On Friday 10th January, Blackpool’s famous illuminated Western Train 733+734 got the year off to a grand start for the heritage tram fleet, when it was used for a daytime private hire. More importantly though, this was the first outing for the duo since 733 had been fitted with a pantograph, giving those lucky enough to see it during this unexpected winter outing the chance to see its new look.
The Train itself has now been fitted with a diamond pantograph, despite your writer having confidently predicted that it would be getting a single-arm pantograph, as per the Flexity2 trams! To accomodate this, a small tower has been fitted on top of the engine’s ‘cab’ area. Unfortunately this has had a somewhat negative impact on the appearance of the locomotive as it looks somewhat out of place, although in darkness when the tram is fully illuminated the pantograph tower should be a lot less noticeable. It must also be remembered that the most important fact is that 733+734 will remain available for regular use, something which was in grave doubt not so long ago, before the Heritage Lottery Fund agreed to finance its restoration. Indeed, in May five years will have passed since its return to service – doesn’t time fly!?
As a compromise to the latest modification, the Train has also retained its trolley arm which will normally be fastened down. It is understood that this will only be used for special occasions, but at least this will enable it to retain a more traditional appearance at key events. However, due to the positioning of the mini-tower it seems unlikely that it will be possible for the trolley to be turned, meaning that it can presumably only be used when the trams are facing forwards.
With the Western Train running to Little Bispham on hire, and the newly repainted Engineering car 754 recently being moved from Rigby Road to Starr Gate depot, it is assumed that the roadworks near Manchester Square are probably now complete, and that the heritage trams are now free to escape when they are required. Realistically though, unless any more private hires, test runs, or crew training occur, further outings before Easter are highly unlikely.