Final trams leave Wyre Dock

A line can finally be drawn under the dream of creating a tram museum and attraction in Fleetwood (although its been known for some time it wouldn’t be happening) with the final intact trams being removed from Wyre Dock – from the storage compound which has been home to a number of trams since 2013 – in early December. There were just two trams remaining and its now been confirmed that privately owned Brush 637 has been scrapped whilst both cars of Twin Set 673+683 have been moved off site for a new life.

The owner of 637 had been looking for a new home for the single deck Railcoach – which had kept its old Blackpool Zoo advert livery throughout its time in preservation – but ultimately this wasn’t to be and so with deadlines to clear the site the tram was scrapped on site. It had been known for some time that the tram would need to be moved, and at one stage the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust had said that the site needed to be cleared during 2022.

Some parts of 637 have been salvaged by enthusiasts and will hopefully aid other restoration projects across the country which will eventually see other trams return to the rails. The scrapping of the tram took place over the weekend of 2nd/3rd December 2023.

637 had entered service in September 1937 and would remain in service on the Blackpool Tramway until 2004 when it ran for the last time and was officially stored that winter. It remained stored at Rigby Road until 2011 when it initially moved to Merseyside as one of the trams which had been acquired by Merseytravel for their ambitious plans for an extended tramway in Birkenhead. Obviously these never came to fruition and 637 was purchased by a private individual in 2015 at which point it was moved to Wyre Dock for storage. And that is where it stayed until scrapping.

Just a few days after 637 met its maker, then the final tram on site was removed. This was Twin Car 673+683 which left on the back of a couple of low loaders after new owners were found. Its been reported that they will be used as a classroom although this has yet to be confirmed.

Becoming a Twin Car in June 1961, the permanently coupled tram survived in service for long enough to enjoy mini overhauls and a repaint into Metro Coastlines livery (Turquoise and Yellow version). It ran its last in 2010 and was purchased by another private individual who placed the trams on permanent loan to the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust who took ownership when the owner passed away. They will now go in history as the last trams to leave Wyre Dock.

And that is it! There are now no more trams to be found stored at Wyre Dock. The Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust started off with laudable aims to create an attraction using trams in the town but unfortunately due to a number of factors these never came off and so the trams have lingered on in outside storage waiting for someone to come along and take them away or, in the case of three, for the scrapman to bring an end.

Over the years the site has been home to a large number of trams – this has included Brush Cars 625 and 637, Centenary Cars 641 and 643, Twin Car 673+683, Railcoach 678, Trailer Car 687 and Balloons 710 and 726. Of these several have brighter futures and can be classed as preserved (625, 710, 726) whilst others have become classrooms (673+683 and 687) and others have been scrapped (including 637, 641 and 678).

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11 Responses to Final trams leave Wyre Dock

  1. Nostalgicyetprogressive says:

    None of the trams removed from the site could be said to be of any practical use as functioning tramcars as they would simply have duplicated preserved trams of which there are ample. For 12 Brush Cars to survive of the original 20 (excluding any most likely doomed) is to be viewed as quite an achievement given they don’t have the same appeal and benefits of a Balloon Car. In the end the scrapping of 637 has proved beneficial by providing parts for ongoing restoration projects, which is the best use of otherwise unwanted trams. Given that 687 has found a place at Rossall School, 673/683 should prove useful in a similar situation. Of note is the fact that two priceless Balloon Cars were also rescued on previous occasions.

  2. Nathan says:

    I am glad that the Twin Car was saved, although it is somewhat disappointing that it won’t be restored to operation any time soon.

    637 was probably beyond help unfortunately. The whole Fleetwood scheme was clearly a pipe dream from the get-go. It was never going to succeed with no secure indoor storage for the trams.

  3. David says:

    What the anonymous contributor never acknowledges is that Blackpool is the only first generation British tramway to survive the cull of the 1930s to 1960s. I don’t see anything wrong with retaining the fleet. He or she is suggesting that only one Brush car should survive as any others are duplicating preserved trams. I disagree with him or her that there is an ample number of preserved trams. Every type of first generation tram which operated or operates in Blackpool appeals to me not just Balloons.

    • Andy says:

      I completely agree with what David says. The Blackpool system should have been protected in a similar way to much of the Oporto system or the cable cars in San Francisco as a historic landmark. What is not widely known outside of people who have seen it for themselves, is that san Francisco also has a thriving heritage electric tramway, using mainly PCC cars, but also some other historic vehicles, including a couple of Blackpool boats, which have been successfully and very neetly modified to be able to carry wheelchairs. So there was no need for Blackpool’s so-called ‘upgrade’, nor for the displacement of the historic fleet.

      • John W says:

        Sorry Steve but that’s not always the case re ‘the average visitor to Blackpool isn’t in the least bit interested in the trams’ . In the 5 years I was involved, enthusiasts made up a tiny percentage of ridership of Heritage. The general public loved a historic or open top ride when we did the short Pleasure Beach to North Piers where they could break their journey and we were often full.
        The restricted tours which are now longer has less appeal.
        NO heritage operation anywhere in the world is sustainable on fares alone, it needs other revenue streams etc which needs to be looked at (and should already have been looked at) long term. There should also have been volunteer workshop involvement – look what MER achieves with this cooperation.
        There is a school of thought that Heritage extras could run picking up at the ends of platforms which would improve the revenue stream. theoretically this is perfectly possible.

      • Kev23 says:

        There was every need to replace life expired Trams. Oporto runs 3 trams on average a day on a fraction of the old system and new trakage to connect not ‘much’ of the old system. SF access laws are completely different to ours and running their cars here would be illegal.

