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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

FHLT Trams Galore - 3

John Woodman

I am reminded by Mike Morton of inexactitudes in my recent Blog dealing with the Jubilee cars. Prototype Jubilee model of 1979 (761) utilised the bodywork of Balloon Car 725 while the follow on model (762) was originally Balloon Car 714 (in post 1966 fleet numbers). Personally I prefer to remember Blackpool's trams in their originating fleet identities. Thank you Mike for bringing me back to the real world.

All of this begs the question why Blackpool's 'Heritage Trams' masquerading as representative of service in earlier decades should be encumbered with alien fleet numbers never applied pre 1960s or the condition they purport to represent. What would purists think if Standards 147 and 143 were to gain assumed fleet numbers other than those originating in the 1920s?

No other transport heritage set up has mismatched fleet numbers (or names) in the restoration of vehicles (at least I can't think of one). All of the transport museums I have visited in North America and Europe (and Istanbul) have faithfully reproduced the livery style and fleet numbers of preserved trams. In the serried rows of vintage trams carefully stored in Prague's equivalent of Rigby Road depot (but thankfully in weatherproof condition) - all are maintained in display condition complete with original numbers. San Francisco's Market Street Railway operates two Blackpool boat cars retaining their 1935 fleet identities (228 and 233); whilst two further examples of this class also displayed in US museums are numbered correctly. When I instigated the earlier move of 228 to operate in the USA for the 1976 Bicentennial celebrations - in Philadelphia; the tram was identified by its then current fleet number 603. It was only when it again crossed the seas - this time to the US West Coast - that it regained its original fleet number.

Understandably rebuilt Balloon cars in their 'Jubilee' or 'Millenium' format are favoured with their post 1960s fleet numbers, but examples supposedly representative of the Franklin and Luff era by rights need to be numbered correctly in 1934/1935 sequencing - and with cream and green fleet colours. Where things get messy are mix and match fleet numbers applied in the still sizeable 'heritage' fleet, with some cars in their original fleet identities whilst others feature the post 1966 renumbering exercise. A glance at the detailed fleet list helpfully provided elsewhere on 'British Trams Online' website highlights the level of 'messiness' involved.

When the FHLT made an effort to repaint Brush Car 627 and returned it to its green and cream appearance complete with authentic side panel 'swoops'. the decision was taken to return the tram to its original fleet number '290' with metal numerals affixed above the centre doors. We were not able to acquire the distinctive gun metal style numerals used by Brush Engineering (who needed to avoid sanctions from patent conscious English Electric Company). It will be interesting to see if the Crich Museum Workshop have better luck in their completion of work in finally completing restoration of sister car 298. Clearly a memorial to all the effort of the Late Keith Terry who launched the tram's preservation in 1937 condition. This involves centre entrance sliding doors and opening roof panels, along with many other pertinent 1937 internal features, all sadly missing on Blackpool's ersatz heritage offer. Trailer Car T7 is set to regain its original appearance as built together with gill sans gilt fleet identity in all over cream livery - thanks to Rossall School.

Lytham Road tram service 1960 - with familiar cars passing on a balmy summer day. Photo : John Woodman


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