Historic Blackpool tram back on tracks after restoration

Passengers will once more be able to hop aboard a historic Blackpool tram after the vintage vehicle was lovingly restored.

By Shelagh Parkinson
Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 12:24 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th May 2022, 9:09 am

Tram 143 is now set to join the resort's famous heritage fleet for the summer season after successfully completing a test run along the Promenade.

The double decker dates back nearly 100 years and survived as an engineering tram until it was badly damaged in a fire.

Enthusiasts from Lancashire Transport Trust, LTT, (more recently changed to Fylde transport Trust) , and Blackpool Transport staff have given it a new lease of life - enabling it to take to the tracks once more.

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Tram 143 on its test run - picture by John Garnham

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John Garnham, a volunteer at Tramtown Museum on Rigby Road, said: "Not long after breakfast on Tuesday morning visitors had a very pleasant and unexpected surprise when they went out on the Promenade.

"Cameras were quickly out to take photos of the colourful old Blackpool double-deck tram number 143, that was making a test run to check it was hopefully ready to join our other wonderful heritage trams that are such a visual attraction.

"It ran from the depot to Bispham and back along the Prom to the turn round at the Pleasure Beach before returning to the depot. It was certainly noticed and a big hit."

Tram 143 - picture by John Garnham

Tram 143 was originally built in the late 1920s. It was converted to an engineering tram after the model was withdrawn from service in 1957.

A bus engine was fitted so it could operate when the electricity was turned off, but the engine caught fire in 1980 and destroyed much of the wooden cabin.

It has been restored after coming into the ownership of the Lancashire Transport Trust which had a new top deck made, and has worked with Blackpool Transport on the restoration project.

Mr Garnham added: "We should not forget just how important these heritage trams are to the tourism offer.

Tram 143 prior to its restoration - picture by John Woodman

"It’s certainly not just the realm of tram enthusiasts, many visitors want to ride just for the experience and sense of nostalgia."

Mr Garnham writes: "A total of 42 of this type of tram were built. Originally all had open balconies and open vestibules and were originally painted in the red and white livery as seen on 143 today.

"Later they received the familiar green and cream livery, and the driver received the protection of an enclosed cab.

"Despite the closure of the Central Drive and Layton routes in 1936 several soldiered into the 1950s, retained as a safety net for any very busy periods.

"This tram was withdrawn from service in 1957 but survived by becoming a works tram for engineers needing to look at the overhead electrical equipment.

"Unfortunately, the engine caught fire in 1980 and with the wooden body not being great companions it was set aside for probable scrapping.”Luckily it was passed into the hands of Lancashire Transport Trust who had a new top-deck made and working together with Blackpool Transport have recreated 143 into this eye-catching tram once more. After an unfortunate false start of entering passenger service in 2019, delays due to Covid and the ever present problem of spare parts, it is now looking to be gracing the Promenade once more as part of the Heritage fleet.”

To book heritage tram tours go to https//blackpoolheritage.com