Next Monday evening, all being well the remarkable journey of former Blackpool Standard tram 143 will have completed its seemingly interminable programme of restoration begun earlier this century. Standard Car 143 was a burnt shell of its final Engineering Car 3 condition when it was acquired by the then Lancastrian Transport Trust from Blackpool Transport Services. This was a point when the tram's remains and future were deemed questionable at best. Removed from BTS premises at Rigby Road the tram body was taken to the LTT's Marton premises with the ambitious objective of it being restored to original as built open balcony and open platform condition.
Through fits and starts this commendable aim has seen the tram returned once more to Rigby Road following extended work by the FTT team. Final touches are now being made ahead of its unveiling in original Blackpool Corporation Tramways 1920s fleet livery and condition. A ceremony at North Pier (not on the pier) next Monday will be the culmination of considerable graft and funding from diverse private sources plus cooperation of Blackpool Transport's management; and latterly willing volunteers engaged for this final phase of restoration finishing work in recent weeks and months.
The LTT has moved on to refreshing new ground in 2018 renaming itself 'Fylde Transport Trust' and through its own endeavours is now further engaged in an equally ambitious restoration (or more accurately remodelling) of a former English Electric rail coach to original 1930s condition. Work on this project has understandably been deferred whilst the Trust's attention and skills have more recently focussed on completing Standard 143. Number 143 is expected to take its place as a 'heritage tram' augmenting sister Standard 147 in 1950s condition; among diverse other cars available for promenade heritage tour operation.
A further aim of the FTT is to bring back into operation the solitary Coronation Vambac car 304 which it owns and for which an appeal was recently launched. This is to secure funding for technical elements now needed for the tram to take its place in the pantheon? of Blackpool's historic trams. In fact the FTT in its previous guise as the LTT has been responsible for quite a number of vital initiatives to save a lengthening list of unique Blackpool trams for future generations. Notably of course an OMO car in Blackpool, the Tramnik One Rocket tram, the last Permanent Way car in the form of a Brush railcoach with sliding doors and twin indicators (at one end). Plus 143, 304 and others, including the Balloon car which masqueraded as a Sunderland tram during its time at Beamish Museum.
With launch of open balcony Standard 143 next week - one hopes that this new chapter for the original Blackpool tram (and bus) preservation group will capture support it richly deserves. Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust adds its name to these future endeavours.
Standard 143 joins that select number of preserved Blackpool trams from the 1920s which operated initially (or for the most part) with open top deck balconies. These are 40, 144 and now 143. It is worth recalling that several of Blackpool's heritage trams have carried the Corporation Tramways red and white (and teak) lined out livery over the years of preservation. Standard 49 at Crich Museum being the only enclosed example (Above) whilst 40, 143, 144 are similarly in 'the club'. Former Marton 'Box' car 31 now at Beamish is a further preserved tram in correct 1920s colour scheme, even though it doesn't quite qualify as a Standard car. Below : the originating appearance of two trams rebuilt at Rigby Road Works in the 1920s to similar condition as new 'Standards' then appearing in service; of which 143 is the only example with open front condition ie open driver's platforms. One could go on and one with the finer detail of this subject but I will stop here !