Blackpool Balloon Tram

 Balloon 726 at Fleetwood Ferry, Summer 2007

Technical Information

Built: 1933 – 35

Builder: English Electric, Preston

Capacity: 84 – 94 seated (varies per fleet member)

Numbered: 237 – 263 (now 700 – 726)

Trucks: EE Equal wheel bogies, 4ft 9 inch wheelbase

Motors: EE 305 HP 57 x 2

Controllers: EE Z6

Top Speed: approx 35 MPH

Braking: Westinghouse air wheel, rheostatic 8 notches, hand- wheel

Current Collector: Pantograph

Current Operation: 700, 711, 713 and 719 are part of B fleet, can be used on normal service or heritage service if needed. 720 is stored

701, 706, 715, 717, 723 all part of heritage fleet

Early Days

When Walter Luff became the Transport Manager at Blackpool Corporation Transport in 1933, he inherited a mixed fleet, there were a few newer trams in the Pantograph trams of 1928, 6 Corporation built Toastracks and the Standard trams built in the 1920’s, which although they were new, looked older having been built to traditional designs. The vast majority of the fleet however, was life expired, indeed a number of them were either originals or early examples of trams built in the early years of  the tramway.  In 1933, the main type of double decker tram used in service on the prom at the time was the open topped ‘Dreadnought’ tram, some of which had been built between 1898 and 1901.  The Dreadnought trams featured double staircases at each end and could be dangerous when unloading.

Walter Luff set into motion a plan that would see 116 new trams of different types enter service over the next 5 years.   A large number of these trams would go on to be the backbone of the fleet for the next 75 years. This began with the arrival of prototypes a Boat, Railcoach and a new type of Open topped double decker from English Electric in Preston.   The new double decker tram, which was delivered in 1934 was a ‘luxury dreadnought’ numbered 226 (later 237 and even later 700). It featured centre entrance doors, open top deck, heating on the lower deck, comfortable seating for over 90 people and cabs for the drivers.

The tram was so well received that a further 12 open topped examples were ordered and delivered in 1934. A further 14 closed topped examples were also built, with the same lower deck features as the open topped version but with the inclusion of curved roof windows, a top deck roof featuring opening canvas sun roofs, upholstered top deck seating and heating on the upper decks. The ‘Luxury Dreadnoughts’ would soon become more commonly known as the  Balloon Cars because of their streamlined and bloated appearance. Initially, the Balloons would be allocated to the Lytham Road route and to promenade specials, the open top examples would mainly be seasonal, with the enclosed examples running all year round.


The start of World War Two saw a decline in the use of the open topped balloons and an urgent requirement for more enclosed double deck trams.   A start had already been made on enclosing the top deck and vestibules of the Standard Trams to make them enclosed, however more were needed so during 1942 and starting from car 249 and working backwards to 237, the open topped balloons had their top decks enclosed to match their sister cars 250-263.    The now former open topped Balloons and the enclosed double deckers were almost identical.   The only exterior differences being that the former open toppers did not receive an opening sun roof or the trolley arches, which the open roof was stored under and the lower deck passenger windows were taller on the original enclosed deck trams.   The main difference to the interior was the top deck thin wooden swing-over seats were retained and received a thin layer of upholstery, with passengers finding that those seats were not as comfortable!

During the war, the Balloons received a new, mainly dark green livery.   This was partly down to trying to make the trams less visible to enemy aircraft and partly down to the fact that the cream paint available during this period was of a poorer quality.

The wartime livery carried by the Balloons featured below cab V’s with a cream band round the body, cream windscreen hoods, a cream band above the lower deck windows and cream window frames on the upper deck.    From 1939- 1945,  the curved roof windows had their glass painted over with green paint.  The saloon lighting was downgraded with bulbs painted black all over except for a small spot, which allowed a very small chink of light.

The head and tail lights received hoods to stop the lights been seen from above.    The mainly green wartime livery, although functional, made the Balloons look alot older than they actually were at the time.

