In Pictures: Blackpool Balloon 701 re-launched

After appearing in an incomplete version of its red and white ‘Routemaster’ livery over the August Bank Holiday weekend, Blackpool Balloon 701 has now spent some more time in the Paint Shop for completion of this stunning repaint. The tram was then officially launched back into service at a short ceremony on the afternoon of Friday 26th September, followed by a special run through to Fleetwood and back for the gathered enthusiasts.

Since it had previously been seen out on the tramway the ornate lining out which helped to make 701‘s Routemaster livery so attractive first time around has been beautifully recreated, whilst in recognition of the Fylde Tramway Society’s generosity in financing this repaint, the FTS logo features prominently on the staircase panels. With this in mind, the tram was welcomed into the heritage fleet by FTS President Harold Blythe and Blackpool Transport’s own Director of Delivery Bob Mason, before operating a single daylight trip from North Pier to Fleetwood and back again. The highlight of the day came on arrival at the Ferry however, where 701 was posed next to a preserved Routemaster bus painted in the matching red and white colours, as worn by the small fleet of ex-London buses which run roamed the promenade, and offering a real taste of the early ‘nineties.

After a short break the tram then re-appeared on illumination tour duties, running alongside the illuminated cars Frigate 736 and Trawler 737 - unusually the Western Train 733+734 was not used on this evening. Of note, 701‘s interior appearance has been enlivened by the novel addition of some coloured overlays applied over the encased saloon lights, giving the lighting a coloured tinge. An attractive blue colour has been employed upstairs whilst the lower deck is now bathed in red. This should hopefully further boost 701‘s appeal when it runs on illumination tours and ensure that this striking tram stands out even more whenever it appears.

A stunning red Balloon car against a gorgeous blue sky, as 701 arrives at North Pier ahead of its launch ceremony on 26th September.

Harold Blythe and Bob Mason shake hands as 701 is welcomed into the heritage fleet following its FTS-funded repaint.

Routemaster bus and Routemaster tram meet at Fleetwood Ferry for a superb photo opportunity.

Against the backdrop of Blackpool Tower, 701 heads back to Rigby Road empty following its special launch event.

Later on and 701 is seen at Pleasure Beach as passengers board for a tour of the illuminations. Note the red glow of the lower saloon due to the simple effect used on its interior lighting! (All photos by Paul Derrick)

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24 Responses to In Pictures: Blackpool Balloon 701 re-launched

  1. David Warner says:

    What a superb looking tram. Well done FTS and Blackpool Transport for all the hard work that has been put into this wonderful tram.

  2. JOHN says:

    A superb job indeed – I was lucky enough to have this car for a tour on Saturday night. Just a shame about the ridiculous logo and the fact that the time of the launch precluded a lot of people from going! But well done Trust/BTS for getting together and making this happen.

  3. Christopher Callan says:

    Well done Blackpool Trust, Blackpool Transport & anyone who supported the Fylde Tramway Society Route-master Appeal. Given new life to a tram that a few years ago looked set to simply be stored indefinitely with a very much reserve role with snow plough attached in faded yellow base coat.

    Everyone knows the Illuminations has faced it biggest challenge to date and some written media will continue to predict the end and the doom and gloom can often be contagious. Yes its a shame the Crew availability is currently impacting on the service. But Blackpool under Bryans leadership have faced every previous challenge head on. The time is right to unite behind the operation. Remember how far its come. Number of Hires Up, Day Time Heritage a Success, Blackpool Trust formed, Trams returned home, Trams restored, Trams reactivated, Trams Swapped. The year has seen some massive highs. Lets remember them.

  4. BigG says:

    Beautiful paint job, and am I alone in thinking that the FTS logo actually enhances the livery by breaking up the otherwise large expanse of white Maybe even better ‘tween decks?

    • Ken Walker says:

      No you are not alone. I think the logo fits in very well. Blackpool Transport under the various names has had its logos applied to its fleet over the years, I don’t see this as any different. At the end of the day, if those who object to the logo had clubbed together and paid for the repaint themselves, the logo wouldn’t have been applied. Money is mouth where put, rearrange into well-known phrase or saying. That simple!

      • Andrew says:

        except, Ken, that those who conrtibuted to the FTS appeal were not told that the authentic look of the tram would be compromised by the application of an over large logo. Maybe if they had been the money would have been slower coming in?

        • Frank Gradwell says:

          Tosh! – the eye says that a white space of that magnitude needs a bold statement – the FTS logo is that statement – loud and proud!

        • Ken Walker says:

          Andrew, perhaps you would rather they had applied adverts there instead? Or perhaps hide 701′s livery behind multiple FTS adverts like they did on 167 a few years back after ICI had sponsored its repaint? Considering there are so many different views, if people only contributed to a repaint appeal on condition the repaint was to their personal liking, BTS would never get enough sponsorship to cover anything. Anyway Bryan Lindop, well done from me on the restoration; 701 looks amazing, with or without logos.

    • Franklyn says:

      The logo isn’t too bad, but it definitely would have been better for it not to have been there. If I remember right, when 701 was first in this livery it carried between decks adverts for travelcards. Why have these been omitted? Do they not have the excellent travelcards in Blackpool any more? I know almost everyone used to buy them.

      If they MUST have an FTS advert on the tram, couldn’t they have put it between the decks and used the same colour sceme as the original travel card advert?

      There’s no doubt the FTS have done a good job doing their bit for 701′s repaint, but just that bit of extra though for a more sypathetic application of their logo would have improved things even more.

      • Andrew Waddington says:

        The ‘Travelcard’ brand was discontinued some years ago, although a similar form of day tickets etc. are available.

