Three Musketeers - Or ?
A long time ago in a far off time - the burntout shell of Works Car 753 - formerly Standard Car 143 was saved from dismantling by the efforts of a handful of dedicated Blackpool enthusiasts and their supporters under the aegis of the Lancastrian Transport Trust.
The bodywork of the tram was carefully transferred from Rigby Road to the care of the LTT at their premises on Brinwell Road near Mereside. Here it remained for some years before the Trust took upon itself to return the tram to a rendition of its original as built appearance in the 1920s. Number 143 was one of several 'new' Standards built in the workshops at Rigby Road as part of a renewal programme instigated by then then Manager, Charles Furness following on the Great War. The pattern of the new fleet used much of the pre-war design of the Motherwell series (Hurst Nelson) with their distinctive Tudor windows in the lower deck saloon, and took the balcony top deck patter of the 1911 UEC Preston built trams. This provided a convenient accounting sleight of hand to deflect internal Council critics intent on displacing the trams with motor buses, the first of which entered service in 1921 - expanding with routes and vehicles thereafter through the decades.
The LTT had taken upon itself the role of saving selected representative trams for local preservation in the absence of any similar initiatives on the part of Blackpool's transport department. Its immediate efforts were focussed on buses whose history and role in the town had been very much of a hit and miss approach - mostly missing. In fact only one pre-war Blackpool bus survives today in private hands - and just two of the famous Burlingham centre entrance design are held privately; one by the LTT (now FTT) again at their Brinwell Road depot and quite evidently in need of major restoration work - below:
Mr Higgs presents ! Messrs Woodman and Berry look on. John Woodman Archive.
Before any work was attempted to conserve the remains of 753 a press photographer was despatched to Brinwell Road to record the tram's presence there and three stalwarts of local transport heritage involved with its preservation: namely John Woodman, Philip Higgs and Eric Berry. The resulting image serves as a record of these brave times. Now after extensive and extended labours on the part of many people, and with the active participation of Blackpool Transport Services Ltd. the tram has made a brave appearance in its 1920s condition and fleet livery on a typical autumnal outing last year. More technical and engineering work is required to complete the labours expended on the tram before it can reliably take its place in service on the promenade for special hires and heritage tours. It is counterpoint to the sister Standard 147 which endured an even more extended sojourn in a shed in Ohio - before being returned to Blackpool through the efforts of a previous BTS Managing Director and Workshop team from Rigby Road. The longevity of the town's 1920s era tramcars has meant that several survive (unlike any buses). The Trolley Museum at Seashore hosts open balcony Standard 144, a further trolley museum a world away in Oregon displays Standard 48 (the very last tram to run to Royal Oak), whilst Crich Museum have both Standards 49 and open balcony 40, and the East Anglia Transport Museum has a splendidly maintained 159.
Regrettably two late surviving examples 158 and 160 - succumbed to dismantling following their withdrawal in the mid 1960s. The story of Blackpool's standard cars has been told in several books through the years by several authors.