Blackpool and Crich announce tram swap for 2014

Following a considerable amount of speculation, it has been announced that Blackpool Transport and the Tramway Museum Society have successfully concluded negotiations for an exchange of trams during the 2014 summer season. Blackpool ‘Pantograph’ car 167 of 1928 is set to revisit its native system for a visit, whilst Crich will play host to an operational Balloon car – and very surprisingly, the chosen vehicle is heavily modernised car 711!

Looking at 167 first, and this tram is currently on loan to Beamish where it is due to remain until the end of April. It will then move to Blackpool for what will be its fourth return visit, and is due to enter service there on 25th May as part of that weekend’s heritage tramcar output. The beautiful 167 is set to be the star attraction of the heritage tram operating days at Blackpool in May and August, and is also a likely candidate to appear at both the Totally Transport and Fleetwood ‘Tram Sunday’ events. This tram’s last visit to the Fylde coast was marred by a bearing fault which resulted in it being withdrawn after carrying passengers on just one day, whilst the upgrade works progressing at that time meant that it could not operate north of Bispham. This time however, 167 will be far less restricted and the prospect of riding this magnificent tram to Fleetwood this year is a mouthwatering one indeed!

In return, Balloon 711 will be moving to Crich in May and is expected to stay there for a two-year loan, although with serious doubts regarding the future use of the modified double-deckers in Blackpool, it has been suggested that this may be extended indefinitely. 711 was one of nine Balloon cars to be modernised with widened centre platforms and driver-operated plug doors as part of the tramway upgrade bid, funded by local and central Government, but since being converted the trams have not found a clear role on the tramway. Indeed, 711 was the last to be converted and since being rebuilt and repainted in the new purple and white fleet livery, the number of times it has run in service can be counted on one hand. Bearing this in mind, moving 711 to a museum should actually see a considerable increase in its use! With its modern appearance and pre-recorded messages to signal the opening and closing of its doors, the tram should certainly cause heads to turn in its new home. It is understood that clearance tests have already taken place involving Blackpool ‘Boat’ 236 fitted with some enhancements to replicate the width of the Balloon car, and this should silence a few doubters who had questioned whether 711 would be able to run at Crich. It has also been confirmed that 711 will be used for ‘Ultimate Driving Experience’ courses, offering members of the public the rare chance to drive a Balloon car!

711 will of course not be the first Balloon to operate at Crich; although sister car 249/712 is confined to the Exhibition Hall, 710 did visit the museum in the mid-1980s. This was also part of a swap deal, when several cars from the national collection travelled to Blackpool for the legendary tramway centenary celebrations. Perhaps if Crich should ever decide to acquire another Blackpool tram, they will look at the fleet numbers and take either 709 or 713! On a more serious note, the visit of such a modern-looking tram may not be well received in some quarters, as the use of 630 and 762 at Crich has already come in for some criticism. It also remains to be seen what visitors to the attraction will make of such a heavily modified tramcar, although for enthusiasts, riding on the car in Derbyshire will be a huge novelty!

Both BTS and TMS are to be applauded on this imaginative arrangement, which will create some truly memorable tram riding and photographic opportunities in 2014, which is really shaping up to be a classic year for the heritage tram sector in the UK. Following the initial disappointment regarding the loss of several operating days for Blackpool’s heritage fleet, the visit of 167 will hopefully go a long way towards compensating for this, and should encourage plenty of enthusiasts to descend on Blackpool to enjoy this tram in its natural habitat.

Soon to return to Blackpool's promenade and the streets of Fleetwood, Blackpool 167 reposes on the depot track fan at Crich. (Photo by Tony Waddington)

As hard to believe as it may seem, this tram will be operating at Crich this year! Balloon 711 in service at Blackpool during May 2013. (Photo by Andrew Waddington)

This entry was posted in Blackpool Tramway, Crich Tramway Village. Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to Blackpool and Crich announce tram swap for 2014

  1. Tommy Carr says:

    I think it’s great to see 711 at crich. It represents what is common in other countries: converting old cars. And seen as crich can’t operate a second generation tram at the moment, 711 will be the closest to that.

  2. Ash Tomlinson says:

    This certainly is a surprise! Personally if I was to choose a B fleet Balloon to run at Crich, I would have chosen car 700 as it the most traditional looking of the B fleet and retains many traditional features like swing over seats upstairs, twin destination blinds and roof windows. I wonder what will be the next tram go on loan to a different tramway? A flexity on loan to a heritage tramway? lol!

    • Ash Tomlinson says:

      I’m only having a laugh everyone. Don’t take it serious.

