When completed it will be the biggest restoration job since the advent of Blackpool’s Heritage Tram Tours and work is now underway on returning Balloon 704 to the rails. Now privately owned by Iain Taylor the tram will go on permanent loan to Heritage Tram Tours when the work is completed with Mr Taylor providing the finance as well as for additional resource within the heritage workshops which should see the return of other trams to service in the near future as well.
704 – which at the time of the work starting was still in a long held all over advert for Eclipse – was first moved into the workshops back in October 2019 with the tram entering the Fitting Shop. The first task was to strip out and document the old wiring circuits – these will be replaced on a like for like basis as the restoration continues. This means that there will not be low voltage circuits fitted with the tram retaining the original DC wiring.
Following the completion of this stage it was off to the Body Shop where 704 has been stripped of panelling leaving just the wooden framework. This work has revealed that the framework is actually in remarkably good condition – a nice bonus for the restoration at this early stage!
The sections for two new Balloon Car underframes have been ordered (the second will go to Princess Alice for her own restoration in the future) and these have now been fabricated and 704’s will be assembled in early 2020 as work continues. Work is also underway on a restoring a set of Balloon Car bogies (these were under overhaul in 2011 when this type of heavy overhaul work was suspended in preparation for the upgraded tramway opening). And if that’s not enough for you a set of Z6 controllers have also been overhauled for eventual fitting into the restored tram.
704 will return to its pre-1968 number of 241 when the work has been completed with its condition set to be the last 1950s condition, following the fitting of the top deck covers but still with the “less padded” upper deck seats. Mr Taylor’s own team are also completing some work on the tram and this has included the manufacture of a set of replica seat frames which will eventually be fitted to the tram.
With the work only a few months in there is still plenty to do but 704’s long road to returning to service has now commenced!