The Long Goodbye
Recent announcement of the removal of Fleetwood Box Car 40 from its long stay at Rigby Road Depot perhaps should not be a surprise. Along with Bolton 66 Number 40 has been a familiar sight trundling along the Promenade in its original company livery which in fact it only wore for five years. Delivered in 1914 to augment the enclosed car service in winter - the Tramroad was sold lock, stock and depots to Blackpool's Mayor in a privately agreed deal. The tramroad's single deck cars were then renumbered 101 - 141 on being absorbed into the Corporation Tramways fleet. Number 40 becoming 114 and subsequently owing its survival through assignment as 'Engineering Car 5' from 1939 up to 1960.
Latterly it served as a 'Mess Room' inside Rigby Road Depot, very rarely being driven on to the depot track fan for the delight of visiting enthusiast tours to photograph. The 1960 75th Electric Street Tramway Anniversary providentially provided Number 5 with the chance to shine again in its former Company colours (in an inexact scheme) as part of a special celebration that year. Exiled to Crich with other vintage trams following the closure of depots and tram fleet reduction by Blackpool - 40 was given tender treatment for the even more important Centenary of the Tramroad in 1998 and has been a stalwart of tours and the heritage operation ever since. The Author having sampled it on Steve Palmer's annual tour excursions to Fleetwood can attest to its unique qualities and robustness.
A glimpse today of 40 heading to Blackpool's North Pier loop on yet another shuttle run from the Pleasure Beach very sparsely loaded; which is not surprising given the weather and notable lack of visitors at this time of year. In fact to have any passengers at all is a plus in January and February. Below : a quick snap of Balloon 717 passing Waterloo Road on heritage tour demonstrates the lack of public interest in riding on old trams in the depth of winter (even though this was in brilliant sunshine on Saturday).
However Box 40 has had its long run in Blackpool for which visitors and enthusiasts alike can be grateful. Following its planned appearance at Beamish later this year, no doubt this vintage tram will endure a well earned rest in the TMS museum at Crich alongside sister Company car - Rack 2 of 1898 vintage. Images : John Woodman