Blackpool & Fleetwood ‘Box’ 40 has enjoyed a few very hectic days during July 2014, following the completion of recent work on its trucks and body. The tram re-entered service in Blackpool on Sunday 20th July, but was then hastily prepared for departure and left for a period of operation at the National Tramway Museum the following day – its first since 1965!
Box 40 has received a fairly extensive overhaul during the first half of 2014 with its bogies being refurbished at Crich as part of the Tramway Museum Society’s contribution to the project. Work undertaken at Blackpool has mainly focussed on the bodywork, with the roof being re-sealed and the interior smartened up considerably. Following a single appearance on test earlier this month, the recently repainted side roof advert boards have been enhanced with the addition of new lettering to promote the car’s 100 years of faithful service, as well as acknowledging the support of various organisations whose generosity has made its recent overhaul possible.
A high-profile return to active service on Sunday 20th July during the Fleetwood Festival of Transport allowed enthusiasts to enjoy the rejuvenated tram, which was reportedly offering a vastly improved performance compared with its last day of use in August 2013. However, this is likely to be its only day of public service on its native tracks this year, as mere hours later, the car was loaded up onto a Scott’s Heavy Haulage lorry and transported to Crich for the first time since it left the museum for a brief period of storage at Clay Cross in 1995. The process of preparing the tram for its road journey was a simple one, consisting of its lifeguards being removed and the trolley pole safely tied down.
Despite a few delays en route, car 40 was back at Crich by 5:00pm and was soon unloaded and shunted into the workshop to be prepared for use. It didn’t have long to wait, as on Wednesday 23rd July, the tram was taken out for a test run to Town End – its first appearance on the museum tramway under its own power since 1965. Entry into public service is expected imminently and 40 can then carry passengers to strange locations such as Wakebridge and Glory Mine which are completely unfamiliar to this particular tram. The car should see use at its temporary home for the remainder of the season, and will naturally be one of the star attractions at September’s ‘Electric 50’ event alongside two other visiting trams, Blackpool Balloon 711 (which is already in situ) and Newcastle 114 from Beamish which will join them for a shorter visit. Box 40 should then return to Blackpool to continue its extended loan period and is expected to operate for at least one private charter before the year is over.
Although it is a little disappointing that 40 could not run more on its home system during its centenary year, the work carried out on the tram should safeguard its long-term future in good condition, and despite remaining in TMS ownership, it is expected to remain a popular member of Blackpool Transport’s collection of heritage trams indefinitely.