Neglected and Revived

At the end of the war, the head and tail light hoods were removed and the saloon lighting was upgraded again back to pre war standards with the black paint finally being removed as was the layer of green paint, which had covered the curved roof windows on the upper deck!   Despite all these positive changes, it would be the mid 1950’s before the wartime livery finally replaced on the Balloons.   Walter Luff, the General Manager of Blackpool Corporation Transport was coming to the conclusion that the Balloons and double deck trams in particular were old fashioned and were too slow to load.   His thinking was that the way forward to have a more frequent service using single deck trams.

The arrival of a new fleet of 25 single deck Coronation trams in the early 1950’s, looked like being the end of the road for the Balloon fleet as the Coronations were ultimately seen not only as the future of the tram fleet, but also as replacements for the balloon cars.   However, the Balloon trams survived, partly because of a change in management, a change in policy and numerous problems with the Coronation trams.    From early 1950’s the Balloons became seasonal trams with their winter duties on the Lytham Road route taken over by Railcoaches and Brush Cars.
When Joseph Franklin took over as manager in 1956, he saw the potential of the Balloon cars and how useful they could be and for the first time in a while, some serious work was undertaken on the Balloons to improve the fleet.   Following repaints, the mainly dark green Wartime livery was replaced by a new livery featuring cream lower and between deck panelling and a lighter green roof and lower window frames.

As well as the repaint, externally, the Balloons received new rubber mounted roof windows whilst the sun roofs on the 250-263 series were panelled over and removed.   The additional destination screens, which were located above the centre entrances were also removed and a start was made on replacing the hard to read double destination blinds between the cab and the top deck windows with a slightly larger and easier to read single destination screen.  This new screen was housed in a specially fabricated fibreglass panel, which would change the look of the cab ends.   This particular modification, however was progressed very slowly with the first modification taking place in the mid 1950’s and the final tram didn’t receive the single screen modification until 1980.

Another modification was to add extra seating to the upper decks by fitting bench seats at either end of the upper deck on most of the Balloons, this would increase the overall capacity of those trams by 10 from 84 to 94.

Until 1958, Bispham was the furthest north that the Balloon fleet were permitted to travel.   Following the fitting of check rail on the reserved track north of Bispham and following agreement with the Railway Inspectorate, permission was granted for the entire double deck fleet to travel over the full length of the line.   Shortly afterwards, the Balloons began to appear on specials to Fleetwood both from the promenade and later also from North Station.  Balloon specials to Fleetwood mostly occured on Market Days, to help to move the crowds of holidaymakers flocking to the northern town in search of a bargain.

Route Closures

As well as being used on specials, mainly on the Promenade route initally as far as Bispham but also to Fleetwood from 1958, the Balloons also operated on the Squires Gate – Cabin route (also known as the Lytham Road route) during the summer months, with 6 trams required on a daily basis.   The decision was taken to close the route between Squires Gate and Manchester Square from October 1961, meaning that the Balloons lost their regular timetabled workings.

Three of the fleet would be required for a new role on the Marton route in 1962, when they would be allocated to Marton depot and work on the school specials. In between these workings, they would join the rest of their sisters on the promenade for specials.   The reason for the Balloons working these specials was to allow a number of elderly Standard Cars to be withdrawn from use.    Following the closure of the Marton Route in 1962, the Balloons allocated to Marton Depot returned to Rigby Road depot for further use.

With the closure of the inland routes taking place between 1961 and 1963 and the resulting reduction in the number of trams required, the Balloons were the only class of tram to escape completely unscathed.

Moving on a few years to 1968 and a new computer system was introduced at Blackpool Corporation Transport, the system required the trams, buses and other vehicles to have unique identities (previously the buses, trams and other vehicles had duplicate numbers to each other).   To resolve this, all the trams were renumbered, with the Balloon fleet being renumbered from 237-263 to 700-726.

