Centenary 641: Blackpool FC celebration tram plans progress

As previously reported on British Trams Online the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust are currently progressing with plans to create a Blackpool FC celebration tram with Centenary 641 due to be repainted tangerine with a gallery of images from the glory years of Blackpool FC also added. Despite recent controversy over the current state of affairs at the football club – with relegation from the Championship confirmed and regular protests against the owners – the plans are still well on course with significant support from individuals and community groups.

The Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust is underwriting the costs of the presentation and members of the public, community groups and businesses who would like to know more and offer their support can visit the Trust’s website at www.tramtalk.co.uk or pick up a form from Bloomfield Road ticket office or Club Shop with donations starting at £15.

Work has already started on preparing 641 – which is currently stored in Fleetwood Docks – for its starring role in the 2015 Illuminations and painting will begin later this month along with the installation of the first sponsors’ panel. The tram will then be moved to the display site at Pleasure Beach as the Illuminations approach. The tram will be official unveiled at a special ceremony as part of the “Ride the Lights” event in the week before the 2015 Illuminations switch-on and will remain on display throughout the Illuminations period.

Obviously the controversy surrounding the football club has not gone unnoticed by the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust as trustee John Woodman comments: “We first looked into the possibility of using one of the trams from our collection in this way, well over a year ago. We’re all local residents and Blackpool fans too so it’s tough to see the Club struggle but it’s about celebrating nearly 130 years of football in the Town and that means ups and downs. The response so far is very encouraging. The Club has been very supportive with publicity, their archivist John Cross has been sourcing images for the final design and we are also working on joint-initiatives with the Club’s Community Trust team.”

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15 Responses to Centenary 641: Blackpool FC celebration tram plans progress

  1. Deckerman says:

    What a truly inspired and lovely idea. And if this hopefully does come off…I wonder what might happen to a tangerine painted tram covered in lovely BFC historic panels, sat staunchly out on the prom when walked past one night next season by a lovely crowd of friendly PNE or even Fleetwood Town fans on their way home, via perhaps a few local hostelries?

    Answers please on a postcard……Well, I am sure they will all just look lovingly at it and with a tear in their eye, reminisce on the friendly rivalry and light hearted banter they have all had from each other, down the years. Ahhhhh. Isn’t that nice?

    I’m so glad that the Fleetwood Heritage Trust obviously have the best interests of their tram at heart.

  2. John says:

    At the risk of being called negative, football is such an emotive subject for some I fear that 641 may not remain pristine for long. At the very least the windscreens should be remobved and replaced with a metal sheet.

  3. Peter says:

    I honestly believe that whether 641 is placed at the Pleasure Beach in BFC colours or not will not make it a more “attractive” target for vandals. Any item left out on the Prom for display, whether it be a tram or other item of “street furniture” is open to all sorts of possible vandalism. The fact that 290 survived was god news, especially when in its grafitti livery which actually made it look like it had been vandalised and usually this leads to even more vandalism.

    There are several instances where football club related street furniture has been placed in public areas in other towns and cities, with very little problems. On top of which, the Pleasure Beach turning loop is not exactly the main area football fans congregate during the football season. Have you ever been down to the Pleasure Beach loop on a Sturday evening in winter? Maybe one or two dog walkers, but not more. The football fans tend to go back into the town centre (now this is a different situation all together, it is actually pretty scary to walk down some steets after football matches!).

    As to the comment “I’m so glad that the Fleetwood Heritage Trust obviously have the best interests of their tram at heart.”, I would point out that at the time when 641 would have most probably gone for scrap in 2011, the FHLT were the ONLY group willing to step in and spend their money on saving the tram. Without the foresight of the FHLT, many of these trams would have been lost.

    I believe that this topic, although not in favour with many preservationists, is still a positive move and one that should be supported.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Fair enough, but I think the sheer level of anger being directed at Blackpool FC and the club manager in particular right now is too big an issue to be ignored. Even the Police have made statements about protests so clearly they are aware there is an issue and are trying to minimise the disruption that follows.

      Obviously I don’t wish to see 641 meet a grisly end, but I fear the odds of it happening are very high indeed. As John pointed out, those massive windscreens are also an easy target although frankly broken glass is the least of my concerns! I find it absolutely staggering that local Councillors, Illuminations Dept. and the like actually think this is a good idea. As for losing the trams, at this moment in time I’m not entirely convinced that this won’t happen at some point in the future, but in any case I never subscribed to the view that every single Blackpool tram had to be preserved. I do think its shameful that a Centenary car was not acquired for the national collection, and in hindsight maybe 641 should have stayed in Blackpool for future restoration to its original condition… but we are where we are. Hopefully things will pan out OK but only time will tell.

    • Deckerman says:

      Peter. I have not for one moment said that I don’t support any tram being put to a useful purpose, whether it is as a working exhibit in a museum, or even as a cafe on a caravan site. Even survival as that, is admittedly still survival.
      And yes, fair play to FHLT saving her when they did, but perhaps this is now simply a case of monetary gain (which I fully admit is necessary for their projects) being put before the car’s best interests.

