English Electric Railcoaches / Trams

Technical Information:

Numbered: 200 – 224 (Series 1) and 264 – 283 (611 – 620)(Series 2)

Built: 1933-34 (series1) and 1935 (Series 2)

Built By: English Electric, Preston

Trucks: English Electric equal-wheel bogies, 4ft wheelbase

Motors: English Electric 305 57 Horse Power (2 on each tram)

Controllers : E.E. Z4 (Series1) , E.E. Z6 (Series 2)

Braking: Westinghouse Air Wheel, hand wheel and rhetostatic

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Current Collection: Trolley

Length: 43ft 3 inches

Seating: 48

The English Electric Railcoaches were the trams that kicked off the Streamlined revolution in Blackpool in 1933.   At the time of Walter Luff’s arrival as Transport Manager at Blackpool Corporation Transport, there was a number of different types of tram ranging from the 1898 vintage Racks and Box cars of the old Blackpool and Fleetwood Tramroad, through to the 1928 built Pantograph Cars.

A number of the older tram types would eventually be swept away by a fleet of 116 new and stylish trams of differing types.

Blackpool was in need of a type of tram that was suited to the demands of working all year round on any route, would provide protection and shelter for the driver in bad weather and comfort for passengers.

 

English Electric, based in Preston, were approached to see if they could build a prototype car, which was to be displayed in Blackpool for the public to see and to gauge their opinions.   The car was built during the early part of 1933 and was seen in promotional material sporting a pantograph.   This was swapped for a trolley pole before the tram arrived at Blackpool.

The prototype railcoach (numbered 200) arrived in Blackpool in the early hours of 19th June 1933 and was taken on a test run on the same day.    Railcoach 200 was then displayed on the siding at Gynn Square for a number of visiting Transport Managers, who were in town for a conference to inspect. They were very impressed.Just 5 days after arriving in Blackpool, on 24th June 1933, 200 entered service and the public were impressed as were the press!    200 was seen as the height of luxury compared to the trams already in service,  200 was fitted with sunshine roofs (roofs that could be slid open in the summer), clocks in the saloons, heating, comfortable swing over seats, wind down windows and roof light windows.   The drivers also received enclosed cabs that were separate from the passenger saloon and even had heating.

200 was so well received by the public and staff (apparently passengers were wiping their feet before boarding!), that a further 24 were ordered arriving throughout 1934. The production railcoaches differed from the prototype (200) in that they were 2 feet longer.   This was to allow for larger driving cabs, to allow better comfort for the driver as the cabs on 200 were deemed to be too cramped.

The 25 railcoaches found use on the North Station – Fleetwood services, the Squires Gate – Bispham service and promenade services.   The first series of Railcoaches proved to be so popular that a further 20 were ordered boosting the fleet to 45 and these trams (known as Series 2 Railcoaches) were delivered and entered service during 1935.   The Series 2 railcoaches were almost identical to the 25 Series 1 railcoaches, with the only difference being that the Series 2 railcoaches were fitted with Z6 controllers where as the Series 1 examples used Z4 controllers.The Railcoaches found use on all routes across the system and were used all year round.

In 1948, the Marton Route was relaid throughout and both Brush Car 303 and Railcoach 208 were experimentally fitted with Variable Automatic Multinotch Braking and Control (VAMBAC) units.   These units allowed for smooth and fast accelerating and braking in the streets around the Town Centre, they were also almost silent.   The experiment was a success as the former Sun Saloons 10 -21 were also converted and rechristened the Marton VAMBACS.   208 would spend the remainder of its career running on the Marton Route.

In 1958, then General Manager Joseph Franklin, decided to experiment with trailer operation.   Series 2 Railcoaches 275 and 276 were taken into the works, had their streamlined cab ends removed and replaced with flat fronts, were coupled together and 275 had all its electrical equipment removed.   The experiment was deemed a success and railcoaches 272 -281 became twin car motors (10 trailers were built by Metropolitan Cammell).   275 was later re- equipped with its electrical equipment and became a  twin car motor.      For the first few years of twin car operation, the motor cars were not permanently coupled to their trailers and could be used as normal railcoaches, however this changed by 1962 when 272- 277 and 281 were permanently coupled to their trailers.   278-280 weren’t permanently coupled and could still be used as a railcoach if needed.    For more information see the Twin Cars page.

In 1961 the Lytham Road Route closed down and some of the first series Railcoaches were withdrawn (206 was the first Railcoach to be scrapped). the fleet was further reduced when the Marton Route closed in 1962 and the North Station Route closed in 1963.   Most of the first series of

railcoaches were either withdrawn, rebuilt into illuminated or works cars or scrapped at this time.   An interesting story relating to Series 1 railcoach 201 dating back to 1963 was that it was working in service heading from Fleetwood to North Station, when it was stopped at Bispham and the passengers transferred to Brush 300. Railcoach201 was turned around and driven to Thornton Gate where it was scrapped the same day.

Unfortunately pioneering Railcoach 200 was one of the casualties of the 1963 cull as was Vambac controlled railcoach 208.   However there was a few of the series 1 railcoaches survived in one form or another.   209 would become the locomotive on the Western Train, whilst 222 became the Hover Tram.   220 and 221 were stored, whilst 224 became a works car.

In 1964, 264 was rebuilt and resembled a twin car towing coach.   The tram was repanelled using ICI Darvic Plastic.

