Pioneer Brush Railcoach set to run again!

2017 sees the 80th anniversary of Blackpool’s Brush Railcoach class, and to help mark this milestone anniversary it has been announced that pioneer car 621 is to be restored to service this year! The tram is currently stored in Rigby Road depot following its return from Beamish Museum, who kindly donated it to the Blackpool Heritage Trust at the end of last year, but it is set to undergo a transformation over the next few months.

621 last ran in passenger service way back in 2004 and since then has been stored at Rigby Road, Kirkham Prison (whilst owned by the Fleetwood Heritage Trust) and finally Beamish, before returning home in December 2016. This has presented the irresistible opportunity to restore the first Brush car built to an operational condition during its 80th year.

Although no work has been undertaken on 621 yet, the car has been assessed over a pit and it is believed that the required work can be completed in time for September’s tramway anniversary event (23rd and 24th September), when it is hoped to launch it back into service. The car has suffered during its time of inactivity, particularly during a few months when it was stored outside at Kirkham, but initial examination indicates that this is nothing too serious. The tram will require some attention to remedy water ingress and is likely to be fully re-panelled, whilst some missing glass will need to be replaced. However, the tram itself is largely complete with controllers, motors and bogies, as well as a full set of swing-over seats which will receive a new set of upholstered backs and cushions. Finally, the car will be repainted in the attractive 1950s style green and cream livery featuring elegant green side sweeps, similar to the livery now worn by Marton VAMBAC 11 at the East Anglia Transport Museum – a style which has never previously been recreated on a Brush car. This will be the first time that 621 has run in green and cream since it received an all-over advert for Interflora in 1995, replacing the 1990s livery style which it briefly carried immediately prior to this advert.

At this stage a full restoration to original condition is not possible, so the tram will retain some of its later modications such as single destination screens and modern glazing, but these may well be attended to at a later date. However, to have 621 running again after so long in its 80th year will be a great achievement, especially in a livery not seen in Blackpool for some fifty years!

This project is being financially supported by the Blackpool Tram Shop and Trams Magazine. However, the tram will not carry any external advertising, meaning that its traditional green and cream livery will be totally unspoilt. A new Facebook page has been set up to document progress on the renovation work on car 621 and it will also be covered in detail by both the aforementioned publication and the Blackpool Tram DVD series.


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19 Responses to Pioneer Brush Railcoach set to run again!

  1. Neil A says:

    This is fantastic news – thank you all very much. The fact that the tram will not be restored to full original condition does not matter,as is the case with the beautiful 648. It will just be wornderful to see it back in service where it belongs.

  2. David Mee says:

    Indeed fantastic news – cannot wait to see it.

    Personally, would like it to be retrospectively returned to as near to original condition at some point in the future, but just having it back in service will be great.

  3. Christopher Callan says:

    Classic example of someone putting their money where their mouth is and championing a specific project close to their hearts. Whether I agree or disagree with choice of livery really largely un important it is after all merely a coat of paint. Pleased to see Videoscene stepping up contributions the success of the Blackpool tram shop and tram magazine side of the business clearly relies on active and evolving tramway the mundane day to day reliable predictable core service you struggle to fill a page never mind a magazine.

    • Dave M says:

      Yes Trams is a very differenet magazine now, for the better, as he can’t fill five or six pages every time with a list of Centenary breakdowns and services turning short at Thornton Gate! Those damned flexities have confounded all critics with their ultra-reliability and efficiency to the point of almost being boringly predictable and any failure in service is genuinely a shock and worthy of making the headlines.

  4. Dave M says:

    So if we count 633, I make that 5 Brush cars could be available by the end of the year. What’s the possibility of a 6th visiting to make an all Brush Gold day at some point??

  5. Mike says:

    I would point out that it doesn’t need to go original – 259 is stored for that eventual purpose.
    As for someone stumping up the cash – great news and thanks!!

    Now will some rich benefactor please stump up for the sadly ignored for no good reason poor Princess! (thats princess Alice 706 of course). If I had any money that would be my first.

    • Paul says:

      I probably shouldn’t take the bait, but why do you feel the need to say ‘sadly ignored for no good reason’ about 706. BHT have said its withdrawn pending overhaul and its hardly ignored.

      • Mike says:

        I use the slightly tongue in cheek phrase because it is one of the most popular and well known trams yet appeals are being run for others ahead of it. I’m no expert but my limited esperience of similar vehicles with framing on an underframe makes me think 715 looks in far worse condition. It hasn’t even been mentioned in any of the we will……. statements as far as I know.

        • Andrew Waddington says:

          When the National Railway Museum decided to restore Flying Scotsman, quite a lot of railway enthusiasts complained, stating that it had jumped the queue as it had been restored before, and they would sooner other locomotives which had not operated in recent memory were treated instead. Presumably the thinking behind prioritising Flying Scotsman, was that it is an iconic and recognisable engine that has appeal way beyond that of most steam locos. Hence my comparison here!

          To my knowledge, there hasn’t been any detailed ‘we will…’ statement from the Heritage Trust? Obviously there is an appeal for Paisley 16, 621 is being funded by Videoscene and plans have previously been mentioned to get 143 and 634 operational in the short to medium term. 706 could well be top of the list after those four, and if someone stepped forward with a big cheque it may well be done before some of them!

