The Blackpool Heritage Trust – what does it mean?

The formation of the Blackpool Heritage Trust to help secure the long-term future of a heritage tram fleet in Blackpool, has been greeted with much celebration from the vast majority of enthusiasts. However, the creation of the new Trust has also raised several questions, both here on British Trams Online and elsewhere. Rather than keep answering the same things over and over again, Andrew Waddington attempts to address the key points in this special extended article.

What is the Blackpool Heritage Trust? – The new Trust has been created to look after the collection of historic tramcars amassed by Blackpool Transport following the Blackpool tramway’s upgrade to light rail standards. This organisation will own the heritage fleet and take responsibility for their permanent preservation in their home town.

Which trams do they own? – The Blackpool Heritage Trust are now the proud custodians of the entire heritage fleet in Blackpool (as listed here – – under the heading of ‘C Fleet’), with the exception of Fleetwood Box 40, Bolton 66 and Jubilee car 761, all of which are on loan from their respective owners. The Trust is not responsible for the new Flexity2 trams or the modified ‘B Fleet’ Balloon cars.

Is the Blackpool Heritage Trust a charity? – Not yet, but it is expected that one of the next developments will be to seek registered charitable status. This will enable the Trust to take advantage of Gift Aid on any donations it receives, and will also make it easier for them to access funding from external organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Why do we need a charity to do this, can’t Blackpool Transport look after the old trams? – It is important to realise that the work that has been done to create a museum fleet of historic trams in Blackpool has largely been done by Blackpool Transport’s Bryan Lindop, with the support of former Managing Director Trevor Roberts and other managers. This is fine in the short term, but what happens when Bryan Lindop retires? What if a new manager decided they didn’t want to keep the heritage trams? Establishing the new Trust should ensure that these trams will be safe in Blackpool regardless of factors such as these. It is also intended that the Trust will ultimately supply the financial backing required to maintain and restore the heritage trams in its care, meaning that they would not be directly affected by any budget cuts or drop in profit margins concerning Blackpool Transport or the Council.

What role will Blackpool Transport play with the heritage trams? – BTS will remain the operator of the heritage fleet which will effectively be loaned to the company, much the same as Bolton 66 and Box car 40 have been in the past. Presumably the company will also continue to provide the staff to run and maintain the trams, although the possible use of volunteers at some point in the future is not completely impossible.

Is there going to be a Blackpool tram museum? – One of the ultimate goals of the Trust is to create a new visitor attraction in Blackpool where the heritage trams can be seen and admired by the public when they are not running. Naturally this will be a massive project and could be a long-term ambition, but the intention is certainly there and hopefully it will become a reality before too long. No definite plans have been revealed as to where such a museum would be located as yet and the Trustees will presumably consider the available options before announcing any firm plans.

Will the heritage trams run more often and will their use be more flexible now? – It is far too early to say as the Trust has only just been formed. Hopefully it will be possible to run the heritage fleet more frequently in the future, but funding and staffing of this would need to be addressed first. Let’s not forget the disaster that was the more regular heritage service that operated in 2012 and made a substantial loss!

Will the heritage fleet continue to expand? – This is difficult to answer. With most of the Lancastrian Transport Trust’s preserved trams now back in the fleet, the collection was generally thought to be complete. Certainly most of the preserved Blackpool trams that could be viewed as being at risk would only duplicate what has already been saved, and the priority is to collect a good representative selection of trams rather than to grab everything that exists! Any more trams which become available will probably be judged on their individual merits. It would be nice to expand the fleet as there is not much at present to represent the pre-streamliner era, but most surviving trams of such vintage are safely housed elsewhere. One option could be to borrow other Blackpool trams to fill gaps in the collection, albeit temporarily, as has already happened this year with Pantograph car 167 visiting from the National Tramway Museum.

Will this new Trust affect other tramway preservation groups? – Almost certainly. We now have a new organisation that will naturally be seeking financial support to further its aims in creating a new museum attraction and restoring more trams to operational condition, with no shortage of potential candidates waiting in the wings. Fans of the classic Blackpool trams may well choose to support the trams in their native town rather than those that have been preserved elsewhere, but only time will tell. Ultimately each museum tramway must assess what they can offer that nobody else can, and capitalise on this. The tramways at Beamish and Heaton Park are both part of something greater and should probably be safe, whilst the East Anglia Transport Museum provides a more complete transport museum with trolleybuses, buses, steam vehicles and much more. The national collection at Crich remains unrivalled in terms of the size and variety of its tramcar collection and it is up to those in control to make sure that it has a secure future.

