One of the most anticipated tram loans of recent years kicked off late on Monday 28th April, when Blackpool Pantograph car 167 touched down on Blackpool tracks for its fourth visit back home since entering preservation. This stunning tram has enjoyed a highly successful stint of operation at Beamish Museum since late January, but has now returned to the seaside for a further loan period which is set to last until September.
167 has been extremely popular at Beamish over the last three months, enjoying extensive use at the excellent ‘Blackpool at Beamish’ weekend in early March, and then being one of the star attractions for the Great North Festival of Transport more recently. Its last day of service in the North East occurred on Easter Monday, after which time the car was prepared for its next adventure with assistance from Crich workshop personnel, with the removal of its trolley arm and lifeguards. The car was due to depart on the morning of 28th April, but due to unforeseen issues with the low loader used to move the tram, it did not finally set off from Beamish until around 5:00pm. Nonetheless, the car arrived safely at Rigby Road after darkness had fallen, and the highly professional staff from Scott’s Heavy Haulage immediately began the process of unloading their precious cargo. Despite the lack of daylight, 167 was shunted inside the depot by 10:00pm, ready to begin the latest chapter of its long and eventful history.
Following commissioning and crew familiarisation, 167 is expected to make its passenger debut on the heritage tours at Blackpool over the late May Bank Holiday weekend, 24th – 26th May. The tram should see further use over the summer season before returning to Crich in time for their own major enthusiasts event in September, which will give it the rare coup of operating on three different systems within a single calendar year. Following a high profile failure during its last visit back home in 2010 which caused it to miss most of the tramway’s 125th anniversary events, it is sincerely hoped that this visit – recently hailed by Blackpool Transport’s own Bryan Lindop as taking care of ‘unfinished business’ – will be a lot more successful, and hopefully the presence of 167 in town will help to encourage more people to support the heritage tours this year. This is also of course the first visiting tramcar on the upgraded system, and hopefully this could well pave the way for more exciting tram loans in the years to come!
One final point worth noting is that 167‘s destination blind was set to ‘North Station Blackpool’ when it arrived back home, just a few hours after Councillors had given the green light to extend the tramway to this location via Talbot Road. Coincidence or deliberate? Perhaps 167 has been the lucky mascot that supporters of the extension needed!