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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Millenium Cars 168/169/170/171 : 707/709/718/724

John Woodman

A curious convergence of parallel tram development involving two of the three operators running double deck cars worldwide is worth recording here. Blackpool's Rigby Road Works designed an upgraded version of its Balloon car fleet in the late 1990s to be followed by three further examples in subsequent years. Number 707 emerged with restyled bodywork to be followed by 709, 718 and 724 all of which subsequently were further upgraded by adding extended entrance 'pods' and new driver controlled doors. Intended to supplement the light rail fleet 001 - 019 the four Blackpool Transport 'Millenium' cars have so far at least seen only spasmodic service in their amended role.

Two of Blackpool's classic Balloon cars with contrasting workshop revisions. Historic 700 which had been carefully returned to its 1940s green livery style and dual indicator blinds (among other retro features) was selected to become one of several units remodelled to operate alongside light rail cars. Extended platform door 'pods' being the more obvious of the ill judged modifications to this original car of 1935. While the top deck retained its reversible moquette seating and features, the lower deck was fitted with fixed seating making the tram very much of a hybrid design. Number 701 alongside was given a heavy overhaul which saw the curved frontal glazing replaced with flat windows. The half drop original opening windows were all replaced with 'hopper' versions and the tram given a retro 1920s Blackpool Corporation Tramways paintstyle. One which did nothing to improve the image of Blackpool's traditional trams. Photo : John Woodman

On the other side of the world, almost in the same timeframe, Hong Kong Tramways built their own quartet of 'Millenium Cars' with completely new steel framed bodywork and fixed forward facing seats on both decks. Numbered 168 to 170 the trio emerged in a smart dark green and white livery in 2000/2001 with a final example, 171 following in 2002 being fitted with air conditioning. Intended to demonstrate that tramcars could look just as modern as contemporary double deck buses (of which Hong Kong was a prolific operator) the Millenium cars just as in Blackpool became 'standalone' examples.

The third tramway operator using double deck cars is Alexandria, Egypt with its mostly reserved track interurban line. No Millenium cars here but the small fleet replenished its double deck examples with new Japanese built trailer units during the 1980s. *PS for purists this blog does not include museum or heritage tram operations.


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