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.
- Video footage of 708 being loaded is available on the Podbaba Transport YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/89FStMy18Ys?si=gaPuhAwEU8IqetfF