Brush Railcoach 634 will return to Blackpool!

The Blackpool Heritage Trust have announced that preserved Blackpool Brush Railcoach 634 will shortly be coming home, after its owner very generously agreed to donate the tram to the Trust. 634 was amongst the first trams to depart on the eve of the tramway upgrade, and was not expected to return – but the fact that this is now happening is yet another reminder of how far the heritage operation has progressed since then!

With the tramway upgrade and disposal of many of the old fleet looming, transport enthusiast Andy Ashton bought 634 in 2009 and arranged for it to be transported to a museum site at Rushden, Northamptonshire. Despite being stored outside, Andy carried out a great deal of work, with some help from his young daughters and a few friends, on the car – which had been inactive since 2004 – including weatherproofing to protect it from the elements, and a stunning repaint in the 1990s style green and cream livery with black window surrounds. More significant was the amount of renovation work carried out interally, which included the painstaking uncovering of much interior woodwork which was then carefully varnished. The plastic panels were discarded in favour of some more sympathetic materials whilst the green cant rail glasses were uncovered after being hidden behind formica panelling for many years. Although their reappearance is not strictly appropriate for a tram in such a modern paint scheme, they look so nice that it is hard to mind, especially as they cannot be seen in any other Brush car (yet!).

634 moved to the North East Land, Sea & Air Museum in 2014 where the work continued, however more recently negotiations have been taking place to return the tram to its home system. Rather than retain ownership of his treasured vehicle, Andy has kindly agreed to donate it to the Blackpool Heritage Trust so that it can run again on its native tramway and be enjoyed by a much bigger audience. The tram is expected to make the journey back to Rigby Road in the next few weeks, and can then be assessed to determine the level of work required to get it running for the first time in over a decade.

It should be stressed that, with a very full workshop programme for the year ahead, 634 is not expected to operate this year but as it remains in such good condition it shouldn’t be too long before this smart Brush car is able to return to the promenade as a permanent member of the heritage fleet. Hopefully it can be relaunched in 2017, perhaps as part of a celebration to mark the 80th anniversary of the Blackpool Brush cars? In the meantime, it will be excellent to see another popular tram back in Blackpool and no doubt there will be some opportunities to see it during 2016. Grateful thanks must go to Andy Ashton for not only ensuring 634‘s survival, but for undertaking such a good quality cosmetic restoration to enable this deal to be considered, and lastly for making it available to the new Trust at no cost.

634 is seen at the NELSAM site during a rare airing, showing off its attractive 1990s style livery complete with green skirt and Blackpool Transport logo transfers. (Photo by Bradley Jones)


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9 Responses to Brush Railcoach 634 will return to Blackpool!

  1. Peter Narramore says:

    It will be great to see 634 running again. During its time in Rushden it was a familiar sight when coming out of the nearby supermarket. I was very impressed at the restoration work that Andy was carrying out at the time and I look forward to seeing it run again in its home town.

  2. Kev says:

    Whilst its great that this Tram will run again, is it really needed? Blackpool have 3 Brush cars already and 631 is not particularly popular. 634 is nice inside and will be attractive to the public but its not right for 30s condition (no sunroof and single destination) and I hope someone takes those silly 3 pin plugs out which were in whilst it was being restored to allow power. It cannot be denied however that Mr. Ashton has undertaken a huge amount of high quality work on the Tram and it has survived to be repatriated. Personally I would be putting my efforts into 143 and Lytham 43.

    • Peter says:

      The answer is yes it is needed! 631 is actually quite popular not just with the enthusiasts but also the public when it is out and about.

      I am a little shocked with your comment on the “silly 3 pin plugs” along with the comments on the authenticity of the condition. Andy Ashton has done a high quality restoaration, in his own time and at his own expense. Rather than comments such as these, we should be seeing positive comments thanking Andy for his very kind gesture to allow the tram to come back to Blackpool.

      As you are so keen to see efforts move forward on 143 and Lytham 43, can we then expect an email from you to Blackpool Heritage Trust with your personal proposition of either manpower or financial aide to move these two project forward?

