Blackpool Brush Railcoach 298 is perhaps one of the more overlooked trams in the national collection. Some significant restoration work was undertaken on this tram, which was the very first of its class to depart from Blackpool for preservation in the 1970s, many years ago with a view to it being completed at Crich. However, despite moving to Derbyshire more than a decade ago no further work has been undertaken on the tram – but that looks set to change in the next few years!
It may be remembered that 298 was moved to Crich in 2005 where it was displayed in the depots in a partially restored condition; however its less than pristine appearance contributed to a decision to take it off-site to the museum’s Clay Cross store in 2015, when more space on site was required for other trams. Since then it has languished out of site, however it was not forgotten by everyone at the Tramway Museum Society.
The TMS Board have now agreed to proceed with a provisional plan to carry out the necessary restoration work to return Blackpool 298 to its original 1937 appearance, and full operational condition. Due to other workshop commitments it is expected that it will have to wait until approximately 2020/21 before it can move into the works, presumably following the major rebuild of LCC 1 and the next Tramcar Sponsorship Organisation project, which is to be an overhaul for Newcastle 102. However, any hint of a timescale relating to the completion of 298 is extremely positive news as its current plight has been a bugbear for many enthusiasts for some time, and its restoration will finally enable a Blackpool Brush car to be exhibited in its luxurious original condition, complete with a sliding roof, saloon clocks and other extravagant features!
Although a six-figure sum has already been accumulated towards financing the work on the car, even more money will be needed to finish the job to the required standard and an appeal is likely to be launched in due course. A huge amount of work will be required to return the tram to running order, starting from the ground up, but the end result should be well worth the wait. Some preliminary work, mainly documentation, has already been done but there is a long way to go before the car is able to turn a wheel in museum service.
In the meantime, TMS workshop regular Peter Whiteley has taken on the role of ‘champion’ for 298, and will be responsible for helping to raise the profile of the tram and its appeal for funds, as well as managing the project itself. Peter has already done a great deal to support Blackpool trams in the national collection and his latest venture will no doubt be equally appreciated by the many people who look forward to seeing this tram in passenger service in the future. So, for now a small step, but a step in the right direction nonetheless, and one that will hopefully lead to a happy outcome before too long!