Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust collection to be disbanded

The seven trams currently under the auspices of the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust – most stored in Wyre Dock with one currently at Rigby Road Depot – are on the look out for new owners after the Trust announced their intention to disband after admitting defeat in their efforts to create a viable tourist attraction in Fleetwood.

In a statement on their website the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust said: “After a decade of sustained effort ably supported by professionals in planning and design, the aims of realising a viable heritage visitor attraction in Fleetwood at Wyre Dock are still unfulfilled. With the added concerns posed by a global pandemic ever present – and outline proposals by Wyre Dock’s landowner, ABP, to redevelop their waterfront site and former dockside land – the FHLT have decided to call it a day on continued labours as far as a heritage transport display in Fleetwood is concerned.”

The Trust are the custodians of seven trams and these are to be disposed of this year with the statement confirming that there is already interest in some of the vehicles with and the hope is some may be put on display in the Fleetwood area. As well as the trams they also rescued the Sub Station control panels from Copse Road Depot before its demolition and these too are hoped to be put on display.

The Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust started off life as the Friends of Fleetwood Trams with a lot of enthusiasm and good intentions to save a number of Blackpool trams upon its upgrading and the hope of creating some form of visitor attraction in Fleetwood. A number of different plans have been considered, including the use of the former Copse Road Depot which was ultimately demolished before their sights turned towards redevelopment at Wyre Dock. But with these plans seemingly no further forward they have now accepted that they are unlikely to come to fruition.

The trams which are currently under their custodianship are:

Brush Car 290 (stored at Rigby Road)

Brush Car 637 (stored at Wyre Dock)

Centenary 641 (stored at Wyre Dock having previously been on display at Pleasure Beach where its trolley tower remains!)

Twin Car 673+683 (stored at Wyre Dock)

Railcoach 678 (stored at Wyre Dock)

Twin Trailer Car 687 (stored at Wyre Dock)

Balloon 710 (stored at Wyre Dock)

With the exception of 290 these trams have been stored out in the open for many years and recent photos which have been circulating on social media have shown that these conditions have not been that kind to the condition of the trams.

Going back to the FHLT statement and they have confirmed that they have already had expressions of serious interest for Brush 290, Railcoach 678 and Balloon 710 – all of which have particular historic interest. The Brush Car was the last tram to run on the North Station route and the last tram to run from Fleetwood Ferry in the traditional tram years, 678 is the most traditional of the three ex-Towing Cars and 710 is infamous for killing Alan Bradley in Coronation Street!

The future of the other trams remains open so for 637, 641, 673+683 and 687 there remains an uncertain future for now.

The Trustees of the FHLT are said to be in discussions to allow two or three trams to remain in Fleetwood and this may also see the Sub Station control panels included somewhere in Fleetwood.

The FHLT burst onto the scene upon their acquisition of Balloon 710 which featured at Tram Sunday in 2011, running along the street on the back of a low loader. They also displayed Brush 290 (in three different liveries) and Centenary 641 (in two liveries) alongside Pleasure Beach loop as part of the illuminations for several years. Other achievements included the securing of Jubilee 761 for preservation which has since become part of the Fylde Transport Trust collection and Centenary 643 was converted into a classroom for a school in Rugby.

The news of the disposal of this collection comes quickly after the reporting that a number of privately owned trams currently stored at Rigby Road Depot would be asked to move early this year. It seems that with the 10th anniversary of the closure of the traditional tramway coming this November that several organisations are now taking the chance for a reassessment of those Blackpool trams which survive to see what can be achieved in the coming years. It does seem unlikely that all the trams will survive but hopefully what we all end up with is a secure future for those that do.

The long term home of many of the trams has been a secure open compound at Wyre Dock. This view is from 20th June 2015 and shows some of the trams then stored there. Brush 637, Railcoach 678, Balloon 726 and Balloon 710. 726 has since headed to Rigby Road but the others remain in situ but with a further almost six years of outside storage their condition has deteriorated.

The first of the FHLT trams to be displayed at Pleasure Beach was Brush 290 which initially received this livery celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. This picture is dated 19th September 2012.

Centenary 641 was the second of the trams at Pleasure Beach and is seen here on 21st September 2018 when carrying the purple based livery which included art from the Art of Recovery scheme. (All Photographs by Gareth Prior)

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24 Responses to Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust collection to be disbanded

  1. Andrew Waddington says:

    I have mixed feelings about this news. Obviously its sad to see a preservation effort abandoned, and at times the Fleetwood museum scheme did really seem to have some momentum behind it with some seriously impressive design plans. However at the same time, the trams had clearly been stored in the open air for far too long and it may well be for the best to admit defeat now before they deteriorate any further. Whilst other trams have been saved and later restored after spending much longer outside, they were generally of a type or system not already represented in preservation, which clearly isn’t the case here.

