Plans for the official launch into service of preserved Blackpool Railcoach 680 have been changed once again, in a move which should be welcomed by tram enthusiasts. Instead of being launched at Heaton Park in February 2014, as was previously suggested, the tram is now set to make its preservation debut at Beamish Museum instead… and quite incredibly, it is expected to enter service there this year!
This time last year, Beamish Museum had four suitable winter cars available for use. Since then, Leeds 6 has departed, and with Oporto 196 currently out of action with motor-related issues, this has left the museum with just two enclosed trams for use this winter. Therefore, the museum contacted the Manchester Transport Museum Society with a request to borrow a suitable enclosed single-deck tram, and it has since been agreed that car 680 will visit Beamish over winter 2013/14 to supplement their own resident fleet. Although the tram has not operated in passenger service since 2008, it remains fully intact and able to move under power, so it should be possible to commission it for operation with fairly minimal effort. It will also be recalled that the car was repainted at Blackpool in 2010, regaining the plain cream livery it carried during the 1960s. Whilst at Beamish, 680‘s present cream livery will be enhanced by the addition of green beading, and it will temporarily regain its original fleet number of 280. It is still expected that it will move to a more permanent home at Heaton Park during 2014 and will then receive the 1990s style of green and cream Blackpool livery, complete with black window surrounds.
MTMS Chairman Bob Hill said ‘We are proud to be able to help out colleagues in the
North East by loaning 680 to do what she was built to do. And we owe a huge
thanks to Blackpool Transport for allowing the two museums to fully inspect the
car prior to it’s move.’
As well as providing a much-needed boost to the Beamish tram fleet, 680‘s loan will give Beamish the coup of having the first Ex-Towing car in service away from Blackpool which is sure to provide some festive cheer to tram enthusiasts at what is normally a rather boring time of year for heritage tram activity.