A step in the right direction for Brush car 298

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!


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45 Responses to A step in the right direction for Brush car 298

  1. Mark Andrew Pardoe says:

    It’s a pity no one is championing Nottingham 166. One could suggest there’s enough Blackpool trams in operation whilst other systems like Nottingham are not even on display let alone in operation.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      It depends how you look at it though – as a national museum Crich has the problem of trying to base its collection on vehicle type, not just geography. 4 wheel balcony cars are pretty well covered already with Chesterfield 7 and Glasgow 22 operational, and Jo’burg 60 and Leicester 76 static. I can certainly see an argument that Nottingham 166 is not that different to what is already displayed, although it would be nice to have a Nottingham tram restored.

  2. Mark Andrew Pardoe says:

    Oh what bad English! It should have been there are not there’s. Sorry

  3. James Robinson says:

    Totally agree, there are far more local trams of unique interest in the TMA collectionand anything South of Leicester is poorly represented, even the operational fleet is top-heavy with Blackpool cars

  4. Gareth Prior says:

    London hasn’t done too badly in recent years and that is definitely south of Leicester!

    We have this debate very frequently about supposed bias towards this system or that but the trouble is if you got a group of 10 enthusiasts together and asked them what tram they wanted restored next you would probably get about 20 different answers! Blackpool is probably always going to be popular within the operational fleet as it survived longer than any other tramway and for many if it wasn’t for Blackpool they wouldn’t even have an interest in trams.

    • Steve Hyde says:

      There is also the point that 298 comes with a fairly substantial dowry towards its return to service. Others would require a far bigger budget directly from TMS resources.

  5. Nathan says:

    Blackpool is only over-represented because it has survived to the present day. I think the TMS’s running fleet is fairly representative, with a good selection of cars from London, Leeds, Blackpool and Glasgow in particular. They weren’t actually that many tram systems in existence south of Leicester- don’t forget all the Midlands ones were narrow gauge.

    • Kevin says:

      A good selection? 1 Glasgow car is not a good selection! personally I’d say a partnership with Blackpool to do 298 with joint operastional agreement and spend some time getting other cars back in use before restoring others. In recent years we have lost 45, 1068, 1622, 1282, 812, 74, 2. 712 could have run for a few years but didn’t.

      • Andrew Waddington says:

        I’d agree with you on doing 298 with Blackpool (plus that would get a showpiece Brush car on the prom, if only temporarily) – but to be honest I’m just glad that it looks like a resolution to a far from satisfactory situation looks to be forthcoming. Having a 6 figure sum of money allocated to one tram which is sitting untouched is pretty crazy really when funds are so hard to come by for restoration projects.

        I do hope that some of the cars you listed are not left to deteriorate for too long, and I’d add Jo’burg 60 to that list as well. Ideally I’d rather see money spent on some of them rather than one huge project, but if an organisation like the LCCTT or TSO want that then so be it!

      • Rob says:

        Other cars like Newcastle 102?!

        I suspect if all of those in the list ran this season the cry would then be to “send them to Blackpool” or “what about 10,49, 1297”.

        Also known as, you can’t please Tram Enthusiasts!

        Credit to Peter for pushing forward with this project, lets not make it negative.

    • Geoff, Isle of Man says:

      Quote: “…don’t forget all the Midlands ones were narrow gauge.”
      No: Chesterfield, Mansfield, Nottingham and Leicester were all standard gauge.

  6. Phill S says:

    Good grief! After years of complaints about 298 being ignored and allegedly rotting away…!
    As has already been said, it will fill the 1930’s art deco hole rather nicely (without the fun and frolics of EP gear and 4 motors too), and has a few quid to it’s name. I look forward to ripping into it once we’ve put this London one back together. (And thanks again to the LCCTT for funding my saturday hobby once more)

    • Yeah, some gricer will always moan, wherever you are and whatever you do in tramcar preservation. On top of that I have a feeling that most moaners never got involved in tramcar preservation themselves, never got close to a piece of a tramcar with an angle grinder with a twist knot pot wire brush (I love the expression and the tool!) or have a licence to conduct a tramcar, let along drive one. I’d rather take criticism from people who know what it takes to restore a tramcar and who know the pain of decision-making.

