Blackpool Balloon 715 goes home

Mere hours after Blackpool Coronation car 663 returned to the safety of Rigby Road depot, another much-loved Blackpool tramcar was brought back home to join the town’s heritage tram fleet. Unlike 663, Balloon 715 is a tram that most of us will remember seeing and riding on at Blackpool as it was in regular service until fairly recently and only departed from its home system last year.

A long and successful working career on the Blackpool tramway for 715 came to an end on 6th November 2011 – or so we thought at the time! By then, the tram had been acquired by the Lancastrian Transport Trust to represent the second series Balloon cars in preservation, and had been smartly repainted in the 1970s half green, half cream version of fleet livery thanks to the generous support of several enthusiasts who had become shareholders in the tram to assist with its preservation. After withdrawal, the car was briefly used as a depot shunter before departing for outside storage in September 2012. initially it was expected that it would stay there for just a few weeks, but instead it had to wait until 9th December 2013 before finally moving into more suitable accommodation.

Thanks to the widely reported deal between Blackpool Transport and the LTT which will see the vintage trams owned by both organisations become the property of a new charitable trust and operated on their home system, 715 was transported back to the Rigby Road depot late on December 9th, duly becoming the fifth LTT tram to move back to its old home this year. As the car arrived in darkness, it was left on the low loader for the night on Blundell Street, presumably to be unloaded the next morning. Although the extent of weather damage will have to be assessed fully before plans can be drawn up for its return to action, externally 715 seems to have coped remarkably well whilst standing out in the wilderness apart from a few broken windows, with its paintwork still in good condition. Hopefully this bodes well for a speedy and reasonably inexpensive return to service. Meanwhile, Scott’s Heavy Haulage are expected to be staying in Blackpool for a little longer however, with further tram moves anticipated before the week is out. Watch this space!

The timing of 715‘s return is certainly good, following the recent news that sister car 716 is unlikely to survive for much longer as its owners have gone into liquidation. Incidentally, this tram is currently up for sale on internet auction site ebay, with the asking price a hefty £8,000! This is in spite of the fact that 716 was heavily stripped many years ago and is believed to be lacking most of its essential components. It is stated that lower offers may be considered, although one such offer has already been declined leaving 716‘s future looking extremely bleak. Thankfully 715 should survive, and indeed run again, giving a taste of the iconic Blackpool Balloon cars as many of us remember them.

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5 Responses to Blackpool Balloon 715 goes home

  1. Chris Callan says:

    Welcome Home. Best year in a long long time for Blackpool Tramway.

  2. Mark says:

    Probably going to upset a few readers, but I have to ask if Blackpool Transport Heritage fleet is now too big now they are getting the LTT trams back? By my reckoning there are now at least 28 trams and this year they only operated a maximum of 4 a day for 14 days apart from the illuminations, so unless there is a big increase in operating days, that means each tram will only average 2 days a year. That seems very little use for the expense of maintaining a large fleet.

    • Chris Callan says:

      This is just the beginning. Its going to be journey. Theirs an opportunity to establish a World Class Heritage Collection. One that shows the Blackpool Story from Day One to the Present Day.

      Theirs an opportunity for it to continue to grow and expand slowly but surely. Rather than compete with the National Collection at Crich it can simply become the Blackpool Collection. The place where the Blackpool Story is told.

      Bryan & Co know what their doing. Just have to get behind them and allow the vision to blossom.

    • Paul says:

      Yes and no Mark…

      I understand your concern about lack of use, but bear in mind that not all are current runners and it will be a long long time before some are…

      Even if/when they are all restored think of the opportunities it opens up.
      1. Having excess capacity gives time for regular care and maintenance (rather than them being run into the ground as BT were notorious for in the past).
      2. I would never expect every car to run in a single year. There is likely to be an operational pool of say 15-20 cars in use at a time with some joining the fleet each year as others retire so we have an ever-changing fleet to keep things fresh and interesting.
      3. It gives the capacity for loans and exchanges with other tramways to the benefit of all.

      By then I also hope/expect that the number of operating days will have gradually increased (so long as we support it) so
      I’m sure most cars will manage more than your two days a year…

      There is perhaps a valid argument about there being a bit too much duplication of a couple of types in the collection – 5 balloons is maybe one too many (if they all stay as enclosed deckers…) and it’s hard to see a niche for a third Coronation, but otherwise each member of the fleet will represent a distinct phase in the life of the class.
      Whether they all do join the operating BT fleet in the future, for now be glad they are back at Rigby Road, much safer than where they were and much more likely to be in fit condition when/if BTS (or anyone else) want to return them to operation in the future.

  3. Bruce OLIVER says:

    252 (715) was the very first car I ever saw – and photographed – when visiting Fleetwood in 1963. I’ve visited Blackpool annually since 1998, Bryan Lindop generously providing a tour of Rigby Road in 2004. On my last visit prior to the arrival of the new generation of cars, significantly, the very last tram I saw/photographed (in normal service at North Pier) in July 2011 was 715 (252) – an astonishingly poignant coincidence. I hope very much the many trams now exiled – most inappropriately and insensitively – will be welcomed back where they belong, each individual tram perhaps benefiting from some form of group custodianship and/or sponsorship. Visiting last July – while the new vehicles are undoubtedly splendid, the promenade magnificent – Blackpool sea front is now denied its unique character, the invaluable, timeless image of a first generation tramway, offering the very greatest seaside experience anywhere to be found. May the powers that be hasten to restore Blackpool’s magnificent legacy as a necessary, indispensable regular feature, weather conditions permitting. Blackpool always was – and should remain – without equal. At present, one might be travelling in Nottingham or Croydon, not that there is anything wrong with either of these schemes – except they are not Blackpool. Difficult for me, living here on the south coast, to become directly involved but my archive of between 500 and 600 colour images does at least manage to provide a measure of comfort.