The two Blackpool Balloon cars fitted with snowplough equipment for the winter period have recently switched places, with car 723 returning to Rigby Road following several weeks outstationed at Starr Gate depot. In its place, fellow plough tram 701 has now transferred to Starr Gate along with the illuminated Frigate 736 which enjoyed a rare trip to the southern end of the tramway on 28th March.
Moves of trams between the two depots has been a regular occurrence on Fridays; at present this is the only day of the week that trams are allowed in or out of the Rigby Road site due to ongoing work at the Manchester Square traffic junction. The last Friday of March was no exception, with 701 taking the place of 723 at Starr Gate. 723 has now had its snowplough removed, but it remains to be seen whether the tram will be used in passenger service this year. Although the tram is not particularly attractive to the general public in its current condition, retaining a badly peeling advert livery for the Sands Venue, it did prove popular with enthusiasts when it made a couple of appearances on the heritage service last year, including a solitary journey to Fleetwood. Ultimately the tram is expected to receive workshop attention at some point, allowing it to find a proper role in the heritage fleet, but for now the car will presumably retain its advert vinyls whether it is used or not.
701 is now stabled at Starr Gate, still wearing its snowplough, where it is expected to be commissioned for service. This car retains a rather ugly plain yellow livery but is expected to be repainted in its well-remembered red and white livery in 2014, thanks to the financial support of the Fylde Tramway Society, and it is therefore doubtful that it will run again with passengers in this condition.
Another Balloon car under attention is ‘B Fleet’ car 711, which has spent most of the winter at the top of Rigby Road depot. It was recently spotted that its blade lifeguards have been removed in readiness for its journey to Crich for a minimum stay of two years, and the tram is expected to depart this month. Although it would have been nice if 711 could have been allowed a final run on its native system before leaving Blackpool, at least this tram should see a fair amount of use at Crich this year, whilst its sisters are likely to remain hidden away in the confines of the depot.