Bye bye to Brush car 298

On Friday 11th July, Blackpool Brush Railcoach 298 left the National Tramway Museum at Crich, and was transported to the museum store at Clay Cross. Earlier in the week, preparations for the move were made with 298 being moved to the front of the depot, and a protective sheet being placed over the tram. This was presumably to protect it as the sliding roof panels are incomplete, meaning that the car is not fully watertight.

As usual the move was handled expertly by Scott’s Heavy Haulage and by the Friday afternoon, 298 was safely tucked up inside its new home, where it joins fellow ex-Blackpool cars OMO 5 and Dreadnought 59 in storage away from the public gaze. The tram duly becomes the first to be moved to Clay Cross since December 2005 when three cars - Sheffield 46, Leeds 600 and Glasgow 1100 – all made the short road journey to free up depot space at Crich for a number of new arrivals, which, ironically, included car 298! For the last two and a half years, the car has been joined by sister car 630 allowing the immaculate modernised tram to be compared with its less than pristine stablemate.

The departure of Blackpool 298 has, like most recent decisions made by the Tramway Museum Society, been somewhat controversial. Although it will be in secure undercover storage, it is feared that this move will quash any likelihood of the aborted restoration work being completed in the short term. Whilst the justification being given to prioritise the construction of a replica Manchester Standard car is that a significant sum of money is already allocated to the project, a six-figure sum is also held in a restricted fund to complete the restoration of 298 to running order, yet seemingly there are no immediate plans to progress with this work. It remains to be seen how long 298‘s stay at Clay Cross will be, or indeed whether it will be Crich or Blackpool who achieve the restoration of a Brush car to its original ‘art-deco’ condition first.

Although the rumour mill has gone into overdrive regarding the reasoning behind 298‘s departure, the official word from the TMS is that it has been moved off-site to create space for the temporary return of Blackpool & Fleetwood ‘Box’ car 40, which is expected to arrive at Crich later this month, as well as Blackpool 167 when its current loan period with Blackpool Transport concludes at the end of the summer. However, these developments and more should ensure that Crich can enjoy some more positive publicity later in the year which will hopefully go some way towards compensating for any disappointment felt regarding the Brush car.

An unusual view of a tram leaving Crich through the main entrance/exit route onto the adjacent road. Here, Blackpool 298 is shown leaving the museum following almost a decade of storage in the depots.

Brush car 298 arrives at Clay Cross by low loader, with the tarpaulin used to protect the partially restored ceiling panels and interior clearly visible. (Photos x 2 by Andy Bailey)

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11 Responses to Bye bye to Brush car 298

  1. Franklyn says:

    Looks like another very politically motivated decision from those at Crich. A great deal of work has already been done on 298 by a dedicated off-site team over many years. But just because it’s not a Crich restoration it doesn’t seem to count. Incidentally, one of the main supporters of 298 also had other favourite vehicles, including Leeds 600 and 602, which you’ll remember was also offered a cash sum for it’s restoration, which was snubbed, not so long ago.

  2. Andrew says:

    Always find it strange that the underframe on 298 is considered so poor. The tram was withdrawn in 1974 after completing only 37 years of service, requiring an overhaul. The rest of the class continued in service for decades and it was not until the early 1990s (almost 20 years after 298 last ran) that underframe problems began to surface. The majority of examples continued in use until 2004 and some until 2010 without receiving any underframe attention at all.

    Thus I wonder how 298s underframe has gotten into such a poor condition. Was it like that in 1974 and, if so, why did this particular example suffer when its sisters did not experience underframe problems for 20 more years of intensive use? Is it due to the areas where it has been stored since leaving Blackpool or is it, in fact, not in such a dire condition as reported. Perhaps the well known Crich demand for everything to be in an almost unrealistically perfect condition has been 298s downfall and other places would have seen the underframe in a more realistic light?

    • Phill says:

      Having seen bits of it whilst shifting it, there is severe wasting round the centre section. Didn’t get a close look but it certainly didn’t contradict it being ropey. I believe a journal article is forthcoming. There are a number of other faults too, I can’t remember the full details off hand. EE sunroofs and lack of air piping being a couple of them.

      I’ve no idea why it’s so bad, maybe the fabled Crich politics that stops everything happening is so corrosive it can go back in time and attack steel? I have a lot of sympathy for some of those who put in a lot of time, effort and money to this tram. However, blaming the current regime for it is unfair and doesn’t really get us anywhere.

      BTW the 298 fund is still open, I know a few in the workshop are making monthly donations in the hope that it will get done.

      • Christopher Callan says:

        Ignoring the fact they were offered a under frame in the past and shockingly turned that very generous offer down citing lack of manpower and lack of space it just seems incredibly that that one trams under frame has deteriorated so much faster than its sisters.

        • Ken Walker says:

          Perhaps this is what happens when you conserve instead of restoring?

          • Phill says:

            Yep, 298 has definately been conserved. We’re conserving everything up in the quarry, even the volunteers. Hence the new Lenin style mausoleum for Winstan Bond at Glory Mine. That is absolutely happening.

      • Christopher Callan says:

        Whilst its great for 298 people still able to donate to it several factors mean that currently difficult to imagine it ever been achieved.

        a) Until the appeal is actually promoted will never attract level of money required
        b) To date despite various pleas no estimate in terms of how much Crich believe they require is easily accessible and in the public domain.
        c) The fact it is now out of sight means for the vast majority its sadly out of mind. Seeing trams in a unfurnished state is what often acts as the catalyst to bring in donations. For example seeing OMO 8 on static display in August was what made me give £120 to 8 for 8 Appeal to date.

        • Phill says:

          I believe a good estimate should be forthcoming, if I remember right that was one reason for dragging it in the workshop last year. As has been said before, the main reason for putting a tram in Clay Cross was to make room-especially since there’ll now be 3 extra trams to house for a while, after which space will be needed to store a dismembered LCC 1. 298 happens to be easily transportable (i.e. single deck, and short enough to get round the corner to CC), similar length to box 40 and the worst looking of the collection. Since 902 and G&I 14 are both too long and better cosmetically,what would you have sent?

  3. Paul D says:

    This seems to have become yet another case of a lack of official information from Crich leading to rumour and hearsay, and conflicting accounts from individual supporters…

    What I and I’m sure many others would like is simple, straight, un-spun, answers either in an official statement or from a trusted individual (e.g. a senior member of the workshop team) to three key questions:

    1. If we accept that the underframe is not fit for use in it’s current state; what was the main factor that caused such severe deterioration, compared to sisters that operated for over twenty more years in Blackpool’s harsh environment without suffering to the same extent?

    2. If the state of the underframe was known several years ago, why was the offer of a replacement declined?

    3. What is the current estimate of the full cost to complete the restoration and how much is currently in the Fund?

    Simple open communication of the facts could so easily clear up the issue and would almost certainly encourage increased support and contributions to the fund. Continued silence from official sources will only reinforce the feeling that there is an ulterior motive…

  4. JOHN BRADLEY says:

    I think that one reason why 298 underframe is in such bad shape is that this tram might have been very unlucky in not being in any rear end collisions, most of the brush cars have been in rear end collisions and at that time any bad frame work found would have been attended to. but not a new frame made as the transport department in those days only patched up frame work. i liked driving this tram it was kind of in a untouched condition and that was another reason why it was side lined into blundell st depot to await body upgrading which never happened, double deckers always came first for bodyshop attention, well in those days of every high capacity tram on the road.