      So what I AM saying is that perhaps putting a tangerine painted tram, plastered with “BFC is Great” type messages all over it, in a largely unprotected area, that is potentially anywhere within reach of even one less than forgiving football fan of the two local teams that BFC will now be playing against, is perhaps not the best thought through idea that I have seen so far this year. I truly hope with all my heart that you are absolutely right and everyone, including all the PNE and FTFC fans, love it too, but sadly, I am a realist. I’m not even convinced with recent events that a less than impressed BFC fan might not try it too if the beloved Mr Oyston’s name or happy smiling face features on it anywhere! And yes, there may only be a person or two passing there on a cold winters Saturday night, but how many does it take to do a “Paul Gaunt” type custom job on this prototype tram? Yes, that’s right, just one or two.

      But now that it’s been “flagged up”, perhaps someone from FHLT might take some more precautions with her.

      Anyway, here’s hoping and fingers crossed.

  4. John Woodman says:

    Expressions of concern over Centenary Car 641 are noted by the Owners. The role of the tram in celebrating Blackpool Football Club’s long history from 1887 to the present day was conceived well before the current downturn in the Team’s fortunes and current headlines. The tram’s planned role has the support of Council agencies, the Football Club staff and a diversity of supporters and contributors. It does not involve Blackpool Transport.

    641 was put up for sale along with a great many other trams by BTS. The fledgling Friends of Fleetwood Trams was able to secure private sponsorship to ensure its survival and storage locally at a time when the future of many redundant trams at Rigby Road was very much in doubt. It is quite incredible that the National Tramway Museum was unable or unwilling, or both, to accept a sample Centenary car for its collection at no charge, at a time when the Museum went out of its way instead to acquire a second ‘Brush’ rail coach with little redeeming features. All the more remarkable that the Museum then went on to sideline into cold storage the only example of this classic Brush Car in its collection. One which had both received extended restoration with many original features, and more importantly was received complete with a six figure ‘dowry’ accumulated on the tram’s behalf by the 298 Railcoach Fund over many many years. This particular issue remains a singularly sore point for those of us who subscribed to Keith Terry’s admirable efforts and those of his core team working on the tram.

    But today’s tram ‘enthusiasts’ now have shoals of old Blackpool trams on which to expend focus, time and money in different locations, other than Rigby Road. The strategic future of Rigby Road itself is an entirely different proposition in the medium term and one which transcends both picture taking and tram riding pursuits.

    The FHLT carries on its initiatives irrespective of handwringing comments from the sidelines of the ‘hobby’. Be assured that risks to the tram’s wellbeing have been taken account of – as will be evident at its display.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Thank you for taking the time to comment John, although I can’t help but wonder how you will ensure that the tram is protected during its time spent on display at Pleasure Beach, as short of armed guards(!), I’m struggling to think how it can be 100% safe. As you acknowledge the great value of the Centenary class in the history of local and national trams, perhaps you also understand why some people are less than happy about the use of the prototype Centenary car as a commercial display.

      That said, you make a good point about preserving 641 and it is indeed a terrible shame that the national collection didn’t want a Centenary car for its collection. I certainly hope that my fears for 641 prove to be unfounded and hope that perhaps one day, we will see it restored to a more authentic condition with its unique roof advert boxes, as befits its historical importance.

  5. John Woodman says:

    It is important to stress that the Football Tram display is part of the 2015 Illuminations and is not a ‘commercial display’ of the FHLT in any sense. Costs of moving the tram, and also removing 290, as well as the repainting, vinyls and other work on the tram are aided by contributions from well wishers and local business sponsors. The Trust, if its very lucky, may see a small financial benefit at the end of the day, but I doubt it. One can aid our efforts by buying the 2016 Souvenir Calendar when it comes out this summer – featuring Blackpool’s illuminated trams through the years.

    The issues of security are well known to BTS whose experience with stone throwing and damage to the ‘Bombardier’ cars along the northern section of the tram service – are very well documented. As far as I am aware no similar incidents have occurred within Blackpool. In fact the only broken windows to be seen at the Pleasure Beach terminus are those in the BTS information office, itself now a heritage structure.

    There are so many Blackpool trams in need of returning to their original form and appeals from museum groups for this or that project – that I doubt 641 will be reacquainted with its 1984 condition in my lifetime. If a Fairy Godmother comes along, waves a wand and proves my prophesy wrong – I will be both astonished and extremely happy.

    The lessons of Brush Car 298′s four decade long restoration odyssey ending in a bricked up shed in Clay Cross are worth bearing in mind. This is an even more classic Blackpool tram which arrived at Crich with a huge amount of money in a bank account to fund its final restoration.

    Blackpool Transport have two Centenary Trams up and running to satisfy enthusiasts – twentyfive percent of the total. Leeds rail coaches – three in number, two survive and both are non runners and never likely to carry passengers again it seems.

    I think on balance public display of 641 after five years tucked away and where it is economically possible is a plus for Blackpool and its visitors, young and old. BTS have done a wonderful job with 648 to recall the original livery. For what its worth the FHLT are in contact with the original builder of 641 – to ensure any future retro work on the car is aided by professionals involved with the Centenary car design.

