Blackpool Coronation cars reunited at Rigby Road

On Monday 9th December, all three surviving Blackpool ‘Coronation’ cars were reunited at the town’s Rigby Road tram depot for the first time since 1975. On this day, cars 304 and 660 were joined by 663, which had made the short journey from the former Lancastrian Transport Trust depot at Brinwell Street. This brought to an end the latest period of uncertainty in the life of a tram that has endured a rather chequered career in preservation since leaving Blackpool back in 1976.

Coronation 663 has changed homes and owners more times than most trams, most recently joining the collection of the Lancastrian Transport Trust, who acquired it in 2002. A year later it was back in Blackpool, being relocated to the Brinwell Road storage premises, and it duly became the longest-serving resident of this building. When the depot was sold and the LTT eventually terminated their lease arrangement its future was once again thrown into doubt, although the owners of the site very kindly agreed that it could remain on site for a few months beyond the end of the deal. However, with plans to clear out the building so that it can be completely re-wired in the new year, 663 had to be moved out by mid-December.

Happily, Blackpool Transport have stepped in to ensure that this tram’s turbulent story has a happy ending, and the car is now set to find permanent sanctuary at Rigby Road as part of the company’s collection of heritage trams. Despite not initially being included in the original deal to transfer nine former LTT trams to BTS, the company has decided to add it to their growing heritage fleet, meaning that at some time in the future, it should be possible to see three Coronation cars operating together on their native tramway! It remains to be seen whether the offer of a substantial donation towards 663‘s restoration, which saw some work undertaken on the car prior to its release from the LTT’s care, will be available to its new owners, in which case its return to use could well come fairly soon.

On the morning of 9th December, a low loader supplied by Scott’s Heavy Haulage arrived at Blackpool to collect the last remaining tram in residence at Brinwell Road. 663 was loaded without incident, and then made the short but hugely significant journey to its old/new home, where it was unloaded in surprisingly bright sunshine during the afternoon. Despite being stripped of most of its external panelling during the aforementioned work, the tram still made a glorious sight on Blundell street, before being shunted into the nearby depot after a very long absence. The haulage firm then dismantled the ramp used to unload their precious cargo, before heading back onto the road to bring another historic Blackpool tram back home…

If any British Trams Online readers witnessed the return home of Coronation 663 and has any photos they would like to share on this website, please contact us using the following email address – andrew@britishtramsonline.co.uk – as we are keen to publish photos of this historic event.

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7 Responses to Blackpool Coronation cars reunited at Rigby Road

  1. Ash Tomlinson says:

    Trams Today have posted pictures of 663 at Rigby Road on Facebook.

  2. Chris Callan says:

    Excellent News. Close to finally drawing the curtain on the LTT Era for Trams.

    Hopefully the newly appointed Trustee who last time this subject came up had just taken his seat at the LTT Table so wasn’t in possession of the details will update everyone.

    Where is the significant donation? will it follow the car?

  3. Greg Mason says:

    The LTT latest accounts for the year ending 31st October 2013 have just been made available on the Charity Commission website.

    The accounts make reference under income to a donation of £20,800 received by the LTT specifically for the restoration of 663. Under expenditure the LTT accounts state the charity paid £21000 for restoration work on 663. Reports and observation would indicate 663 is far from restored even cosmetically. It is not obvious therefore what the £21000 has been used for in benefitting and progressing the tram’s restoration. In fact on delivery to Rigby Rd it looked little different from when it was observed on past open days at the LTT’s Brinwell Rd depot.

    There has been mention on another website of some sort of annual review or dowry for 663. Perhaps the new Blackpool Heritage Trust can confirm or otherwise whether the LTT £21000 restoration expenditure has passed over to the new Trust for work to progress? If not can LTT give some indication of what the £21000 has been used for and who carried out the work?

    The accounts do indicate income of £31000 from the sale of vehicles, but no specific reference is made to the sale of the boat car to the US, or of proceeds being passed on for the restoration of other former LTT trams.

    The LTT accounts may be viewed in detail on the Charity Commission website: http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Thanks for this information. I’m sure many people will, like yourself, will be curious as to where this £21,000 which was spent on 663 has gone as apart from having a few panels taken off it doesn’t seem to have had any work done to it! Certainly the claim that ‘over £20,000 of restoration work was carried out before it too moved to Rigby Road’ is highly questionable.

      Also interesting to see that all pretence of using money raised from the sale of Boat 605 to benefit Standard 143 has been dropped and the Trust now admit that it was sold to clear money owed in rent!

  4. Greg Mason says:

    Andrew,

    It is very disappointing that £21k for 663, plus circa £17k from the sale of the boat was not passed to the new Blackpool Heritage Tram Trust. This would have made a tremendous difference to the fledgling organisation in providing work for the BTS Heritage workshop for 663 and Standard 143 and thereby contributing to establishing the right foundation for the future.

    The BHTT has done an excellent job in its first year with the heritage operation, and has done much to establish the viability of a heritage operation on the modern LRT system. However there is still a lack of clarity on the financial and other arrangements on which the LTT, as a registered charity, transferred its tram assets (assuming the legal formalities of the transfer have taken place!) to the new organisation. One of the obligations of a charity is transparency. Both the LTT as a registered charity, and Blackpool Heritage Tram Trust as a future charity, in my opinion, need to go public on the arrangements, financial and otherwise on which the trams passed from the LTT to BHTT.

    This will further establish the credibility of the new organisation, and give reassurance to future donors, sponsors, grant bodies, the Charity Commission etc. It’s unlikely the new organisation will see any of the £20K plus from the 663 donation, nor the proceeds of the boat car sale to the US. However the presence of an LTT trustee on the Board of the BHTT should at least enable a full picture of what work exactly was undertaken on 663 to warrant the £21k expenditure detailed in the accounts.

  5. Greg Mason says:

    Couple of final points following a re-read of the LTT accounts submission to the Charity Commission.

    The £20,895 “Specific Project Donation – 663″ would in fact have yielded an additional £4179 to the LTT in Gift Aid (on the assumption Gift Aid was applicable on this donation). The total yield from the donation would therefore have been £25074. It would seem appropriate that the additional sum at least should be passed to the to the new Trust, to fund further work on 663. Perhaps Mr Berry, as LTT Chairman and Treasurer in addition to his his role as one of the three Trustees of the new trust, can confirm whether this has happened or will happen?

    Although not related to 663, Mr Berry’s Annual Report 2013 states that in relation to Boat 605 “Beamish had made it clear they did not want the car permanently….”. This seems to contradict the statements from Beamish and other reports at the time following the departure of the Boat. Am I correct?