How can I support the new Trust? – For now, the best way to support the Trust is simply to buy a heritage tour pass and ride on the heritage trams when they run! Hopefully other ways to support the Trust and its projects will be offered to interested enthusiasts in the future, but nothing is known yet about what form this could take. Presumably individuals and organisations such as the Fylde Tramway Society will continue to support various projects such as the repainting of trams, and anyone wishing to support a particular vehicle or contribute financially towards the operation of heritage tours is encouraged to contact Bryan Lindop at Blackpool Transport.

Hopefully this article has gone some way to answering some of the questions that have arisen following the Trust’s launch. Inevitably some questions will remain unanswered for now, probably because the Trustees haven’t decided exactly how to deal with some matters themselves yet! However, anyone who loves the traditional Blackpool tram fleet is urged to support this new venture and we should all be extremely grateful that so much effort has been made to create such an organisation, and that so many heritage trams remain in Blackpool for future generations to enjoy.


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13 Responses to The Blackpool Heritage Trust – what does it mean?

  1. Neil says:

    Great news. I have no doubt that a museum will be very popular.

    Is Rigby Road Depot not the natural location for the proposed museum?

    • Christopher Callan says:

      Think its fair to say its the spiritual home of the fleet & clear the surrounding areas undergoing serious gentrification and redevelopment. Am sure in the fullness of time the trust will announce where they intend to base the visitor attraction. Presumably to maintain operational status will need some connection to the existing tramway & heritage depot is (presumably)
      So does somewhat limit the possible locations. Lets give them time. Have every confidence that they will pick wisely.

  2. Andrew,

    Thank you for taking the time to explain in more detail what the Blackpool Heritage Trust is about. Very useful in providing more detail on the outline strategy as far as is known at this point in time.

    As you say though the above “Statement of Intent” does raise as many questions and concerns as it answers. Answers cannot be immediately forthcoming as the new trustees obviously need time to work through more of the detail and develop their plans.

    And there lies the nub of my concern. What you outline is exciting but will be undeniably complex both in detailed planning and ultimately in implementation. In my opinion four trustees working in their own time on developing the trust is not the level of resource that will deliver an organisation with a solid business and financial base in the foreseeable future. You have only to consider how long it has taken to announce the setting up of the Trust, and (presumably?) this is a relatively simple step of setting up a Trust Deed and agreeing the terms of acquiring the LTT trams. This is not a criticism of the four individuals who have no doubt spent many hours working the detail to get to this point. But it does highlight my concern that with limited resources even relatively small steps forward take a long time. Multiply that by what needs to be done to achieve even some of what you outline, and it does illustrate just how long things are likely to take.

    Is this a problem? After all heritage trams appear on certain days and every day during the illuminations. Should we not be content with that and let the trust slowly grow, even if it takes years? The main problem as I see it are issues on the horizon that may not wait for years, and will require solutions much sooner. For example the cost of overheads to support the heritage operation (depot, heritage workshop, labour etc) are presumably being met by Blackpool Transport, and this will be an on-cost to the business. How long will BT management be prepared to let its business underwrite this cost? Not unreasonably they may expect perhaps Blackpool Council to underwrite the cost of operation until the new Trust has the income stream to do this. But like most councils, Blackpool is strapped for cash and may be unwilling or unable to meet these costs. It has also been reported widely the roof at Rigby Rd is in urgent need of repair or replacement. So who and where will the money come from to meet the capital costs of this, so the depot can continue to safely house its historic trams in the right conditions.

    These are questions with no easy answers, but can’t wait for years. To identify the right direction, work through and cost options and develop a business case takes expertise, experience and time. In my opinion four part time trustees is insufficient resource to deliver anything in terms of firm plans in a reasonable timescale, and work effectively with partners like BTS and Blackpool Council. The four trustees need to consider as a matter of urgency what resources they needs to enable them to move the new Trust forward. A good start may be to look at additional volunteers with the enthusiasm and with expertise to come on board, share the load and get the organisation off the ground.

    • Ken Walker says:

      As has been said the purpose of the Trust is to protect the trams from any future unfavourable BTS / Council activity, amongst other things. Bryan Lindop’s input into the heritage operation has been amazing over the last couple of years. Let’s just give him a chance. While decisions can’t be left for years they also can’t be made overnight.

  3. Frank Gradwell says:

    We do not know the contractual arrangements that have been set up between Blackpool Council and BTS and the Trust. Some have been clarified above, but there is a lot more to be revealed.

    All this will become apparent over time, as will the costs, resources and business plan to support the new venture.

    No doubt in time Brian and his fellow trustees will indicate how the resources to enable this venture to succeed are to be resourced, and what role there may be for volunteers, co-opted trustees with specific expertise, etc, so as to provide the suite of skills needed to make the venture a success.

    As I have posted already – We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with them as we learn the road ahead and the obstacles and challenges it contains.

