Progress for Blackpool Balloon 726?

The Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust have used their newly revamped website to announce details of their latest project to create a new static display tram, utilising Blackpool Balloon car 726. This tram is one of several which is currently in outside storage at the Fleetwood fish docks, but could soon be set for a radical makeover which would create a new illuminated feature tram for display near the Pleasure Beach.

The ambitious plan would see 726 transformed into a new static illuminated tram, based on the fondly remembered ‘Progress’ car from the 1940s which was sadly broken up many years ago. Intended to resemble a futuristic Blackpool tram, the result actually ended up looking more like a Balloon car and so transforming 726 into something resembling it should not prove too problematic. It is intended that the tram would then replace Brush Railcoach 290 on the display siding opposite the Pleasure Beach entrance, with 290 likely to be used for another display elsewhere at some point in the future. The project seems to have gained the backing of both Blackpool Transport and the Council’s Illuminations Department, although quite what their input will be remains a mystery at present. Whilst the finished product should look considerably better than 290 does right now, it is perhaps a shame that money from the illuminations funds is likely to be used to create another static exhibit, when the cash could undoubtedly be put to good use by BTS. It also remains to be seen how the enthusiast community will respond to one of the most traditional of the surviving Balloon cars being treated this way, although in fairness to its owners, sister car 710 remains in their care and will presumably be earmarked for more sympathetic attention in due course, whilst there are of course several other Balloons both at Blackpool and elsewhere which will survive in a more authentic condition.

As if one project announcement wasn’t enough, the Trust have also revealed that they are involved in a potential scheme to renovate the ornate northbound tram shelter and office building at Bispham Station. Although part of this building is still used today as a waiting area for tramway passengers, a plan has been put forward to refurbish it as a small visitor centre in which the FHLT would be able to display some of the smaller items in its collection. The Bispham Traders Association are working closely with the Trustees to develop a joint scheme, although no timescales have yet been given. It also remains to be seen whether this is a scaled-back museum plan, which could potentially replace their goal of creating a tram museum in Fleetwood.

The next two likely subjects of the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust's attentions - Balloon car 726 and the Bispham Station building - seen in glorious sunshine in September 2010. This was 726's final season of operation before it was sold to the Trust. (Photo by Andrew Waddington)


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6 Responses to Progress for Blackpool Balloon 726?

  1. Christopher says:

    The state 627 is in by the end of the year could probably fit the rubble inside Bispham Building. By all means do 726 up but dont store it indefinitely outside like 627… Out for one season back inside Rigby Road. And people will see the group making steps forward. Simply unsustainable to keep sending trams to death row at Pleasure Beach.

    Unlike some think Bispham could provide a good venue for community use and art gallery cafe type site could work. Cross group venue. Advertising and promoting heritage. Think their is mileage for a group their whether that is the FHLT remains to be seen…

    Peoples confidence in the group has been shaken and that is why they struggle to attract the finance they desire.

  2. Paul says:

    I’m afraid nothing surprises me anymore in the pronouncements from this organisation… Clearly lessons have not been learnt from the rapid deterioration in the structural integrity of 627 if they propose to subject 726 to the same exposure.

    As for the proposed exhibition at Bispham, didn’t the LTT propose something similar in the same venue 10-15 years ago?

    To have any credibility as a genuine “heritage” organisation, they really need to concentrate on one single project that demonstrates a clear focus on the welfare and conservation of the trams in their care, and put an end to these strange publicity stunts and announcements of schemes that few expect to see come to fruition…

  3. Ken Walker says:

    726 to become another not-so-mobile graffiti board then. As Paul says, the only time there will be a surprise from this organisation is when they restore one of their trams as a tram

  4. Tommy Carr says:

    Have they not learned anything from 627? One rots away, instead of thinking ‘that wasn’t a good idea’, just put another one out there????

  5. Christopher says:

    I really hope whoever is donating the money considers giving it to Blackpool Transport take this good idea in principle and apply it to a operating car such as 723.

  6. Malc B says:

    Build a spur from the loop at the Pleasure Beach to where 290 currently resides, making it long enough to park even the Western Train, so that ‘interesting’ trams could be parked there for public display (bit like they did at North Pier to display No 4 for the centenary, but with OLE).
    Then any tram of interest could be displayed but driven/towed back to either Rigby Road or Starr Gate when it suited so as not to expose it to the elements out of season or during periods of severe weather.
    Then FHLT come to some arrangement with BTS and get 726 ‘road and passenger worthy’ and treated to the ‘Progress’ illuminated status as currently intended. It could then be utilised as a running car to complement the other illuminated fleet and take its turn as a static display at the Pleasure Beach along with other BTS vehicles providing a changing static display.

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