The 1970’s

Heading into the 1970’s and the entire Balloon fleet remained in service, however two in particular retained the vast majority of their original features and were becoming in dire need of an overhaul.   The decision was taken to withdraw Balloons 714 and 725 from service in 1971 pending overhauls.   The withdrawal of 714 and 725 fell around the same time as the works were busy with the conversion of Series 2 railcoaches to OMO cars so the trams were stored in Blundell Street depot for many years and were used as Christmas Trees, donating parts to keep other trams in service.   Following the end of the OMO building programme, the decision was taken to build an OMO double decker.   Balloon 725 was to become the basis for this new double decker, being rebuilt, renumbered to 761 and re-entering service in 1979.   Balloon 714 followed as the second Jubilee tram and re-entered service as 762 in 1982 (see Jubilee Trams page for more info).

In the 1970’s, advertising on the trams mainly consisted of between deck advertising on the Balloon trams and advert boxes on the single decker trams, however advertising on trams took a great leap forward in 1975 when Balloon 707 became the first double deck tram in the fleet to be painted in an all over advertisment, when it received a very colourful advert for Empire Pools.  707 would keep this advert for 2 seasons.

A further overhaul of the Balloon trams saw many of the fleet gradually having their curved roof windows removed and panelled over, this work would carry on into the 1980’s.   Three trams, however would retain their curved roof windows throughout the remainder of their  working lives: Balloons 700, 703 and 721.   At the same time, the entire balloon fleet also lost their stylish enclosed lighting in favour of bare bulb lighting.

In 1980, a severe head on collision occurred at Pleasure Beach between balloons 705 and 706, the cause was incorrectly set points. Both 705 and 706 were withdrawn, with 705 being scrapped (the only balloon to have been scrapped until 2009).   After a period of storage, when the tram was actually towed out into the bus yard for scrapping, Balloon 706 was given a last minute reprieve.

Having had it’s last minute reprieve, work soon commenced on repairing Balloon 706, however instead of being restored back to a regular Balloon, 706 was instead to be restored as an open topped Balloon in as close to 1934 condition as possible.   706 did however have some modern concessions, these included the single destination screens being retained rather than the double screens being refitted, hopper windows being fitted on the lower deck, wind shields being fitted at the ends of the top deck, and pantograph instead of a trolley mounted on an extended canopy to stop passengers from trying to touch the pantograph.

Balloon 706 was relaunched back into service as part of the 1985 Tramway Centenary Celebrations and was named ‘Princess Alice’ by the Duchess of Gloucester: Princess Alice.   One Balloon that missed the centenary celebrations was Balloon 710, which spent the season on loan to Crich Tramway Museum in exchange for some of their trams being on loan in Blackpool.

Celebrity Balloon!

Balloon 710 would get it’s moment in the spotlight just four years later in 1989 when the tram played a starring role in Coronation Street!

Having tracked down his wife, Rita Fairclough, to a Blackpool hotel, soap villan Alan Bradley would meet his death as he chased Rita across the promenade road then across the tram tracks opposite the Strand Hotel.   However as they crossed the track, 710 was missed by Rita, however Alan wasn’t so lucky and was knocked down.    The episode, when shown on 8th December 1989, attracted 26.93 million viewers.

A plaque to the event was unveiled on the front of the Strand Hotel in 2009 by Mark Eden, the actor who played Alan Bradley.   The Strand Hotel is located near the Wilton Parade Tram Stop on the Promenade.

Major Overhaul

In 1989, Balloon 701 was withdrawn in need of an overhaul.   Rather than receiving a standard Balloon overhaul, the work done to 701 was more experimental and would form the basis of a number of future overhauls.

