Two Blackpool Balloon cars in different locations have been undergoing preparations for the worsening weather expected as winter approaches, with contrasting jobs being carried out on cars 701 and 721 within the past week. This is a slightly depressing reminder of the fact that winter is almost here again, and with gale force winds predicted to hit the UK in the next few days, it seems particularly timely.
For Blackpool Transport, winter traditionally sees two Balloon cars fitted with a snow plough and this year an early start has been made, with car 701 being spotted in the Fitting Shop over the weekend sporting the large yellow plough it had fitted last winter. This particular tram hasn’t been used since it made three appearances on the heritage service during May, and still retains its plain yellow livery left over from a past all-over advert. It is understood that planned roadworks close to Manchester Square for part of the winter period will restrict access by trams based there, so 701 is expected to move to Starr Gate depot shortly so that it will be ready for action if needed. Last year, car 723 was also equipped as a snowplough tram although it remains to be seen whether it too will be used for this role again in 2013/14.
Meanwhile in the North East, Balloon 721 has recently been covered up with a large tarpaulin sheet at its new home of the North East Land, Sea & Air Museum at Sunderland. This should offer some protection to the tram which has been in outside storage since leaving Blackpool for good in March 2012. Unfortunately the tram has already suffered at the hands of the great British weather with noticeable deterioration of the internal side panelling on the upper deck, although otherwise 721 remains in largely very good condition and will certainly make a fine working exhibit in the near future. Some further progress has been made on the interior restoration work although this was understandably delayed when one of NEETT’s volunteers who is leading the work on this tram sadly suffered a family bereavement.
Once the new depot is constructed in which to house the North Eastern Electrical Traction Trust’s vehicle collection – something else which has been unavoidably delayed – work should commence on repainting 721, which is still expected to receive a red and white livery. Appropriately, this will match 701 when it too is repainted next year, presumably after its snowplough is detached!