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 a limited number of 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 carried the tramway’s then standard red livery and at one stage (during the mid-1930s) sported the Corporation’s garter and crest, though it was repainted 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 of 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 English Electric 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 that had been converted from a former ‘toastrack’ (no. 161). 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. It was then used for shunting duties until July 1983 apart from a short period between 1975 and 1978 when the Leeds tower wagon was pressed into service for this purpose.
By 1983 it was in urgent need of a major overhaul and in July of that year was taken to the Bolton Transport Museum where it was dismantled for this purpose. While it was away its motors were overhauled, its wheels were despatched to Blackpool for re-tyring and it was fitted with replacement controllers and proper lifeguards.
Since its return to Crich on 22nd May 1984, 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. For a while it ran 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. Z4 (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 29th January 1966.
- Restoration history
Extensively restored at Bolton during the mid-1980s during which process it received proper lifeguards and was re-tyred. 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.
- Date started operating at Crich
- Mid 1960s; has been used intermittently most years since then
- Total mileage covered at Crich
- Records incomplete but recent mileage (post 2014) is 21 miles, most recently operating in 2022.
- 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