North Station Here I Come - The Amazing Brush Car 290
As the tram track extension onto the Talbot Gateway development site reached completion - it is worth recalling the very last Blackpool tram to have carried passengers to and from the original terminus at North Station. Brush car 290 carried out the final service run all the way to Fleetwood and then returned to Bispham Depot at the end of the Illuminations (final night) in 1963. At that time the original terminus had been set back from its position directly in front of the old station forecourt and taxi rank - due to increased traffic and both dangers and hindrance to crews turning the tram's trolleypole for the return northbound journey on a busy Dickson Road.
The relaid stub track terminus was positioned slightly north of its original location and in front of what was then the Odeon cinema as an aid to crews. A new overhead trolley reverser was installed removing the need for manual change by the conductor (or driver). The northbound tram stop was likewise shifted slightly north from its early position.
Tram 290 continued on in service thereafter gaining a single indicator in common with its fellow cars and finally ending up with an ugly disfiguring paint job for 'Coral Island' having been renumbered 627 during the great tram renumbering scheme in the mid 1960s. In this guise it served the tramway until withdrawal as part of the upgrade scheme completed in 2011. Given its 'fame' as the last Fleetwood service tram from North Station it was acquired by the small cadre of supporters forming 'Friends of Fleetwood Trams' - and transferred to storage at HMP Kirkham (along with a handful of other cars being preserved by the same group). These included fellow Brush car 621 originally 284 and the first of the 1937 twenty strong class.
During its time incarcerated at Kirkham 627 received attention to its roof with replacement panelling and rebuilt trolley gantry base - expertly carried out by Colin MacLeod. The group received OK to display the tram at the Pleasure Beach loop from Blackpool Council which provided a short stretch of track and sleepers for this purpose. Coincidentally HM The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Year provided a justifiable excuse to repaint the tram in a special commemorative livery, complete with artwork in the saloon windows originating from two Fleetwood schools together with B&FC Art students. A special side 'sweep' in metal was produced by a Blackpool coach repair firm in Marton and illuminated effects added by the Council's Illuminations team. All in all a commendable display was created through these combined efforts.
In this regalia renumbered 290 (with original fleet numbers attached over the centre doors) presented a classic Blackpool tram for public display - complete with 'North Station' on its destination apertures. The tram currently remains 'embedded' amid the sizeable fleet of heritage trams retained in Rigby Road Depot. In the ownership of the FHLT 290 is a remarkable survivor from Blackpool's busy street tram routes that all gave way to bus operation in 1961 -,1963 - sixty years ago who would have believed it. Proposals for the car to be transferred to Fleetwood for permanent display are likely to become its final stop.
290 departing for Kirkham Prison in its abysmal branding - below resplendent in its Diamond Jubilee colours at the Pleasure Beach display track. Both Images John Woodman