      • Smithy says:

        I thought the TSO made all their decisions? I love your description of ‘pain’ Thousands turned down for Leeds 602, bet that hurt.

      • Andrew Waddington says:

        Christoph & Rob – I don’t feel you’re being entirely fair. Yes admittedly, there are tram enthusiasts who moan about everything, but there are also plenty of us who don’t, who are happy and grateful for what we have. There is also a clear difference between moaning about things for the sake of moaning, and moaning on occasion because you are passionate about something and have an opinion on it which you believe deserves to be heard. Things happen at Crich that I personally don’t approve of, but the same could be said of Beamish, Heaton Park and yes, even Blackpool! I think its good that tram preservation is something that people get fired up about, it shows that they are enthusiastic and care deeply, without that what would we have for the future?

  7. Mark Andrew Pardoe says:

    Thank you for your comments.

    Just a couple of things:

    First Nottingham is north of Leicester and, secondly, the system was standard gauge.

    I take your point Andrew but may be that’s a reason why 166 should go to another site (although how practical that would be I do not know).

  8. Franklyn says:

    The problem with Crich seems to be their inability to keep a vehicle in service, even after it’s had a costly complete restoration. Within the last 20 years cars to have disappeared from the operational ranks include 1282, 1297, Rack 2, Jo’burg60, Paisley 68, Southampton 45, Leeds 602 and Newcastle 102, to name just a few. But most worryingly is the deactivation of recently restorred cars such as Sheffield 74. Why is it the relatively light use these trams get at Crich seems to wear them out so quickly, but vintage cars working much harder and suffering far more daily wear & tear in Blackpool (Bolton 66 & Box 40 for example), not to mention every single tram on the Isle of Mann, seem to be capable of going on forever with no problems whatsoever?

    Also much work on 298 was completed away from Crich, so why would this need to be done again? My suspicion is that Crich may not be looking after their vehicles as well as they might. But that’s what you get from an organisation that turns down funding for restorations because they say a vehicle is in ‘original condition’ and they want to keep it that way (602) but in the next breath realise they are incapable of preserving a vehicle in original condition without further static decay (LT1).

    • Kelvin says:

      Well said Franklyn. i have always been an avid suppoter of Crich but just lately they seem to have lost the plot. I suspect they will redo 298 because it wasn’t done by them! i would much rather 6 more Trams in the active fleet and hold off a restoration for a couple of years. I auapect that thwy are withdrawing cars others would keep running – Bolton 66 for example has done far more miles in nearl;y 40 years and didn’t have heavy overhauls every 15 minutes (OK 8 years). Perhaps they are too precious of their vehicles?

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      I think your comments can be partly answered by the poor state of the tram depots. Its well documented that Sheffield 74 suffered due to the damp climate which caused mould to grow on its ceiling, and there is a plan in place to improve the depots quite soon which will hopefully help matters considerably. 74 was incidentally launched over 20 years ago so I wouldn’t call it ‘recently restored’.

      I’m no engineer so I can’t answer your questions about why trams don’t last after being restored, but some things do inevitably wear out – Rack 2 needs new tyres for example. Whilst I agree with you that the likes of Bolton 66 seem to keep going on and on, they do have overhauls, albeit less frequently than the Crich fleet. Its worth noting that Box 40 is of course a TMS owned vehicle, and it did have an overhaul in 2014 with Crich dealing with the mechanical side of things. Prior to that it was getting a bit ropey to be honest and would probably have had to be withdrawn by now had the work not been done.

    • Steve Hyde says:

      I must pick you up on some of your comments Franklyn.

      LCC1 was not in its original condition when restoration started as Leeds had made changes to it during service there, so that comment isn’t valid. I know debate exists as to whether 602 is in as built condition but if that is what the curatorial advisor believes to be correct the advice given would be valid.