    As all of these trams have not only been exposed to the elements for some time, but all are duplicates of what is already at Rigby Road (and in some cases, there are also further examples preserved elsewhere), this is sadly another case where I feel that resources could be far better used elsewhere rather than moving these trams to another storage site at great expense, with no guarantee of a secure future. Of course, if any credible schemes come forward for any of the trams then I’d wish whoever was behind it the best of luck, but realistically I feel that the most sensible and likely option for these cars is to be scrapped, with any re-useable parts going to assist with restoring and maintaining their more fortunate sister cars elsewhere.

    One exception to this is 710, which I would love to see rescued if its structurally sound enough to be moved and made presentable for future display. So many tourists still talk about “the Alan Bradley tram” – I’ve even heard people mention it at Crich! – and I believe there would be great interest from the public in seeing it. It would be sad to lose a tram that has potential to attract interest from the public to such an extent, and I’m sure someone commercially minded could milk that potential to great effect!

  2. Chris Callan says:

    The Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust (in its various guises) have spent the last 10+ years as a registered charity trying to develop a site at Fleetwood. Simply not the resources (and questionable business case) to develop a second site locally. Folk need to look at Rigby Road which looks increasingly derelict (never mind in need of restoration) and realise the peril the actual tour operation & its ability to ever deliver the much talked about indoor visitor attraction in some form.

    I stand by my “gloomy” prediction elsewhere that as many as ten trams could easily be scrapped across the various organisations in 2021 (or earmarked for disposal and moved when local restrictions allow).

  3. nostalgicyetprogressive says:

    I strongly agree with Andrew that 710 really must be preserved. I have never made a secret of my absolute love of the Balloons, but putting aside the sentimental side of matters, it would certainly seem there might be a good commercial case for the retention and future use of 710. The loss of three of the class has been quite enough, although at least the salvaged parts of two of these (accident damaged 705 and 722) have been able to be ‘recycled’ for maintenance purposes. Sadly 716 would seem to have been a total loss.

    The twin car in question, as I understand, was donated by someone since sadly deceased and could still be part of that generous person’s estate – don’t really know the legal situation as regards ownership. 641 of course, was the prototype Centenary car which featured in the 1985 Cavalcade – it would be a shame if this could not be rescued. Also 290 is of historic significance and it is even possible that it may be able to remain at Rigby Road. However, the remaining two Railcoaches would only duplicate what is already preserved and would be best put to use for salvageable parts. The only other useful outcome would be if someone with enough money and drive were to use them to create reasonable replicas of 611 (264) and 638 as they were at the start of the 70s. The lone trailer is almost certainly of no real further use per se.

  4. Andrew Waddington says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels that 710 should survive. I think the level of interest in its admittedly brief appearance on Coronation Street is really undervalued by a lot of people – its probably one of the most memorable moments in the 60 year history of the programme, which is itself one of the best-loved British TV shows ever, and something still commonly talked about today. I’m confident that it would be a big talking point as a museum exhibit with people wanting to have their picture taken with it etc. People would then inevitably mention seeing it in conversation and share their photos on social media, effectively advertising the museum housing it and giving free publicity!

    I do often feel that preservationists struggle to see things from the eyes of a regular member of the public with only a passing interest in trams. Its hard enough to get people interested in this hobby as it is, so whenever something gets a bit more widespread attention I think that opportunity should be grabbed with both hands and milked for all its worth! I doubt that the average holidaymaker cares about whether a tram has its original ceiling panels or the correct seat cushions, but many will care a great deal about it being the one they saw on TV. The Salvage Squad tram (304) still gets mentioned a fair bit as well, but not on the scale of the Alan Bradley tram. Let people see those two and I expect their interest will be much higher than if they’re shown 715 or 631.

  5. John1 says:

    678 is not a duplicate. 680 is post refurb and different and 679 is no more (now being 279 and pointy).

    • Chris Callan says:

      Personally think we are very close to reaching the point where the rather aspirational/ambitious proposals that looked to accommodate detailed stages of development within specific classes has passed. It seems increasingly likely that Blackpool Transport Services will look operate “Heritage Tram Tours” on something akin to a commercial basis which inevitably means contractions and change in emphasis in my mind. If the difficult decisions are not taken soon frankly I have little confidence/expectation that we will see a solitary Balloon plying its trade moving forward and worrying about the likes of 678 will be mute.

