There hasn’t been much news from the North Eastern Electrical Traction Trust (NEETT) and its collection of trams based at the North East Land, Sea & Air Museum near Sunderland for quite a while. However, that looks likely to change with the Trust announcing its intentions to treat Blackpool Balloon car 721 to a full repaint in a traditional livery, for which donations are now being sought.
721 has resided in the North East since early 2012 when it departed Rigby Road having been sold to NEETT for preservation. Other than the removal of its Pleasure Beach advert vinyls – leaving a dull black base coat behind – and repairs to some damage sustained in transit, the car has remained unchanged over the last five years. NEETT now intend to give the tram a repaint in green & cream. Although the exact style remains to be confirmed, the 1990s Blackpool Transport fleet livery currently seems to be the favoured option, as per sister car 715 which is of course a regular performer on heritage tours in Blackpool. It is understood that approximately half of the finance required to pay for this repaint has already been obtained, but more money is still needed to finish the job.
It had previously been planned to paint 721 red & white, and indeed some red paint was obtained, but the subsequent painting of 701 in this attractive colour scheme for further use in Blackpool seems to have rendered this project obsolete, and a more authentic livery is now expected. Plans to loan the car to the Heaton Park Tramway, where it could have been commissioned for use and then operated in service, also seem to have fallen by the wayside and it appears that 721‘s long-term future is now as a static exhibit. This is rather a shame, as thanks to an overhaul undertaken in 1997-8 which included a major underframe rebuild, it was considered to be in the best condition of all the Balloon cars which were offered for sale. It would have made a superb addition to any heritage line and despite some modifications, its largely traditional appearance with roof windows and a full set of swingover seats also made it a popular and attractive car.
However, it is pleasing to see plans for investment in 721 and hopefully the car has a bright future ahead of it despite the change of plans for it which have arisen since it moved into preservation.