Lisbon 730 confirmed for Beamish

In late 2023, when Big Heritage released their statement to confirm their aims for the Wirral Transport Museum and Heritage Tramway they noted that of the trams owned by the Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society, Lisbon 730 would be leaving Birkenhead and that it was set to be moving across the country to Beamish. This news has now been confirmed by Beamish with the tram set to be transported in early 2024.

Of course, Lisbon 730 is not a stranger to Beamish having previously had an operating loan there. This was back in 2013 when it was one of the trams which visited the museum to help them celebrate the 40th anniversary of their tramway. It ran for around a month in the April before it returned to the Wirral and that is where it has remained ever since.

The tram is owned by the Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society who restored it over a two year period from 2004. But as it has no direct connection to Birkenhead or the surrounding area, Big Heritage requested that it was moved away from the Transport Museum which led the MTPS to seek a new home for 730. They ultimately decided to offer it to Beamish who gratefully accepted and the tram will add some extra capacity to the tram fleet.

An exact date for 730 to enter service had not yet been decided as this is dependent on how much work is needed to bring the tram back into operational condition. One thing which is likely to happen though is that it will receive a repaint out of its bright yellow Lisbon livery. No final decisions have been made on what livery it may receive but Darlington Corporation Light Railways has been mentioned as a possibility (Darlington ran on narrow gauge and with Lisbon also being non-standard gauge this is said to be a good reflection of the trams origins).

Work on the tram will be fitted in around other projects, which includes the overhaul of Gateshead 10 which is now a priority to hopefully allow the tram to make a triumphant return to service in 2024.

Lisbon 730 will meet up again with a fellow Portuguese tram – Oporto 196. The pair are seen here in 2013 at Foulbridge.

An early 2024 view – 2nd January 2024 to be exact – at Beamish with an as expected two tram output of Sheffield 264 and Sunderland 16, with the January weather not exactly suggesting any other tram may be in use! The pair cross at Foulbridge with the replica B type bus for company.

A peek inside the tram depot on the same date (2nd January 2024) with Oporto 196, Blackpool 31 and Newcastle 114. Gateshead 10 remains in its special compound on the left. (All Photographs by Trevor Hall)

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13 Responses to Lisbon 730 confirmed for Beamish

  1. David says:

    Who decided to offer the tram to Beamish MTPS or Big Heritage? Are you suggesting here that Big Heritage is telling MTPS what to do with their trams?

    • Gareth Prior says:

      MTPS offered it to Beamish. Big Heritage’s involvement here is that they now run the Transport Museum and Tramway and so it is their decision as to what will remain there. They don’t feel that 730 fits what they want with the museum/tramway (more local vehicles) and so informed the MTPS that it should be moved.

  2. Mmm, I feel that society membership will be divided, and as they and others have committed time, money and goodwill, a number of members may well walk which will leave a sour taste.
    On the other hand what does it take for current trams to remain on site and what exact locations do any vehicles have had operated in or for that matter any other material in the ownership of the new operator.?
    I can see that a specific location/area is easier to say you represent but considering Blackpool as an example its former operating vehicles which still are are, are now across the country, nobody appears to mind.

  3. Andy says:

    I’m not a fan of the idea of a commercial company running a museum. It often ends with failure and the museum being effectively asset stripped, with historically significant but monetarily worthless items ending up meeting their maker.

    In this particular case, Big Heritage seem to be using some flawed logic. If a Lisbon car is deemed not local enough, what will happen to the two Hong Kong cars that are resident on the tramway? They are definitely not local in one respect, but are actually genuine Birkenhead Corporation cars, being bought by the corporation for the opening of the new tramway and actually numbered in sequence with the original fleet!

    I totally agree with what Dave says about the potential alienation of the volunteers. I also wonder what Big Heritage would do if the MTPS decided to move all their trams to an alternative location?

    • Andrew says:

      I think you’ve answered your own question there – the Hong Kong cars are effectively Birkenhead cars so that probably justifies their place. Also double deckers are generally more popular with the general public than single deckers, and they are good workhorses rather than historic artefacts.

      The MTPS will still own their trams and other items, so the fears of ‘asset stripping’ aren’t really valid. I prefer to see this development as a potential positive – a commercial company will be paying for the day-to-day running costs of the museum and tramway, leaving the MTPS’ resources available for restoration work and other more exciting activities.

      Yes, the MTPS could in theory move all of their trams away but I’d think they would have to be pretty stupid to do that. Where would they all go? They’ve done well to re-home 730 considering that all UK museums are either full up or close to it. Add in potential fears over the future of the Blackpool heritage fleet and depot, and now really is not the time to be trying to find a new home for several vintage trams!

      • Kev says:

        Big Heritage have ordered Warrington car to be stored and not finished and have banned all heavy works in the depot so that effectively ends restoration. The two Douglas Horse cars have gone and I’m told the Liverpool Horse car is to go.

        • Andrew says:

          In theory though the MTPS might be able to do restoration work elsewhere. Presumably Big Heritage are not happy with the idea of work being carried out in a visitor area; lets not forget that the ORR report on the Birkenhead setup was pretty damning, so I think its understandable that they are being very cautious.

          I believe the Liverpool horse car 43 has already gone to storage at Hooton.

  4. Peter W. says:

    Part of the problem seems to stem from the MPTS owning the vehicles but not the infrastructure (including the depot) which are now owned by Big Heritage plus the two Hong Kong trams.

    The MPTS need to ensure a contract is drawn up for the loan of their trams to Big Heritage to ensure their future relationship is on firm grounds and nieither side is taken advantage of by the other. This needs to consider the wear and tear incured on the vehicles so that BH don’t cream off the profits and leave nothing for future vehicle overhaul costs.

  5. O dear here we go business and hobby working as a operation never what was intended as it draws in a completely different personal and work ethic. Yes all private and commercial activity should be conducted to run under the same safety rules and management structure otherwise no one is in charge .
    Without access or someone releasing the documents of what is agreed or understood and knowing who and how much will be aloud to operate guess . A commercial entity it now may be but is there a sufficient demand possible if its only local interest material and what of local material that is not society owned or belonging to the council or “use of as a open ended gift” I would assume that the now drum beaters will have their say which needs to be soon. Who then takes the operating profit and losses and is that just the tramway operation or is it the commercial operation as a whole.
    I have had some very good days out in the former operating regime, which was a unique combination sufficient range of demand and some people proud of their achievement’s as a group . I do hope I and others can say the new way is a leader?.

  6. W Jones says:

    As a member of MTPS I actually support this move. The museum had turned into a storage depot and it was already too full when 2 more IoM carriages were acquired in lockdown. As lovely as Lisbon 730 is, it has zero connection to the local area and had been acquired after it had crashed and took out of service in Portugal.

    • John says:

      Carriages? I think you mean Horse Trams. It wasn’t acquired by MTPS after its crash, it had been in this country in various places, including Seaton wher eit was ultimately deemed unsuitable for conversion to run there. Any damage was made good by MTPS. It’s good to have a mix ‘oh wow a Lisbon tram’ etc

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