2014 has certainly been a year of amazing and unexpected developments in the UK tram preservation movement, and that continued right until the final few days of the year with a very welcome announcement from the Blackpool Heritage Trust. It has been confirmed that plans are afoot for the custodians of Blackpool’s heritage tram fleet to add to their already impressive collection by re-creating a Lytham St Annes tramcar, using parts from the sole survivor of this long-closed system.
Lytham 43 is currently in private ownership, stored as a kit of parts on the premises of its owner. Only the lower deck of what was built as a double-deck open balcony car has survived, and its owner,Mr Robert Mortimer, has recently made impressive progressive in reconstructing the lower saloon using the available parts. It had originally been Mr Mortimer’s intention that the completed saloon would be mounted on a road trailer to allow it to be moved easily to rallies and the like, but instead something much more exciting is now being planned. Following an approach by Blackpool Transport’s Bryan Lindop on behalf of the Blackpool Heritage Trust, agreement has now been reached for Lytham 43 to return to the Fylde coast for a full restoration to operational condition, ultimatley to enable it to join the heritage fleet in Blackpool.
The plan is for Lytham 43 to be restored at its current location before moving to Blackpool, where, once funding is obtained, the work to complete the top deck and make the tramcar fit for operation would be completed in BTS’ workshops. This would create an absolutely stunning vehicle – dating from 1924, 43 was one of ten ‘Pullman’ tramcars constructed by English Electric which were at that time the most luxurious trams to grace the Blackpool tracks. Naturally these were put in the shade somewhat by the 1930s streamliners introduced by Blackpool Corporation,but initially made a positive contrast with the Blackpool Standard cars of the same period. Having a Lytham tram back home would also recreate a lost part of tramway history, and if Fleetwood Tramroad Box car 40 is allowed to remain in Blackpool indefinitely (as many of us hope that it will), then all three former Fylde operators would then be represented within the heritage collection – a massive achievement.
Although the transfer and susbequent full restoration of Lytham 43 should be viewed as a long-term goal, it is certainly a mouthwatering prospect and a further reminder of just how ambitious the heritage team have become. Thanks must also go to 43’s present owner for his major role in safeguarding the survival of this unique tram and for beginning its journey back to glory, nearly eighty years after it last carried passengers.