Blackpool’s heritage tram fleet are currently confined to the Rigby Road depot due to essential roadworks taking place in the Manchester Square area, meaning that none of these trams are presently able to escape onto the main line. However, two very different cars have been occupying the workshop staff recently, both of which are particularly unique.
The most surprising visitor to the workshops has been Engineering car 754 which has recently been treated to a total repaint – its first since it was built just over twenty years ago! The tram has been repainted in plain yellow, but using a noticeably lighter shade than before. 754 retains its large and very distinctive ‘ENGINEERING’ wording above the driver’s windscreens at each end, and has also finally shed the posters applied as part of a tramway safety awareness campaign as long ago as 1993, having been the last tram to retain these.
Meanwhile the Western Train 733+734 has been residing in the Electrical Compound for a number of weeks. This tram has suffered from increasingly regular dewirements in the recent past, culminating in a particularly severe incident which cut short its 2013 operating season. As a result of this, it is expected that the Train will be sporting a pantograph in place of the traditional trolley arm when it next operates, with a single-arm pantograph (as used on the Flexity2 trams) likely to be fitted. A diamond pantograph would require the addition of a tower which would undoubtedly spoil the appearance of the most stunning tram in the fleet. It may be remembered that, when 733 was rebuilt with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, provision was made for the future fitting of a pantograph current collector to assist with the practical use of the tram on the upgraded system.
Early next year, work is expected to commence on Fleetwood ‘Box’ 40 which will receive some body work whilst its bogies are worked on at Crich, subject to final agreement being reached with regard to funding of the project. This is likely to be the main winter workshop project for 2013/14. Whilst there are many trams which are certainly deserving of attention in the near future, we must be mindful however that the heritage operation has a limited budget, much of which has been spent on returning various trams to Rigby Road for future restoration. Therefore, it is hoped that enthusiasts will understand if certain cars have to wait longer than hoped for their return to glory, as obviously the most important thing is that the likes of OMO 8, Standard 143, Coronation 663 and Balloon 715 are now back home and in secure storage.