Blackpool Coronation 304 moves to Beamish

The much-anticipated transfer of Blackpool Coronation car 304 from temporary storage in Marton, to Beamish Museum has finally taken place after a few delays which led to its planned passenger debut in the North East being postponed slightly. After being unceromoniously dumped in an industrial yard last month following its eviction from Rigby Road, 304 now looks set to return to the limelight in the next few weeks as it celebrates its sixtieth anniversary year.

The restoration of 304 to operational condition has been well-documented before; after a nomadic existence which saw it reside at Clay Cross, and then the St Helens Transport Museum where it spent many years, the tram returned to Blackpool in 2002 to be restored as a subject of Channel 4’s popular ‘Salave Squad’ television series. After receiving further attention – including major repairs to its complex VAMBAC equipment – the tram was used occasionally for private hire work and the odd stint in normal service up to the end of 2010, when it bowed out due to the tramway upgrade. Chances of a return to use were quashed due to the increasingly strained relationship between its owning group, the Lancastrian Transport Trust, and Blackpool Transport. Happily following a brief period of storage out in the cold, this wonderful tram was accepted on loan by Beamish Museum for a short spell of operation.

The loading of the tram took place on the evening of Thursday 11th October when it was carefully winched onto a low loader provided by haulage firm Alleley’s, who had moved 304 and five other LTT trams to the yard in Marton just a few weeks previous. This was a fairly straightforward procedure and despite a minor hitch when 304‘s front bogie proved reluctant to move, the car was able to depart the Fylde Coast by 7:00pm. It is believed to have arrived at its new, temporary home the following day although surprisingly, no photographic proof of its arrival had appeared online at the time of writing.

Now that 304 is at Beamish, the tram will require some commissioning work and a period of testing and crew training before it can hopefully be approved for passenger service there, having not run for almost two years. Checks to ensure that the width of the tram will not be problematic will also be necessary, for we must remember that no tram as wide or as heavy as a Blackpool Coronation car has ever graced the Beamish tramway. However, the system coped admirably with a visit from the only other surviving VAMBAC-equipped Blackpool tram, Marton VAMBAC 11, in 2011 and so power consumption should not be an issue.

It is not known for sure how long Blackpool 304 will stay at Beamish but hopefully there will be plenty of opportunities to see and ride on it at this excellent museum. Plans are also afoot to hold a number of special photographic events featuring 304 along with the other two LTT trams on site, the Balloon car now posing as Sunderland 101, and our own sponsored Boat car 233. The loan has been made possible not only through the continued co-operation between Beamish and the Lancastrian Transport Trust, but also thanks to the generousity of TRAMS Magazine, who have sponsored the loan of this tram. This will help considerably with the high transportation costs, and should allow many enthusiasts to sample the novel example of this luxurious tramcar running again in a very unfamiliar setting.

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4 Responses to Blackpool Coronation 304 moves to Beamish

  1. We should pay tribute to the LTT volunteers who must have worked in very bad weather to achieve the successful loading of 304. The willingness of Trams Magazine to sponsor transport costs to Beamish should also be applauded.

    Whether these efforts will result in 304 operating at Beamish remains to be seen. As you rightly point out Andrew, 304 has only operated occaisionally since restoration, and not at all for two years. Additionally it has spent several weeks out in the open in appalling weather. As most people know, VAMBAC equipment was temperamental even in daily operation – what it will be like after long storage and damp weather without any protection from the elements we can only wait and see. My guess is that “commissioning” will take much longer than many people think, and may well go beyond the end of the season. 304’s move to Beamish has been positioned as a short-term loan, after which it will (presumably) return to Blackpool. Given these uncertainties, would it not have been better to concentrate scarce resources on getting all six LTT trams under cover, and postpone 304’s move to Beamish until 2013?

    My suspicion is that the LTT have not the finances to move of any of their trams to indoor storage. They have stated in one of their postings that without Trams Magazine paying “most” of the transport costs, 304’s move to Beamish would not have happened. Should we conclude therefore that finances are not available for moving the other trams, and “temporary outside storage” may become more permanent for the unlucky remaining five? I don’t imagine LTT supporters who contribute regularly, particularly those that are shareholders in 715, feel very good about this possibility.

    LTT have previously stated it is dependent on the associated commercial operation Classic Bus North West Ltd for vehicle housing costs. Given the observed light loadings (to say the least!) on it’s Seafront 12 and Catch 22 commercial bus operations, many of us are not reassured that financial security for the LTT will come from this direction.

    Surely it’s time for the LTT trustees to come clean on the situation, and launch a high profile appeal for funds to move the LTT trams in temporary storage. That will be a good test for people to show the LTT are the right custodians for the tram collection.

