Saturday, 15 September 2012

Coronation 304 to visit Beamish!

We are very pleased and really quite excited to announce that the Lancastrian Transport Trust's superb 1952 Blackpool Coronation tram No.304 will be paying the Beamish Tramway a visit this autumn. We are still firming up the details (so usual caveats apply), but it is hoped to have 304 here and commissioned in time to take part in our October 6/7 enhanced transport weekend (which as mentioned elsewhere is the hoped for public debut of No.18 in steam as well as possibly one other new railway resident at the Museum - watch this space!).
The outline plan is then to operate 304 each weekend for a total of five weekends, making its final appearance on November 3/4 (the November enhanced transport weekend). It may appear at other times but at this stage its operation is subject to successful commissioning and driver training, this being another VAMBAC car (see posts on Blackpool 11 for information on this sophisticated control system). Passengers (and crews!) can therefore look forward to a smooth ride and powerful acceleration! This is a big tram, at 50ft long, and we will have to undertake some careful gauging to establish whether it can utilise the full route at Beamish (clockwise offering clearance advantages through the town vs counter-clockwise running).
Understandably there are the usual ifs and buts regarding the commissioning process and testing before entry into service, but hopefully this visit will give enthusiasts a wonderful reason to visit Beamish this autumn, LTT members a chance to see three of their trams in operation and 304 will give our visitors a real flavour of 1950s public transport and just what a brave new World it promised to be...
304 at its temporary storage site following the "great tram exodus"
The transfer of 304 to Beamish will ensure this valuable tram moves from its current temporary outside storage as soon as possible, and upon its return it is planned that 304 will move direct to undercover accommodation.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

The great tram exodus

This week has seen our six remaining trams leave Blackpool Transport premises which for some has been their home since they were new. I am sure many enthusiasts and supporters of the LTT are asking why and the logic in them being moved to temporary outdoor storage.
Back in January 2012, BTS agreed under pressure from Blackpool councillors to sanction continued storage of our trams at Rigby Road depot for 12 months at a cost of £1,000 per month plus VAT but BTS inserted a clause into the agreement that if their was no progress on the proposed future home at Thornton Gate within 6 months then the trams would be evicted and, if not removed within one month the ownership of the vehicles still removed would pass to BTS for them dispose of as they saw fit. This clause was contrary to the Council's stated position of a 12 month tenure.
Of course, subsequently there has been no progress at Thornton Gate - the tramway contractors are still occupying the site, so no lease has been forthcoming (a requirement of lottery funding) and we can make no preparations for our proposed transport heritage centre on the site. At a BTS Board Meeting in July, the Directors apparently agreed unanimously to therefore evict the LTT trams and we made arrangements to hurriedly find alternative accommodation.
Our Brinwell Road depot is awaiting a future upheaval and shunt around of vehicles and it was hoped that temporary undercover accommodation could be secured in ther adjacent new bus operating garage of Classic Bus North West. Unfortunately, the turning arrangements precluded this (after a try with Brush Railcoach 287/624) and so our fallback option of outside storage in a secure, CCTV and security guard protected site has become the home for our trams.
Too much of a tight squeeze. The length of the low loader precluded temporary storage at the CBNW bus operating depot and against a deadline for removal of the trams it was decided for expediency to revert to our fall back option of storage in a secure yard opposite the former Busworks' site.
Whilst many may feel that this is a retrograde step, readers should be aware that the last eight months has not been easy - Coronation 304 has had some seat cushions slashed, 632 was damaged in a shunting accident and 715 too was damaged and a very poor repair done to the cab end, 704 has had controller parts and further glazing robbed from it whilst the Rocket's platform had already been crushed in a shunting accident some years ago. We have kept tight lipped about this until now but we were getting increasing concerned about the conservation of our trams - which we were no longer allowed access to.
632 after being damaged in a shunting accident  - we were never informed about the accident but found out about the damage a few weeks later. It was subsequently repaired by BTS but only after we witheld storage fees.

Of course, Classic Bus North West (CBNW) financially supports the LTT - a necessity in these times of austerity when the LTT's costs continue to increase whilst regular donations have plumeted in recent years - it is generally recognised that we are living through the hardest financial climate since the 1930s and many charities are recording significant reductions in income. The LTT is no exception which is why it has supported CBNW's operation of the "SeaFront 12" bus service. Where did our supporters expect the £1,000 tram storage costs would come from in addition to the LTT's other expenditure??
The move to outdoor storage is a temporary measure and plans are already in hand to move them indoors before the onset of winter. It is a great pity that our relationship with BTS under the present management has deteriorated to the extent that it has - and now we have no ties whatsoever with the organisation we have enjoyed a constructive relationship with until 2010, we are free to develop our plans without constraint.