Burton & Ashby 14 up for auction

The future of Burton & Ashby 14 has been thrown into some doubt, following the surprising revelation that this unique open top tramcar is being offered for sale as part of a large auction after being deemed surplus to requirements by its present owners. The tram was exported to America many years ago and for a while it delighted visitors to a tourist line in Detroit, but has since languished in storage for some time after this tramway closed down a decade ago.

Car 14 has not run since its home tramway was closed and with no clear role for it being identified in the meantime, it has been decided to place the tram up for auction along with a wide range of other items from the same city. The sale is described as ‘a monumental reorganizational offering of the city of Detroit vehicles, machinery and shop service equipment’. Rather than sell the tram individually, it has appeared as part of a mixed lot – one of two being offered by Hilco Industrial. The lot includes two other historic trams; an enclosed trolley car from Detroit, and an open air trolley car from Houston, along with numerous other oddities such as cranes, diggers, dump trucks and pick-up trucks. One dreads to think what such a motley collection could be worth in financial terms, although the Burton & Ashby tram may well be the most valuable item of all as it is the only survivor of this long-lost British system.

Viewing of the various objects included in the auction is available on 3rd & 4th November, with the auction itself being held on 5th November. There will be a webcast of the actual auction and bidders are able to attend and try their luck at purchasing some unique items! It is sincerely hoped that, if 14 ends up being sold to a new owner who is not particularly interested in it, that they will be open to passing it on to a more suitable home. The ideal outcome would of course be to return it to British soil, but as it is a 3 foot gauge vehicle it would be unable to operate anywhere in this country, making any rescue mission a less appealing prospect.

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21 Responses to Burton & Ashby 14 up for auction

  1. BigG says:

    There is already a thread on this subject developing on this subject under your previous item – Lost Trams 9:Burton and Ashby 14.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      True, but as that is quite an old post it was felt that such an important development warranted its own separate news story – both to emphasise its importance, and also to make sure that people don’t miss it.

  2. A. D. Young says:

    The trams B&A 14 has spent its time with in Detroit are from Lisbon, plus a car from Vevey in Switzerland. All are 3′ gauge. I would like to think that Lisbon (Carris) itself might have interest in one or two of the cars to supplement its own operating heritage fleet–if it even knows of this on-line auction, which I doubt. Can anyone on this forum let them know, or contact someone who has access to Carris people to let them know?. They might well have an interest too in the open Lisbon car 247, which I don’t believe is quite authentic, but nevertheless a great little tram for summer touring. Detroit is now building the so-called M-1 streetcar-a modern streetcar line rather than heritage. It is to to be standard-gauge rather than 3′, which rather rules out the possibility of any Lisbon car or Burton & Ashby 14 migrating there, at least not without a change of gauge. Such things have happened. Issaquah just outside Seattle WA has done it with a Lisbon car that spent 25 years with several others in a field at Aspen CO., So has the Birkenhead line in the UK. Burton and Ashby car 14 is a full-width car–by UK standards, something like 7′ though I really am not sure about its exact dimensions My general impression was that it didn’t seem seem like a narrow-gauge car the times I’ve ridden it, just a traditionally cramped elderly UK tramcar. Los Angeles had 9′ wide PCC cars on 3’6″ gauge track. One of their cars was mounted on standard-gauge trucks and tested on the remaining Pacific Electric line to Long Beach circa 1960. Doubtless B&A 14 could also be mounted on a standard-gauge single truck without difficulty–if one can be found. A big if. It was a 3’6″ gauge car, now running on a 3′ gauge truck. It looks good but it suffered from lack of maintenance beginning in the late 1980s along with the rest of the fleet. Somehow the line became orphaned, even though it was still being touted as a Detroit tourist attraction, which indeed it was.

  3. Detroit Citizen’s Railway #247, the ex-Lisbon 4-wheel open tram, was totally restored in Oregon, ten years ago. It departed Detroit just prior to abandonment of the Downtown Trolley line and returned about a year later. Apparently, the City had forgotten about 247, and in a panic nearly gave it to our museum, Michigan Transit Museum in Mount Clemens. Incidentally, the Lisbon trams all ran on a 90 cm gauge, which comes out to approximately 35 & 11/16″. Good Luck in helping to find a good home for all three of the trams.

  4. Nigel Pennick says:

    Has a campaign started in Burton or Ashby yet to return it to its original place?

    • Steve Lawton says:

      Yes there is a campaign now to bring it back to the UK. A meeting is taking place at the National Brewery Centre at Burton on Saturday 1st November so at least a plan can be put together before the auction on 5th November. Interested parties are asked to email tim@timstubbs.vispa.com.

  5. John Stewart says:

    The ideal solution would be for the tram to come home, be restored to its original 3’6″ gauge and to run on a revitalised Black Country Museum track. Is this expecting too much?

