The long journey of Blackpool ‘Boat’ 233 to its new American home is finally over, with the car reaching its final destination of the Market Street Railway in San Francisco on Friday 25th October. This followed a mammoth journey for the iconic 1934 tramcar, which had reportedly travelled along the Panama Canal – pretty appropriate for a Boat car really!
Once unloaded safely, 233 was shunted into the nearby depot accommodation using one of the museum’s resident PCC cars, creating a bizarre sight but one which should become more normal for 233 in its new home. As reported previously, the tram did sustain some minor damage during the loading process on its departure from Beamish but this should not prove too difficult to repair. Rather surprisingly, it has been announced that the car will now be commissioned for service and could be operating within a week! The intention is to temporarily withdraw the other San Francisco Boat car, 228, which is in need of some remedial attention. The presence of both trams will ensure that at least one of them will remain serviceable, and in the not too distant future both cars should be able to run together, just as they did in Blackpool when new, almost eighty years ago.
It is understood that 233 will retain an authentic Blackpool colour scheme, presumably meaning it will not be repainted for the foreseeable future and therefore both this and 228 will look very similar, the most obvious difference being the more modern and stylish windscreens which 233 acquired when still at Blackpool in 1990. One inevitable compromise to its historic appearance will involve its trolley tower which is too tall for the American operator, so it will probably be replaced by a smaller tower. 233 also retains its decorative posters attached at Beamish featuring a stunning painting of the tram, although the reference to British Trams Online’s past support of the car has been carefully removed at our request, revealing part of an earlier poster underneath. It had been hoped to remove the plaques attached to the car some years ago to recognise its sponsorship by the Fylde Tramway Society (which our own posters actually covered up!), but these proved too difficult to remove and have therefore remained in situ.
In the future it is still anticipated that some structural alterations will be carried out so that 233 can transport wheelchair-bound passengers, and the tram will also be rewired with low voltage equipment to match the rest of the historic tram fleet in San Francisco. Despite the huge controversy surrounding its sale by the Lancastrian Transport Trust, it must be said that the Boat car can now look forward to a very bright future and is sure to prove exceptionally popular, as indeed the Boat class always do. Incidentally, the acquisition of the car was assisted by the Thoreson Foundation, whilst FedEx Trade International helped to underwrite the hefty shipping costs. Hopefully 233‘s new owners will appreciate this generous support more than the LTT did!