A very unusual, very popular transit vehicle is about to cross the Atlantic to resume its career of delighting riders on a waterfront route, albeit two oceans away from its original home. 1934 “boat tram” 233 will “set sail” on board a cargo ship in mid-September to join its twin in San Francisco, California, for planned operation on that city’s famous “F-line,” which serves the Fisherman’s Wharf and downtown areas with historic streetcars from around the world.
The arrangement between two not-for-profit preservation groups will benefit historic transit operations in both San Francisco and Blackpool, bringing a second boat tram to serve growing demand on the waterfront transit needs in the American city while providing funding to help restore a vintage double-deck Blackpool tram for possible future operation back on its home network.
Market Street Railway, which serves as the non-profit preservation partner of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (a department of the City and County of San Francisco), has acquired boat tram No. 233 from the Lancastrian Transport Trust (LTT).
No. 233 is one of 12 trams LTT acquired from Blackpool Transport when the tramway declared them surplus to operational requirements. Recently, LTT and Blackpool Transport have announced the merger of most of their historic collections for potential joint operation. However, since Blackpool Transport already has three boat trams, No. 233 was not included in this amalgamation and remained surplus. At the same time, LTT desired funding to continue its restoration of double-deck Blackpool Standard tram No. 143, built in 1924.
“This arrangement benefits all parties involved,” said Eric Berry, Trustee. “We will now be able to continue restoration work on our historically important double-deck tram, whilst the three boat trams owned by Blackpool Transport continue to provide service there.”
“We’re delighted to be acquiring this boat tram, while helping LTT fund its restoration project,” said Rick Laubscher, president of Market Street Railway. “San Francisco’s transit agency has been operating an identical boat tram for 30 years; it’s one of the most popular vehicles in the city’s vintage streetcar fleet. Acquiring No. 233, will allow more people to ride this popular open-air vehicle type in San Francisco.”
Twelve of these open-topped boat trams were built for Blackpool Transport in 1934. Three still occasionally operate in Blackpool along the promenade on the Irish Sea, to the delight of riders and car 236 is preserved at the National Tramway Museum. Over subsequent decades, other boat trams ended up in museums or were scrapped. One of these 12 boat trams, numbered 228, came to San Francisco in 1985 to participate in that city’s “Historic Trolley Festival,” a summertime demonstration project that grew into a full-time streetcar route called the F-line.
The F-line runs six miles from Fisherman’s Wharf along the waterfront and then along the city’s main street, Market Street, to reach the Castro District. The F-line carries approximately eight million riders per year as part of San Francisco’s regular transit system, called Muni, part of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
For the past 18 months, No. 233 has been on a two-year loan from LTT to Beamish, The Living Museum of the North, located in County Durham, England, just south of Newcastle upon Tyne. There, it has joined several historic trams owned by the museum in ferrying visitors around the grounds. “We are glad for the opportunity to have had this boat tram visit us,” said Paul Jarman, Head of Transport & Industry of the Beamish Museum. “We wish it well on its voyage to its new San Francisco home.”
Shipping arrangements are currently being finalized, with boat tram No. 233 likely to sail from England in September, arriving in California in October. The latest news on the location of the tram will be available on www.streetcar.org.