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      To be honest I think there is probably more chance of Burton & Ashby 14 coming back to the UK than there is of the Black Country Museum tramway re-opening!

  6. Phill says:

    Has any attempt been made to tie up with enthusiast groups in America who might fancy the detroit car? Does seem daft that they’ve lumped all 3 cars together. Maybe we could flog that rotten Balloon on Fleetwood docks for scrap, and use the proceeeds to bring 14 back?

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Who are “we”? The Balloon car (I assume you mean 726) belongs to the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust and I doubt they would be willing to sell off one of their trams to raise money for an unrelated preservation project – although I’m open to being proved wrong of course!

  7. John Woodman says:

    you are certainly proved wrong – Balloon 726 already has a new owner in tow.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Potentially excellent news! Despite previously expressing doubts as to the value of preserving 726, it would be fantastic if it could be saved so if anyone is attempting to do so then I wish them good luck!

    • David Edwards says:

      In another post of yours which I can no longer locate you supplied a web reference for an 8 page catalogue for the Detroit auction which shows a photo of B&A 14. Strangely, on looking through the lot numbers for 5 November, the day on which this car is supposed to be auctioned off, I cannot find any reference to it. Do you have any better information please?

      • BigG says:

        There is still another thread ongoing on this site on which there is further information (see my comment above), which includes lot numbers. That thread, importantly, includes an invitation to a meeting on 1st November regarding this tram.

  8. John Woodman says:

    Contrary to unsubstantiated comments on another ‘blog’ the FHLT are not disposing of most our fleet. Balloon 726 has identified expressions of interest which we are considering at this time. When and if there are formal agreements between the Trust and a third Party these will be affirmed. It would be a favour to readers if care was taken to check on facts before rushing into print online – its simply a case of ‘good journalism’.

    In the case of B&A 14 I was a Principal involved in the ‘export’ of what at the time was the lower saloon of the tram by a willing group. Had it not been for private sponsorship from the USA, no doubt B&A 14 would have probably remained one of many similar initiatives which are an irregular feature of this website – the subject of a painstaking and drawn out local renovation over several decades. In this case the entire project was completed in less than 15 months from Church Gresley to launch in Detroit. It would indeed be an accomplishment for a reverse project to bring the tram back to England in 2015 – funded by a UK group. Whatever the gauge issue may be for a sponsor – this completely restored electric tram owned and operated through a mainline UK railway company – is a unique opportunity worth every effort by motivated Parties.

    • Andrew says:

      what a shame the FHLT are not disposing of the majority of their fleet – then they may find homes with orgnaisations with a clear plan, possibly a proven track record and who are not content to let assets sit outside and rot for an indefinite period. Never mind ‘good journalism’, think the more concerning aspect is ‘good preservationism’.

      • Nathan says:

        If the FHLT could find indoor storage for their trams, I’m sure they’d put them their! Quite frankly the attitude shown towards the FHLT by the enthusiast community is disgusting, comments like the above typify this. The FHLT had been pushing hard to secure Copse Road depot as a museum, but partly down to the total enthusiast non-support, this has not happened. In fact, it’s not just non-support, but downright nastiness. I wish the FHLT every success, a tram museum in Fleetwood is a wonderful idea, I cannot wait to see when it becomes reality.

        • Andrew Waddington says:

          Considering that the FHLT abandoned its plans for Copse Road some time ago, you could be disappointed there Nathan!

          I think it may be best to wrap up this aspect of the discussion as it is not relevant to Burton & Ashby 14 and is turning increasingly hostile.

        • Andrew says:

          Maybe a few facts needs correcting Nathan. In 2012 Mr Woodman publicaly stated that he thought enthusiasts were a waste of space, that he wanted nothing to do with them and that they would be actively discouraged from visiting his museum when, or if, it ever became a reality. With this attitude is it hardly surprising that support has not exactly flooded in? What is disgusting is that the FHLT have so actively opposed enthusiast help (charging £3 to listen to a talk on their future being a prime example) and yet then bleat about the lack of support when plans havent exactly gone well. A slautaory lesson should have been learned but, knowing the personalities involved, it will always be a case of blame someone else rather than admit some unpleasant home truths.

    • Paul D says:

      Monday 27 October 2014 at 18:57 John Woodman says:
      “Balloon 726 already has a new owner in tow.”

      Monday 3 November 2014 at 10:37 John Woodman says:
      “Balloon 726 has expressions of interest which we are considering at this time.”

      John, can you clarify those two apparently contradictory statements please and confirm the actual current status of 726?
      Has the ‘New Owner’ mentioned last Monday backed out of the deal in the intervening week or has the FHLT pulled out? Are you inviting further offers for 726 or any other cars in your collection?