The value of an art deco Brush car

The fate of preserved Blackpool Brush Railcoach 298 has been a subject of great discontent amongst many tram enthusiasts for quite some time. A meeting held by the Tramway Museum Society earlier this year included some discussion on the future of this tram, but unfortunately the outcome was not as positive as many would have liked it to be. It would seem that the day when 298 will carry passengers again is a long way off, despite a huge amount of work already being undertaken on it.

Back in the 1970s, 298 was acquired for preservation to ensure that one of the Brush cars would remain in largely original condition, whilst its sisters remaining in Blackpool were progressively modernised over the years. A small group of enthusiasts set about restoring the tram, complete with many original fittings such as the sliding roof panels. This was a slow process with mimimal manpower, but a lot was achieved over the next few decades in various locations. In 2005, the car moved to Crich where it was expected that work would be completed so that it could operate at the museum – but instead the project has stalled, and 298 continues to languish in the depot to this day.

The Blackpool Railcoach Fund currently holds £145,000 in a special restricted fund which can only be spent on car 298. However, the Tramway Museum Society believe that this will be insufficient to complete the restoration of the car – a recent estimate provided by the Board member responsible for the workshop indicates that this could cost anywhere between £300,000 and £500,000. It seems difficult to believe such a massive figure is required when so much time and money has already been invested in the tram, and it is also worth noting that Marton VAMBAC 11 – a similar tram with far more complex equipment – was restored at East Anglia at considerably less cost. As quite a few people feel that there are already enough, or too many, operational Blackpool trams at Crich it will be very difficult to raise the extra money needed to finish this project and so 298 is likely to remain in limbo for the forseeable future.

The current state of 298 is made all the more tragic as it was initially preserved privately, and only later on was it donated to the TMS. Had this not happened, the option would exist to transfer 298 elsewhere, along with the money already raised to aid its restoration. A Brush car in original art deco condition would undoubtedly be a fantastic addition to Blackpool’s own heritage tram fleet, and would be equally popular in any other museum.

Incidentally, two other organisations have long-term aspirations to return a Blackpool Brush Railcoach to ‘as-built’ condition. The Lancastrian Transport Trust have acquired ex-Permanent Way car 259 for this purpose, as like 298 it has retained some of its original features due to its early withdrawal from passenger service. The Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust have also expressed a desire to restore the pioneer Brush car, 621, to 1930s appearance. Of course, neither group has the benefit of £145,000 to spend on their trams – but perhaps one of them could well turn this dream into a reality whilst 298 remains in storage?

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7 Responses to The value of an art deco Brush car

  1. Nigel Pennick says:

    This car could have been an important addition to the art deco exhibit with the locomotive Duchess of Hamilton at the NRM in York. Unfortunately there seems to be not much liaison in the museum world.

  2. Jono says:

    It’s a lot of money to be spent!

  3. Ian Robinson says:

    Why don’t the TMS spend the £145,000 on the car, primarily to get it running and then invite people to travel on it and persuade them to contribute towards finishing the job!!

    • Ken walker says:

      Indeed. There are many preservation societies / groups who would be over the moon to have that sort of money in the bank reserved for their project, surely £145,000 would at least pay for the car to be restored as a static exhibit, people have restored steam locos for less than £500,000! There are no rail coaches restored in original condition, eg with twin destination displays, surely either 259 or 298 should be restored to balance all the “modernised” railcoaches. At least it is good to see that the LTT are restarting work on restoring their towing car to original condition, an “original” Brush railcoach to complement it would be good to see.

  4. john woodman says:

    The Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust owns two important trams of the 1937 class built by Brush Engineering. Our intention in the medium term is to return the first tram of the batch (284) to a close approximation of its original appearance but not to the extent envisaged at Crich. Like other groups we would be delighted to have at our disposition a ‘war chest’ of £145,000 to renovate a tram – any tram. Where does the NTM envisage extracting a further £150,000 – £200,000 from to allow work on 298 to begin ?

