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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Works Cars Live On

John Woodman

Essential to the good running of tramways is the rarely acknowledged permanent way and overhead line crews - usually nocturnal by nature, having to deal with repairs and track replacement in the quiet hours when service cars are stabled away in their depots. Superannuated trams selected from usually elderly and withdrawn examples stored pending disposal offered low cost options to provide running equipment for specialist duties. In this form a good many of Blackpool's present heritage trams allowed the preservation movement which emerged during the 1950s to secure examples of once common types.

Blackpool's Engineering Cars being a classic example of generational spillover of works trams from the early 1900s through that century. Early ex-conduit car 4 of 1885 thankfully was put away after an extended role providing overhead line duties into the 1920s - replaced by former Marton 'Box Car' 31 taking its place at Bispham Depot and renumbered. This in turn gave way to a third generation 'Engineering Car' in the form of withdrawn Standard tram 143 - which came into view in 1958 complete with a Leyland Titan diesel engine installed inside its lower 'saloon'. Renumbered 3 this latest Engineering Car, now numbered 3, took up Number 4's place in Bispham and kept its duties until a flameout inside the tram brought about immediate withdrawal (and survival). In all three instances these trams would become carefully restored into an era where their heritage was fully recognised and appreciated.

Likewise 'Pantograph Car' 167 of 1928 gained a second life when it was selected to replace the previous Permanent Way car 114 of 1914. Both trams thus managed to re-emerge in later decades returned to their passenger carrying condition as treasured relics of former years. Even a third generation of Permanent Way cars has survived in the form of 1937 Brush rail car 287 renumbered initially to 624 and retaining its twin indicator cab domes. Long withdrawn and consigned to eventual restoration in what will be an extensive and costly restoration the tram also retains its centre entrance sliding doors - albeit in derelict condition.

Finally two surviving toastrack types gained immortality through longevity as special purpose vehicles. An original Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company car of the 1898 fleet (number 2) was thankfully retained in its final role as a permanent way car and is now returned to Company condition (along with former Company saloon car 40). Both Company cars are in the care of the National Tramway Museum at Crich, Derbyshire along with original ex conduit car 4 referenced above. The other toastrack number 166, built by Blackpool Corporation Tramways at Rigby Road Works in 1928 gained an interesting second life by becoming a mobile television broadcasting car complete with commentary box and camera mounts during the 1950s. It too was 'snapped up' by the Crich museum after final withdrawal and restored to its 1920s condition.

Toastrack 166 in its final working guise as a television broadcasting platform. Seen here on central promenade with the back of the programme commentator's head just visible. ABC Television make sure their seasonal special programme is given optimal publicity with posters liberally adorning the tram's 'bodywork'. Photo : John Woodman Archive


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