After a wait of many years, positive steps are finally being taken towards getting the long-term restoration of Blackpool Standard 143 completed. The tram remains in the ownership of the Fylde Transport Trust (formerly the Lancastrian Transport Trust) – however, this organisation has now agreed a long-term loan arrangement for this tram to ensure that its restoration is completed soon, allowing it to operate again in Blackpool.
A 25 year loan of 143 has now been agreed with Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours, with work shortly expected to resume on the restoration which had stalled some years ago. Furthermore, the FTT will be covering all material costs associated with the remaining work, whilst Blackpool Transport provide the required labour and cover the cost of this. The aim is to have the tram running in regular service again next year, when it will become the first open balcony tramcar to operate in Blackpool since 1985!
This is fantastic news for 143 and for tram enthusiasts in general, and following past issues it is great to see such good relations being rebuilt between the associated organisations and individuals. Confirming the long-term plans for the Standard car has no doubt helped to ensure that it is accommodated in the workshop programme for the next year, whilst in turn those who ensured its preservation when it was a fire-damaged wreck some years ago, and assisted with the restoration work already carried out, will finally be able to enjoy the fruits of their labours before too long.
143 isn’t the only FTT car that looks set to enjoy an upturn in its fortunes this year, as plans are also afoot to restart the aborted project to create a traditional English Electric Railcoach. Car 279 - latterly Towing car 679 - has been stored at Rigby Road in a partially restored state following the reconstruction of its pointed end framework, but is expected to move to Brinwell Road for further attention at some point during 2018. Whilst 279 may not quite have the ‘wow’ factor of the open balcony Standard car for your average holidaymaker, to restore the classic English Electric Railcoach to service in Blackpool would be a tremendous achievement and would be another superb addition to the operational heritage fleet.