• John Woodman

Works Cars Get Third Lives

John Woodman


One of the 'fringe benefits' for redundant trams retired to carry out works car duties or similar is the longevity that this confers on already tired veterans. It is perhaps not surprising that many of the 'relics' which now gain the accolade of 'heritage' cars and subsequent restoration for this or that museum - lingered on due to second lives carrying out mundane duties or otherwise held at the back of depots as sentimental 'keepsakes' by sympathetic staff and management.


Blackpool's eclectic tram fleet prior to its mass withdrawal in 2010 had several such examples benefitting from being accorded a 'heritage' status in the minds eye of enthusiasts. More obviously the 'Dreadnought' car which was shoved inside Fleetwood's Copse Road Depot following its withdrawal (along with remaining sister examples) lingered on, seemingly unloved until it reemerged after its enforced hibernation from the mid 1930s - in 1960. The role of 'Permanent Way' or 'Engineering Car' has fortunately resulted in quite a few of Blackpool's older trams being kept for museum purposes over different chapters of Blackpool's Transport management.

Dreadnought car 59 after its 1960 restoration to operating and passenger carrying condition is seen here negotiating the three way track junction at Royal Oak en route from Marton Depot to Rigby Road, It is followed by fellow survivor Company 'rack' 2 descending from Waterloo Road railway bridge. Photo : John Woodman


The first of these of course is the sole surviving former conduit tram number 4 that miraculously regained its passenger carrying role seventy five years later (in 1960). It now has gained a rightful place in the pantheon of preserved trams held by the National Tramway Museum following several 'retro' restorations both in Rigby Road and latterly at Crich. This is due in no small part to its later duties as an Overhead Engineering Car. This included addition of a top deck platform and driver's windscreens (plus stepladders at each end to gain access to the top deck). Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad provided a mini fleet of permanent way cars from the open 'racks' that morphed into Blackpool Tramways after the 1920 takeover of the company. One managed to survive - again inside Copse Road Tram Depot in Fleetwood where it had been finally assigned to convey work gangs on the reserved tramroad permanent way. Box Car 40 was fortunate enough to become the static 'Mess Room' inside Rigby Road Depot for many years - becoming a permanent object of curiosity during the irregular visits of tramway enthusiasts. It too managed to survive long enough in this post war role to become one of the quartet of veterans 'restored' for the 75th Anniversary of electric tram operation in 1960.

The remarkable former conduit car survivor (actually number 4 in the original fleet of 1885) but seen here as '1' undergoing a repaint for the 1960 commemoration of 75 years of electric tram operation in Blackpool. Photo : John Woodman Archive


Former Marton 'Box' car 31 gained an enduring second life as the replacement 'Engineering Car' at Bispham Depot until it was placed on a long loan to the Beamish Museum. Here it was expertly restored to its earlier open top condition of the 1920s providing a popular ride around the Museum's circuitous line. Number 31 was providently replaced in 1958 by one of the surviving Marton 'Standard' trams - Number 143 - which took up the same role at Bispham Depot before transfer to Rigby Road upon closure of the Dickson Road tram service to Fleetwood. In its second life number 143 endured an extended restoration up until final display on Blackpool's promenade in resplendent top covered open balcony (and platform) condition. An abortive run to Bispham was cut short mid journey due to motor faults which are now being attended to.


Pantograph car 167 of 1928 was also fortunate in being selected to provide the Permanent Way crews with a mobile 'mess room' and transport, yet again assigned to Copse Road Depot which gained the status of unofficial tram museum by the mid 1950s. Painted all over green but with no structural adjustments. this tram went on to become a prized exhibit at the Crich Museum - following its return to postwar appearance in once familiar green and cream colours. A sister car (174) ended up becoming the trailer for the 'Western Train' - a role which it continues to the present day. Yet a further Pantograph car (170) briefly ended up replacing 167 in its Permanent Way role but this time retaining its 1950s fleet colours; after which its frame and running equipment was utiiised to provide the base for the 1960 'Tramnik One' illuminated tram. Privately preserved this feature car returned to Blackpool in expectation that it will eventually feature as a museum exhibit.


Another Permanent Way car, this time an English Electric railcoach, survived in all-green colours until it was dramatically returned to passenger service having been 'recycled' in the form of an 'OMO Car' during the 1970s. Yet a further Permanent Way car - this time Brush Car 260 (in its later guise) has lingered on at Rigby Road earmarked for eventual restoration to 1930s appearance.


An unusual role was found for two of the Rigby Road open toastracks from 1928. Number 165 and 166 ended up becoming mobile television broadcast cars to enable the BBC to present annual programmes of the Illuminations. One car being used for the tv cameras, whilst the second car (165) provided a platform for generating equipment and sundries. Following their withdrawal number 166 was selected to become an exhibit at the Crich museum - resplendent in its original open crossbench condition and Corporation Tramways red and white colours.


Blackpool's illuminated tram fleet over the years has provided redundant equipment for other tram restoration projects which require trucks, controls and other parts rarely available if at all. More on these cars to follow : Blackpool Belle (toastrack 163) : Standard car 158 ; the Jubilee Lifeboat and Gondola (both from Marton 'Box' Cars); the Hovertram (railcoach 222). A locomotive, naval Frigate and Trawler have each given a new life to old trams;

whilst one car stripped entirely of its bodywork became the mobile (and motorless) platform for carrying tram rail.

More anon.

Former Standard Car 143 in its recently modified condition in 1959 standing outside Bispham Tram Depot and renumbered '3' in the works car fleet. Image : John Woodman Archive


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