  6. Mike says:

    I must admit i do find the priorities confusing. Perhaps its due to the amount of work required etc but if there is 631 and 621 operational, is a third really needed? the single deckers don’t see much use either side of early and late season and occasional gold days anyway! So surely 2 Brush and 680 is enough for now. Long term yes the various conditions should be represented. But my point of usefulness stands. 634 v 706. I know its di9fferent to a museum operation and BTT and BTS have no obligation to share information but this secrecy and lack of publishing a list of Trams/works needed and costings will eventually alienate the enthusiasts and stop the cash flow. i know we can be a demanding lot and we do whinge and complain but we are the ones who come at gold events and spend (the winter ones especially when there aren’t many ordinary folk about) free publicity and hopefully some with deep pockets will dig in! Plus if you are having a family day out in summer, which Tram would you oprefer to ride?

  7. Paul says:

    Matter of opinion really, 706 which has run since 1985 probably wouldn’t draw me out, 621 certainly will.
    I’m fairly certain 706 is high on the list, probably after 143, but it will need more work than anything tackled in the heritage era so isn’t a quick win.

    • Mike says:

      With all due respect, we enthusiasts are in the minority – a family day out probably wouldn’t include a ride on 621 but it would on 706.
      On a personal level I’ve ridden 621 hundreds of times in service and if I’m making the journey across for a Gold running weekend I’d much rather go to Fleetwood on an open top!
      let us hope you are right and it is high on the list. I just think that to not prioritise the open top money makers is short sighted. Just my opinion!

  8. Christopher Callan says:

    Might surprise some but actually do agree with aspects of some of the criticism levelled at Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours & Blackpool Heritage Trust recently. Its the way some of my fellow enthusiasts have gone about it and the way and constructed their arguments in terms of timing, place and fashion. I do hope in fullness of time organisation is in position to be more open about plans and broad direction of travel. I think having a published collection policy & condition surveys and estimates would help shape and creating meaningful online discussions that results in positive outcomes for the fleet going forward. i do understand and appreciate need for cars to be kept close to chest in infancy of operation recognising the organisation has had to navigate complexities and challenges that needed to be treated confidentially (framework to allow volunteers etc).

    This is a positive story about someone putting their money where their mouth is funding a project personally close to their heart and seems somewhat unfortunate for the comments section to be derailed with wider chatter. I do think the vast majority all want same thing mind thriving heritage operation and theirs obvious passion which just needs to be harnessed.

    • Anonymous says:

      And if the restoration of 621 is being paid for in this way presumably the restoration is additional to what was planned anyway, subject to workshop space and staff availability of course, so presumably it’s what they call a ‘win-win situation’.
      I do agree 706 was a popular car but BHT acknowledged that ehen they announced it was being withdrawn for overhaul somI would imagine it’s got its place on their list. They want to maximuse revenue just as we want them to!
      I fully agree with what Chris says. Now with people being invited to make monthly contributions it is only reasonable for people to be curious about what is happening, but as Chris says it is early days.

      • Andrew Waddington says:

        Some more very good points here. When the Trawler was overhauled last year, a few people moaned about that being prioritised as well (small capacity, not ‘heritage’ enough!) but again, it was funded externally – the Lofthouse family were unlikely to finance any other tram really! Hopefully 706 will find its own champion(s) in due course, let’s be patient and give them a chance.

        • Steve Hyde says:

          A good point Andrew about external funding being targeted. Why don’t those wishing for a speedy return for 706 form a crowd funding group so they can put their money where their mouths are so to speak.

          I have to say that I find all this Blackpool stuff rather tedious. There seem to be far too many Balloons and Brush cars competing for scarce resources. Surely a single representative of the major stages of the service lives of each type should be sufficient rather than the duplication that seems to currently be the order of the day.

          • Anonymous says:

            I disagree there 706 is unique compared with the other balloons if the trust did an appeal I’m sure a lot of people would donate to it rather than a Paisley tram which the trust seems to be pushing for. Plus the funding for 706 would be a lot less to get her back running than the Paisley tram which needs building from scratch

          • Andrew Waddington says:

            Do you know this for sure? I’ve said it before, but whilst 706 is more complete than Paisley 16 by far, the Paisley car is of far more basic construction so I have a feeling there may not be as much in it as might be assumed.

  9. Micky says:

    Interesting thoughts people. My two penneth.
    An inderpendent crown funding has no official affiliation – I wouldn’t give to anything but an officially sanctioned one.
    The fact that 621 is independently funded is greta but no it doesn’t add anything as there are still only the same amount of staff so something else slows down (not necessarily an issue as lets be honest its the £££ at the moment which counts)
    Steve Hyde – all these balloons are needed for spares and for illuminations. I was there a few times last year and the B fleet were running illumination tours because the capacity was required – if they had been needed for their other role there would have been a problem! also yes one of each major type, but surely 2 of each to allow for eventual museum display, servicing, future restoration etc.
    Alice is a very emotive point for a lot of people. It is unique and therefore a class of Tram in its own right. I do agree that given both its popularity and usefulness I personally would do it ahead of the Paisley Tram which has no Blackpool connection.
    Has anyone actually asked for a public statement why 706 has not yet been prioritised – it could be next on the list, we just don’t know it!
    Certainly the pics from this weekend’s gorgeous weather showed the lack of an open tip double deck.

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