      You seem to suggest that cars are taken out of service too early but then suggest that Crich may not be looking after them as well as they might. Sheffield 74 was I understand taken out of use because of damage caused by climatic conditions in the depots which is something that they are desperately trying solve. Other cars are in need of full restoration or overhaul, examples being 1282 and 1297 which have not had full overhauls since arriving at Crich. Jo’burg 60 and Newcastle 102 both had what might realistically be termed renovations rather than overhauls back in the mid 1970’s and haven’t had heavy attention since, hence their withdrawal some years ago.

      As a registered museum Crich has a duty to ensure that it’s trams are preserved for future generations not to run them until their future is compromised. Operation and longevity may well be incompatible unless maintenance is carried out at what may seem to be extremely short intervals.

      Resources are tight and what resources are available must be spent in the most effective manner possible to try to ensure a reasonable size operational fleet and also a smart display of static exhibits.

    • Andy B says:

      Regards the work carried out on 298, a condition survey was done when it was at Mode Wheel highlighting a number areas of concern which would have been too much for the small group working on 298. One of those being the underframe which has not been touched and requires either extensive work or replacement [easier and better option it seems] or do you know different and have far more expertise on these matters Franklyn?
      Once again a comparison has been made between Crich and Blackpool plus this time Isle of Man. When will people realise that Blackpool and Isle of Man are commercial undertakings where as Crich is a museum with a designated collection of artefacts so you cannot compare easily.
      You mention static decay in LCC1, the construction of it does not help with aluminium and steel placed together [assume you being an expert would know all about these problems].

    • Peter W. says:

      1282 had its 30 years operational at Crich, withdrawn due to a major underframe defect that was not done when it was restored and requires the gutting of the lower saloon.
      1297 has an underframe defect as a result of a shunt in Glasgow (pre1960) which is failing and requires major work. this car has never been restored so is in 1951 condition so required a lot of work so a repair is not cost effective.
      Paisley 68 and Southampton have had 40 years service and needs a body overhaul. 45 has a major body defect (twisted).
      Think 60 needs new seats, current ones came with the tram, are vinyl, material has failed (due to age) and have injured passengers.
      Newcastle 102 had its platform smashed after a derailment. Axles have failed. Body is tired. 102 is now being sponsored by the TSO to follow LCC1.
      Rack 2 will be back, but trucks frames are weak and the motors (which are over 100 years old) have failed and need rewinding (£10000+).
      I think you need to look at the IOM’s budget, suported by government.

      The work done on 298 can only be considered to be cosmetic plus. The trucks were not touched and worn-out. The underframe is twisted, bent and is failing in the middle (center platform structure is perforated with structural steel missing), body was re-assembled without air or electrics so will need stripping for installation. The sun-roof came from a DD balloon and is all wrong. Even the lights are incorrectly mounted in the saloons.

      LCC1 deterioration started the day it was built due to poor design. It was a prototype so not finished to a high standard with un-painted steel and water ingress.

  9. Smithy says:

    My beef with Crich at the moment is that they don’t have enough of a ‘national variety’ to keep interest. You can bet there will be a Blackpool tram running when you go! OK something like a standard is representative and a rack is unique but Trams like the Brush car or the Jubilee are more modern than a mot of people want to ride on and the Jubilee looks silly. And you can ride a boat Tram in Blackpool in the summer anyway. perhaps if some of these Blackpool trams went home on loan there would be space for others.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      This is a rather strange argument – surely if Crich is a national collection then they need to represent trams up to modern times, which means the modernised Brush Railcoach and Jubilee car! As for the Boat, I actually think the TMS would be crazy to give it back to Blackpool as it is hugely popular with visitors at the museum. As much as I wish to see some cars from Crich return to Blackpool, either on short-term loan or a more permanent basis, I think that the first and last traditional tramway in the UK should and indeed must be reasonably well represented at the National Tramway Museum.

  10. russ.b says:

    Just to add to this heated debate, noting Andrew Waddington’s comment – ‘Having a 6 figure sum of money allocated to one tram which is sitting untouched is pretty crazy really when funds are so hard to come by for restoration projects’ – there is also a six figure sum waiting for a Sheffield tram, for which I seem to recall plans to restore 46 were been discussed. Seems there isn’t enough workshop space for all potential projects! I suppose its good to be talking about sums of money been available, better than having no funds.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      That is a very good point actually. Perhaps bearing that in mind, 298 could have gone to Blackpool to be restored at Rigby Road (they do have a bit of experience with Brush cars I believe!), allowing a Sheffield car to take the workshop space. 46 would fill a very significant gap in the fleet as an enclosed 4-wheel single decker, and would be a very attractive car too.

