Following its withdrawal from service earlier this year, Blackpool Balloon car 703 – or Sunderland 101 as it is now known in its new home at Beamish Museum – has now been moved off the tracks in the tram depot at Beamish. This has been done to free up space for other trams, including Sheffield 264 which will need to be reassembled soon and so will require more depot space in the fairly near future.
It may be recalled that 101 was removed from service at the start of 2015 due to a broken tyre, and it was subsequently decided to lay up the car due to its generally poor condition. Late last month, the defective tyre was removed from the tram in a rather awkward operation, so that a sample could be taken for metallurgical assessment by TATA Steel in compliance with the museum’s own safety management systems. The findings of this will not only be of interest to this museum, but also the owners of other trams with similar wheels and the findings will be distributed to those who may need to be aware of the possibility of similar defects affecting their vehicles in future. When the tyre was removed for examination it was noted how remarkably clean the break is.
On Wednesday 10th June, 101 was moved sideways on skates to the non-railed part of the main tram and bus depot, known as Road 5. It is expected that rail will eventually be laid here but for now, having the Balloon car stored off the rails will free up much-needed space for trams in the depots and also improve flexibility for vehicle storage. It had been intended to carry out this procedure with the derelict shell of Gateshead 52, but it was later decided to move the Balloon instead as, due to the nature of its fault, it is considered unwise to move it around more than is absolutely necessary, and so in reality this move will not make too much difference to it. It is also believed that, despite its woebegone state, Gateshead 52 will be restored before 101 and so it makes far greater sense to keep it where it is until this work can get underway. With recently acquired Blackpool Brush Railcoach 621 (284) also stored awaiting a major restoration, 101/703 could be in for a lengthy period out of action – but at least it is safely housed undercover and has a secure future after being bought by Beamish from its previous owners, the Lancastrian Transport Trust.
A short video showing speeded-up footage of the tram being slid sideways can be viewed on the Beamish Museum Facebook page, and makes for rather fascinating viewing!