      • Andrew Waddington says:

        This is quite true. Maybe we need to stop looking at a tram like 678 and saying “oh but it has an original interior so its unique”, and accepting that one Ex-Towing car out of three being preserved is probably enough. Add in the FTT preserving 671 as a solo towing car in a similar condition to that which 678 could portray, and the argument for its retention is diluted even more. In any case, 678’s original features such as roof windows, swingover seats etc. could in theory be salvaged and put in 680 when it next requires a major overhaul.

        Large and long-lived classes of tram like Balloon cars maybe should have multiple examples preserved to show the development of the class – although not all of them necessarily have to be at Blackpool – but I think we need to have a long hard think about whether we really need to save every single Centenary, Twin car etc. I’m too young to remember the founding years of tram preservation in the UK but was there ever a demand to save multiple Leeds Horsfield cars, Liverpool Liners or Sheffield Roberts cars or were people just happy to see one or two kept?

        I fully expect that that someone will probably say I’m a hypocrite for wanting 710 be saved more than 678, and I suppose this highlights the problem with preservation – we all have different views on what should be saved and why, but there isn’t enough money or accommodation available to keep them all!

  6. Tommy says:

    The significance of 710 – being the tram that famously killed Alan Bradley, one of the most iconic moments in Coronation Street’s history – is the perfect justification to preserving it. Unlike some trams where the historical significance of the vehicle is only interesting to the enthusiast – 290, for example – this one appeals to both the enthusiast and, even more, to the average tourist, the one who museums and the Heritage Tours need to draw in. Not to mention the publicity that would come with 710 being restored or returned to service.

  7. david l says:

    With reference to 710 and its “Alan Bradley” connection, its worth remembering the event happened in 1989 , 32 years ago,
    Most non tramway people under the age of 45 wont have any idea or interest in the event, if indeed they have ever heard of Alan Bradley,
    They are much more likely to be familiar with “Kylie and Jason” who were number one in the charts the same week.

  8. nostalgicyetprogressive says:

    Where 710 wins is in its ability to convey up to 94 seated, paying, passengers and bearing in mind its status as a TV Soap star, it is not inconceivable that it would attract a reasonable ridership. That is not to say that 678 and 637 don’t deserve to be preserved and even restored in some manner or other, but it cannot sensibly be expected that this could occur under the auspices of the Blackpool Heritage Tram operation. Blackpool Heritage Trams cannot pretend to be another ‘Crich’ – even there many projects languish at Clay Cross – it is enough that a fair and balanced representation of the main tram types which have run in living memory be represented in the Heritage Fleet – plus extra Balloon capacity for busy events and private hires where greater capacity is required.

    An ideal collection would include as many Balloons as capacity allowed, the ever-popular Bolton 66, a trio of Boats for good summer weather, plus just one of each of the remaining classes of Blackpool tram, certainly from the 1920s up until the time of the Centenary cars. Anything else would have to be low priority, with the overriding necessity being to ensure that the operation is economically viable, notwithstanding the priceless contribution from volunteers. This should not rule out occasional short term loans – say 31 from Beamish for the 150th Anniversary – although this could be done on an exchange basis (for a Balloon of which there would be many) to avoid accommodation issues.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      ‘nostalgicyetprogressive’ – if this website had a ‘like’ button I would be clicking on it! Admittedly I would like a few more examples preserved in Blackpool – an argument for a few extra Brush cars could be made due to their longetivity – but essentially your thoughts are very similar to mine. Another article on this site reminds us that the available space for tramcar storage at Rigby Road is likely to reduce in the next few years, perhaps considerably, and I think we need to acknowledge this. I’d love to keep as many of the old fleet as possible but if heritage is to stand the best chance of surviving and thriving it has to succeed commercially. Boats, Balloons, ‘vintage’ trams and illuminated cars will be key to that – Railcoaches, Twin sets and Centenary cars won’t.

  9. John1 says:

    david I rubbish. Loads of people have mentioned it to me over the years, of all ages. Its like many people haven’t watched Star Trek but they know who Spock is. Its a timeless event which is referenced and shown enough to be in the current ‘psyche’

    • Chris Callan says:

      Personally remain unconvinced that the mere mentioning of it equates to actual revenue sufficient to justify its retention been created. Understand groups/individuals paid considerable all be it un-disclosed fees to purchase 621 & 761 from said group previously. The costs to return 710 to some semblance of respectability look prohibitive as well.

      A large scale “engineering model” placed on scene recreating the specific section of tramway with suitable interpretative display boards (with projection / sound) as part of a visitor attraction would be more than enough in my opinion.