701’s top deck would lose its curved roof windows, however the main alteration that would change the whole appearance of the tram was the removal of the curved corner windows on the top deck, giving the tram a flatter appearance.   Part of the reason behind this alteration was that the curved glass was becoming harder and more expensive to source and a number of Balloons had already had their curved glass replaced with curved plastic sections that were weathering badly.   Both decks had their glazing replaced with toughened safety glass and hopper windows replacing the drop down windows.

701’s interior was altered with enclosed bulb lighting being fitted to both decks.   The swing-over seating was replaced with fixed ex route-master bus seats.

The tram was finished off in a red and white livery based on the route-master buses which operated on the prom at the time.   701 returned to service in 1991 and carried this livery until 1993.

With the overhaul of 701 deemed a success, further Balloons would be modernised in the following years to the same style as 701.   Balloons  723, 711 and 719 were the next three candidates for overhaul between 1992 and 1996.  The main differences to 701’s overhaul were that these cars received low voltage inverters that allowed the trams to receive saloon heating, fluorescent lighting in both decks, indicators and high intensity headlights.

1992 was the final season for the majority of the tram fleet using trolley poles for current collection.   The only exceptions being the vintage fleet and the boats, which would retain trolleys for a variety of reasons.   The final few Balloons retaining trolley poles, would have them replaced with pantographs at the end of the season.

In 1995, the UK commemorated 50 years since V.E day and V.J. day, which signalled the end of World War Two.   As part of the commemorations, Balloon 703, which was deemed to be the Balloon tram retaining the most original features, was chosen to receive a repaint back into Wartime livery.   To make the repaint and the look of the tram more authentic, Balloon 703 also had a trolley pole reinstated for a time in place of it’s pantograph.

The pioneering Balloon tram no 700 was withdrawn as it required a major overhaul and new underframe, however rather than being modernised in the style of Balloon 723 with flatter fronts and no curved upper deck windows, 700’s status as the first Balloon tram built meant that the tram received a more sympathetic overhaul back to a more original style.  The double destination screens and side destination blinds were reinstated, however the side destination screens were painted on.   Windscreen hoods, that were removed in the 1960s along with the decoative mouldings on the sides of the tram were reinstated.   The interior of the tram retained swing-over seats and gained encased fluorescent lighting, which looked similar to the original lighting.    700 also had its trolley pole reinstated and returned to service painted into wartime livery in 1997.

Balloon 700 wasn’t the only eyecatching Balloon on the prom at the time as only year before 700 re-entered service, the newly refurbished Balloon 719 became the Walls Ice Cream tram in 1996.   Complete with an ice cream counter inside, 719 was regularly to be found working on specials between Pleasure Beach and North Pier.   Unfortunately, however the ice cream counter did not prove to be overly popular as the ice cream it sold was far dearer than what was being sold on the prom, there was also the issue that the ice cream could not be left on board the tram when it wasn’t out in service as when the tram had it’s power turned off when it was stabled in depot, the freezers on board would defrost!

Other issues with the tram were that the capacity was drastically reduced due to the space the counter took up, the seating was hard and uncomfortable as the normal seating was replaced with seating more akin to an ice cream parlour than a tram.   A number of windows were panelled over on the top deck including the front windows on the upper deck.   The ice cream counter was closed in 1998 and eventually removed in 1999 with 719 continuing to advertise Walls Ice cream until 2006 albeit with an increased seating capacity.   Once the advert was removed, normal seating, the usual seating capacity for a balloon and the panelled windows were reinstated.

Another Balloon to have some work done to it was Balloon 721, which returned from a mini overhaul in 1998.   The tram had repairs done to its under-frame and had been fitted with hopper windows on both decks and bus seats in the lower deck.   In a welcome change to precious overhauls,  721 retained it’s roof windows on the top deck as well as the curved front top deck windows and swing-over seats on the top deck.   Unfortunately and controversially, some of the windows on the top deck were panelled over or covered in contra-vision as part of an all over advert for Mitchellin Tyres.  A number of complaints were received from passengers unable to see out the remaining windows.   The windows that were removed, were replaced soon afterwards and 721 continued to carry the advert until 2004.

