The year-long exchange of Blackpool trams Marton Box 31 and Standard 147 is now over, with the two trams now safely back at their usual respective homes of Beamish Museum and Blackpool respectively. After 31 had made the journey by road from Blackpool to Beamish on Monday 13th March, it was 147‘s turn for a road trip with the Standard car forming the return load to the Fylde with Calkeld’s Heavy Haualge again providing the motive transport.
147 departed Beamish at about midday on Tuesday 14th March, arriving back home a day later – its journey taking slightly longer than 31‘s as the height of the tram dictated that certain roads could not be used for its journey. On arrival at Blackpool, the low loader was unusually positioned on Hopton Road due to the presence of scaffolding alongside the Fitting Shop which had slightly complicated the loading of Marton 31 two days earlier. Once a ramp was built up to the trailer unit, Unimog 939 was summoned to help drag 147 back onto the track, with the road-rail vehicle even coming partly onto the ramp in order to pull the tram. The whole procedure was completed quickly and this brings to an end two highly successful tram loans. Happily 147 did not sustain any damage on its return journey, having suffered a few broken windows on its way to Beamish last year, and should presumably be prepared for a return to use shortly.
Although the open top Marton Box car will naturally be much missed in Blackpool, many people are very happy to see 147 return. However, its departure from Beamish seems to have caused some confusion amongst visitors to the museum with some bizarre comments appearing on social media when it left. This has highlighted that there are still plenty of people with a casual interest in trams who are unaware of how much use Blackpool’s heritage fleet are used, with some commenters confused as to why the tram would be needed back home, and even suggesting that its use would only be permitted once a year! Probably the strangest comment of all was questioning why 147 was heading for Blackpool because they have electric trams there – !?!?!? Despite this, it is hoped that its presence at the museum has done some good in raising the profile of the heritage operation with a new audience and likewise, that Beamish Museum will see the benefits of 31‘s period of operation by the seaside. Thanks go to both organisations for providing two major highlights of 2016 with this imaginative swap and giving us enthusiasts and the general public alike a real treat!