London Exemplars : LCC 1 and MET 331
As Blackpool's transport followers await the emergence of Standard Car 143 from its extended retro restoration now imminent an equally important moment is pending at the National Tramway Museum, Crich where final work is underway on returning LCC 1 to its as built 1932 condition. This car was the very last tram design to emerge from the Council's Charlton workshops intended as the forerunner of a fleet to improve the almost static condition of London County Council's tram services frozen in time for nearly two decades.
Nicknamed 'Bluebird' with its extravagant dark blue and white colours and numbered '1' as a forerunner of what was to be a whole new series of similar cars - in fact it encountered the politics of the then formative London Transport. No friends of tram operation and intent on replacement by trolleybuses - the emergence of 'Bluebird' was in essence the 'swansong' no pun here for London's tram development. By good fortune Number 1 ended up in Leeds by the early 1950s where it joined three HR2 types previously sold before the war - and the bulk of London's only other 'modern' trams - the 'Feltham' class sold on to Leeds at the same time. On closure of the Leeds tramway in 1959 Number 1 returned to London to join an eclectic group of trams (including Blackpool ex Conduit car 4) at the British Transport Commission museum in Clapham. When that too closed Number 1 moved north again, this time as far as Crich where it resided quietly stored first in its Leeds colours, then in LT red livery. A concerted effort by London area enthusiasts and supporters has seen the tram undergo comprehensive restoration to its 1932 state - a project which is now near completion.
1929 Feltham Prototype 331 - in Crich Depot 2019
Emerging at Crich as LCC 1 in its dark blue colours - it will thus enable us to compare the parallels of Metropolitan Electric Tramways (MET) 331 one of three prototypes which appeared ahead of the final 'Feltham' tram design of which one hundred examples were built for MET and London United Tramways (LUT) in 1929/1930. Number 331 being of especial relevance to Blackpool's story given its unique centre entrance design. The tram definitely being non standard among London's thousand plus rear platform double deck fleet ended up in Sunderland to join that system's small cadre of centre entrance cars - favoured by management in the mid 1930s. A private benefactor ensured the continuance of 331 following closure of Sunderland's system in 1954 and it too ended up (thankfully) at Crich where it was faithfully returned to its 1930 condition. Thus two eminent prototype designs for London's tramways will again be on show (and in operation) to demonstrate the highpoint of the capital's tram development ninety years ago.
It is worth pointing out that by 1929 Blackpool's own tramway workshops were completing the final examples of the town's 'standard' tram (51 and 177) complete with wooden top deck seating and Edwardian era design. Some forty one 'Standards' emerged or were purchased from 1923 - all to the same pre World War One format with open balconies on both decks. Improvements to the class were modest with driver's windscreens being added following protests by Unions from 1929 - and upper deck balconies being enclosed on seventeen of the fleet to provide 'all weather' service albeit in a rudimentary form. The news from London of the Feltham tram developments and LCC 1, combining with the modern new Huddersfield cars from 1931 - pointed out the inadequacies of Blackpool's tram fleet. Even the newest 'modern' cars for the Fleetwood interurban service delivered in 1928 somehow were lacking the town's image for 'Progress. Of course all this would change radically in 1933.