When the fleet of trams that had kept Blackpool’s tramway working for around 135 years were replaced in 2012, a few of those that were ‘retired’ were kept and became the start of our Heritage Fleet.
Being anything from around 120 years old to as young as 50, they do take some maintaining and many are mothballed awaiting engineering time, and money, to bring them back into use. But that is our aim. Below is a selection of those that are around and about and can be seen at various times still on the rails between Starr Gate and Fleetwood.
If you’d like to know more about our fleet, you can order our Fleetbook from our online shop. It’s got photos and descriptions of all our trams.
Tramcar 66 was built for Bolton Corporation by the Electric Railway and Tramway Carriage Works of Preston in 1901. It started life as an open-topped tram though some time later it gained a roof and, later still, enclosed top deck ends but it never did have a windscreen.
Toward the end of the Bolton tramway in 1946 the top deck was removed and the lower deck became a summer house, later a chicken coop. After being rescued in 1966, it was fully restored by the Bolton 66 Tramcar Trust who remain its owners. Bolton 66 arrived in Blackpool for a six-month loan in 1981 and – we’re very pleased to say – never left. It remains a firm favourite.
Standard 147 first entered service in the summer of 1924 and was initially used on the town routes to Layton, Marton and Central Drive and along Lytham Road. When originally built by Hurst, Nelson and Co Ltd of Motherwell it featured open driver’s platforms and open balcony upper deck ends. It didn’t become fully enclosed until 1940.
147 became one of the last three ‘Standards’ to be withdrawn in 1966 and then passed to the Gerald E Brookins Museum of Electric Railways in Ohio, USA. It was never used there and, in October 2000, it returned home for restoration by a small team in Blackpool Transport including Michael Airey, Body Shop Manager, after whom it is now named.
Brush Railcoaches gained their name from having been supplied by the Brush Electrical Engineering Co of Loughborough in 1937. They were officially called Railcoaches due to their handsome looks, luxurious interior (for the time) and sliding sunshine roof.
Despite a steady reduction in their numbers the type remained in use until the end of service prior to the upgrade of the tramway in 2012 and the introduction of the modern Flexity fleet. They are now seen on regular Heritage service along the Prom.
The Centenary cars came about due to the urgent need in the early 1980’s to replace the life-expired OMO rebuilds from the previous decade. The contract was awarded to East Lancashire Coach Builders of Blackburn and the prototype (641) arrived in 1984. It was used in service for two years to ensure the reliability of the type before production examples joined it.
The Centenary cars became the mainstay of the year-round service until the end of the traditional tramway operations in 2011. Tram 648 had retained most of its original features despite numerous overhauls over the years and was the obvious choice to remain with the Heritage fleet.
The open-top ‘Boats’ as they came to be known were built by English Electric of Preston in 1934 and originally there were 12 of them. They were chiefly used on the Circular Tours that took holidaymakers on a round trip along the Promenade and back through the town but they were eventually relegated to run only Promenade ‘extras’ at busy times on fine days.
After the tramway upgrade of 2012 only three Boats were retained for the Heritage fleet two of which, 600 and 227, can be seen regularly taking our visitors along the Prom on the sunnier, and sometimes the not as sunny, days.
Of all the trams in the Heritage fleet many would argue that the most recognisable of them all would be the double-deck streamliners. Built in 1934 and 1935 by English Electric Co of Preston. There were originally 13 open-top and 14 enclosed streamliners and they were soon given their special names.
The open topped became Luxury Dreadnoughts, owing to the name of the class they replaced, and the enclosed ones became ‘Balloons’ due to their rounded appearance. They are a distinctive icon of Blackpool and a number of them have been retained within the Heritage fleet in a variety of the liveries that have graced them over the years.
The 25 Coronation cars, originally numbered 304 to 328, were supplied by Charles Roberts of Wakefield in 1952 which was, of course, the coronation year of Queen Elizabeth II. They were designed to use the new ‘Vambac’ control gear and silent running bogies. They were also the largest single-deckers ever built in Britain at 50ft long and 8ft wide.
304 became a TV star when it was restored as part of the Salvage Squad programme and joined 660 which had been retained as a momento of this tram type. Tram 304 is owned by Fylde Transport Trust. Tram 663 is currently receiving engineer’s attention as part of a plan to overhaul and restore it to service.
No mention of the trams in Blackpool could be complete without including the Illuminated trams. They are, and will no doubt remain, one of the most photographed of all the attractions in Blackpool. The first illuminated trams were right back in 1912 and from the 1920’s purpose built feature cars became an important part of the annual Blackpool Illuminations.
The most famous of all is twin tram 733/734 much better known as the Western Train. Thanks to a National Lottery funded restoration in 2009 and an extensive refurbishment in 2020 this jewel in the crown of our Illuminations Tours should be with us for many years to come.