FHLT Trams In Care - Brush Car 290 (627)
One of the noteworthy members of the twenty strong class of Brush built rail coaches (284 - 303) is number 290 which latterly was renumbered 627 in the great fleet renumbering sage of the mid 1960s. Previously unremarkable, the tram's fame and importance is entirely due to it becoming the very last tram to depart from Blackpool's North Station in October 1963 on the final night of that historic service to Fleetwood. Opened in 1898 by the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company - the service provided travellers arriving by train at Blackpool North (originally Talbot Road Station) with a convenient coastal route all the way to the Fleetwood terminus outside both the Ferry to Knott End and Fleetwood's own railway terminus adjoining the River Wyre. From here travellers once took advantage of seagoing steamers onward to Barrow, Scottish ports on the west coast, Belfast and the Isle of Man.
Taken over by Blackpool Corporation in 1920 - the Tramroad Company and all of its assets, which included 41 single deck open and closed trams, morphed its line with the seafront services of the Corporation Tramways but retaining unique railway type destinations along its route, as well as the service number '1'. It was the only Blackpool tram service to be numbered.
Brush car 290 was based originally at Bispham Depot with fellow cars until 1963 when the North Station tram service was converted to bus operation. Thereafter 290 transferred to Rigby Road Depot for remainder of its service life which continued on up to 2010 when it became redundant. The FHLT naturally took an active interest in securing the tram for preservation as a priority, In 2012 it was transferred to HM Prison in Kirkham, along with sister car 621 (see previous Blog) also in the ownership of the FHLT at the time.
HM The Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012 merited a special display in conjunction with Blackpool Council who added a short length of tram track on their land at the Pleasure Beach terminus. The Trust arranged for two Fleetwood schools and the Blackpool and the Fylde College to create a series of murals commemorating the Queen's reign which were used in each of the saloon windows. A celebratory colour scheme of gold, white and silver was painted onto the tram after repair work was carried out on sections of the tram's roof by Colin MacLeod at the prison. New external LED lighting strips were added to the side panels and ends of the car together with a rendition of the side 'sweeps' favoured by Blackpool's Transport Manager during the 1930s and 1940s. In this condition the tram then was moved to the display track at the Pleasure Beach attracting a great deal of attention.
Following the Diamond Jubilee the FHLT then partnered with another Blackpool cultural project involving a street artist 'Inkie' who set about repainting the tram in a dramatic 'punk' style as part of a town centre street art display. This did not always find favour with traditionalists but nonetheless was a worthy contribution to the town's seafront attractions. The Trustees then repainted 290 in a traditional green and cream transport colour scheme for its final years of display. On conclusion of two years in this format, the tram was removed to make way for another of the Trust's preserved cars, Centenary 641. Number 290 then was given accommodation in Rigby Road Depot where it presently resides whilst the FHLT determine the optimum long term home for the car at the time of writing.
Hard to believe but this was 290 in its final condition being made ready for transfer from Rigby Road Depot to Kirkham Prison - with the reliable Scotts Heavy Haulage team at work, Of course the tram was then numbered 627.
A big improvement on the earlier makeover as Colin MacLeod (yet again) stands by 290 with some examples of student designs in the saloon windows. Below : Preparing 290 for yet another makeover with the windows cleared of artwork prior to a dramatic transformation
'Inkie' gets to work on embellishing the tram in a totally creative style on a gold background and the beginnings of freelance artwork. Below : with the help of an assistant the format of this unique design is taking shape. Photos : John Woodman