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.