      • Ken Walker says:

        You’ll probably find one there in about 70 years time Ash. Come to think of it these new trams probably won’t last anywhere near as long as the 1930s trams so you might see one there a bit (lot) sooner!

  3. Daniel says:

    How long is 167 going to be in Blackpool?

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Believed to be staying until September, presumably so that it can participate in the ‘Electric 50′ event at Crich. I don’t think this has been officially confirmed anywhere though, so may well be subject to change?

  4. Joe says:

    Just a thought but maybe in future it might be possible to arrange a temporary swap with Crich involving jubilee 762 and one of the coronation cars

  5. Colin says:

    Re modern trams at Crich in years to come, Nottingham 201 has quietly been earmarked for the museum.

    • Paul says:

      Understandable that a Nottingham car would be preferred to other LRVs e.g. Metrolink T68;

      Locally operated,
      British assembled,
      Low floor so no platforms required
      Narrower (2.4m) and capable of negotiating a tighter radius curve so more likely to be able to operate on the line and access existing buildings…

    • Daniel says:

      Where did you hear this?

      • Colin says:

        Heard it from a senior Crich person, Daniel. It’s been online now for four days and no denial yet from the TMS management.

        • Daniel says:

          That’s pretty cool. I can’t see how it could operate there though given the different power lines.

          • Mary says:

            Crich’s overhead is set up to accept Pantographs, Trolly poles and Bows. So long as the current form is correct i.e. DC not AC, it doesn’t matter that Crich run on a lower voltage, the Nottingham car will just run a bit slower than it is capable of on its home system.

          • Colin says:

            There was never any confirmation that Nottm. 201 would run at Crich. Many tram enthusiasts seem to have an obsession with nothing more than putting every vehicle into operation. Remember, it’s the Tramway Museum Society. The word ‘Museum’ was put there for a reason. Ok, run trams by all means, giving visitors that important first-hand experience, but that should not be the overriding aim of the place. One sometimes gets the impression that many TMS members would be happy to do nothing else, and maybe even ban the public, whom they might regard as a hindrance to their hobby. The Museum/Crich Tramway Village was of course created by the hard work and dedication of tram enthusiasts, but many TMS members need to take a much wider view of the purpose of Crich.

          • Alan says:

            I agree with Colin. Too much emphasis is placed on the ‘need’ to operate trams at Crich at the expense of other factors which an accredited museum should be taking into account. Take the case of LCC1, where the decision has been made to restore it to operational condition, rather than take measures to conserve the vehicle [in a non-operational state] and thus retain its historically significant features within the vehicle itself. In the context of a museum’s ethics, there’s an argument to regard this latest TMS ‘let’s get it running again’ ethos as cultural vandalism.

          • Andrew Waddington says:

            There is also the argument that LCC 1 is falling apart, and that not doing fairly major structural work on it in the near future would probably result in it disintegrating. Personally I am very much in favour of restoring it, after all, a tram was designed to run wasn’t it?

          • Alan says:

            I accept, although not being in possession of the actual evidence myself, Andrew’s comment that LCC1 probably needed remedial work, but this does not automatically assume operation over conservation. Yes, trams were, after all, originally designed to run, but again, this does not necessarily mean they should all be running today. The other factors that a museum (rather than purely a visitor attraction) must address do not always seem to come into focus at Crich. I understand that the officer with responsibility for the tramcar collection at the time argued strongly for conservation rather than operation of LCC1, in order to retain the vehicle’s historic integrity, but was apparently overruled by the TMS Board, which favoured the operation stance argued by the Workshop.

          • Alan says:

            I read your comments, Nathan. So the NTM basically exists for the purpose of having as many trams as possible in operational condition. Consequently, no need for the Library/Archive, for example. Suggest you re-read the comments regarding a museum’s purpose. Crich, by becoming a museum, signed up to museum practices and ethics. Find out about things like collections policy, for example – not everything can and should be collected. There’s more to this museum lark than grabbing and operating everything, and more to a tramway museum (remember the name – Tramway Museum Society) than tramcars. I can’t see where I made the ‘silly’ suggestion of leaving LCC1 in the Exhibition Hall ‘to rot’. Conserve it and continue to display it in the Exhibition Hall in context (museums do that ‘silly’ sort of thing).

          • Alan says:

            Can’t really say any more re a tramway museum frame of mind compared with purely tramcar enthusiast attitudes, so will have to leave it there. Nathan and Andrew seem firmly in the latter camp. By Andrew’s logic, ‘stuffing and mounting’ (does this person have no insight into the spectrum of museum practice?) is ‘ridiculous’, so his solution for 602, a vehicle he says is ‘either disliked by the management or suffering from serious weaknesses’ must therefore only be disposal. Better let the Curator know as soon as possible – it’s taking up valuable depot space! Good luck, all of you, with your tramcar hobby.

