Blackpool Corporation Electric Locomotive (aka No. 717)
Blackpool Corporation’s electric locomotive serves as a reminder that not all electric tramcars were built to carry passengers. In different parts of the world trams have also been used for the carriage of a variety of other goods and commodities ranging from coal and timber to bottled mineral water and even funeral-bound coffins, in the case of the specially adapted hearse trams that operated in Milan between the 1880s and 1920s.
Blackpool’s electric locomotive was built in 1927 for the rather more prosaic purpose of towing coal wagons from an LMS railway siding behind the Copse Road tram depot in Fleetwood to Thornton Gate sidings, 2.5 miles away, where the coal would be off-loaded for onward delivery by various waiting coal merchants.
The design is known as a ‘steeple cab’ locomotive and similar examples were supplied to haul heavy cargoes at various industrial premises including power stations and ship-builders in addition to tramways. The locomotive itself weighed ten tons, which included 2 tons ballast, and was intended to handle loads of up to 150 tons. The vehicle initially arrived in the tramway’s then standard red livery, though it was painted in green with dark green lining when it was given its first and only full operational overhaul in 1938.
Blackpool Corporation’s locomotive was typical in having railway-style buffer beams and couplers fitted to enable it to pull strings of wagons though it would not normally have hauled more than six loaded wagons. Generally the service consisted on one return journey per day but because the returning empty trucks had to be pushed by the loco, a ‘flag-man’ equipped with red and green flags rode on the front wagon so that he could signal to the driver.
Its original role came to an end on 30 April, 1949 when the tramway’s coal traffic ceased. Not surprisingly, such an infrequent service was never profitable, though takings were sufficient to repay the loan for the locomotive in 1943. On first becoming redundant, the locomotive was initially offered to the Light Railway Transport League for preservation but, with so many other pressing candidates, the offer was refused.
After this the locomotive was assigned to the permanent way fleet but although it is sometimes referred to as Blackpool loco 717, this was just its works number and while in service it never carried a fleet number as such. It was later fitted with tramway-style coupling and was occasionally pressed into service for weed-spraying duties while hooked up to a salt-water spray wagon. Its other permanent way duties included occasional deliveries of rail consignments on plate frame bogies..
It was finally withdrawn in December 1965 and acquired by the Tramway Museum at Crich where it arrived the following year, sixteen years after it had been initially offered for preservation. Upon arrival its railway buffers were removed and it was equipped with make-shift lifeguards. In 1983 it was taken to the Bolton Transport Museum where it underwent a major restoration, which included the fitting of proper lifeguards.
Since its return to Crich it has seen regular service on a variety of permanent way duties as well as shunting, towing and retrieving ‘failed’ tramcars, all of which are the type of operations for which such a vehicle would have been originally designed. During the late 1980s and early 1990s it appeared in its original Blackpool livery of red with white outlining before reverting to the more recent green colour scheme. In 2008 it received further workshop attention when its motors were overhauled.
- Type of tram
- Four-wheeled steeple cab electric locomotive used as a works vehicle
- Green (originally red with white lettering)
- Seating capacity
- Date built
- Manufacturer of body
- English Electric
- Manufacturer of truck
- 4’ 8½”
- Dick Kerr DK30 2 x 50hp
- E.E. Z.4 (Originally DK DB1 K33E)
- Current collector
- Trolley pole with swivel head
The loco was repainted in 1938, when its red livery was replaced by green with dark green lining. Its original railway-type buffer beams and couplers were replaced with tramway-style coupling after it ceased to be used for mineral traffic work in 1949.
At some point its original DB1 controller was replaced by a Z.4 controller.
- Withdrawn from service
Its original mineral wagon haulage role ended in 1949, after which it was deployed on various permanent way duties including weed-killing operations. It was taken out of service in September 1963 and stored for a time at Bispham depot.
- Subsequent history
Acquired by the TMS and transported to Crich on 28th January 1966. It entered service at Crich later that year.
- Restoration history
Extensively restored at Bolton during the mid-1980s during which process it received proper lifeguards and received its original red livery.
Overhauled in 2000 and motors serviced in 2008.
- Current status
- Restored and maintained in operational condition. It is regularly used on permanent way and shunting duties. Commissioned for service as part of the operational fleet during the current season.
- Current location
- 1927 – 1965Operational on original tramway
- 1966 – 1974Operational at Crich
- 1974 – 1978On display
- 1978 – 1983Operational at Crich
- 1983 – 1984Undergoing restoration
- 1984 –Operational at Crich