    The best means of addressing them is a sound business plan, and healthy revenues, and that is where a proper liaison with all the tourism and entertainment bodies and businesses in the area, as well as grant aiding bodies and individuals, will be key.

  4. Phil Hart says:

    I have 3 only questions that you have not covered.
    Will the trust try eventually to restore the fleet to their original condition such as the Balloons and Brush cars? Like 717 with original crash guards and same with the Brush cars.

    Do you know who owns Brush car 624 now?

    As far as a future museum is concerned what do you think about locating it on the old permanent way sidings at Thornton Gate?

    • Tommy Carr says:

      The trust own 624.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      I don’t have all the answers but I think the plan is eventually to restore the original fenders on Balloon 717 and Boat 600. I am sure that some trams will be restored to near-original condition but others will quite rightly portray later periods in their lives, otherwise we’d end up with several identical Balloon and Brush cars. For example, the current work on 701 will return it to its 1991 appearance in red & white livery with hopper windows, enclosed saloon lighting etc.

      Brush 624 is part of the heritage fleet now and so it belongs to the new Trust. It is however in a very poor condition and so it will probably be many years before it can run again, but at least it now has a secure future.

      I think most people favour the idea of a museum at Rigby Road but theoretically there is no reason why it couldn’t be at Thornton Gate, although would it attract as many visitors I wonder? Time will tell…

      • Ken Walker says:

        On the face of it part of Rigby Road would make sense for the museum as it is obviously rail connected and would presumably make the operation easier to manage with everything being in one place. Presumably a safe pedestrian access route would have to be created for visitors and modifications to the relevant part of the depot to make it safe. Presumably it would also be more secure than Thornton Gate. And it is also in a central location, and one with an authentic tramway background. But at the end of the day the answer to most of the questions is the same; wait and see what Bryan comes up with! He hasn’t let us down so far.

  5. Barbara heron says:

    if they are serious about this project then get publisising it now. Facebook pages, membership of the trust schemes, public sponsership of trams etc, im not a business person but can see huge potetial for attracting revenew from a multitude of sources. There are many fans out there who would be willing to do all they can to help. I would gladly pay a membership subscription fee and do more if i didnt live on the other side of the country. I became totally hooked and fell in love with the trams after a recent stay with a week of wonderful illumination rides on these beautiful machines. Let the public help you we are much more loyal and less fickle than businesses

    • Chris Callan says:

      The trust is in effect the Blackpool Heritage Tram Tour facebook page. Whilst I share your enthusiasm its not a case of been serious and getting on with it. Trust and Blackpool Transport have to carry out enormous work behind scenes. The heritage operation during the lights utilizes much of their time. Sure over the winter they will be in a position to expand the trust remit and we will here much more. The updated exemption legislation, regular updates on the facebook page by a trustee in his own time and the fact the trust acted as mechanism to rescue the LTT trams. So much has to happen behind the scenes. They Blackpool Trust publication provides people from anywhere to support trust with £4.50 of every book going into the trust pot. Whilst everyone recognises the potential just remember how much been achieved under B Lindop…already. Surpassed all expectations. Whether its loans, rescues or repaints or spectacular events really have had it all.

  6. Chris Callan says:

    Its very much a case of watch this space with regard enhanced trust activity. Lots going on behind the scenes. And the Trust is already providing enhanced legal structures ensuring they operate in perpuity. The trust must now develop into a fully fledged charity able to benefit from gift aid. Bringing Trams like the Rocket home would never have been possible without the Trust. Trams like Coronation 304 would never have returned home and subsequently reactivated without it. The publication Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours The Story So Far which when copies are all sold will raise £4500 for the operation was put together by one of the trustees in their own time. The daily Heritage Tram Tour updates are mostly done by Trustees in their own time. The Trustees working hard developing the events and ways in which to improve various aspects of the operation. Blackpool Transport & Blackpool Trust will have had to dedicate significant amount of time to the 2014 Blackpool Tramway Exemption legislation which strengthens the operation going forward. The Trustees continue to produce information posters in their own time and adding them to trams detailing history of each tram. The staff shortages affecting Blackpool Transport have created operational challenges. Things like acquiring gaps in their collection or negotations with private business or individuals naturally have to remain private till such time they confirmed. Things will happen but there are complexities and issues and things and opportunities arise that need time commited to it. Blackpool Transports Heritage Lottery Funded Western Train shows what is possible with external funding. The Fylde Tramway Society Appeals the last one been Balloon Car 701 do give people chance to contribute to projects whilst the Blackpool Trust develop their own subscription/membership/appeals etc funding streams.

    • Ken Walker says:

      Good points there Chris. A start on raising funds has been made with the book, I hope it sells out, I’ve certainly got my copy. Charity status and gift aid eligibility is a must, get back from tax some of the funding that has been ‘stolen’ from BTS to pay for the bankers.

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