Another makeover for Centenary car 641

The Fleetwood Heritage Trust are enabling another static display utilising one of their collection of historic Blackpool trams. Centenary car 641, which has been in situ on the display siding within the Pleasure Beach turning circle for the last few years, is now in the early stages of being transformed by ‘Horizon Blackpool’ ahead of the 2017 illuminations.

641 had previously been in a tangerine-based livery showcasing the history of Blackpool Football Club, and compared with the previous treatment of Brush car 290 which had occupied the same space for a while, this had been relatively well received. However, the football vinyls were removed earlier this week, revealing traces of the base livery applied back in 2010 when the tram was still in regular service, with its Blackpool Transport logos still present! However, these will soon be covered again as part of its latest makeover at the hands of volunteers.

Horizon is an organisation which provides support to local people affected by a variety of issues including sexual health, alcohol and substance abuse and self-harm. Some members and supporters of the group, including those who have been helped by Horizon, have got involved in a new project called ‘Art of Recovery in Blackpool’, whereby they create various forms of art to represent their work. Their latest project is to transform the appearance of tramcar 641 and this work began in earnest on 10th August when two volunteers set about removing all traces of football before the tram is repainted in the organisation’s purple colour scheme! It is intended to cover the Centenary car with paintings, photographs, poetry and any other form of art supplied by ‘budding artists in recovery’, who are encouraged to get involved and contribute to this project. The organisation’s own Facebook page states that “the idea behind the tram is that we will be able to show people what recovery in Blackpool is all about, and what a powerful and positive recovery community we have here!”

All of this sounds very nice, however the decision to treat the pioneer Centenary car in this manner, and subject it to a further prolonged stay on the promenade exposed to the elements, is less admirable. It is to be hoped that a reasonably good paint job will be applied in order to ensure that 641 is protected from the harsh coastal climate as is best possible, and to provide an attractive exhibit, but with enthusiastic amateurs to be carrying out the work this seems unlikely. In the past, the presence of a FHLT tram in such a prominent position, so close to the heritage tram stop at Pleasure Beach, has led many observers to wrongly assume that it has been endorsed by the Blackpool Heritage Trust and Blackpool Transport – neither of whom are connected in any way with this. Unfortunately, a purple tram is likely to cause even more confusion, this being similar to the modern fleet livery as worn by the Flexity2 fleet and three of the modified Balloon cars. Whilst the organisation itself deserves full credit and support, this particular endevour is unlikely to be welcomed by anyone with an appreciation for historic vehicles.

Not every tram can, or indeed should be, preserved in exact original condition and this writer acknowledges that innovation can be a good thing, providing the vehicle concerned is respected and its long-term conservation is not affected adversely. This idea is clearly not aimed at tram enthusiasts, and that alone doesn’t necessarily make it a bad thing – but there are other concerns which are setting numerous alarm bells ringing in this case, not least the fact that a unique historic tram will be staying at a very exposed location for a further period of time.

Hopefully 641‘s long-term prospects will not be compromised by this project, and it would be nice to think that at some time in the future, it could regain its dignity and be restored to its original appearance. However, this seems a world away from what is happening right now and a glance at some of the other ‘art’ produced as part of the ‘Art of Recovery’ scheme leaves your writer feeling less than optimistic. Hopefully the end result will look respectable but time will tell!

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