Fresh from the news about the delivery of a supply of steel for two new Balloon car underframes at Blackpool’s Rigby Road workshops, it has now been confirmed which trams will be the beneficiaries of these materials. As expected, one new underframe is destined for ‘Princess Alice’ 706, after the appeal to raise funds for its restoration exceeded the £10,000 amount required to build this. The second underframe is, more surprisingly, intended for sister car 704 which is set to be worked on simultaneously with 706!
704 has been stored out of use since late 2003, latterly in a semi-stripped condition, and its future has been in doubt a number of times over the years. However, plans have now been revealed for the tram to be extensively restored to an authentic 1950s-1960s condition, regaining roof windows along with other traditional features. It will revert to its original identity as 241, and in this guise it will represent one of the ex-open top cars in enclosed form as a welcome contrast to the restored car 717 which represents the second series Balloons in near-original condition. This will not only fill a gap in the resident heritage collection, but provide a very valuable high capacity addition to the running fleet; bearing in mind that some of the operational Balloon cars are close to requiring similar levels of attention themselves, the restored 241 is clearly going to be a very important vehicle for the future of Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours.
Economy of scale will mean that money can be saved by working on 241 and 706 at the same time. Most of the work on 241 is to be financed by Mr Iain Taylor, including covering the costs of employing an extra member of workshop staff to work on the project on a fixed-term contract. Iain and some of his friends, who have experience of vehicle restoration work, will also be helping out practically with the project, and another generous donor has covered the £10,000 required to fund the new underframe. Such incredible levels of generosity are clearly the way that such amazing things can become reality, and we should all be very thankful that the tramway has such loyal and kind supporters! 241 will become the property of Mr Taylor, as part of the agreement, but will be loaned to Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours on a permanent basis. Considering the number of threats this particular tram has faced to its survival over the last fifteen years, this all seems like marvelous news and its return to use is one of a growing list of things to look forward to at Blackpool in the next few years!