Following a huge amount of speculation in recent months, we are delighted to confirm that Metrolink have announced that not one, but two of the withdrawn T68 trams are set to be preserved, with a third also set to survive in the short term at least in a new role. It has also been confirmed, as had been rumoured for some time, that one of the trams is destined to be preserved by the Manchester Transport Museum Society, to join the expanding collection of historic vehicles based at Heaton Park.
An announcement was made on 21st May by Transport for Greater Manchester regarding the future survival of the T68s following their last ever public run for a special farewell event later this month, which has been extremely well received. Although the new owners of one of the preserved vehicles has not yet been made public, it has now been confirmed that the Heaton Park Tramway will become the permanent home for car 1007 in due course. Before this happens though, the tram should have one final day in the limelight on its home system, as it is expected to be one of the two units used for a final tour on Monday 26th May, for which all tickets have now been sold. This event will also involve an official hand-over ceremony when the tram will be presented to its new owners.
The MTMS have chosen car 1007 to represent Manchester’s second generation tramways in the Heaton Park Tramway fleet. Although not entirely typical of the class due to its unusual seating layout, 1007 was selected due to its significant role in the city’s transport history, as it was officially the first of the new Metrolink fleet to run through the city centre, a role it was given due to it bearing the same fleet number as the last of Manchester’s traditional trams in a welcome nod to the past. It will duly become the very first modern articulated tram in Britain to become a preserved museum exhibit, representing a massive development for the tramway preservation movement as a whole. Not only is this tram of considerable local significance, but the long-term survival of at least one of the T68 class is also nationally important as these were the first of Britain’s second generation trams. Whilst other subsequent light rail vehicles may have been more attractive and reliable, they therefore have a major part in the story of Britain’s tramways and it is extremely pleasing to see that this has been recognised. In the long term it may even become the most modern tram to operate in a museum environment, but right now the priority is quite rightly to ensure that it is saved for posterity.
The MTMS was of course founded for the purpose of preserving Manchester’s tramway history, and it is good to see that this progressive organisation is willing to update its aims and rise to the many challenges that will come with preserving this massive tram. Having 1007 at Heaton Park will ultimately allow the MTMS to show the history of the city’s trams, from the early horse cars represented by Manchester L53 to the Metrolink rolling stock, via traditional electric cars 173 and 765, whilst other long-lost local systems can be represented by the likes of Stockport 5.
In addition to the preserved vehicles, another currently unconfirmed T68 is to be presented to the local fire department for use in connection with training procedures, presumably to simulate an emergency and allow staff to practice what to do in the event of a situation involving a tram. Although this car should not be considered to be preserved as such, it will at least extend its lifespan and could open up the possibility of a bright future for it in the event that any other preservation group should later decide to acquire a second generation tram.
Hopefully this news will be seen as a very positive development, and further confirms just how far the MTMS have progressed in the last few years. Whilst the Metrolink trams may not be as appealing as many of their older cousins to many of us, it would have been a tragic loss if the entire class had been scrapped so if one or more are to be preserved, that is certainly a very positive move which deserves to be supported.