Farewell to the Fylde for Centenary 643

As expected, Blackpool Centenary car 643 has now departed the storage yard in Fleetwood where it has resided for the last few years, having been sold to a learning disability school in the Midlands for further use. The tram left the Fleetwood docks on Friday 22nd July bound for a railway maintenance facility, also believed to be in the Midlands although its exact whereabouts have not been revealed.

It is understood that 643 will receive some level of refurbishment work before it takes pride of place at the school, which is likely to happen later this year. Whilst perhaps not an ideal fate for the tram, at least this will put another surplus Blackpool car to good use and ensure that it dodges the scrapman, at least for the forseeable future. Having initially been sold by Blackpool Transport to Broadwater Caravan Park where it was smartly repainted for use as a static cafe, only to be given away to the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust just two years later, hopefully 643‘s future is now more stable at last.

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11 Responses to Farewell to the Fylde for Centenary 643

  1. Franklyn says:

    A sad fate for a type of tram not currently represented in Blackpool (none of the heavily rebuilt Centenarys survive there).

    Quite why this class was withdrawn beats me totally! I lot of money was spent modifying balloons to be wide enough to meet the new platforms, which was very controversial in the case of the hideous modifications done to 700. But take a look at one of the remaining Centenary class passing a platform and you’ll see they line up pretty much perfectly without any modification whatsoever. This is because they were built to the same loading gauge as the Coronations before them, which in turn were built to the modern US and european standards of the time. Standards which have evolved into those currently used to build LRVs.

    So why weren’t the centenaty cars retained as the B-fleet? Especially as so much money had been spent on them during their relatively short lifetimes.

    • Nigel Pennick says:

      Perhaps nobody noticed the width already matching the platforms and so got rid of these trams without thinking.

    • Paul says:

      Next time you are on a Centenary, try taking a seat ‘upstairs’…

      The fact that a Balloon has 70% more seats and the attractiveness of that upper deck position should make it obvious to even the most critical observer why the Balloons were preferred for retention as the ‘B Fleet’…

      • Franklyn says:

        Surely that means they’d be better as heritage tour cars though, not being modified for what was envisaged to be short-hop service workings on the prom?

        • Andrew Waddington says:

          But there wasn’t going to be a heritage tour operation! I think you need to accept that BTS were forced into doing certain things and just be thankful that we have old trams in Blackpool at all, things would almost certainly have been very different had we not had Bryan Lindop fighting the cause of the traditional fleet. What we want to happen and what is allowed to happen and possible in the real world are very different things – and that’s without even taking into account the fact that everything costs money!

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Its worth remembering that the B Fleet idea came about at a time when there was no intention of providing a regular heritage service, meaning that in effect the B Fleet would have been THE nod to the past. Presumably for that reason, Blackpool Council wanted some double deckers to be retained for service but also insisted that they were modified to use the platforms. As John correctly points out, the large steps at the entrance and exit doors of the Centenary cars makes them unsuitable for such a role. As has been said many times before, the modifications on 700 (and others) are fairly easily reversible, and are certainly preferable to seeing the tram dumped in a field or worse!

      As for 643′s fate, a shame perhaps, but not a disaster by any stretch. I would like to see 647 back in Blackpool at some point in the future, as it would not only represent the rebuilt Centenary cars but also it was the last traditional full-sized passenger tram built in the UK. With NEETT and Blackpool Transport seemingly enjoying a positive relationship I suspect this could well become a reality at some point.

  2. John says:

    They weren’t kept because there is still a bigger gap from step to platform than the Balloons and they are step entrance, therefore they were deemed unsuitable, the same as 761 and 762.

    • Franklyn says:

      I can see why 761/2 went, because they’re not as wide being based in balloon frame dimensions. But the gap is virtually nothing (I’ve checked) and is considerably less that the gap to the platforms the boats were using at Fleetwood Festival a couple of years ago when I last attended that event.

      The other arguments for B-fleet balloons because they ‘don’t have entrance steps’ but do have a top deck seem to cancel themselves out. The point is the Centenarys could have been used with zero modification costs as a trial. That would have left the balloons to either be modified later (which with hindsight wouldn’t have happened) or left as proper heritage vehicles which could attract a premium fare. If they wanted to modify balloons, I’d have thought a more useful mod would have been to restore a couple of the first batch as open toppers, given the popularity of the now withdrawn Princess Alice. A proper Crich-style restoration of 700 would be nice.

      • John says:

        The Centenary cars have step entrance which would become illegal before the B fleet are expected to be life expired. The Balloons also have a 40 more capacity, so you would go for your higher capacity cars. Whilst the Centenaries were refurbished they have done many more miles, therefore the Balloons have more life left in them (in theory).
        The boats did use the platform one year but now don’t, so that must tell us something. If the balloons had not been modified hey would not still be with us – only 20 (ish) Heritage cars were to be kept originally.
        Yes 700 given a proper restoration would be nice but there’s no money so for now it runs as a B fleet car. In xxx years time you have 9 balloons which were saved and can easily be de-doored.

  3. John says:

    Also worth noting is that OPO operation was not to be a feature of the upgrade therefore cars with Guards became the preferred option, pointless waste of labour on a Centenary.