      • Kev says:

        So Trams should have 3 pin plugs? I don’t deny Mr. Ashton has done a top class job (yes I have seen it) but my comment stands it isn’t in an authentic condition. If the external condition is altered to match the interior I would be singing praise from the rooftops. And I’m sorry but you are wrong 631 is NOT popular with the public. Ask any of the crews who have had it. Some enthusiasts like it but most would have preferred it had stayed authentic. It’s popular on a Gold day because its a different one to ride but on the normal 2 Tram service its not.

    • Anonymous says:

      631 is a mish mash and that’s why it’s not particularly popular.
      In the long term it would be better restored to its later condition and
      allow the other three to portray earlier times. Well done to Andy Ashton I say.

    • Paul D says:

      I can understand Kev’s main point – too many trams could lead to resources being spread too thinly to the detriment of the whole fleet. I can also see his point about duplication in having too many of the same type of tram. – A one-off day with 4 Brush cars running together would be a novelty for the enthusiasts, but it would not do well with the general public. I certainly would not want to regularly see 2 Brush cars out on Blue weekends Personally, (with the possible exception of Boats) I would always hope to see two different types of car. It has been shown often enough that the general public are most attracted by 1. open trams 2. vintage looking trams (66,147 etc) 3. the illuminated cars.

      On the other hand, 634 has benefited from considerable work since leaving Blackpool and is in much better condition than 624 and probably 632 as well, or so offers an ‘easier win’ with a quicker return to service at lower cost.

      Ultimately, 634 is Andy’s property to do with as he wishes. If his desire is to see it once again carry passengers in Blackpool, if that is possible without diverting too much scarce resources from other trams that will be crowd pullers (like 143, 43 and Alice) that that is what should be done.

      • Andrew Waddington says:

        A lot of excellent points here Paul. I think my main concern would be if the Blackpool Heritage Trust found itself in a position to accept numerous trams of high value at some point in the future, but had to turn some away because their depot space was taken up with multiple Brush and Balloon cars. We don’t know what could be around the corner though so it would seem a shame to turn away trams, particularly when they are in such a nice condition as 634. I also agree about ‘quick win’ projects – I think most of us would rather have Lytham 43 or OMO 8 running than another Brush car, but the difference in cost and work required is huge! I believe 632 is pretty high up the list of priorities though, and appears to be one of the few remaining trams at Rigby Road which could be reactivated fairly easily, so perhaps we shall see 3 Brush cars running together for their 80th anniversary in 2017?

        As an aside, I suspect that 634 will be the most popular of the Brush cars as it looks the nicest, particularly inside!

  3. Dave Mitchell says:

    Compared to the doom and gloom of the prospect of few trams at the end of traditional tram use, we now have a comprehensive and workable collection to the point that service resumes of previous era vehicles to a level never dreamed of and bringing in new custom to boot.
    This has duplication but does it matter its working! Mr Joe public sees it as an opportunity to entertain and wonder. Sorry cameras and video takers dont contribute to fares in a big way, bums on seats do.

    The point I see is that the tramway did and always would have evolved and was not identical, take “train spotting linesiding etc or Eddie Stobart lorries.
    All have the fan clubs and today with standardization seen one you seen em all.

    I have great regard for Andy the one man crusade and more for his family and his efforts. Be thankful, donate, contribute and use if possible.
    Dont winge as by the grace of foresight and farsighted views a lot better off than the I.O.M .

    I hope Andy will be given the praise he deserves and along with all other preservationists show skills and knowledge.

    I do hope that the North East sector get their wish to rework the Hovertram and to get it into use and that visitors to that centre contribute as that has helped this former Blackpool tram to remain available.

    Dave Mitchell.

  4. Frank Gradwell says:

    I hope the whiners and wingers have never been ac ross the water!

    What would they make of The Big Easy ( New Orleans) or The City by the Bay with its – yes Blackpool boats, but fleets of PCC cars and Peter De Witt cars from Milan.

    I said when the main fleet was withdrawn that in time we would be glad of every survivor – yet here are the same small closed minds utterly failing to understand a finite and still diminishing resource.

    Thanks Andy – Thanks Bryan and team – now lets get back to supporting the principle of vintage tram operation in the UK and especially the version being taken forward in Blackpool

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