  4. Nostalgicyetprogressive says:

    Unfortunately, we are living in less affluent times and funds for tramcar restoration are hard to come by at the best of times. Sadly, this means that an element of rationing must be imposed, whereby priorities must be established by any organisation involved in preserving historic tramcars. Think of the number of trams stored at Clay Cross in a seemingly endless queue for their turn in the workshop. Of course, not all organisations have such capacious storage facilities and are thus limited in what they can take on board. It’s a case of keep the best and repurpose the rest, whether it be as school projects or donors of much-needed parts.

    It is in fact pleasing to see several Brush Cars in preservation but sensibly spread accross several organisations in order to avoid overcrowding. Thus we have two at EATM plus one on loan, two at Crich and another at Heaton Park all in addition to Blackpool. I would guess that given the need to utilise the capacity at Rigby Road to the best advantage that ideally a very maximum of four Brush Cars would have to be the limit.

    As I stated before, priority should be accorded to Balloons simply because they have the potential to generate the most income per square foot of depot space occupied – it makes good commercial sense. Without such an approach, were financial difficulties to be encountered, these would only be exacerbated. While it’s true that the Blackpool system survived the general decline of British tramways, this was not without judicious pruning along the way, especially after the town routes had closed – even the prototype railcoach 200 succumbed to this process. However, it was necessary for the continuation of the Tramway. Let us not forget that during the 1960s Blackpool trams had a fight for their very existence and it was only a ruthless approach to making cuts that saved them.

    • Steve Hyde says:

      I certainly agree that in the current financial environment funding for major restoration projects is extremely hard to come by. Those folks who seem to think there is a limitless pot of cash to fund restorations of double deck Blackpool cars are mistaken. In my personal opinion the Blackpool heritage operation is unsustainable, the average visitor to Blackpool isn’t in the least bit interested in the trams other than when they want to travel along the front and then they probably don’t really care what type of tram turns up. It appears that even enthusiasts are tiring of the heritage operation. I would be interested to see how the BTS accounts record the costs of maintaining the old cars.
      It is pointless keep going over the same ground saying that the modernization of the Blackpool Tramway was needless and that the older cars could have carried on providing the daily service. It simply isn’t true. The legislation in place at the time and still in place would not allow a daily public service using trams with limited crashworthiness and no ability to provide level access or accommodation for wheelchairs. The alternative offered by ORR at the time was abandonment. Without the modernization the tramway wouldn’t be there now. I am amazed that ORR allow mixed running using trams that don’t meet current standards alongside contemporary vehicles.

  5. Geoff Currie says:

    You continue to use the phrase “less affluent times” or similar. I would very much appreciate why you consider this so. Also less affluent than when?

  6. Nostalgicyetprogressive says:

    It cannot be denied that very wealthy people do still exist as they always have. Such people are unlikely to make use of public transport; indeed many will employ chauffeurs. It therefore follows that their interest in public transport vehicles, historic or otherwise, will very likely be somewhat limited. While Crich enjoys Royal patronage, the same cannot be said of many other organisations which preserve heritage vehicles. These rely to a large extent on donatins from ordinary members of society.

    Prior to the pandemic and while energy prices were more reasonable, people who so wished could afford to donate to the preservation of old tramcars. However, with the cost of living so much more expensive now – you only have to look at hotel prices in Blackpool alone (more like the former London prices) – most people have to choose between keeping their household budget on track or helping to keep historic trams on the track amongst many other charitable causes competing for donations. Even if they have money to spare for charity, many woud rather give to aid less fortunate fellow human beings than to facilitate the preservation of old trams. When difficult decisions need to be made, unfortunately you will find that historic tram preservation is probably very low on the list of priorities.

    I agree with Steve Hyde that there would be no tramway at all but for the modernisation which came with the Light Rail upgrade. While many of the old trams coped admirably prior to this big change, they simply could not and still cannot meet the requirement for accessibility. Also the Flexity fleet are being equipped with a camera system for added safety and boast wifi connectivity to woo passengers away from their drive into work. None of this would have worked well with the old fleet, even the Centenary Cars. This together with ease of access to bicycle hire has helped Blackpool to become progressive in achieving environmental improvements, a near impossible feat without the LR upgrade.

    I do feel that the Heritage Tram operation, wonderful as it is, is at risk of suffering a downward spiral – fewer trams of interest as time passes leading to less enjoyment and interest for enthusiasts let alone the general public. I feel there’s a need to ensure that trams such as 147 return to service – such obviously vintage cars do attract a good deal of attention. Therefore, I feel that Blackpool Heritage trams, in order to improve their chance of survival, need to take a close look at their priorities. Balloons such as 701 and especially 706 would add to the general interest. How soon can we hope to see these turn a wheel in passenger carrying service again? To return to the original issue, all this means that they definitely coud not afford to accommodate a further Brush Car at Rigby Road Depot.

    • Nathan says:

      Whilst the Balloons are obviously very important to the Blackpool story, I think what is actually missing is variety. If anything, the Heritage fleet is a little Balloon-heavy.

      If I was in charge, I would definitely be prioritising the restoration of 706. But aside from that, I would focus on the more unusual trams that are likely to be a draw to the public and enthusiasts alike – 732, 304 and 660, the Twin Cars, 230, and 147 come to mind. Even 761 and 8 would be big enthusiast draws once restored to original condition.

      I think part of the problem with the heritage fleet lately is that it’s been the same trams every event, nothing new and no novel ideas to draw people back in.

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