No sooner had the Blackpool Heritage Trust announced its intention to repatriate Balloon car 703 from Beamish Museum – where it has resided in Sunderland guise since 2010 – then an appeal for funds to cover the costs of transporting the tram back home had been covered! This is all down to the generosity of tram enthusiasts and represents a most amazing achievement for the operation.
As reported previously, 703 (along with Brush car 621 which has already made the journey back to Blackpool with funding provided by PW Consulting) has been offered to the Blackpool Heritage Trust by its current owners who have decided that it is surplus to requirements. The tram initially arrived at Beamish on loan from the Lancastrian Transport Trust but after cash changed hands, it became a permanent member of the Beamish fleet – or so we all thought! After a few years of inactivity due to a fractured tyre, it was decided to offer the tram to the BHT as the major overhaul it now requires was not considered a high priority by Beamish.
Embracing the advantages of modern technology, an appeal to pay for the transport of 703 was launched online – and remarkably in under 24 hours, the target sum of £1500 had been raised! This really has highlighted the power of the Internet and the simplicity of donating online at the click of a mouse button obviously encouraged many people to support this worthy cause. Whilst this could well encourage other organisations to appeal for donations in a similar manner, it is probably worth acknowledging that there is a tremendous amount of goodwill towards the Blackpool heritage operation and also, the fact that 703 became a firm favourite with many enthusiasts towards the end of its operating life due to its traditional appearance and interior, as it remains one of the least modernised of all the surviving Balloons.
The news of 703‘s imminent move has not been entirely well received – some staff from Beamish Museum have expressed their disappointment that the car will not be running there again, as it was a popular and useful crowd-mover – whilst one of its former owners also expressed some displeasure at the news. However, many people are clearly keen to see this tram back home and although its poor condition is likely to prevent it from running in the short term, their support means that it shouldn’t be too long before one of the best-loved Balloon cars is safely housed in Rigby Road depot after over six years away!