The Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust has recently announced ambitious plans to carry out major restoration work on some of its collection of ex-Blackpool trams, for operation on a brand new line at Fleetwood. This is part of a radical new scheme known as ‘Fleetwood Quays’, intended to rejuvanate the docks with a working tramway earmarked for construction to transport visitors around the site.
It has been known for some time that the Trust was keen to explore plans for the future of its trams as part of a much wider project to benefit Fleetwood as a town, by creating a major new development on the dockyard area. Wyre Dock Development Ltd. and other partner organisations who are involved in the scheme, which is expected to cost around £150 million in all, have already been exploring ideas for how to turn the proposed tramway into a reality and two firms have been identified to work on the project.
As for the restoration of the trams; priority is likely to be given to Ex-Towing Railcoach 678 and Balloon 710. It may be remembered that both trams had been withdrawn long before the tramway upgrade due to their poor structural condition, meaning that any restoration work to make either car fit for further use will need to be extensive, and no doubt very costly. It is also intended to carry out work on Twin set 673+683, which was previously stored in Fleetwood on behalf of its private owner who sadly passed away last year, and now the set has seemingly become part of the FHLT collection. Other trams which are intended for attention to run on the new line in the future include the Trust’s own Brush car 290 (627), currently stored at Rigby Road, and sister car 637 - which remains in Fleetwood but is privately owned. Centenary car 641 which is at present displayed at Pleasure Beach is to be retained for static display, ultimately within a new transport exhibition at Wyre Dock.
Perhaps the best news is that the FHLT have now identified a suitable property in which to house some of their trams, and where the planned work can be carried out in a suitable environment. As some of the trams have been languishing in outside storage since leaving Rigby Road in 2011/12, just to be moved undercover will be a very positive step for them and hopefully this will happen soon. It is hoped that a sustained restoration programme to work on up to four trams simultaneously can be achieved.
Wisely, the Trust acknowledge that raising the required finance to restore these trams will be no mean feat – especially as they will essentially be competing for funds with the now well-established Blackpool heritage operation. As such, it is likely that commercial support will be required to make these aims a reality as financial support from enthusiasts is unlikely to be sufficient.
Whilst some of these ideas seem highly ambitious and the value of a second Fylde Coast tramway operating heritage rolling stock could be questioned, we wish the Trust and its partners every luck with these ideas and, should they become reality, this will be a massive achievement and one of the biggest new developments for Britain’s heritage trams for many years. Watch this space!