Blackpool Transport Services No. 645
Blackpool’s Centenary class of tramcars was the last in a long line of first-generation tramcars to be built for a British tramway. The small class of eight trams were built during the 1980s as replacements for the ageing fleet of OMO trams that had been reconstructed a decade earlier by adapting some of the pre-war railcoaches to extend their lifespan.
By 1985 (the year of the Corporation tramway’s centenary), these OMO cars were becoming life-expired, and a tender was originally issued for ten replacement single-deck tramcars. This was won by East Lancashire Coachbuilders and the trams were built in Blackburn, though only seven were initially completed as funding for the rest of the order ran out prematurely.
In appearance, the tramcars resembled that of many contemporary single deck buses that operated throughout the UK though they were fitted with the same English Electric motors as were used for the rest of the tram fleet. One departure, however, was that the conventional controllers and brake handles were replaced by more modern Thrystor controls of the type that had been adopted for the Jubilee tramcars (such as 762, which is also in the museum collection).
The result was a very roomy tramcar – at 8’ they were the widest in the Blackpool fleet – capable of accommodating more passengers than their predecessors: 54 seated and up to 16 standing passengers. The fact that the trams entered service in 1985, which was also the centenary of Blackpool’s tramway, accounts for the name that was given to the class.
In addition to the seven ‘regular’ centenary cars, which were numbered 641-7, an experimental car – 651 – also entered service in 1985 with the same body style as the centenary trams but using GEC motors and Marley and Taunton bogies that came from a withdrawn Coronation tramcar. After a five-year trial period this tram was equipped with the same motors, trucks and suspension as the other Centenary cars in 1990 and renumbered as 648.
Once in service, however, the entire class began to suffer from reliability problems, which may have been partly due to the intensive use and high mileage that they experienced, given that two additional trams had originally been deemed necessary to operate the winter service. During the late 1980s a programme of overhauls commenced, which also altered their appearance somewhat.
Number 645’s overhaul was a protracted affair, commencing in 2003 but not completed until November 2005. During this time, the truck was overhauled, the tramcar rewired and the cab ends remodelled. This involved the replacement of the original (and expensive) curved glass windscreens with flat bonded windscreens, fibreglass front valance, new doors and more angular side windows. The roof and side body were also reconfigured to include larger destination boxes, giving it a much more angular appearance.
By the end of the refurbishment programme, only no. 648 retained the original front ends, double headlamp clusters and radiator grills, though it did receive new front-end skirts and its interior was refurbished in line with the other centenary cars. This tram ultimately joined the Blackpool heritage tram fleet following the upgrading of the tramway and the introduction of sixteen modern Bombardier Flexity 2 trams in 2012.
Initially the centenary cars appeared in the then-standard 1980s green and cream livery. Starting in the mid-1990s, however, they began sporting a variety of overall advertisements, including a red all-over advert for Jet2.com in the case of 645. In this guise, they continued operating until the withdrawal of the old tramcar fleet on 6th November 2011. Indeed, no. 645 was the final tram to pick up passengers at the Lytham Road tram stop before failing later in the day and having to be towed back to the depot.
Together with sister car 643, it was then sold to Windy Harbour Caravan Parks for use as cafés. While there, 645 was repainted by the café in an inauthentic graffiti livery. After spending five years in this role, it was then pronounced surplus to requirements and rejoined the Blackpool heritage fleet in July 2017 in the expectation that it would ultimately be used as a source of spare parts.
In July 2023, however, a potential new role for the tramcar beckoned when it was generously donated to the museum by Blackpool Transport Services (with financial support from a member of the TMS) for assessment as a possible second Access Tram and One-Person-Operated Tram. It arrived at the museum on 19th July.
- Type of tram
- Single deck, electric bogie tramcar with offset centre doors.
- Green and cream originally. Now features remnants of an all-over red advert for Jet2.com applied in 2009, overlaid by an inauthentic graffiti livery applied after it was withdrawn from service.
- Seating capacity
- Originally 54 seated and up to 16 standing passengers
- Date built
- Manufacturer of body
- East Lancashire Coachbuilders
- Manufacturer of truck
- Blackpool Transport Services 5’6” wheelbase and Metaltastik suspension
- 4' 81/2”
- Now English Electric 305 2 x 57hp
- Brush Chopper Controls
- Current collector
November 1988 – adverts first appeared.
1993 motors repaired.
February 1994 ‘Driver in position’ pedals installed.
September 1995 twin headlamp units were replaced by single ones.
May 1999 bodywork repanelled and a new pantograph fitted.
May 2003 – March 2009 major overhaul of trucks, rewiring, remodelled front ends.
Winter 2009 direction indicators fitted.
- Withdrawn from service
6th November 2011.
- Subsequent history
Sold to Windy Harbour Caravan Parks for use as a café.
Acquired by Blackpool Transport Services heritage fleet in July 2017 as a source of spares.
19th July 2023 donated to TMS as a possible second Access Tram.
- Restoration history
The tram was withdrawn in operational condition but suffered a breakdown on its last day in service.
Restoration to operational service awaits the outcome of an assessment as to its suitability for conversion into a second Access Tramcar.
- Current status
- Under assessment as a possible second Access Tram and combined ‘One-Person-Operated’ tram.
- Date started operating at Crich
- Total mileage covered at Crich
- Current location
- Future plans
Depending on the outcome of the assessment process it will either be converted into an operational Access Tram and combined ‘One-person-Operated’ tram or used as a source of spares.
- 1987-2011Operational on original tramway
- 2011-2017Converted to cafe
- 2017– 2023In storage at Blackpool Transport Services
- 2023 – dateCrich Tramway Museum