A tale of two Coronations

There is no denying that Blackpool’s Coronation Cars remain popular with enthusiasts even though (or maybe because!) there hasn’t been an operational example on the Promenade tramway for several years. The road to return for two of the three survivors is ongoing and following on from a recent update on the truck of 663 that tram has now returned to Blackpool whilst Fylde Transport Trust owned and VAMBAC fitted 304 has also seen some progress in its own return to the tracks.

It was only fairly recently that we reported on the completion of the bogie overhaul on Coronation 663 at Riley and Sons Engineering in Heywood with the bogies then being reunited with the body of the tram. At the time it was noted that a significant amount of other work would be required before the tram would be returning to service – including bodywork and a rewire.

But what wasn’t expected was that its time in Heywood was rapidly coming to an end as on Monday 24th August it was loaded onto the back of a low loader and transported back to Blackpool Transport’s Rigby Road Depot for further storage whilst it awaits its time to be fully restored. 663 is privately owned and as mentioned above there is a considerable amount of work which needs to be completed before a return to service. With the workshops at Rigby Road having a number of jobs to complete in the coming years it is likely to be quite some time before the tram is completed but for now at least it is back in secure storage and has a lovely set of newly overhauled bogies!

The second of the Coronation Cars in the news recently has been the Lancastrian Transport Trust’s 304. Receiving nationwide fame in the early 2000s when it was restored as part of Channel 4’s Salvage Squad programme this tram is the sole VAMBAC fitted Coronation still in existence and hasn’t run in service since 2013 at Beamish although it did run on test in Blackpool at the end of 2018.

The latest update from the FTT has confirmed that the new suspension rubbers for the trucks have now been delivered (these were procured via Riley and Sons as part of the work on 663). Other work still needed to return 304 to service include testing of the recently overhauled compressor and fitting the last of the new parts for the sliding door rams. No timescale has been set for the completion of this work with the same busy workshops at the moment likely to mean it won’t be immediate.

As for third survivor, 660 remains stored at Rigby Road Depot with no plans to complete any work on this tram at the moment. 660 last ran in passenger service in 2010 with test runs in 2011 in connection with the then new Starr Gate Depot and the tram wash.

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5 Responses to A tale of two Coronations

  1. Paul D says:

    304 did in fact run in Blackpool in 2014. Monday of the August Bank Holiday weekend, 2 private hires and at least one night of illuminations tours, earning it a place on the British Trams Online “Tram of the Year” shortlist!

  2. John1 says:

    I can’t help but wonder if the bogies will stay nicely overhauled if its stored for a few yers before work commences!

  3. nostalgicyetprogressive says:

    One would hope that the will and resources can be found to return 663 to service in time for 2023 to help celebrate 125 years of the Blackpool and Fleetwood Tramroad. Of course much depends on how the Covid-19 scenario plays out and only time will tell. in any event the bogies should remain in far better condition than when it last ran in service in 1974. At that time it was plagued be a considerable rattle, second only in severity to that of 661 and not far behind. I am told that such a condition results from long-term heavy usage and lack of maintenance, neither of which are likely to be the case within the Heritage fleet.

  4. John1 says:

    One of the mjor issues is the sitting on the rubbers without moving for long periods squishes them, hence the Coronation bounce in later years!!
    Personally I don’t see when/who will do the work. 704 is in the body shop for probably the rest of my life and the unfulfilled 706 promise lurks. I’d love to be proved wrong – time will tell.

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