      • Phill S says:

        Do Blackpool have the capacity? Or the funds? Or indeed the inclination? I think they have a few projects of their own to do. And as a Brush car is a pretty big part of tramway history, why on earth would the national collection want to get rid?

        • Andrew Waddington says:

          Just to clarify – I wasn’t stating that the TMS should give away 298, merely that they could look at the option of having it restored elsewhere to enable that and Sheffield 46 to be worked on simultaneously. I strongly suspect that Blackpool would be up for doing the job bearing in mind the large amount of money attached to it, as opposed to one of their own projects which currently have £0 allocated, if it was allowed to remain there on loan for a reasonable period before heading back to Crich.

          For the record though, I want to emphasise again that 298 getting restored is the main thing here, whoever does it and wherever it runs.

          • John says:

            Agreed! It is good news. i think perhaps some of us are becoming acutely aware that at the current restoration rate in our museums some of us won’t live to see the Trams we love restored (or re-restored)!

          • Phill S says:

            Fair enough Andrew, apologies for the misunderstanding.
            However, there are more downsides to getting Blackpool to do it. Whilst I have no doubt that they have the ability, given the money, what they don’t have are volunteers-it would mean the whole job was paid for in full. There is in fact an effort being made on LCC 1 to capture the man hours put in to it, then cost them on an unskilled/semi skilled/skilled basis.
            For example-I’m a machinist, so my hourly wage would be about £12. At a rough guess, I reckon I’ve put maybe 40 6 hour days into LCC 1 since it was rolled in. There’s £2880 not spent. Now factor in that we have I think 5 regular volunteer machinists (including me), let’s say for sake of argument we average 75 7 hour days (allowing for breaks) each on LCC 1 since it was begun. 2625 skilled man hours so far, worth £31,500. And we’re about halfway through the job.

            That’s just machining, and I’m probably a bit low. Now factor in that virtually all the electrical work has been done by volunteers, except the motors, and the army of unskilled cleaners/painters working on the bogies, mechanical bits, under the body, etc etc…of course, we do have paid staff on the job too, as well as subcontractors, but the saving in volunteer labour will be well into 6 digits.
            It will be interesting to see what the results are. Also, I really need to fill in my timecard!

          • Andrew Waddington says:

            I get what you’re saying, however let’s not forget that Boat car 236 was restored for the TMS by Blackpool – because apparently they offered to do it for a price which was less than it would have cost had Crich done it in-house. Has anyone asked for a quote from Blackpool?

            If Crich want to restore the tram themselves then it would be better to just say so rather than trying to find reasons to justify it which simply don’t add up.

        • John says:

          Is it really? It was an updated EE railcoach copy to all intents and purposes. The EE cars were the ground breakers in tramcar design.

          • Phill S says:

            Fair point, my error. Though there’s a bit of a lack of EE cars in anything near original condition! 298 will still represent both 1930’s art deco trams across the country, and the various railcoaches in Blackpool.

      • Phill S says:

        Although I should add-yes, 46 will be a lovely car to do, and I’m looking forward to that too.

      • Peter W. says:

        One of the problems with sub-contracting a restoration is the management of the project, specification, planning, costing etc. particularly as most of us at Crich have full-time jobs else where and particularly as we we to be 99% authentic in the restoration (1% for modern safety requirements). There is also very few organisations arround that could do it.

  11. Gareth Prior says:

    And there was me thinking this was a good news story – apparently not!

