As many regular readers of this website will know, 2017 sees Blackpool’s Brush cars celebrate their 80th anniversary and some celebrations are taking place in the town to mark this milestone. This looks set to start on Friday 14th July, when visiting car 623 is set to make its debut following its recent return to Blackpool on loan. In addition, work is progressing nicely on the overhaul of 621 which appears to be on target for its planned return to use in September.
623 was always expected to enter service to coincide with the annual ‘Tram Sunday’ weekend in July, after returning from the Heaton Park Tramway a few weeks ago. Since then it has been undergoing some general repairs and commissioning work – including the fitting of those all-important transponders, as well as a new mini-tower on top of its existing gantry to enable its pantograph to reach the overhead wires! It may be recalled that 623 now has a smaller tower to allow it to fit through the doors and access the Middleton Road depot on its usual home tramway, but this was too short to allow it to run with a pantograph in Blackpool. This unusual solution has been taken so that the roof area does not have to be disturbed, as volunteers at Heaton Park have gone to great efforts to re-seal to centre to prevent leaks.
Ahead of its entry into regular service, 623 will perform a special launch tour on the afternoon/evening of Friday 14th July, which will be its first run in Blackpool since November 2009. The tram is scheduled to depart from outside the heritage depot at Rigby Road at 1615 and head straight for Fleetwood, before heading south all the way to Starr Gate. It will then head to Thornton Gate, Tower and back to Fleetwood again before returning to the depot for an expected finish time of 2125. A special tour fare of £10 will be charged for the tour; ordinary heritage day tickets will not be valid. This will give enthusiasts the chance to support the Blackpool Heritage Trust’s decision to borrow one of the most attractive of the Brush Railcoaches, and hopefully help to cover the costs of bringing it back home for the season.
As well as news of 623‘s entry into service, work on pioneer Brush car 621 continues with the lower body panels now all replaced, along with the previously missing cab corner glazing. The tram has recently moved into the Paint Shop where some undercoat has been applied with the head and tail lamps also in place, but further work in the Electrical Compound is likely to be carried out before the top coats are added. Nonetheless, the car is already looking much better than it has for many years and its reappearance in a smart coat of 1950s style green and cream later this year is much anticipated.