In Pictures: Brush car 623 returns to Blackpool

On Tuesday 6th June, Blackpool Brush Railcoach 623 returned to Rigby Road depot at Blackpool to begin a loan period. The tram has been in the care of the Manchester Transport Museum Society since 2010 and has spent most of that time at the Heaton Park Tramway, where it has been a useful and popular addition to the running fleet. It was also briefly housed at Trafford Park for the short-lived ‘Museum of Museums’ there.

623 was expertly transported from Manchester to Blackpool by Scott’s Heavy Haulage, a firm who have moved this tram a few times now, including its original move to Manchester in May 2010! The car was loaded up in the morning with assistance from a number of volunteers from its home tramway, before heading for the seaside. Arriving in the afternoon, it was unloaded onto Blundell Street – as is the norm for tramcar arrivals – and shunted into the depot with assistance from the Unimog 939. Unusually, the tram retained its trolley tower for the journey by road.

It is expected that 623 will receive some routine attention in the Rigby Road workshops, hopefully to rectify a few recurring faults, and of course it will also need to be fitted with transponder equipment before entering service. All being well, 623 will be released to service for the Tram Sunday weekend on 15th & 16th July, when the 80th anniversary of the Brush cars will be celebrated. It should then see regular use on heritage duties for the rest of the season, including the main anniversary weekend on 23rd & 24th September.

For your writer, seeing 623 back in Blackpool is quite surreal as I was present for its departure just over seven years ago. This tram has now come full circle and although only temporary, its return is most welcome and another positive sign of the excellent relationship that exists between the heritage team at Blackpool and the various other preservation organisations across the country, without whom loans like this would not be possible.

Blackpool 623 is seen being loaded up onto the Scott's low loader for its return journey by road to Blackpool.

The lorry carrying 623 makes the tricky manoeuvre across Middleton Road having just left Heaton Park.

The convoy sets off along Middleton Road at the start of 623's journey back to its old home. (Photos x 3 by Shaun Whitehead)

Showing a highly appropriate destination on its blind, 623 is back home and being unloaded on Blundell Street. (Photo courtesy of Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours)

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11 Responses to In Pictures: Brush car 623 returns to Blackpool

  1. Fred says:

    Whilst this is an anniversary worthy of note it is not as significant as the original streamline anniversary and personally i think money and workshop capacity should focus on Trams more urgently needed like 706. I’ve seen some photos with a wooden thing on as well does anyone know what this is?

  2. Franklyn says:

    I agree partly with what Fred says. Recent evidence suggests there isn’t much in the way of a workshop left at Rigby Road any more. Trams requiring attention get withdrawn and forgotten about while another one is fetched out of the toybox, given a quick repaint and put back into service.

    The overhaul of 706 should have been done as a matter of urgency over the winter period, with both orerational twin-cars rewired next to have them ready for illumination tour duties.

    It seems the modern-day blackpool operation are good at painting but do little or no actyual structural restoration work. Remember there is a railcoach supposedly being rebuilt with original ends and a half-finished open standard we’ve conveniently heard nothing about for years now. Meanwhile a member of the B-fleet (not heritage in anything other than the very broadest sense of the word) has been painted in a livery it never carried and is now being put out on the premium fare heritage service!

    While I have no problem with loan trams, I do think the money could be better spent getting some of the resident vehicles back on the road.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      I think these comments are really unfair. Things like repainting 718 and borrowing 623 will have cost a few thousand pounds, as opposed to the tens of thousands (or more?) needed to get 706 back into service. It needs far too much work to be done over winter. Just look at how long the comparatively minor work on Boat 227 is taking to complete. 623 will be out on the tracks in a few weeks, I really don’t see the issue here?

      Franklyn says “there isn’t much in the way of a workshop left at Rigby Road” – true, but thank goodness that there is even the little bit that there is! The only way the workforce can expand is with more staff, and that will need more money – you know what to do if you want to help!

  3. Trolleyman says:

    It is rather sad to read the comments above given what Bryan and the Heritage Team have achieved and are striving towards. That said, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and yes it would be great to see 706 and the “twins” back out in traffic, but the reality is that, at the end of the day, it does really all come back to hard cash.

    Living over 200 miles away means that I cannot visit as often as I would like nothwithstanding family commitments. Yet it does not take an expert to take a rough count of the number of enthusiasts participating on a daily basis over a heritage weekend (I was there at Easter) and multiply it by the Heritage Travel Card Fare! You might be surprised at the figure you come up with – it’s not pots of cash! – and don’t forget to divide that figure by the number of trams in service to arrive at potentially the amount of cash available for each tram. Admittedly, I’m being a little simplistic here, but you’ll get my drift.

    I’m sure Bryan and his team would also like to have a larger “pool” of operational trams to entice visitors but without money we have to accept that trams in need of expensive restoration or just routine but costly work will need to be sidelined until the cash / support becomes available in whatever form that may be. That may well be for a longer period than we would like.

    In the meantime, lets enjoy what we have and support the Heritage Operation as best we can.

    • Bill says:

      Easy solution – volunteer workshop staff. Clearly rewiring and working on the seats of a Boat is beyond the capabilities of the workshop to complete in any sort of reasonable timescale. So why not have volunteers? They could easily undertake non skilled and non safety critical work to help the job along.
      I also question the choice of what is done and when sometimes, for example would it not make more sense to the operation to have repainted 147 before 718? 147 is most certainly needed to make up for lack of interesting Trams with two Boats and Princess Alice out of action. 718 could then have been done ready for the colder wetter illuminations.

      • Andrew Waddington says:

        I am optimistic that volunteers will spread into the workshops sooner or later, but there will probably be various hurdles to overcome and presumably the existing workforce will need to be satisfied that their jobs are safe.

        As for priorities, on paper I am inclined to agree with you, but again there may well be things that affect such decisions that we are not aware of. I just hope that 147 and 227 are up and running again this summer, as the operational heritage fleet could definitely use a few more crowd pleasers!

      • Paul D says:

        Probably 718 was done first because 147 was still at Beamish when it entered the Paint Shop!
        It made use of the available slot in the Paint Shop that would otherwise have been wasted, and had 718 not been started when it was, most likely neither of them would have been ready for the last Gold Weekend…

  4. Connor Lowrey says:

    Nice to see it back (temporarily) but now totally off topic they fundraise to overhaul trams (excluding 636) but they never put money towards the workshop so they have a better building to work on trams

    • Christopher Callan says:

      Presumably the significant investment program that was kick started in the 2016/7 Winter Program completely passed you by. Winter saw the initial work as part of the £160,000.00 INITIAL works program. Funded by Blackpool Council, Blackpool Transport Services. Surprised such work passed you by as anyone who supported operation throughout winter would no doubt have noticed trams been towed out of depot whilst power was turned off and the significant amount of scaffolding & temporary compound for the contractors to work out of. Of course if folk want to accelerate the process overhauling depot facilities you know where their door is… (and you presumably know where your cheque books are)

      Although have absolutely no idea how bringing a Brush Car (which been tied into private individuals own efforts to conserve 726/625 securing storage courtesy of Blackpool Heritage Trust & BTS) leads to discussions about multi million pound future depot work and rebuilds & re wires of temporarily withdrawn tramcars. Preservation seems to be operating currently in rather strange and worrying climate. Increasing numbers seemingly want everything done tomorrow and want more and more with demands seemingly increasing by the hour.

    • Connor Lowrey says:

      Meant to be 621 not 636 as stated

    • Mike says:

      The buildings belong to Blackpool Council so it is not appropriate for BHTT to pay for any works on them.

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