In Pictures: Blackpool Replica Vanguard 619 relaunched into service

Blackpool Replica Vanguard 619 is now officially back in service at the Heaton Park Tramway in Manchester after its relaunch on the first day of the 2023 season on Sunday 26th March. The tram had run briefly in December 2022 during Lightopia but aside from this it had last run in 2017 and has recently been undergoing an overhaul and repaint to bring this popular tram back into the operational fleet.

Now looking resplendent in a coat of red and white paint – a shade of red which has been matched to that carried on Standard 40 at Blackpool – which was completed by Heritage Painting (a firm who have been involved in repaints on iconic steam locomotives Flying Scotsman and Union of South Africa amongst others) there do remain a few finishing touches to make to the paintwork which will follow in due course but nothing which will prevent the tram from being used regularly in service.

After speeches from Manchester Transport Museum Society Chairman, Geoff Senior, the tram was officially launched into service and ran throughout the day alongside fellow Blackpool tram, Brush Car 623. Despite the cold weather 619 proved to be popular with enthusiasts and the general public alike and as the weather improves over the next few months it is sure to be even more popular travelling through the park.

As well as the two operational Blackpool trams, a further tram from the Fylde Coast was on display with Balloon 702 pulled from Lakeside Depot and it spent the day just in front of the structure for photos.

As an addition to the event, there were also two visiting buses from the Martin Gurr and Gary Conn collection, representing Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours and Blackpool Transport. These were Optare Delta 133 and Leyland Atlantean 353 which travelled over from Blackpool on the morning of the event. It had also planned that the Fylde Transport Trust would be sending AEC Swift 570 but unfortunately it broke down on the way and didn’t make it with it having to be towed back to Great Harwood to allow assessment and repairs to take place.

As well as the standard service operating along the length of the tramway there were opportunities taken to display the trams and buses together. This included 619 and 623 travelling up from Middleton Road Gates to Lakeside with the two buses in company allowing photo opportunities of the four vehicles together, including outside Lakeside Depot.

Then at the end of the day 619 was displayed on the track leading out of the Park at the Middleton Road Gates to say goodbye to the two buses as they headed back to Blackpool.

  • The Heaton Park Tramway is now open every Sunday until 1st October and Saturdays between 3rd June and 26th August with trams due to operate from 1200 to 1700 each opening day. In addition to 619 and 623, Stockport 5 and Hull 96 are expected to form the operating fleet for most of the year with Manchester 765 on restricted duties.

619 is on its inaugural run in this photo as it passes the bus turning circle on its way from Middleton Road to Lakeside.

The three Blackpool trams which played a part in the day are seen together at Lakeside. At the back is Balloon 702 with Replica Vanguard 619 having its trolley turned and Brush 623 stands alongside about to depart.

The two buses were parked up opposite the depot for most of the day allowing photos to captured as the trams passed. In this shot we see 619 and 623 heading up towards Lakeside as 133 and 353 get ready to also head to Lakeside.

The quartet are seen again at Lakeside with Atlantean 353 nearest to the camera and then its Delta 133, Brush 623 and Replica Vanguard 619.

619 (with 623 also just seen) gets ready to say goodbye to the visiting buses at Middleton Road Gates. This is as far as a tram can go out of the Park (at least on track!). Atlantean 353 is just departing and we can also see Delta 133 following behind.

Here we see 623 at the end of the day as it runs another service along the line. This is at Whitegate with it heading up towards Lakeside. (All Photographs by Gareth Prior, 26th March 2023)

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