding essentials and further external details all aimed at bringing back to life a Blackpool-built Standard car of the 1920s decade. A worthy aim that recreates a further missing piece of the Blackpool tramway history.

PS : The Fylde Tramway Trust are similarly engaged in recreating a working example of an English Electric rail coach from the 1930s - 45 examples of which were once the work horses of the tram system up to the 1960s. Whilst the Trust's working Vambac equipped Coronation Car of 1952 (304) is also undergoing preliminary inspection of work required to return it to a fully operating condition.

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