Whilst preparations are underway for the resumption of Blackpool Transport’s heritage tram coastal tours on Good Friday, one member of the heritage fleet remains hidden away from view at Starr Gate depot. The tram in question is Brush Railcoach 631, which has been receiving a makeover during the winter months to enhance its appeal to passengers on the heritage tours, and remove some of the modernisations added during its mid-nineties refurbishment.
So far, 631 has received extensive body work due to water damage to its panelling, caused by trapped water underneath the vinyls from its last advertising livery. A similar situation previously arose with sister car 630 which also required substantial body work before it was repainted for Crich Tramway Village. We had already reported that the tram had swapped its fixed bus seats for the traditional swing-over seating removed from the top deck of Balloon car 700, but better still, 631 has also had its traditional style light clusters restored. This has neccessited some remodelling of its end panels to remove the modern trafficator units fitted during its previous rebuild, and in their place, circular head and tail lights have been restored in their original positions. The car has also regained its sprung bumpers, replacing the more severe rubber bumpers it has had since 1995. It is expected that the original style of lifeguards will also be refitted ahead of its return to use. The job will be finished off with a heritage-style green and cream repaint, rumoured to be in the 1970s style.
It was originally hoped that the new look 631 would be ready to debut over the Easter weekend, but as more work than anticipated had to be carried out, this target proved to be overly optimistic. Instead, Blackpool Transport have announced that 631 will return to the rails on Saturday 4th May. It is not known whether a proper launch ceremony will be held, but as part of the changes made to the heritage tram operation for 2013 it should be possible to ride on the Brush car to Fleetwood Ferry for the first time since November 2009 – an occasion not to be missed! 631 will also become the first green and cream Brush car to operate in Blackpool since 2011, when LTT-owned car 632 was withdrawn for good.
BTS deserve to be applauded for their steps to acknowledge the historic value of the last Brush Railcoach in the fleet, and hopefully 631‘s makeover will be well received by the tram enthusiast community. The company describe the current work as ‘Phase 1 of this conservation scheme’, indicating that further work to improve its appearance are still on the cards. This is likely to include replacing the enclosed pantograph tower with something a bit more tasteful, but as ever, projects such as this are likely to be dependent on the financial success of the heritage tours during the months ahead.