  12. Nathan says:

    I’m so glad 298 is being restored- it most certainly does have a place in the national collection, as do all the Blackpool trams. They add a bit of variety, and as for 762, it is the last double deck tramcar built in Britain and I think the TMS board would baulk at getting rid of it, even if it went to Blackpool. It’s not as simple as just ‘giving it back’- a full report has to be done on why it is being disposed of and then it has to get okayed by some government body whose name has escaped me, and only once they’ve got their approval can they give it back. But again, I don’t think they’d want to. I reckon they’ll run it in its Spongebob colours for a few more years and then it’ll get a full restoration back to original condition once the novelty has worn off. Then it won’t look so ‘silly’. As for the Boat, everytime I’ve been when it’s in service it’s one of the most popular trams running. It is definitely deserving of it’s place in the National Collection.
    I’d be concerned about 630, though. Once 298 is finished 630 will be needing it’s 8-year overhaul and I reckon they’ll just chuck it in Clay Cross. Then there should be discussions about sending it back to Blackpool, along with the OMO, the works car and possibly the Dreadnought (although, perhaps controversially I feel it should stay at Crich if possible. It’d get used more.)

    • Peter W. says:

      Don’t think 630 will go to Clay cross as it shows the end point of this class of car. ie how a tram could be upgraded using modern components.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      I again want to clarify here – ‘giving it (any tram) back’ to Blackpool does not have to mean giving it away forever! Look at Box 40 – still a TMS car but on long-term loan to Blackpool. Others could well follow, maybe even an arrangement could be reached to have a certain number of TMS cars at Blackpool at any one time with some rotation between them, offering greater variety at both places? Just a thought and I appreciate that the costs of moving trams around by road can be high, but maybe that’s something that some of the people who want trams to go home to Blackpool could contribute towards? I for one would gladly support an appeal to get Rack 2 back home, for example.

  13. Peter W. says:

    I am VERY dissapointed by the amount of negative comments and general “Crich bashing” on this what should have been considered a positive post judging on how people felt when 298 went to Clay Cross “never to be seen again”.

    It rather reminds me of the launch of 630 at Crich following the complete repaint and partial re-paneling into fleet livery at a personal cost of over £6000 to my self only to hear people stood at town end (Blackpool enthusiasts as I know who they were) comment “why spend £1.50 for the launch trip when the second was free” completely missing the point.

    I also contributed 80% of the cost of the 166 re-wire (via the FTS) to ensure it return to service plus the £5500 for 510’s rewire which would have probably have been condemed after the 672 incident at Blackpool (1950’s wiring), plus the hundreds of hours spent sorting out 762 electronics.

    I’m now going to spend hundreds if not thousands of hours on 298 ensuring that it gets the full restoration that it deserves, I begin to feel that I should have left it in Clay Cross to rot.

    PLEASE think how your comments might affect the feelings of those that contribute so much to Crich. Not just myself but all the others that turn up in their free time (and the staff) to keep Crich operational. If you want change, GET INVOLVED or JOIN THE TSO or other funding group.

    Thanks to Gareth and Andrew for “keeping it real”

    Sorry about the rant, its no worse than some of those above. Peter W.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Peter you have absolutely nothing to apologise for – all your hard work and dedication to tram preservation IS greatly appreciated by many people I am sure, certainly by me for one. As I mentioned earlier Crich do plenty of things I disagree with, as do all organisations, but the majority of the time I can cope with that and enjoy all that is great about the National Tramway Museum (and there is plenty!).

    • John says:

      Don’t be disheartened Peter, 298 has been a long tiome coming. Ultimately it will be a wonderful example of its era and will show the ‘first and last’ with the only car type Crich are able to do this with. Yes I’d love to see it visit Blackpool, but lets support the restoration first.

  14. Ken Walker says:

    As Gareth said this was supposed to be a positive news story. And the story itself is exactly that…..

  15. Christopher Callan says:

    Welcome this positive new chapter in this tramcars story. Every car needs a “champion” ultimately to progress through any workshop (whether officially titled or not). Ultimately someone has to drive a project forward. Gather elsewhere the release of this news was carefully qualified as been another small step but any step is very much welcome. I echo Peter rallying call about getting involved and supporting operations up and down country certainly everywhere needs increased support to move things forward. Ill perhaps upset some (but that not be the first and wont be last) but really cant help but be frustrated with the lack of information put out their about how to support groups and specific projects. Seems ownus is on individuals to dig and find information and ask. All groups need to be communicated Aims of Project / Costs / Delivery Schedules & advertise the groups supporting individual projects much more.

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