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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Crocodile Tears ?

The rush to remember 'Box 40' with a further souvenir ride along the promenade would seem to have latterly given rise to panic attacks among the enthusiast community. Notices of a farewell tour (before Brexit) for this venerable car no doubt have generated subscriptions well in advance; not withstanding the ever frequent shuttle run it has been performing on promenade 'tours' of late.

The tram has been the subject of 'tours' since 1960, nearly sixty years ago when it was retrieved from a somnolent position inside Rigby Road Depot (see below) to become the fourth member of a quartet of trams restored for the 75th Anniversary of Blackpool's electric tramway. Used latterly as a mess room for the Depot staff and on call overhead crew - Engineering Car 5 was a long familiar sight during enthusiast depot visits during the preceding decade. Depot staff could be prevailed upon to bring it out into the daylight of the depot track fan for obligatory photos on occasion.

However it was not until September 1960 that it would again carry passengers as part of the 75th Anniversary commemoration, modest as it was at the time. Number 40 saw its transformation into a rendition of the original Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company fleet livery (along with sister 'rack' 2) and also regaining its former Company number into the bargain. In fact the tram has operated with three numbers over its lifetime since 1914 when it was delivered in the same archaic bodystyle of predecessors from the late 1890s : (B & F 40 / BCT 114 / BCT Engineering Car 5).

Other than an internal upgrade of its seating from longtitudinal bench seating to transverse reversible seats from withdrawn early Blackpool trams during the 1930s - Box Car 40 is remarkably original for its age. As opposed to the much rebuilt or otherwise retro build trams that are now a feature of several museums. Naturally enough the 'heritage fleet' of that time were much in demand for tours by enthusiast groups - particularly so in the light of imminent closures of Blackpool's street tram trackage over subsequent years (1961 - 1963). The profusion of crossovers, junctions and tour permutations offered considerable options for tour organisers in those now far off halcyon times. Some images of one tour the Author joined - to follow.

Along with the other 1960 heritage quartet (Conduit 1, Rack 2, & Dreadnought 59) the tram was gifted to museums during the mid 1960s as Blackpool's system contracted with consequent depot closures at Copse Road, Fleetwood, Marton and Bispham. This required the Transport Department to cull its still considerable tram fleet. The forthcoming new title from Rigby Road Publishing - Municipal Transport Rationalisation dealing with the 1960s recalls these events.

Sojourns at Crich and also the earlier years of Heaton Park's operating line, were then followed by a return to Blackpool on loan from the TMS (its Owners). The especial support the car enjoyed from 'Friends of Forty' organised by Steve Palmer drew on financial contributions from the Owners of 'Fishermans Friend' and fellow enthusiasts. The group have traditionally held an memorable annual tour since then to renew their affection for this unique survivor. Now it is returning to a much quieter retirement (well deserved) and reacquainting with Rack 2 at Crich Museum - there always is the potential for yet a further visitation to the seaside in years ahead.

As time flies by. Above the Author with Derek Redmond (on the platform) pose with Engineering Car 5 prior to its entering the Paint Shop for a repaint in 1960. And below : a further souvenir for an enthusiast standing front of the 'Mess Room' provided by the car in its then usual position alongside the overhead wagons on the western most tracks in Rigby Road Depot. The interior lights being switched on make this a very atmospheric 'snap' in the mid 1950s. Sorry - the identity of the enthusiast is not known.

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