Another tram to have returned from a major overhaul in 1998  was Balloon 707.   A protacted five year overhaul which began in 1993 when 707 was withdrawn for a major overhaul and requiring a new underframe and re emerged in 1998 with flat ends and a modern interior, but retaining the same layout, controllers, centre stairs and centre doors just like the other Balloons in the fleet, they also still required a 3 person crew.    707 was rebranded as a Millennium Balloon.  Balloon 709 was withdrawn in 1996 and re emerged as the 2nd Millennium Balloon in 2000.  Balloon 718 was withdrawn in 1999 re emerging in 2002 as a Milllenium Balloon whilst Balloon 724 was the last balloon to be rebuilt in the Millennium style, re-entering service in 2004. See Millennium cars for more information

On an unseasonably windy day in July 2001, Balloon 722 became the victim of one of the most spectacular derailments in the history of the tramway.   Returning to Rigby Road depot just after midnight, Balloon 722 ran into a sand drift between Central Pier and Foxhall, derailing and coming to rest against a traction pole with the front half of the tram finding it’s way onto the promenade road. It took over 12 hours to get 722 back to depot as a low loader was required to return one of 722’s trucks back to Rigby Road whilst the remaining truck and 722 were towed back to depot, not before the damaged traction pole was also removed.   Surprisingly 722 only suffered some panel damage and a broken window and was back in service just a few weeks later.    Balloon 722’s derailment was the second derailment for a Balloon car in 2 years as in July 1999, Balloon 710 was heading northwards between near to St Stephens Avenue when the track gave way under 710 and the tram derailed, 710 was left in situ for 5 days before being re-railed.

Another Balloon in need of a new underframe and major overhaul was Balloon 713, which was withdrawn from service in October 2002.   By this time, the policy of major overhauls for the Balloon trams had changed so rather than being rebuilt as a Millennium Balloon as per 707, 709, 718 and 724, 713 and any subsequent major overhauls were to the mid 1990’s specification with the removal of the curved upper end windows and modernised interiors.

The severe deterioration of the track North of Thornton Gate saw a ban on double decked trams running north of Thornton Gate from October 2002 to April 2004.   This had a serious impact on the number of Balloons used in service during the 2003 season as the tramway output was dominated by single deckers. The most frequent performers during this period for the Balloon fleet were 704, 711, 719, 720, 721, 722, 723 and 726 as they either carried adverts or had been refurbished in recent years.
The reduction in the number of Balloon trams in use did have an upside however, as with the forthcoming 70th Anniversary of the English Electric fleet being celebrated in 2004, it allowed maintenance such as repairs to underframes on certain trams to be undertaken as well as repaints to be carried out to Balloons 700, 702, 703, 706, 710 and 712.   Balloon 700 had it’s existing wartime livery renewed with some extra enhancements, 702 was repainted into 1970’s livery, 703 had it’s 1980’s livery renewed, 706 was repainted into its original 1930’s livery with some extra enhancements added, 712 was painted into 1960’s livery and Balloon 710 was the most colourful of all, being repainted into Purple and Yellow line 7 Metro livery.
Despite the work being carried out, 2003 was to see withdrawal at the end of the season for three unrefurbished Balloons: 704, 716 and 717.   Balloon 704 suffered badly from water ingress and was needing a full overhaul to solve the problem whilst 716 and 717 were withdrawn with under-frame defects.

2004 was the 70th anniversary of the English electric trams being built and part of this celebration was a cavalcade of trams including 700,702, 703,706 and 712. All these cars received black and white authentic destination blinds and chrome numbers on the sides showing their original pre-1968 fleet numbers.

A further pair of unrefurbished Balloons were withdrawn at the end of the 2004 season: Balloons 703 and 722.   Balloon 703 was thought to be needing a major overhaul having not received serious works attention for many years.   The withdrawal of Balloon 703 did not last long as the tram was reinstated just a few weeks later.   It had been discovered that Balloon 708 was in a far worse state than Balloon 703 and was withdrawn instead.

