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.