Fylde Transport Trust
Fylde Transport Trust

Coronation 304

Incorporating the revolutionary 'Vambac' (Variable Automatic Multinotch Braking and Acceleration Control) equipment and rubber sandwiched wheelsets they represented a considerable development of the Blackpool tram. The electrical equipment of this particular car was exhibited at the Festival of Britain in 1951.

The bodywork on the trams was built by Charles Roberts, more commonly associated with railway wagons and coaches. During 1953 Blackpool decided to call the new trams 'Coronation' cars, though amongst the platform staff they were often referred to as 'spivs'. 304 arrived on 5 June 1952 and was unloaded the following day and tested on the 7th. On 16th June it was launched by the Mayor and entered service on 3 July.

Unfortunately the cars were plagued with maintenance problems. The electrical equipment was too complicated and prone to failures and was replaced on a number of cars with controllers from trams scrapped during the 1960s. The bodies were deemed too heavy at 20 tons whilst the rubber sandwiched wheelsets needed additional maintenance and the four motor trucks consumed double the power of other trams in the fleet.

304 was repainted in December 1954 without the dash beading and again in March 1958 and then in June 1962 into the single band livery. 1962 saw a brief period of operation with modified air brakes that proved unsuccesful. In October 1965 304 ran to Bispham Depot to test clearances for withdrawn sister 313 which was going to be stored there. 1967 saw 304 unusually receive an orange painted tower normally reserved for cars in the half green/cream livery. This was applied in January 1968 - its last repaint. The car was renumbered 641 during the summer. Overhauled bogies were fitted in July 1969.

Withdrawal of the class started in 1968 with the cars retaining Vambac being the first victims. Car No. 304 (actually renumbered No. 641 in 1968) was taken out of service in October 1970 and was the last Vambac car to operate, though the last Coronations soldiered on until 1975 and even today one car is retained by Blackpool Transport.

No. 304 was stored at Blackpool until 1975 when it was moved to the National Tramway Museum store at Clay Cross. Later it moved to Burtonwood after being acquired by the Merseyside Tramcar Preservation Society for use on a possible heritage tramway in Bewsey, Warrington. No progress was made and in 1984 the MTPS decided to concentrate resources on their preserved Liverpool trams and No. 304 passed to the Lancastrian Transport Group.

It was moved to the St.Helens Transport Museum in 1986 and restoration work started in 1993. This involved underframe overhaul, new flooring and a complete rewiring, partly funded by the Fylde Tramway Society. Work stalled following access restrictions at the St. Helens site but in 2002 the tram was selected as a project to feature in Channel 4's "Salvage Squad" series.

No. 304 returned to Blackpool Transport's depot in June 2002 for an intensive period of restoration work that culminated in the tram returning to the Promenade rails on 6th January 2003 for the finale of the Salvage Squad filming. The programme was broadcast on 17th February 2003 and was watched by over 2.5 million viewers.

Since 2003 car 304 has operated enthusiast tours and at special events and has even strayed onto normal passenger service and illumination tours on occasions during the summer season. In 2009, 304 received a further repaint in original livery.

304 operated occasionally on heritage tours since the tram upgrade but further remedial work is required before it can rejoin the operating fleet. 

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