Despite the air of uncertainty regarding the future operation of the Birkenhead heritage tramway, volunteers of the Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society have continued to work hard on two major restoration projects simultaneously. Both Warrington 2 and Liverpool 245 have made impressive progress in recent months and so it seems that an update on both cars is now due.
Starting with Warrington 2, and a great number of detail touches are now being made to this tram now that the lower saloon body is largely complete. Parts for the sanding mechanism have been made and fitted, whilst materials for new lifeguard trays have been delivered to Birkenhead. Interestingly, some parts from Stockport trams are being used in the production of the lifeguard pedals and other associated mechanisms, along with some spare parts left over from the restoration of Liverpool 762 some years ago! One headlamp has already been fitted, and the second headlamp ‘bowl’ is now ready for fitting. Virtually no remnants of the driver’s seat have survived, so a new one is being made using Liverpool 245‘s as a pattern. A large compressor switch has been installed on a bulkhead.
One of the most visible achievements involving car 2 has been the wiring up of its lighting, which has been tested. Painting of the staircase at one end has unfortunately been delayed as the paid painter has been absent due to illness; hopefully he will be back soon to complete this job. The saloon doors have been enhanced by the addition of patch locks, and although the doors have come from different sources, a great deal of effort has been effort has been made to create a matching pair, so that no-one would know that they were not the originals.
Of course, Warrington 2 is a double-deck tram, and preparations to fit an upper saloon are also in hand. Safety railings have been installed around the top of the tram already, and a mock-up of the top deck is being made using pine.
Moving onto Liverpool ‘Baby Grand’ 245, and this tram is also making good progress in the workshop at Taylor Street, Birkenhead. Unfortunately, the removal of the tram’s underframe late last year caused some damage to the platform area at one end and some work that had already been carried out has had to be partly dismantled in order to access the pillars so that the damage could be properly assessed and repaired. New aluminium side panels will soon be ready for fitting to the lower deck, and some new toughened safety glass has been fitted at one end due to the old glass being damaged. A considerable amount of effort has gone into restoring the folding platform doors including cleaning brass parts, replacing rusted screws where necessary, and filling in various dents. Higher up, work has also been carried out on a brand new trolley plank.
Amazingly, the MTPS intend to have 245 completed by 31st December this year, as part of an agreement with the Heritage Lottery Fund, to whom a second funding application was submitted in January. This could mean a fully restored Liverpool four-wheel streamliner in operation next year, and the thought of 245 running alongside older Liverpool car 762 is certainly exciting! Having Liverpool horse car 43 also based at Birkenhead will potentially enable three key stages of tramcar development in Liverpool to be displayed together, and hopefully the commercial potential of this unique feat will be fully exploited!