Blackpool Balloon 708 heads to Sandtoft

Article updated 29/11/2023 with the addition of photos.

Another week and another tram takes a journey on the back of a low loader! This time it’s the turn of Blackpool Balloon 708 which departed Rigby Road Depot in its home town to make the trip to the Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft where it is set to become a play tram as the museum continues to increase their family offering.

708 is owned by the Manchester Transport Museum Society and has been in store at Rigby Road since 21st September 2016. It had never been the intention for it to be restored to use in Blackpool with it having been moved there for undercover storage after it left the North East Land, Sea and Air Museum in Sunderland. It had been in the northeast on loan and there had, at one time, been plans for it to be restored to open top condition although these never came to fruition.

Built in September 1934, the tram was initially an Open Topper but was rebuilt into fully enclosed condition during World War II. It remained part of the operating fleet in Blackpool until 2004 when it ran its last passenger journeys, although it remained operational as it was regularly fitted with a snowplough each winter. Indeed it ran one last time in 2008 for this purpose. Upon the breakup of the Blackpool fleet it was initially acquired for preservation by what was then the Lancastrian Transport Trust (now the Fylde Transport Trust of course) but was swapped for 704 later on so that the MTMS became proud owners of two Balloon Cars.

The Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft has been known for a while to be looking for a tram to be able to perform a role as a play tram at the museum. Initially it looked as if 710 would be heading in that direction (that went so far that it was even announced as happening) but things changed and that ended up returning to Tramtown instead. Since then plans have continued to secure a tram for this role and now the MTMS’ 708 will be that tram.

708 was collected by Reid Freight on Tuesday 28th November with the loading of the Balloon Car taking place back in the traditional spot on Blundell Street alongside the Fitting Shop wall. Still carrying a faded coat of green and cream in the 1970s style the tram will undergo some cosmetic work before being converted for its new use, with its place at Sandtoft already ready for it.

708 on the back of the low loader ahead of departure.

A look from the other end of 708. (Both Photographs by Michael Morton, 28th November 2023)

A Balloon Car shaped space at the Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft! With a miniature railway also being constructed in the vicinity the hard standing and track for 708 to sit on is seen in the centre of this image. (Photograph by Trevor Hall, 28th October 2023)

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7 Responses to Blackpool Balloon 708 heads to Sandtoft

  1. Andy says:

    This is extremely bad news and will certainly make me think twice before supporting the MTMS at any point in the future. It seems that these so-called preservation groups have no rules to follow, unlike accredited museums wheich have to follow strict procedures of deaquisition before they can sell any item from their collection. It also makes me question Sandtoft’s ethics within the realm of preservation too. All I’ll say to them is the more they try to attract screaming kids, the far less likely I’ll be to pay them a visit.

  2. Bryan Grint says:

    Such a shame an old Balloon with original windows etc, is to be left outdoors to rot as a child’s play tram? Surely a refurbished Balloon would of been better for this purpose?

  3. Nostalgicyetprogressive says:

    What a relief that another priceless Balloon has been saved for a useful purpose. Its future was most uncertain while at Rigby Road as there was no requirement there for a further such tram and I woud expect that MTMS would find 702 a sufficient project for their resources. Of course the tram will require regular maintenance given it will be positioned outdoors but I’d guess it will fare far better than sister car 710 while exposed to the the elements in Fleetwood or 626 in Birkenhead. This move also contributes to the need for more space at Rigby Road without the permanent loss of any vehicle. On the face of it, it seems good all round.

  4. David says:

    Sad to say another Blackpool tram that will finish up in the scrap yard.

  5. Geoff Currie says:

    This is marginally better than the likely alternative!

  6. Nathan says:

    Anyone who has visited Sandtoft knows they take vehicle preservation and restoration very seriously, so I have no doubt 708 will be well looked after.

    Restoring a tram is a huge commitment, and there are 20+ (?) Balloons in preservation competing for resources. I’d rather that some of them were repurposed than scrapped. Who knows, perhaps Sandtoft themselves will install a tramway one day…

  7. Joshua says:

    Ultimately a brighter future for 708 than the alternative – it must be remembered that 708 was purchased all those years ago by the MTMS solely to be scrapped to provide spares for their fleet.

    Reading the MTMS statement, it has been exchanged for spares that suit 619, 623 and 702 – so everyone wins from this arrangement.

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