Rather than being withdrawn completely, Balloon 708 was instead relegated to snowplough duties during the winter between 2004 and 2009, however the tram saw very little use in this role. Balloon 722 seemed to be a strange candidate for withdrawal having had the domes on the roof replaced and remedial work carried out to other areas of the roof to halt water ingress when it rained.   As it turned out, the withdrawal didn’t last long as 722 was reinstated in July 2005 due to an over subscription of advertisers and a lack of suitable trams to carry adverts following  the withdrawal of the majority of the Brush and Ex towing railcoaches a few months earlier.   Balloon 722 was painted white and its advert was for the TGWU.

Following a number of spectacular dewirements, mainly on the northern end of the system, it was decided to return Balloon 700 to pantograph operation, with the trolley pole being removed in 2005.

2006  was Balloon 719’s final season as the Walls Ice Cream Tram before conversion back to a ‘normal’ tram, whilst Unrefurbished Balloon 720 was withdrawn at the end of the 2006 season in need of a major overhaul and replacement underframe.

A sizable amount of money left to Blackpool Transport in the will of an enthusiast who had sadly passed away, with the stipulation being that it had to be used to restore a balloon to 1930’s condition.   Balloon 717, which had been stored in 2003 was chosen to receive the restoration and work soon commenced.   717 was stripped back to its framework and received a new underframe, the tram would also have its double destination blinds and top deck curved roof windows restored.   A number of parts were used from 704, 716, 717 and 720 in the restoration and the finished job looking superb with the tram finally returning to service on Tram Sunday 2008.

With the return of 717 to service expected in 2008 and the drastic reduction in numbers of passengers using the tramway, Balloon 722 was withdrawn following an accident which took place towards the end of the 2007 season when 711 collided with 722 at Admiral Point between Cabin and Bispham. It was decided not to repair the tram and it was withdrawn from service for the second and the last time.

As well as Balloon 717’s return to service in 2008, there were a number of brightly coloured Balloons on the prom that summer as three Balloons were repainted into Metro Liveries with 711 (Line 14 Green and Yellow), 713 (Line 7 Purple and Yellow) and 715 (Line 16 Light Blue and Yellow) joining 710 as Metro Trams.

However Balloon 710 didn’t get a chance to run along side it’s repainted sister cars as the tram was withdrawn early in 2008 in need of a major overhaul and new underframe.

With the impending upgrade of the tramway having been announced, trials were undertaken on withdrawn balloon 722 to see if widened doorways could be added on to the existing Balloon fleet that would be retained after the tramway upgrade in 2012.   722 also had a number of electrical components and windows removed to keep other cars in the fleet going.

The trials on 722 were a success and 720’s refurbishment continued into 2009 and in a total break from tradition, widened doorways and pods to allow air fitted doors are being fitted to the tram.
Balloon 703 was withdrawn from service in June 2009 in need of a major overhauld and would become the first balloon to be preserved albeit in a new guise in Sunderland red and cream livery and numbered 101.   101 was moved to Beamish, where it saw use on the circular line around the site before a fault with one of its sets of wheels saw it sidelined.
In a surprise move, the decision was taken to scrap Balloon 722, with the tram being dismantled in October 2009, 722 was only the second of it’s type to meet this fate.
Having been sold, Balloons 702, 712 and 721 were withdrawn from service in November 2009.   Balloon 702 was sold to Heaton Park, however it found its way to the Museum of Museums in Manchester for a period on display there, followed by a period in outside storage at the East Lancashire Railway in Bury.   702 then moved to Heaton Park where it is awaiting restoration.   712 was repainted into 1930’s livery and moved to Crich as a static exhibit in their exhibition hall.   721 was sold to the North East Land Sea And Air museum in Sunderland, where after a period of outdoor storage, it was moved into a custom built shed for their tram fleet.

