The return to traffic of Blackpool Centenary car 648 as a ‘heritage’ tram on its native rails on Sunday 10th June seems to have heralded a fresh start for this much-maligned class of tramcar. When the Blackpool tramway upgrade was announced it was widely expected that many of this class would end up being scrapped as they were never as popular as most other types of Blackpool trams – yet in reality it is looking increasingly likely that all eight will survive for many years to come!
As mentioned above, 648 made its much-hyped debut on Blackpool Transport’s heritage tram tours on June 10th, still wearing its advert livery for the Hounds Hill shopping centre applied last year. Unfortunately, proving that old habits die hard, the car suffered a minor fault after a few journeys and the decision was made to swap 648 for Boat 600 in view of the warm weather on that day. However, plenty of tram enthusiasts did enjoy a ride on the 1985-built tram, and hopefully future appearances will be more succesful.
Apart from 648, the only Centenary car that remains unsold for now is 642, but that situation may soon change as there has been an expression of interest in this car which may well see it move to a new home shortly. It had previously been hoped that the Tramway Museum Society would acquire a Centenary car for the national collection at Crich, to represent the final development of the traditional British tram, but if 642 is sold then the opportunity for them to preserve one could be lost forever, despite determined attempts by some members to ensure that one would be acquired for Crich.
There has also been some news regarding the cars which have already left Rigby Road for pastures new. Work has begun on preparing both 643 and 645 for their new roles following sale to a small chain of caravan parks on the Fylde coast. 643, which retains its drab black and white paintwork from an expired advert livery, has had its interior partly stripped out ahead of a possible future use as a children’s play area. The changes carried out on car 645 are more obvious however, with the Sunderland-inspired red and white livery being covered with graffiti-style artwork along the body side panels. The original intention was to modify this tram for use as a combined cafe and gift shop, although it is not known whether this plan has been changed.
For fans of the Centenary cars, a full summary of the current situation regarding all eight cars is provided below:
641 – stored outside at Kirkham Prison for Friends of Fleetwood Trams
642 – stored at Rigby Road; possible buyer has made an expression of interest
643 – stored outside at Broadwater Caravan Park
644 – stored outside at Farmer Parr’s Animal World, Broadwater
645 – stored outside at Windy Harbour Caravan Park
646 – stored outside on Paul Gaunt’s premises for Friends of Fleetwood Trams
647 – stored at Rigby Road awaiting collection by North Eastern Electrical Traction Trust
648 – retained by Blackpool Transport and available for use on heritage tours