Blackpool’s now annual tramway anniversary event (well who says you can’t celebrate 132 years of operation!?) got off to an impressive start on Friday 22nd September, which was dubbed ‘Brush car Friday’. As this year’s event will heavily feature the Brush Railcoach class in honour of their 80th anniversary year, it was decided to put all four operational cars of this type in the spotlight with a special running day as a warm-up to the main event to be held on 23rd & 24th September.
Preparations to get the Brush cars ready for their big day went down to the wire, but happily on the 22nd, all four were ready to go! Joining 623 and 631 were 630 – which had only arrived from Crich this week on loan – and 621 which was making its debut in service following extensive workshop attention. This tram has been superbly painted in 1950s style livery with sponsorship from Trams Magazine, and it looks absolutely stunning! Despite a few minor inaccuracies, the tram looks fantastic and its retro look has been extremely well received. This was in fact its first day in service since 2004 and a lot has happened to the car in the interim, with lengthy periods of storage at Rigby Road, Kirkham Prison and Beamish Museum before it finally returned home at the end of last year. In spite of this long lay-off and the overhaul being finished very much at the last minute, 621 performed superbly as if it had never been away and was very much the star attraction, although naturally 630 was also in great demand, as it was making its first appearances on home metals since 2011. Understandably 623 and 631 were noticeably less popular, but the sight of the four Brush sisters out together was a splendid one indeed.
In a further blast from the past, the event saw the quartet operating a timetabled service between Pleasure Beach and Cleveleys for one day only, recreating times gone by when cars of this type were often allocated to the intermediate service duties affectionately known as ‘Cleveleys Flyers’. It was an imaginative and enjoyable way to launch both 621 and 630, and a fine start to what should hopefully be a brilliant weekend for the Blackpool tramway.
Before the trams entered service for the day, there was a welcome bonus when all four Brush cars were lined up on Hopton Road before heading for the promenade. The trams were lined up in numerical order, with the immaculate 621 in front. This amazing scene was captured on camera by many visiting enthusiasts who had gone to Rigby Road in the hope of seeing some kind of impromptu line-ups, but what they saw was probably far better than anyone could have hoped for! What a shame though, that this had not been an advertised photo opportunity, as a simple reference to a line-up of the operational Brush cars in the afternoon before the start of the special heritage service on publicity material could have attracted considerable extra goodwill at no cost to anyone. However, for those who saw it, the line-up was a stunning sight and is likely to be one of the highlights of the whole weekend!