In 1968, the remaining Railcoaches were numbered  as follows 224: Works Car 5 (610), 220: 608, 221: 609, 264- 271: 611-618, 272-281: 671-680, 282-283: 619-620.   Also in 1968, 618 was rebuilt with a longer body with tapered ends, the capacity was also increased from 48 to 56.

The 10 remaining 2nd series conventional cars (611-620) remained in service till the 1970’s when along with the remaining series 1 railcoaches (608-610) were converted to OMO cars. (See OMO Cars)

Towing cars 278-280 (678-680) were never permanently coupled to their matching trailers and by 1972, their trailers had been withdrawn.   From this point onwards, 678 – 680 were used as conventional Series 2 railcoaches.

In 1975, 678 was used to trial a Brecknell-Willis pantograph.

In 1989, 680 was withdrawn in need of a major overhaul and rewire.   It received extensive work to its underframe and re emerged back into service with a refurbished interior, including: encased lighting, the roof windows were paneled over, fixed bus seats and new windows.   679 also received a mini overhaul around this time, receiving new windows and bus seats as well as some underframe repairs.

Until 2004,  all three ex-towing railcoaches were still in regular service, with 679 seeing all year round service as it retained it’s saloon heaters. 680 saw extensive summertime use on service and specials, having had it’s heaters removed in 2001. 678 remains in original 1960’s condition although structurally, the car was by now drooping badly and the body warped as it was is in need of an overhaul.   It also had a leaky roof but was still regarded as one of the best cars in the fleet at the time.

2004 was the 70th anniversary of the railcoach and 679 was repainted into it’s 1980’s livery and took part in the English Electric tram cavlcade on 11th September 2004, however not long after this, as part of the reduction in the fleet size at the end of 2004, 679 was withdrawn from service.

679’s withdrawal seemed to be a very strange decision as it had just been repainted 6 months earlier and was a useful all year round crew car.

Remarkably 678 remained in service for a further 2 years and was finally withdrawn at the end of the 2006 season, its demise coming about after it had to be swapped in service during heavy rain when the seats became waterlogged and water was pouring in everywhere.

679 was donated to the LTT in 2008 to be restored as series 2 railcoach 279 complete with streamlined cab ends in time for the 125th anniversary of the tramway in 2010, however the overhaul still isnt complete and 679 was donated back to Blackpool Transport to become part of the Heritage Fleet and 679 remains stored at Rigby Road awaiting its turn for overhaul.    678 was bought by the Friends of Fleetwood Heritage Trust and it is currently stored at Fleetwood Docks.
680 remained as the only representative of this type in service until 2009 when it too was withdrawn as being surplus despite being in excellent condition and a popular tram, thus bringing the ex-towing railcoach’s operation to an end. However this was not the end for 680.   Following a repaint into original Twin Car towing coach cream livery, 680 was bought by Heaton Park tramway in 2010, however it remained at Blackpool until 2014, when it went on loan to Beamish for a year before arriving at Heaton Park in 2015.    Only a couple of months into its return to Heaton Park, 680 was repainted into 1990’s livery and found its way back to Blackpool on 2 year loan where it is a regular performer on the heritage service.

Original Number post 1968 Number Built Status livery Notes
200   1933 scrapped   Pioneer railcoach, was shorter than rest
201   1933 scrapped   was replaced in service one morning and was being scrapped by the afternoon
202   1933 scrapped    
204   1933 scrapped    
205   1933 scrapped    
206   1933 scrapped   first railcoach to be scrapped
207   1933 scrapped    
208   1933 scrapped   was fitted with VAMBAC equipment and operated on Marton route
209   1933 rebuilt   see 733 (illuminated trams)
210   1933 scrapped    
211   1933 scrapped    
212   1933 scrapped    
213   1933 scrapped    
214   1933 scrapped    
215   1933 scrapped    
216   1933 scrapped    
217   1933 scrapped    
218   1933 scrapped    
219   1933 scrapped    
220 608 1933 rebuilt   see omo cars
221 609 1933 rebuilt   see omo cars
222   1933 rebuilt   see illuminated cars
223   1933 scrapped    
224 610 1933 rebuilt   see omo cars
264 611 1935 rebuilt   see omo cars
265 612 1935 rebuilt   see omo cars
266 613 1935 rebuilt   see omo cars
267 614 1935 rebuilt   see omo cars
268 615 1935 rebuilt   see omo cars
269 616 1935 rebuilt   see omo cars
270 617 1935 rebuilt   see omo cars
271 618 1935 rebuilt   see omo cars
272 672 1935 Heritage Fleet
  see twin cars
273 673 1935 withdrawn
  see twin cars
274 674 1935 withdrawn
  see twin cars
275 675 1935 Heritage Fleet
  see twin cars
276 676 1935 withdrawn
  see twin cars
277 677 1935 scrapped   see twin cars
278 678 1935 preserved
all over black
stored in Fleetwood
279 679 1935 preserved
1980’s green and cream being restored back to series 2 railcoach 279 with pointed ends
280 680 1935 Heritage Fleet
90’s Green and Cream
overhauled in 1990, owned by Heaton Park Tramway, back on loan to Blackpool Tramway
281 671 1935 withdrawn   see twin cars
282 619 1935 rebuilt   see omo cars
283 620 1935 rebuilt   see omo cars
Original Info From http://blackpool-trams.yolasite.com/
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