A new player in the British transport preservation movement has stepped in at a crucial time to save some of Blackpool’s unwanted tram fleet. The North Eastern Electrical Traction Trust, who are based in the Sunderland area, have already acquired one Blackpool tram, Balloon 721, which left Rigby Road in March and is now stored at a top secret location. Now it is set to be joined by further Blackpool trams, as the Trust have announced that they have now bought Centenary car 647 and Twin Set 674+684 to join their growing collection.
The North Eastern Electrical Traction Trust, or NEETT for short, have become the first preservation group to actually own a complete Twin set. 674+684 had previously been reserved for sale to a group of tram enthusiasts and at one time looked set to move to a preserved railway for storage, but the deal fell through and the tram was eventually re-sold. It is one of five Twin cars to have been painted in a Metro Coastlines livery, with dark purple being the chosen colour for this duo, but despite this the set have not run since 2008. Since then the set have hardly ever been seen, and are currently tucked away at the back of the old tram depot with a few minor defects, although this will be fairly easy to rectify and should not prevent it from running again if required to do so in the future.
The preservation of Centenary car 647 is even more significant, as this is generally considered to mark the end of the line in the development of traditional tramcars in the British Isles. 647 was the last traditional standard gaugue passenger tram built in the UK, ahead of the light rail era which has seen modern systems look overseas to purchase rolling stock. The car was withdrawn after the end of the 2011 illuminations and despite its great historic importance, no credible bid to preserve this car had been made until NEETT stepped in to ensure that it will survive as an important stage in our nation’s transport history.
Although the name NEETT may be a new one to most people, the group already owned a small number of vehicles before 721 left Blackpool. The collection includes Graz 210 and Budapest twin set 2576+2577, which came from the short-lived ‘Transperience’ attraction in West Yorkshire. The group have ambitious plans to display its vehicles in the North East, and ultimately to construct an operating tramway on which to run its fleet of trams. This could potentially create the remarkable sight of contrasting trailer sets from Blackpool and Budapest running together at some point in the future!
NEETT deserve to be congratulated on securing such interesting trams for its collection, especially so long after most of the redundant Blackpool cars were sold, and in particular for acquiring two types of tram that have been neglected by the more established societies. Hopefully this new organistaion will continue to make positive steps forward, as with the positive forward-thinking it has shown so far, NEETT could well become one of the main players amongst UK transport musuems.