Blackpool Brush 625 and Balloon 726 join the FTT collection

In an unexpected move the Fylde Transport Trust have announced that they have acquired two further trams with Brush Car 625 and Balloon 726 joining the collection. These two trams were in private ownership but after a change in circumstances were made available at the end of last year with the FTT now stepping in to secure their future.

At the moment there are no specific public plans for these two trams with the FTT saying they have made the “acquisition on a speculative basis with ideas in mind for their future”. Neither tram features in current plans for the retained heritage fleet and they are not current runners with 625 having last run in passenger service back in 2004 and 726 used on a limited basis for the last time in 2010. A limited amount of restoration work had been undertaken by their former owner at Rigby Road with a number of panels removed but it is likely a significant amount of time and expenditure would be needed on these cars before they could be considered for a return to service.

Both 625 and 726 are thought to be two of the trams which are due to leave Rigby Road Depot in order to create additional space ahead of work on the complete depot complex and presumably the FTT will now progress these plans to move the trams to a new storage location.

Both trams are no stranger to a low loader having originally left Rigby Road following the “Great Blackpool Tram Sell Off” when the tramway was upgraded. After periods of outside storage in Fleetwood they both returned to Rigby Road in June 2017 after being acquired by their private owner. That’s where they have remained for the past three and a half years but now with a new owner they look set to go for another road trip.

This is the third Balloon Car owned by the FTT (703 – “Sunderland 101” – and 715 the others) and the fourth Brush (along with former Works Car 259624632 and 634).

This entry was posted in Blackpool Tramway, Fylde Transport Trust. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Blackpool Brush 625 and Balloon 726 join the FTT collection

  1. nostalgicyetprogressive says:

    It is very pleasing to note that another Balloon has been rescued and hopefully this particular example, being the final such tram ever built, will be viewed as a priority for restoration over other classes of tramcar. Maybe one day it will be able to return to Rigby Road to augment this very important and useful group of English Electric trams. Additionally, maybe 101 would also benefit from not only an overhaul but also double destination blinds, thereby making it an attractive tram for an exchange from time to time with 31, as I’m sure it would then be very welcome at Beamish being a little closer in appearance to the authentic Sunderland Balloon-type cars.

    It is also good that 625 is to be retained and might be interesting restored to early 1970s condition, but this would be unlikely to occur in the short or medium term as there are simply so many Brush Cars in preservation. 634 would probably prove to be an ideal subject for restoration to its pre-1976 condition before it lost its sliding doors, roof windows and double destination blinds – probably more realistic and cost effective in the medium term than effectively ‘starting over’ with 624 or 625.

    However, the best part of the news most certainly concerns 726. I know some people feel that the Balloon is over-represented in the Heritage fleet but the Heritage operation does need to remain commercially viable, as with any other transport undertakings, in order to survive. Consider how beneficial the Balloons have been in conveying visitors to Tram Sunday, thus both relieving pressure on the Flexity service together with affording the opportunity of a traditional tram ride to those passengers located conveniently for the Heritage stops. Also, picture a wet Illuminations evening during the Autumn half term break, when it might not be appropriate to expose the illuminated fleet to the inclement weather. A sizeable fleet of Balloons would rise to the occasion, no doubt to the joy of the young ones and the relief of parents spared the inconvenience of having to explain to fractious children why they will have to make do with a trip on a Flexity and ultimately not finding their attempt to take a Heritage trip around the Lights such a positive experience. Bring on the Balloons, is what I say and am very grateful to FTT for preserving another one.

    • Chris Callan says:

      With a robust booking system (building on the enforced “covid-secure” format) in place the public should be able to “trip the lights” without the risk of disappointment planning there journey around availability. The Heritage operation does not become (refute assertion it is currently) viable by simply expanding capacity at absolute peak.. It needs to become better at spreading the existing demand by filling the ever noticeable empty seats first.

      The Tram-Sunday outputs should not be Balloon centric as does operation no favours during the actual day-time. Lost count how many people stared at the likes of 723 / 713 trundling towards then looking somewhat disappointed having enjoyed a very popular 2013 “mini tour” on popular boat car to Thornton Gate. A new balance is required when the restrictions lift. Should be seen as a chance to showcase variety within fleet. Ideally you would have 1 Boat & 1 Vintage (Promenade Tours Tower-Beach), 1 Boat 1 Open Top Balloon (TG-FF Shuttle) & Others (more capacity focussed) providing shuttle between Tower-Fisherman’s Walk.

  2. John1 says:

    Whilst I’m glad it will survive, I disagree it should be prioritised. 706, Hover, Rocket and 8 should most certainly come before it. 704 is currently in works don’t forget.

  3. nostalgicyetprogressive says:

    I do agree that the Covid-19 Safe booking system would prove to be a helpful paradigm to ensure that all seating capacity is put to the best possible use. However, there are two issues to consider. If such a booking system fails to meet demand at the busiest times (Late September and October half term), creating the impression that the Heritage Tours are ‘Always Sold Out’ akin to some popular shows and concerts, then anyone wishing to tour the lights, having booked a break on the spare of the moment, as many do, may well be convinced that the only options for viewing the Illuminations are either to settle for a Flexity or more likely take to the road, adding to promenade congestion. Even if a booking system were in place, it would ideally need to be flexible to benefit from a surge in demand at these busy times and both Balloons and volunteers would need to be on standby to rise to such occasions. Of course, the standard economic model would be to increase the price at such ‘peak’ periods to regulate demand, but this may not help the Heritage Operation in trying to maximise patronage.

    Secondly. many people have become accustomed to the turn up and ride system. Any change to this would need to be well advertised at regular tram stops, various information and travel centres and ideally at guest houses and hotels. It has always surprised me how leaflets about Heritage Tram services have been conspicuous by their absence in such establishments, whereas information relating to other attractions (not only in the Blackpool area) seems abundant! I think any permanent change to a mandatory booking system would need to ne accompanied by a far more robust advertising policy.

    On the subject of 726, while it is true that there are trams which should be ahead of it in the queue for restoration work, I still think it should be afforded priority over duplication of low capacity vehicles such as Coronation Cars and Brush Railcoaches. As I have mentioned elsewhere, OMO 8 is of special importance and I would also expect that 706 would be near the head of the queue being such a popular tram and greatly missed by many. It would be great to see 735 run again, especially as it is a modified ex-Series 1 Railcoach and can hold up to 99 passengers but I would suspect that there will be Health and Safety issues involved with returning the Rocket to service and it would realistically need to take its place behind revenue earning vehicles, were it simply to become a mobile Illuminations feature.

Comments are closed.