LTT trams are coming home!

Forget the song about how football is coming home – far more exciting news concerns the return home of another tram from the Lancastrian Transport Trust’s collection, with another expected to join it shortly. The tram which has already moved back to Blackpool’s Rigby Road depot is Balloon 704 which returned home on Monday 23rd June with assistance from Scotts’ Heavy Haulage.

Back in September 2012, 704 was one of six trams owned by the LTT to be moved from Rigby Road to outside storage at nearby Marton, after its owners failed to secure more suitable accommodation for its assets. Since then, the organisation has relinquished control of its entire tram collection in order to focus on its vintage bus fleet, with most of the trams being returned to the care of Blackpool Transport to join the expanded heritage fleet. However, with so many Balloon cars already in the fleet, it was reluctantly decided not to take 704 and it was subsequently left behind when the other LTT cars were rescued and returned home, leaving the tram facing a very uncertain future, not for the first time.

However, salvation has come for this tram in the form of an anonymous individual who has bought the car and arranged for it to be transported back to Rigby Road, where it will be stored undercover. Ultimately it is hoped to restore it as an authentic open top streamliner and operate it in Blackpool, but for now the priority is that the tram is safe from the perils of open storage. Two years at the mercy of the great outdoors have unsurprisingly taken their toll on 704 which already looked less than pristine when it previously left, having been partially stripped and lost various parts to assist with the restoration of sister car 717, but the car is thought to be structurally sound and certainly the potential to transform it into something really special is clear to see. With the Manchester Transport Museum Society and the North Eastern Electrical Traction Trust holding aspirations to carry out similar restoration work on preserved Balloon car 708, it remains to be seen which of the pair will be completed first, but the prospect of a second open top Balloon car running in Blackpool to complement ‘Princess Alice’ 706 is a mouthwatering one for sure.

After making the short journey across Blackpool, 704 was unloaded fairly easily with assistance from a unimog and was then shunted into the depot, regaining covered accommodation for the first time in nearly two years. However, another tram formerly owned by the LTT is set to join it soon with the unique illuminated Rocket 732 expected to return home in the very near future. This move really cannot come soon enough as the tram has suffered badly in recent months, with several body panels and part of its tail fin having become detached, but soon it will be removed from the Gynn roundabout and will join 704 in finding eternal sanctuary back where it belongs at Rigby Road.

The welcome return of car 704 in glorious weather, as preparations are made for the tram to be off-loaded on Blundell Street shortly after arriving at its new/old home on 23rd June. (Photo by Chris Callan)


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7 Responses to LTT trams are coming home!

  1. Frank Gradwell says:

    The Rocket will be a most welcome contender for next restoration, but what about the Hovertram, even if only for a temporary return?

    And why not consider one of the now totally superfluous widened modified ballons to become a super donor so that we could get a replacement lifeboat back?

    With BL in charge anything is available for discussion. All it needs is Blackpool, Fylde and Lancashire tourism chiefs to wake up to what they have in their midst and do something as a prominent corporate gesture of faith in the tourist economy!

    Couple that with wider consent for the heritage fleet to uplift passengers based on a proper safety case and not some trumped up confusion of the heritage fleet being public transport and the potential for the heritage fleet to become a real revenue earner , and us enthusiasts as voters and a real dream could be properly realised

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Re: the widened Balloons, I suspect they will be kept as they are for the time being, due to the large amount of money spent on converting them which came from local and central government. Besides, it would be beyond embarrassing if BTS found they need extra capacity for the extension to North Station having got rid of them!

      As for the Rocket, I guess it will depend on funding but its going to take a lot of time and money to get it serviceable again, and there are lots of other smaller projects which will probably be tackled first. That said if someone finds the money then it will probably go straight into the workshops! Realistically though I would imagine that we’re more likely to see the likes of 143, 279, 632 & 715 tackled before it. The Hovertram is also in a poor condition and as nice as it would be I doubt it will return to Blackpool anytime soon. Sorry to sound negative!

      • Simon says:

        You say that but if somebody had a business brain on, and did some figure work it may actually, be more beneficial, to put the Rocket at the front of the list. The reason I say this is because just about everybody who sees the rocket would say WOW, (just like with the train), so people would be more likely to buy a heritage/ Illuminated tram ticket. Where as I doubt 715 would have that effect, on most people so create less revenue!!!!

        • Andrew Waddington says:

          Oh I don’t disagree that the Rocket would be more beneficial than say 715 would, but the costs of restoration can’t be ignored. There just isn’t enough money lying around to do the job, so the only way to fund it would be an appeal for donations or commercial sponsorship. Either way, I believe that a six figure sum will be required to get the job done. If other trams can be done for a few grand then it’s understandable if they get tackled first!

          • Ken Walker says:

            What has happened to the new supporters’ venture that was mentioned ages ago but seems to have gone very quiet. I’m sure there is a reasonable sized group of people out there (myself included) who would be prepared to sign up to regular contributions to a restoration fund now that the trams are in good hands and presumably the funds would be managed by ‘supporter-friendly’ people unlike the LTT saga.

          • Andrew Waddington says:

            No news yet but these things take time to set up and we have to remember that the people who work on these things do so in addition to their other duties. Hopefully some positive news will be announced fairly soon.

  2. JOHN says:

    The issue with the rocket is modern H&S standards and the single exit. If you put another exit in it wouldn’t be at ground level and therefore not everyone could use it as an escape route. HLF have also done one illuminated Tram so may not be interested in another?

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