        • Colin says:

          This thread seems to have moved to the controversial subject of [tramcar] conservation versus restoration. Would it be a good idea to invite Crich’s Curator to offer her views on how the museum is maintaining the required ethics in this respect?

          • Nathan H says:

            Cultural vandalism? What?
            In my opinion, Crich DOES have a responsibility to have as many trams as possible in operational condition, because that is basically what the NTM is for. By all means, keep one or two vehicles in the exhibition hall to be “conserved”, but the majority of vehicles in the collection should be up and running. Thankfully, Crich seem to have realised this and are commissioning Oporto 173 for service this season. Let’s hope it is followed by “Rack” 2, Johannesburg 68, Southampton 45 and Leeds 602, all trams which were withdrawn fairly recently and for no apparent reason. As for LCC 1, I admire the NTM for taking on such a massive project, and I look forward to riding on it once it’s restoration is completed. To suggest that leaving it in the exhibition hall to rot is the superior option is just silly.

          • Andrew says:

            There were reasons why these trams were sidelined. 45 leaks, Rack 2 needs retyring and 60 was ‘making a funny noise’. 602 is a controversial one and its either disliked by the management or suffering from serious weaknesses depending on who you listen to. As for stuffing and mounting a tram due to conserving it – ridiculous! No trams have anything of their original material left, they were all poked about with by their original operators to keep them running. Crich need to do likewise and, thankfully, it seems they might be starting to do just that.

          • roger woodhead says:

            Perhaps people should look to the NRM for guidance. They have loco’s and coaches that will never run again for a number of reasons some due to serious faults. These artifacts are kept in visually excellent condition but you do not see lots of complaints about this. So why should the TMS be criticised for having a similar policy?

  6. Tramfan says:

    Will it be another access tram?

  7. Freel07 says:

    Back to the mention of Nottingham 201. Sounds like the museum will be having a long wait before they get a second generation UK tram. By the way I have no personal views on the matter of where such a tram should come from.

  8. Nathan H says:

    Recently there has a been a problem of falling visitor numbers to Crich. Do you think having the trams static, in a big hall, “conserved”, will draw the public in? Crich is not just a retirement home for old trams to go to until the end of their days, it is a museum that aims to recreate the atmosphere of a traditional British street tramway, which they do quite well. The balance between telling the story of tramways, and showing the story of tramways, i.e. operating them, is excellent and I hope it stays that way. Yes, many components in LCC 1 may be original, but it hasn’t had a major overhaul for 50, maybe even 60 or 70 years and those components are inevitably starting to fall apart. Without major work the tram could become so fragile it cannot even be moved. Indeed, if Crich had taken Andrew’s approach and left it there for another 70 years, it may have failed completely and collapsed, destroying an important part of tramway history and even potentially injuring visitors. If you don’t believe me that conservation is bad for trams, go and look at Hull 132 in that city’s transport museum. It too, has been sat in that same spot for more than 30 years, and it has cracks in the woodwork you could put your little finger through. The museum hasn’t got the facilities to restore it, and even if they could get it on a low loader, it probably would not survive the journey to Crich.

    • Paul says:

      The issues with Hull 132 are because it last had any significant structural work done in 1945 on arrival in Leeds! The work done in the 1980s at Cottingham Road Works was largely cosmetic…

      I suspect LCC 1 (Leeds 301) is a similar story of not having any structural work done in preservation only a cosmetic repaint, so if you really want to “conserve” it in its current condition, to be historically accurate it ought to be in Leeds livery not London…

  9. Ken Walker says:

    How does a ‘let’s get it running again’ ethos amount to cultural, or any other form of vandalism? Did these trams not run during their working lives? Did they just sit in the depot from day 1, awaiting the day when they would be withdrawn?
    Restoring trams to working condition is just a continuation of what happened to them in their working lives, and no doubt most if not all of them benefited from modifications and improvements during those lives. As has already been said, very little of the original equipment remains on the trams.

    • Colin says:

      As I read it, Alan’s ‘cultural vandalism’ related to the issue of LCC1. There was apparently a difference of opinion within sections of the TMS/Crich management over whether this significant vehicle should be conserved, thus retaining its historic integrity, and re-displayed accordingly, or restored to operating condition, which would entail permanently extracting important historical material. The appointed officer responsible [to the Board, members, and the museum world] for the tramcar collection, after detailed examination and ethical consideration of the matter, urged conservation of this National Collection vehicle. The Workshop report, after also examining the vehicle, favoured restoration and operation. Hence the argument in this particular case that destroying the integrity could be regarded as cultural vandalism. Each case has to be examined carefully and as objectively as possible on its own merits. Crich seems to favour operation over all other factors, as far as I can see.