      • david l says:

        Agree totally , Chris, people may talk about it but there’s no revenue from it, a lot of money would need to be spent creating yet another Balloon, this money could be better used on other projects,
        If we must have an “Alan Bradley Tram” why not get a similar restored balloon, change the fleet number and say its just like the one which was on the TV,
        In the Leyland museum we have the “Popemobile” which is arguably more famous, yet its hardly noticed by visitors and I don’t know of anyone who has made a special journey to see it,

        • Andrew Waddington says:

          Its hard to prove whether there is or isn’t money to be made out of 710’s fame. What annoys me is that it seems that it must make money to be worth saving. If we applied that logic to trams in general, we wouldn’t have many left as very few make money directly in a way that another one couldn’t! I don’t recall seeing people question why 701, 703, 715 or 723 deserve to survive on this scale. Personally I’d be quite happy to see 710 replace 701 in the heritage collection – I know that 701 is currently operational but its in a visibly poor condition despite its 2014 repaint, and to be honest I find its internal appearance quite depressing, and certainly not what I would expect of a heritage tour car.

          I’m not sure whether people are dismissing 710 because of the time it has spent stored outside – which I can understand to an extent – or if its just not very well liked compared with say 703 or 712? I did hear that it had suffered some accident damage prior to being sold, but does that really rule it out of being a static exhibit? Most of the Balloons that were sold are/were in a poor condition and even those that keep running are on borrowed time apart from 717 and the B Fleet.

          As for renumbering another Balloon car – something which I believe was actually considered a few years ago – I think that would throw away any credibility. History is supposed to be about teaching people about our past, not deceiving them to believe something else.

  10. nostalgicyetprogressive says:

    Ultimately, were the concept of an ‘engineering model’ taken to its limits, it could be argued that this would dispose of the need for any heritage service, save for maybe one or two curiosities to provide transport for Illuminations Tours. Then, in a museum environment, such models could be deployed to illustrate how things ‘used to be’ before the Light Rail era. In truth, there is nothing that can replace the genuine article, whether in passenger service or just as a static display, cosmetically restored. I think the loss of three Balloons should be considered the limit for what must almost certainly be a National Treasure. I wonder what the response would be if an old London Routemaster faced imminent demise or one of the Pacific steam locomotives. It is worth noting how rare double deck tramcars are worldwide and every effort should be made to ensure that all remaining Balloon Cars survive in one form or another. With the right will and approach these fine tramcars could become an international tourist attraction, rather like the Cable System in San Francisco – where, ironically, two former Blackpool trams seem more assured of a secure future.

  11. John1 says:

    david I – that’s like saying here’s an Astin Martin its like the one James Bond had! It would be a nice to have novelty cosmetically restored (not costing a fortune) in the heritage centre, telling the story of Trams used for filming etc. But it has to be the actual one.

  12. David says:

    These trams are part of the only first generation English tramway to survive into the modern era. As the track and overhead have been replaced they are the only original part. I think that it is important to preserve them. I think that equiping Blackpool with modern trams was a mistake and that the money should have been spent on refurbishment of the original fleet to provide a service along the lines of the Market Street Railway in San Francisco.

    • steve hyde says:

      That would not have been possible as accessibility regulations require full disability accessibility for the day to day service. This was the reason for modifying a number of balloons as extra cars.

  13. John1 says:

    To be exact the balloons were not modified to make them accessible – it was to make them able to use the platforms and capable of 2 person operation. they are, by default, easier to access.

  14. John1 says:

    David – the MUNI F line cars are all fully DDA compliant, Balloons cannot be.

    • James Adlam says:

      It should perhaps be clarified that the MUNI F Line cars do not provide level access from stop platforms like modern trams. In fact most of the streetcars have more steps from street to gangway than a Balloon has. But certain (not all, I believe) stops have a high platform section (accessed from street level by ramp or lift), and staff lay a portable ramp across from the platform to the tram’s main floor level.

      • Peter Watts says:

        As John1 quite rightly mentions, MUNIs F (and also E) line cars are fully DDA compliant. Boarding is only one point of the DDA regulations, the streetcars have to abide by certain regulations on board as well. Californian DDA laws require a certain amount of “free movement” space (from memory it is 36″) where no obstacles such as grab poles, seats etc can be installed. The floor also has to be completely flat from the zone where the ramp is installed. As an example, on both the ex Blackpool boat trams, this involved raising the floor in the centre entrance area so that it is flat from front to back, and one bulkhead was removed to allow the free movement space to be applied. The PCCs have a standee seat layout from the front to centre doors again allowing the free movement space required.

  15. John1 says:

    That is correct, which makes them compliant in USA. It should be pointed out the LRV lines also are a mix of level platforms and wheelchair ramps. But even with a ramp a Balloon can’t be compliant as there isn’t room for a chair on the platform.

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