710 - TO BE OR NOT TO BE
Balloon car 710 aka 247 has recently become the subject of extending discourse on social media with all manner of commentaries on the tram's future disposition by its owners the FHLT. However what Blackpool's bulging collection of 'heritage trams' don't need is yet further cars adding to the lines filling Rigby Road Depot.
Whilst at the FHLT compound in Fleetwood Centenary Car 643 in its later version of Blackpool green and cream before transfer south to the Midlands.
Two gentlemen from Verona stand next to their prize purchase - Balloon Car 710 waiting for shipment from Rigby Road to Fleetwood. PS : that's the first smokestack off the original Western Train locomotive.
The FHLT acquired 710 early on in 2011. It was one of several double deck cars then being made available for private conservation by Blackpool Transport who were anxious to quickly downsize the numbers of cars in the depot. Another double decker also meriting local preservation was Atlantean 'lookalike' number 761 - and this too was purchased ensuring it was retained as a highpoint of the skillbase then existing at Rigby Road Works. Both cars were transferred to Fleetwood in anticipation of a heritage visitor attraction created at Wyre Dock - a waterfront site to be redeveloped by its owners Associated British Ports (ABP). They were joined by further trams acquired by the FHLT - with other cars being despatched to prison! The Prison authorities at Kirkham having signed off on the Trust storing some of its newly acquired collection within the prison grounds, as well as allowing offenders to carry out work on the cars. Brush car 290 being a notable beneficiary while serving 'time' at HMP Kirkham. Below : Brush Car 290 gains a new look inside Kirkham Prison before becoming a Blackpool showcase for HM The Queen's Diamond Jubilee display at the Pleasure Beach tram terminus.
The Trust's attempts to gain official endorsement from the local authority (Wyre Council) for its plans at Wyre Dock despite endorsement by Fleetwood's MP and contribution of local companies, including provision of a secure site within Wyre Dock by ABP for storage of trams - met with lack of support from Council Executives. After a decade of prolonged effort the Trust understandably looked for alternative options for its trams. Jubilee Car 761 was donated back to Blackpool Transport for local preservation and display within its intended Rigby Road museum. A Centenary Car was signed over to a private group who in turn donated the tram to a special school in the Midlands. Brush car 621 (284) gained new ownership when James Millington purchased it for the same Rigby Road Museum scheme; while a further Balloon car (726) was privately purchased from the FHLT by Matt Lodge and transferred to Rigby Road for restoration there. More recently in 2021 a solitary trailer car was donated by the Trust to Rossall School for use as special classroom, departing Wyre Dock for this new role last summer. Below : Centenary 641 stands at Wyre Dock nearing rebranding for Blackpool Football Club (643 can just be seen alongside).
In 2022 the efforts to dispose of remaining FHLT trams at Wyre Dock have intensified, along with Brush car 290 stored in the depot at Hopton Road courtesy of BTS. Interest in Balloon car 710 has already been registered, along with Brush Car 290 and a twin car set acquired by the Late David Hunt. Single Motor Unit 678 and Centenary 641 together with privately owned owned Brush Car 637 have to similarly find new homes - with the search on for caring owners /sponsors as we speak. Enthusiasts showing personal interest in Balloon car 710 - be assured that the tram has a bright future, but not amid shoals of cars needing attention retained in the 'Tram Town' assemblage.
All Images : John Woodman