      These conservation/restoration decisions are encountered throughout the museum world (and remember, Crich is a national museum with all the associated responsibilities). I recall several years ago that there was pressure from the railway enthusiast community to restore to working order one of the steam locos in the Glasgow Transport Museum, but it was successfully resisted by the Curator on the grounds that its paint job was one of the last surviving examples from a particular railway work’s paintshop, and so retention was historically important. One has to accept that these things can and should matter. An obsession by some enthusiasts with simply restoring and running as many trams as possible seems to be nothing more than tramcar porn.

      • Martin says:

        I don’t think this discussion can go much further. It seems to me that many tram enthusiasts join the TMS because they enjoy riding on/operating trams, but maybe don’t fully understand Crich’s museum obligations. At the same time, presumably there are people there who have the responsibility of maintaining the place’s museum status, which seems to me, after a bit of online research, rather demanding in its professional requirements. Consequently, it must be a fine balance between the two. From many of the online comments on this thread, it appears that the ‘operating enthusiast’ has the upper hand. What would be tragic is a situation where the ‘museum wing’ goes under through the pressure of the ‘operating enthusiast’ and Crich consequently loses its museum status. I hope the incoming General Manager, a museum professional, is able to balance the two. Any overwhelming pressure from either wing could be disastrous.

  10. Nigel Pennick says:

    With buildings like cathedrals, new stonework is made to replace old stone that has rotted away, and stained glass is re-leaded and sometimes new glass replaces old disintegrated glass. The principle is of keeping everything that is sound and only replacing that which has disintegrated. With vehicles it has always been the principle to replace everything worn out and repaint, as with vintage cars. However, when the original is rotted but famous, like Stonehenge Stephenson’s Rocket, then it is left in a ruinous condition for ‘posterity’. However, this means conserving the ruin and not letting it disintegrate further. The attempt to restore the hull of the Cutty Sark sailing clipper led to a fire that destroyed most of the ship, and it had to be rebuilt as a replica. Thus the real goes and the replica takes over until nothing is left of the original.

  11. David Mee says:

    Lot of interesting discussion on this thread, but not much to do with the actual story!

    Does this development mark the end of any potential for the modified balloons to have any sort of regular operating future in Blackpool? If so then a number of questions need to be answered:

    They have become the Blackpool equivalent of the Eurostar ‘Night Star’ stock which was created at great cost and then sold off for a pittance when their percieved use was questioned. A great deal of local government money was spent on the Balloon conversions with, in the case of 700 particularly, historically important vehicles sacrificed to the cause. Can Blackpool Transport now confirm that there is no plan for the regular introduction to service of these vehicles?

    One of the justifications for the ‘new’ tramway was to solve the often chronic problem of overcrowding on the system and yet this is still a problem at peaks, with trams still running full past tram stops, the ultimate cause of frustration to potential travellers. Will the new tramway ever reach the proposed frequency of service for the new vehicles? The timetabled service on certain days is still very poor.

    Personally, I would still like to see the modified balloons on a timetabled service at weekends and weekdays during holiday periods running from Pleasure Beach to Bispham. They would provide further capacity and fulfil the role of something the tourist would actually expect to see on the Blackpool seafront.

  12. Paul says:

    With hindsight, it is difficult to justify their conversion…

    Reliability of the Flexities has far exceeded everyone’s expectations so the B fleet have never been needed as cover for the core service, and understandably when extras have been deployed at busy times spare Flexities have been preferred. I don’t think there has ever been a time when every available Flexity was in use i.e. they have run out of available staff before available trams.

    With the increase in output on the core Fleetwood service, the Flexities have infact been able to cope with demand at all but the busiest times so there is no justification for an all day intermediate service, and with tighter limits on drivers hours is not so easy to use drivers on overtime to run extra trams for just the 2 or 3 hour period they would be useful.

    As for your suggestion of them running a weekend and holidays tourist service, that’s exactly what was done with the heritage cars in 2012 and we all know how woefully that was supported. If the likes of the boats and 147 can’t attract people what chance have 709 and 718 got?

  13. Frank Gradwell says:

    As a national museum I have never understood why the only Boeing LRV within 5,000 miles has never been of any interest to Crich or any other museum.

    They may have been problematic beasties, but they were a landmark being the next step after the PCC cars so when two were literally dropped nearby the hint was never taken.

    One set still exists just down the road from Crich – will it be taken up??