In 2010, long term stored Balloon 716 bought by Ptarmigan Transport Solutions in Perth, Scotland.   716 was planned to be used as a conference room, however the company went bust and 716 was last seen at a scrap yard in Kirkcaldy, however its fate is unknown but it most likely has been scrapped.

A start was made on fitting door pods and installing power operated doors on some of the Balloons overhauled after 1993. The first Balloons to be fitted with pods and power doors were 700, 713, 718 and 720. The installation of the door pods was to allow the Balloons to be able to stop at the platforms built for the new fleet of Flexity trams, becoming the ‘B’ fleet.  Following the completion of 700, 713, 718 and 720, Winter 2010 would see three Millennium Balloons 707,709 and 724 receive the same treatment.

The choice of Balloon 700 to be converted to work as part of the ‘B’ fleet was unexpected as due to the tram’s history and heritage style refurbishment, it was expected to become part of the heritage fleet. owing to its heritage style refurbishment.   The decision to convert Balloon 700 saw it’s heritage refurbishment compromised after it received leather fitted bus seats transferred from the lower deck from balloon 721.   700 also lost its 1940’s Green and Cream livery, which was replaced by a white and purple livery.

At the end of the 2010 illuminations, Balloons 726 and 701 were withdrawn from service.  726 spent a period in outdoor storage at Fleetwood Docks before being returned to Rigby Road for storage for it’s new owner in 2017.   Heading into 2011, Balloon 715 was the only un-refurbished Balloon remaining in service, however it had been bought by the LTT and was withdrawn in November 2011.

Following the end of the traditional tram service in November 2011, Balloons 711 and 719 were admitted to the works to receive door pods and re entered service wearing the new Blackpool Transport livery of Purple and White in 2012.  One notable omission from the fleet of door pod fitted balloons was balloon 723 which had been refurbished in 1992.   723 was retired from service in November 2011 both it and 701, which was refurbished in 1991 were stored.    Both trams joined the heritage fleet in 2013 with 701 becoming a heritage regular after receiving red and white routemaster livery in 2014 and 723 on being repainted in 80’s livery in 2016.

During early 2012, 715 moved to open storage at Burton Road, Blackpool along with Balloon 704.   Both returned to Blackpool in late 2013 with 715 returning to service with the Heritage Fleet wearing 90’s Green and Cream livery in 2015.   704 is currently undergoing a major overhaul and is being restored for the Heritage fleet with a return to 50’s / 60’s condition expected.   Balloon 708 moved to the North East Land, Sea and Air Museum near Sunderland for storage on behalf of Heaton Park Tramway before returning to Rigby Road for further storage in 2016.

Balloon 715 returned to service in 2015 and was outshopped in 1990’s livery with adverts for Tram Sunday, it’s livery was updated slightly in 2019 to become 70’s livery, complete with between deck period adverts for CIS Insurance and Blackpool Zoo.   Balloon 717, was named Walter Luff and remains in service as part of the heritage fleet.

Balloon 706 was withdrawn from service in 2016 and is awaiting a replacement underframe and overhaul before it re-enters service.   Balloon 703 returned from Beamish in early 2017, the tram having been withdrawn at Beamish with wheel issues.  703 remains stored at Rigby Road and will hopefully rejoin the heritage fleet one day.

The future looks great for the Balloon trams in the Heritage Fleet with 701, 715, 717 and 723 seeing regular use on the Heritage Tours.   They will be

joined in the next couple of years by Balloon 704, which having been withdrawn in 2003 is currently undergoing a major overhaul on behalf of it’s new owner, who has loaned the tram back to the Heritage fleet.   The ever popular ‘Princess Alice’ Balloon 706 is also awaiting a new underframe and overhaul before it can once again grace the rails.

