A recent visit to Beamish revealed Blackpool Coronation 304 has been out of use since withdrawal from service in early November and has been stored outside the depot since then.
Presumably in readiness for its return to Blackpool its lifeguards and trolley pole had been removed and are stored inside the tram. A plywood sheet covers one door aperture and the door itself appears to be stuck in the open position. On the day of the visit 304 looked a bit down at heel. Outside storage is beginning to take its toll and there were black rain marks down the side panels and condensation build-up inside. There is a photograph of Portuguese tram 196 outside the Beamish depot on the museum’s recent posting about depot rewiring (http://www.beamishtransportonline.co.uk/). 304 can be seen next to 196.
Undoubtedly 304 proved popular during its short stay at Beamish, and the museum should be congratulated for providing a period of undercover housing and operation following the tram’s enforced outside storage in Blackpool. However those who hoped 304‘s short term loan to Beamish was a prelude to a much longer stay in the North East, along the lines of Balloon 101 (703) and Boat 605, will be disappointed. Seeing 304 stored outside ready for collection and 101 on the depot road previously occupied by 304 leaves little doubt its period of operation is at an end and it’s time for it to go home. In reality it is inevitable this would be the case. Beamish depot is quite small, has limited capacity, and operating a 50ft long 8ft wide tram must have posed operational problems. And of course the museum will shortly be starting preparations for its 40th tram celebrations in April, when several different visiting tramcars will be heading to County Durham. 304 will soon be in the way, and it is to be hoped the LTT have transport arrangements in place for its return, as it would not be fair for it to outstay its welcome and cause problems in the New Year for 304‘s erstwhile Beamish hosts.
This does pose the question “Where will 304 be housed when it returns to Blackpool?” Despite initial assurances by the LTT that their trams placed in outside storage in early September would be for “a very short term” the fact is they are still there four months later. There seems no prospect of the LTT trams moving to more appropriate undercover
storage, so sadly we can only assume 304 will be returning to the yard at Marton for continued outside storage. A bleak Christmas and New Year prospect for a unique tram restored as recently as 2004. The same of course could be said for OMO 8, one of only two surviving OMO’s, and the only one close to operational condition and also now in outside storage.
In late October the LTT trustees announced the much vaunted appointment of an independent consultant with a brief to review the Trust’s strategy and collection. Despite promises of regular announcements on review conclusions, nothing more has been heard. Perhaps the trustees will break their silence and surprise us with some positive announcements about its collection, and provide us with some Christmas and New Year cheer??!!
Article by Steve Jones
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of British Trams Online.