  2. If 304 moved to Beamish in 2013 then that would have meant that the loader would have to move 304 into inside storage and then out and back to Blackpool, this way it only involves 2 moves as opposed to 3. As you point out it hasn’t run a lot in the last 2 years. However the tram was moved under its own power and was driven out of the depot before been moved from Blackpool.

    There are lots of reasons why VAMBAC Coronation’s had problems in Blackpool and this should be put in a book, its not just as black & white as people think. One of the biggest problems was when the batteries were taken off to save weight.

    Moving the trams inside is not just a case of getting a load of cash and moving them, if only life was so simple. There are a lot of logistics involved and it must of course be remembered that the LTT is a volunteer society and the almost daily postings on various sites which people would like answers to also require time to answer. As well as the tramcar collection we also have a very important bus collection which has to be considered.

    With regards to the loadings of Classic Bus North West, I don’t really think this is the place to be discussing this.

    The whole story regarding the trams and the relationship with BTS is massive and even when we did try and tell our side of the story, some people seemingly didn’t like this.

    It must always be rememberd that preservation of any vehicle is not an easy task. Sunderland 16 was a chicken hut, Coronaton 304 spent years away from the public eye when Blacklpool under the management at the time would never let the tram return. When Flying Scotsman was saved the future was very unknown. It had nowhere to go and main line steam was banned.

    I hope this answers peoples questions and peoples worries are lifted somewhat.

    The LTT have been able to achieve so much over the years due to regular and one-off contributions. Also the efforts put in by volunteer time.

    Since appealing on various websites, 2 people have offered their time as volunteers and this is great news. As well as the LTT I’m also involved in steam railways so its amazing what a few people can achieve. If you would like to volunteer then please email me on

  3. David,

    Thank you for taking the time to try and answer some of the points I made in my comment to the 304 move. I know from local reports you have been instrumental in organising the LTT trams move in very stressful conditions, and for that the enthusiast community I’m sure is very grateful. I know it must be irritating to have to answer questions and comments from perceived “armchair enthusiasts” when there are many other things to do. Suffice to say I too am at the sharp end of preservation in another field, and know what its like to be trying to do impossible things with too few people and often in very bad weather. I can also quote you a number of other examples of first class restorations that have been created from wrecks by a few people. Finally I have been fascinated by the Coronations for a long time, and could probably write a treatise myself on their many problems and solutions tried.

    That out of the way, we should remember one important point. The Lancastrian Transport Trust is a registered charity, and as such like any other charity, benefits not only from donations, but also from public money from a number of areas such as Gift Aid and 80% business rate relief. The LTT benefits to the tune of many thousands of pounds of public money from these sources. The trustees know full well that makes them accountable not only to active volunteers and LTT donors, but to the public at large. They are legally required to manage the trust’s funds in a responsible way, and should recognise their actions rightly are open to scrutiny given public money is involved. The Trustees must submit annual summary to the Charity Commission,and these can be viewed by those interested on

    We have to accept the hurried move of the LTT trams from Rigby Rd will have cost several thousand pounds by the time they have first transported to the storage yard and then (hopefully!) moved a second time to inside storage. The cost of this can only come from LTT funds that have been raised from member and public donations and from public money in the form of Gift aid from the taxpayer, and business rate relief from the ratepayer. The need to move the trams from Rigby Rd has been well known and understood for two years. The LTT trustees have to take responsibility for having to use funds in this way, and for the need to use scarce volunteer resource on double moves. Both funds and volunteers could have been used more productively in moving restorations forward.

    What has all this to do with 304 move to Beamish? My only point here is that the 304 move seems to have been arranged in a hurry due to the situation. It is a short term loan, the tram has not been prepared in any way by the LTT, and I fear the Beamish team will be left sorting out many problems when presumably they will have, unlike EATMS, little experience of VAMBAC technology. It could be that an expensive transportation exercise is undertaken, 304 commissioning takes longer than the short loan period, and the tram returns after a fruitless journey. The enthusiast community seeks reassurance from the LTT!!

    Finally and with respect I think you misunderstood my point about loadings on SF12 and Catch22. My point is much more fundamental. As the LTT has pointed out, it is dependent on its commercial operation for housing its vehicle collection. The LTT previous associated commercial venture, Totally Transport Community Interest Company, filed for voluntary liquidation in May with considerable debts, and now seems to be defunct. Its phoenix company successor does not seem to be doing well, judging by its loadings on its two commercial services. LTT donors have a right to be worried that they may be going to a charitable trust that could be in difficulties if its associated commercial operation, on which it is dependent, goes the way of its predecessor.

    Perhaps the LTT trustees will break their silence, and issue a statement to reassure its volunteers, donors and interested public.

  4. Andrew,


    Sorry I missed the comment that my posting was awaiting moderation, and I guess this is why the name and email address fileds are populated when I looked at the site this morning. I have changed my email address as I did not want direct contact on this matter. I will use my new email address on future postings.


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