The pod fitted Balloons meanwhile have seen very little use since 2012 with very little use for their intended purpose as backup and on specials using the Flexity platforms.   The Flexities have coped mostly with the traffic and with the larger than expected and still expanding fleet of heritage trams, they haven’t quite found their place.   They can mostly be found on Heritage Tours on Gold weekends or working on Illuminations Tours in the Autumn.   One tram that hasn’t found any use at all in the ‘B’ fleet is Balloon 720. The tram was withdrawn in 2006 for an overhaul and returned to service in 2011. However 720’s power operated doors had a collision with a traction pole in the depot in 2012 and the tram has never been used since.

Original Number Current Number Built Status livery Notes
237 700 1934 in service (B Fleet) Wartime Green and Cream has twin and side destination blinds and original style panelling and decoration, received door pods and power operated sliding doors
238 701 1934 in service (heritage fleet) Red and White Routemaster Livery modernised circa 1990(although to a lesser extent to subsequent overhauls)with flatter front ends, has hopper windows and enclosed lighting.
239 702 1934 in store at Heaton Park 70’s green and cream this tram has bus seats fitted to the upper deck but retains swingover seats on the bottom deck.
240 703 1934 stored (heritage fleet) Sunderland red and white Renumbered 101 and in the guise of a Sunderland Car with was of similar shape
241 704 1934 withdrawn 2003 and under restoration Eclipse all over advert Withdrawn due to roof problems in 2003, 704 currently receiving a new underframe and overhaul back to 1950/60’s condition.
242 705 1934 scrapped 1982 scrapped following a head on collision with 706
243 706 1934 under restoration (Heritage Fleet) 1930’s green and cream open topped balloon with trolley pole and authentic top deck seats, named Princess Alice restored 1985. Awaiting new underframe and overhaul.
244 707 1934 in service (Heritage Fleet) see millennium cars
245 708 1934 withdrawn 2004 1970’s green and cream Stored at Rigby Road on behalf of Heaton Park
246 709 1934 stored see millennium cars
247 710 1934 withdrawn 2008 Line 7 purple and Yellow 710’s claim to fame was ‘knocking down’ and ‘killing’ Alan Bradley in Coronation Street in 1989.   in store at Fleetwood Docks
248 711 1934 in service (B Fleet) Purple and White modernised  1994, balloon with heaters fitted, received door pods
249 712 1935 on display at Crich 1930’s green and cream preserved at the Tramway Museum Crich
250 713 1935 in service (B Fleet) Houndshill Shopping Centre Advert modernised 2005, balloon with heaters fitted, receiving door pods
251 714 1935 withdrawn see Jubilee Car 762
252 715 1935 in service (Heritage Fleet) 1990’s Green and Cream needs an overhaul,
253 716 1935 Scrapped 1990’s Green and Cream withdrawn 2003.   Departed Blackpool for Pflargim Transport Solutions Perth 2.7.10 Was taken to a Kirkcaldy  Scrap yard after company went bust and no buyer for 716 found, fate unknown
254 717 1935 in service (Heritage Fleet) 30’s green and cream restored  2008,with a number of original features and fittings, named Walter Luff
255 718 1935 in service (Heritage Fleet) see millenium cars
256 719 1935 in service (B Fleet) Purple and White modernised circa 1996, fitted with heaters, named Donna’s Dream house, received door pods
257 720 1935 stored 2012 Walls Ice Cream Livery refurbished 2009, the first balloon to receive door pods and power operated sliding doors
258 721 1935 Withdrawn 2010 all over black On Display at North East Land, Sea and Air Museum, Sunderland
259 722 1935 scrapped 2009 Scrapped October 2009
260 723 1935 in service (Heritage Fleet) The Magical Express Tour All over Advert modernised 1992, fitted with heaters
261 724 1935 stored 2013 see millenium cars
262 725 1935 withdrawn see Jubilee Car 761
263 726 1935 withdrawn 2010 HM Coastguard advert Stored at Rigby Road
Original Info from