Welcome back to Centenary car 648!

In a welcome move, Blackpool Transport have confirmed that Centenary car 648 will shortly be making a return to service as an extra car for use on their new heritage tram tours. Having last run on the final day of the 2011 season, it was at that time expected that none of the Centenary class would run in Blackpool again but this decision has now been reversed much quicker than anyone could have predicted back then.

Of course, 648 was originally intended for preservation at Crich, and was even overhauled with traditional features such as curved windscreens and a mock end grill in 2005 at the request of the Tramway Museum Society. However, with limited storage space the sad decision was made not to accept it for the national tram collection after all, leaving the car with an uncertain future. Several months ago, rumours first surfaced that the tram may be reinstated to service at Blackpool and now this has been confirmed. Apparently there have been a number of requests for the tram to run from enthusiasts, and so, proving that they are keen to please their customers, BTS have arranged for 648 to be commissioned. Due to its high steps, 648‘s relative youth will not help its cause as it wouldn’t be able to carry passengers in wheelchairs, and so the tram will be confined to use on heritage coastal tours. Whilst this might take some getting used to for a tram that was built in 1985, the car should provide some additional variety on these tours and whilst the general public may not find the propsect of paying a premium price to ride on 648 particularly appealing, enthusiasts will hopefully make up for this – especially those who had asked for it to run! 648‘s reactivation will also be useful on cold and wet days when the number of suitable heritage trams available is currently rather low.

Subject to the usual conditions, BTS have announced via the popular ‘Trams Today’ Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Trams-Today/144002195699684 – that 648 will return to use on Sunday 10th June. Hopefully by announcing this date early, anyone wanting to ride on the tram will be able to make sure they are present to give it a welcome reception. With Boat 604 also expected to be launched by the George Formby Society on Saturday 9th June, this will be an exciting weekend for Blackpool tram enthusiasts and hopefully the heritage trams will be well patronised on both days.

Incidentally, 648 will be keeping its attractive advert livery for the Hounds Hill shopping complex which was applied last year for now. However, if the heritage tours can turn enough profit then further investment in the tram fleet will be possible and perhaps soon, we will see a green and cream Centenary car running along Blackpool promenade for the first time since 1996. For now though, with no plans to operate any Centenary cars anywhere else for the forseeable future, the return of 648 will be another great event in what is shaping up to be a great year for traditional UK tramways.

Centenary car 648 seen in service on what was supposed to be its last evening of service on the Blackpool tramway, passing through North Pier on Sunday 6th November. (Photo by Andrew Waddington)


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7 Responses to Welcome back to Centenary car 648!

  1. nigel says:

    I honestly do not know why anyone would want one of these fliipin things back. I was not sorry to see these go last November.

    Ok they are of course part of the histroy of the trams in Blackpool but no way would I pay to ride on one of these as a heritage tour.

    Obviously thats my own opinion but I know from the talk on the prom last November no one seemed bothered to see them go.

    Interesting to see what others think

  2. Andrew Blood says:

    Its an absolutely fantastic decision. Although derided by many in the past, the Centenary Cars are just as much a part of Blackpool’s hostory as the Dreadnoughts, Railcoaches or Coronations. Full credit to BTS for reactivating one for enthusiasts to enjoy. As for not paying to ride just because 648 is out, there are two trams in use on the heritage tours daily so no one is forcing anyone to ride 648 – if you dont like it, ride the other one!

  3. Clifford Stead says:

    I agree Andrew! Regardless of what people may think, these trams played a big role and one should be kept for future generations to ride on. I think 762 should have been retained for the same reason.

  4. Pete C says:

    I am very pleased at this news. This class played an important role in keeping the tramway going in difficult times, and I would certainly pay extra to ride one, something I thought I would never have an opportunity to do again!

  5. Ken Walker says:

    While not the best looking of trams at least 648 has been kept fairly close to original external shape, unlike the other centenary cars which in my opinion ended up about as ugly as a tram can get. It would have been better to have widened these cars for normal service and kept trams such as 700 as heritage cars. But regardless of what people think of their appearance, these are the last first generation trams to be built for service in the UK and so form part of our tramway heritage whether we like it or not. These and the original OMO cars probably did for the Blackpool tramway what the much-maligned class 142 pacer trains did for the rural railway network – helped prevent closures!

  6. Joe says:

    I hope they at least rebuild 648 back to how I first remember the centenary class, in it’s original 80’s appearance complete with those oh so 80’s brown moquet seats to make it truly authentic. I think people would one day regreted not keeping at least one example running ( much like Concorde but that’s another topic ! ) I agree, one of the two jubilee trams should have been retained, the fact that one wasn’t surprises me, but maybe one day one of them might return on loan for a special enthusiast event, never say never.

  7. Nick Hirst says:

    I agree, great to see 648 back. The Centenary Cars certainly divide opinion but for me, I liked them. Don’t think BTS would go for a full restoration but I would like to see the original green/cream livery applied sometime.

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