  5. Edwin Newton says:

    Well gentlemen.I have spent quite some time on the prom tonight and watched both the western train and 701travelling up and down with not one passenger on either tram.whilst I was down at the pleasure beach,I noticed no one in attendance at the heritage office and even brush 290 was not illuminated.the whole of that area was in darkness.I get the impression that something is wrong somewhere in that the heritage tours during this part of the week is being neglected.wages for staff have to be paid plus running costs per evening.if this continues then I cannot see any reason for operating these tours except at on Fridays and weekends.A lot of money has been used to restore these trams but somehow is being wasted with no fare paying passengers.Even the promenade was very quiet with hardly any cars on it.A little rain but a warm night.Has anyone seen brush 290 lit up.it still has the festoon lighting on the top.Is there a reason that it isn’t lit up.It is a shame as a lot of work has gone into it being painted up and looks very nice.Any comments and answers .

  6. Frank Gradwell says:

    I must confess that Pleasure Beach as a pick up point is just not customer friendly after dark. Trams for the tours sit “round the corner” with no illumination or self promotion, while the Flexxities glide to and fro on the main line past Pleasure Beach station.

    Is it time to revert to tours starting at Tower Loop again where there is both street lighting and a considerable public presence, or at least a dual point pick up at Beach and Tower.

    I say, yet again, that the appeal of the heritage fleet, which is considerable, is being underplayed by effectively making boarding a challenge, rather than a natural opportunity all along the prom.

    A review of this situation could only yield additional revenue, strengthen the appeal of and support for the heritage fleet, and create a real win win situation.

    Bryan needs support in his crusade to promote and utilise the heritage fleet and it seems churlish to offer such coments, but as an outsider one can see the public frustration at not knowing how to actually get a vintage tram ride, where and when they want.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      The number of passengers taking a tour of the lights has reportedly increased since the move to Pleasure Beach though – and at times the trams are struggling to cope with demand, so for the moment at least attracting more customers is unlikely to be a priority! As an aside, there is no passing loop at Tower anymore; did you mean North Pier?

      • andrew says:

        Interesting that comments are made by people who obviously have little idea of the reality of the situation in Blackpool. Asking for tours to load at the Tower loop is a case in point – the loop at the Tower was removed several years ago and it was in the mid 1980s that tours last loaded there anyway – or perhaps it is the loop at North Pier which is being referred to?

  7. Paul D says:

    With regard to the FTS logo, it doesn’t look so prominent in the flesh as it does in photos, and I don’t think is anywhere near as unobtrusive as the disks previously placed in the towers of Boats and 660.

    As one of the many FTS members that contributed, while it was never a condition of the sponsorship that the logo had to be displayed, it is appreciated that BTS want to publicly acknowledge the contribution unlike some other organisations who seem to take donors for granted.

    • Peter says:

      I think the logo looks really good, and does not distract at all from the finished tram. I also believe that in the current times, this could also prove to be a valuable publicity tool for the FTS, and it would be interesting to see if this generates new members (I am certainly going to be one!). If this is the case, then a secondary effect would be more funds available for other repaints / restorations in the future. Surely a win-win situation all round?

  8. Frank Gradwell says:

    And there – writ large – is the difference between an pedant and a realist.

    I took plenty of pictures of 701 on a loop last week, and do you know, right behind it is this 450′ high steel thing, I believe it’s known as Blackpool Tower.

    If I take photos at North Pier there are merely two running tracks and a currently disused junction, as clearly shown on the picture sent to this site last week, but currently not used.

    Physically, the loop is at the tower, its closer to the tower than to North Pier – I rest my case me lud!

    • andrew says:

      No Frank – the loop is at North Pier. Terminating trams at Tower use the crossover located at the Tower close to where the old loop line was. Terminating trams at North Pier can either use the loop which is at North Pier or the crossovers. Maybe you need a re familiarisation with the current Blackpool scene.

    • Paul D says:

      The loop in question is directly opposite the Southbound “North Pier” LRT platform! Next to that loop is a heritage tram stop named “North Pier”…

      Just how much more evidence do you need of where the loop is Frank?????

      • Ken Walker says:

        The stop and loop may well be named North
        Pier but they are certainly not at North pier. The loop is south of the old North pier loop and north of the old Tower loop, and is in between the tower and pier, they are certainly not located at the pier. Perhaps the stop would have been more appropriately named after the hideous new contraption that has been built alongside it. Personally I think that if this sort of pedantry is the best counter-argument that can be put forward against Frank’s opinion – and I don’t actually agree with that part of what Frank says – then there is no counter-argument. Apart, of course, from the fact that this discussion is supposed to be about 701!

        • Ken Walker says:

          I should also have mentioned that while the loop is opposite the southbound North pier stop, it is a considerable distance south of the northbound North pier stop – which is actually at North pier.

          • andrew says:

            The counter argument of loading tours at North Pier is that passenger numbers have soared since they were relocated to Pleasure Beach but this is a fact all too often overlooked by those who find it difficult to accept change. As for the naming of stops, the Pleasure Beach northbound stop is about 50 metres north of Pleasure Beach, maybe that should be renamed. How about the Bispham southbound platform, certainly not at Bispham itself. Maybe Ken would like that renamed as well? How about renaming 90 per cent of the stop[s because they are not located directing opposite the landmark they are named after? Get real – North Pier is North Pier – heritage stop, crossovers and Flexity platforms. Sometimes ‘enthusiasts’ really no themselves no favours…

  9. Franklyn says:

    Here’s a question… How do the single ended illuminated cars get to Pleasure Beach to load? Do they have to come out onto the prom at Machester Square, reverse and run backwards light to Pleasure Beach? If that’s the case, what happens then? If they went straight into the loop they’d still end up backwards for their Northbound trip.

    I haven’t visited Blackpool much recently.