Since its arrival at Heaton Park in June 2010, Blackpool Replica Vanguard 619 has been an extremely useful and popular member of the Manchester tramway’s fleet. However, a period of outside storage (although with its open sides boarded up for protection) followed by a return to frequent use has sadly left it looking rather shabby – but now this is being corrected with various jobs being carried out over winter to restore it to a much smarter appearance.
With the ongoing work on Stockport 5 finally heading towards completion and no requirement for an open car for a few months, the opportunity is being taken to carry out some much-needed cosmetic work on 619. Last weekend saw the process of stripping the tram begin in earnest. So far, this has seen the removal of the wrought iron side railings and the roof boards, which have deteriorated badly and need to be replaced. The decorative wooden panels immediately below them have also been removed and these are also expected to be replaced. Finally, the dash panels have also been removed and they too will be replaced; the old aluminium panels have been discarded and new steel panels will be fitted in due course, which should prove much more durable. Indeed, the old dash panels had acquired a few dents and battle scars over the years, some dating back to its working life in Blackpool having still been in evidence.
The work on the Vanguard will culminate with a repaint – the tram will retain its pleasing red and white livery, perhaps with a few alterations. Hopefully some interior work can be undertaken as well if time allows, but the tram should certainly look much better when it reappears in service later this year. Whilst accepting that, as a modern replica, 619 is not to everybody’s taste, the car has forged an interesting and unique history of its own, and is an appealing tram to many people, especially on fine sunny days. With the only genuine open crossbench car from the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company fleet, car 2 of 1898, currently a static exhibit at the National Tramway Museum, 619‘s appeal is enhanced still further and its return to service is eagerly awaited.