    The saga of 298 is indeed a tragedy given the extended and extensive work done on the tram over many years – and the personal effort and financial contributions of individual enthusiasts over several decades. The sight of this superb example of British tramcar design languishing in the state it arrived in from Salford – apparently
    unloved (like many other Blackpool trams of earlier arrival dates) and languishing at Crich – is a cause for understandable concern by enthusiasts (whether TMS Members or no).

    The most recent example of Crich’s Workshop restoration output raises questions over the competence of this operation – given several years of workshop activity devoted to this tram and substantial external funding from 159’s supporters. After
    formal launch of this showcase in a state no one alive can personally recall – this tram was hurriedly withdrawn from operation with unexplainable fault(s). In a
    commercial business hard questions would be asked of management by stakeholders.

    If Crich want to raise another £155,000 in order to begin work (or to even consider workshop time being expended on bringing 298 to operating condition) – then alternative resources should be sought by which the tram (with its dowry) can be more efficiently and economically put back into public view. If this level of funding is required to complete tram renovation at Crich – I have grave doubts over reliance on the Workshop’s exclusive role in this important field. No doubt the TSO will continue to subvent the Museum Workshop as it has been doing over many years – but these levels of funding are way beyond its reach.

    The examples cited of accomplished projects at Carlton Colville, Beamish and Birkhenhead (and Manchester) – where resources and membership are manifestly more limited, and the TSO is not to be seen – point up serious questions over just how the TMS intend to deal with medium and long term tramcar operation, let alone restoration of gold plated projects. Trams were (and are) workhorses with a usually scuffed and sometimes tired appearance – familiar to the public today and those enthusiasts who remember the first generation operations. Creating pristine perfect replication of ‘as built’ vehicles is commendable IF you have deep pocketed backers. For our Trust its a question of cutting our cloth according to existing budget – and not walking around semi naked (or worse) until the piggy bank has filled to overflowing to allow a visit to Savile Row for a bespoke fitting. More Matalan than Gieves & Hawkes.

    298 is deserving of attention by the TMS NOW not in future decades. If the Museum is not able to undertake a perfectly plausible task backed by £145,000 in the kitty – then something is seriously out of kilter. I am sure any of the above tram museums would take seriously the opportunity to bring this marvellous example of British coach building art – back to life – accompanied by such a dowry. Many other groups and individual enthusiasts would share that objective with contributions, given a timetable and credible date for delivery of the finished vehicle. Naturally there are other contenders at Crich languishing for want of half a million pounds – LCC 1 springs immediately to mind. Clay Cross should be renamed the Trams Mausoleum.

    The Diamond Jubilee Tram project was accomplished on the back of £1,800 contributed by our Trust and in kind assistance. We do not expect to have to raise £300,000 to get 284 into a credible operating state and nor would we envisage going to a finite tram enthusiast community with a begging bowl for funding of this size.

    Someone needs to smell the coffee in Derbyshire. Unfortunately it doesnt look like that this will happen given the outcome of recent Society General Meetings despite protestations to the contrary. A continuing and sustained scrutiny of Crich museum management on the part of Members is the only recourse now available. I am sure such a pro-active engagement on the part of concerned Members will achieve a fresh
    approach to the challenges faced at Crich – which are immediate, growing and endangering the future of the entire operation. Brush car 298 is perhaps the touch
    paper needing to be lit in order to bring about a radical overhaul of the Museum and rejuvenation in the Society’s affairs.

    • Ken walker says:

      Well said John. With a ring fenced fund of £145,000 secured this seems to be a case not of can’t do as don’t want to do. Is 298 owned by the TMS or another enthusiast group? If the latter they want to consider moving it tosomewhere more co-operative. It is unbelievable that the TMS are willing to leave the tram to rot with so much funding already secured.
      Incidentally, when you say that you have plans to restore 284 to close to original condition but not to the extent proposed by Crich, which bits of the original condition are you proposing to omit? I would hope that restoration to original external profile is planned as that was significantly different from the profile in later years, (and in my opinion much more pleasing to the eye as someone who remembers them from the ’60s). I realise that this info may be confidential at this stage.

  5. joe says:

    i would be happy to spend time at crich but time and money at a premium at the min,

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