    We have commissioned watch towers, mines and guard dogs to maintain order in the light of your concerns Andrew !

    • Mark says:

      I find the various comments from John Woodman of interest, it is interesting how that rather than talking about 641 he tries to deflect the conversation to the situation with Crich. Crich may be home to the National Tramway Museum, but unlike other National Museums does not get a grant from central government and is self financing. As I understand it Crich was faced with an accommodation issue not known since the Blackpool Crises of 1962 when various historic cars were offered to the Museum, then as like now depot accommodation was an issue. Had they had a fully functional Tardis then it may have been a different matter, but we have to live in the real world where size and space matters and it was found that they could just squeeze 762. It should also be noted that ALL the cars offered were in some way important, for example 630 and 298 (and yes I was a member of the fund but support the TMS stand on the car) together show how 1930s trams were affected by the make do and mend approach which Blackpool had to do pre modernization. Re 648, a lot of us agree with Andrew Waddington and co, yes there should have been an example of one at Crich and in fact a fund was started to acquire one, the problem was that in addition to the normal expenses there was the need to build a basic storage shed at Cabin. Although the FHLT should be congratulated on saving the cars, maybe now is the time to join the new era we are experiencing in the heritage movement and work with others for the safety of the the trams. We also need to consider that we all have proper jobs and that this is a hobby we all give our time and energy to whichever group we support. Having worked on various stalls over the past few decades I am appalled at the comment he makes about “enthusiasts” it is these people who through there spending power make the restoration of the collections possible.

  6. edwin newton says:

    Mark,you may be appalled as much as you want to be,but,the FHLT have worked miracles since they were formed.The museum project was well intended but due to a lack of funding and other things which were nothing to do with the group,well,those days are perhaps over.It has to be mentioned that the FHLT were quickly on the scene to find sponsors to purchase those trams in their collection.If they had not done so,they could have ended up scrapped,in a farmers field or never seen again.It’s so easy for armchair critics to give their opinions etc,visit Blackpool to photograph and ride the trams then moan because their was a sticker in the cab window which spoiled their pic.If anyone is so concerned then bring some overalls,warm clothing,flask,etc and give these guys a helping hand.It’s worth a mention that these guys,pensioners by the way,are doing these trams up mainly for the benefit of Blackpool residents and football supporters of the local team.They are not there solely for tram enthusiasts to take photographs for their collection back home.Give the guys a break.

  7. Paul says:

    Nice try Edwin but given JWs comments above its hard to see FHLT generating support.
    After all it’s amazing to criticise 635s storage in a bricked up shed when most of the FHLT collection is sat on a fish dock!
    In afraid there’s little value in the FHLT collection – the only miracle is that the trams haven’t gone the same way as those on the dock in Amsterdam which are now derelict

  8. edwin newton says:

    Andrew,can I raise a couple of points here.I happen to know,or did before they left,three employees of the furniture company that purchased 646.Well before the tram was delivered to their car park at Squires Gate,I kept informing them to make sure the tram was covered up and protected.646 was the property of the furniture company.Eventually,it was to go to the proposed museum at Fleetwood.They did not follow my advice and the tram got wrecked.The FHLT also gave them advice to protect it.It is so easy,and sometimes understandable,when readers and tram fans hear of trams getting vandalism,they get upset,and why not.This situation over 646 needs to be put to rest.It doesn’t do to go and slag off individuals or groups for something that was completely out of their hands.The second point is the one of taking photos.We all take our cameras with us and snap away,indeed I have been doing it for over 50 years.Many of the photos we see today in transport books were taken long ago by old friends who are no longer with us.my point was about the snappers who,again,quite rightly,take their photos and then complain about the owners of the trams.Living in Blackpool,my friends and myself get information on what’s going on,usually from the “horses mouth”,not from tittle tattle ,one example being 646,and you can take this as being true.

  9. edwin newton says:

    Andrew and Paul.As I mentioned,living in Blackpool,and straight from the “horses mouth”,I was informed last night that 290 was to be given a lick of paint overnight.True to form,100/1 very,I went along to see it and yes,the “phantom painter” had been at work.As there will be many local residents walking the promenade over the long weekend,something else to see.Don’t forget to bring your cameras gentlemen.I will be using mine.

  10. roger woodhead says:

    I feel it is time to draw a line under this topic now.

  11. Paul D says:

    Yes we must give the FHLT credit for taking on 641 (and also 761) when no one else would; however Andrew is correct in his conclusion to why the enthusiast community choose to direct their limited funds to other causes – it is due to the attitude show by the FHLT towards enthusiasts and concerns for the welfare of the trams in their ‘care’…

    In addition, in the early days a good number of enthusiasts did give a quite significant sum, notably to the appeal for funds for Copse Road Depot Doors. I recall a public statement saying that the appeal was over half way to its target (so a sum about the same as Heaton Park Tramway build an entire Depot with!). It would be interesting to know how much that appeal really raised and whether it is still sat in a bank account somewhere. If so what are the intentions for it; if not what has it been spent on? – clearly nothing even distantly related to providing undercover accommodation for tramcars…