Jubilee 761 was created between 1976 and 1979 from the frame of 1935 Balloon 725 (formerly 262) that had been withdrawn for overhaul in 1971 but subsequently remained stored. It was a prototype
double deck front entrance one-person operated car, and its construction followed on from the creation of thirteen single deck OMO cars rebuilt from Railcoaches from 1972 to 1976. The OMO cars had
proved that the concept of one-person operation could significantly reduce the costs associated with tramway operation, particularly during the winter, and the creation of a double deck prototype
seemed the next logical step.
Unlike the OMO cars, which were extended with tapered cab ends for clearances on curves, 761’s increased length included full width cabs as the bogies were repositioned towards the ends of the tram to allow for this. New end frames were supplied by Duple Metsec, giving the tram a much more “bus like” look than the OMO cars which preceded it. The previous centre entrances were removed, with both loading and unloading now taking place through the new front entrance. Technological advances included the rebuilding of the former Balloon car bogies with Metalastik rubber suspension, as trialled on the OMO cars, whilst brand new thyristor “chopper-control” gear was supplied by Westinghouse. The small drivers console, which incorporated a combined power/brake controller, allowed for more spacious cabs than had been possible with the OMO rebuilds and was also much lighter than the previous drum controllers.
761 featured some components standard with the contemporary East Lancs bodied Atlantean buses, delivered from 1977, most notably the saloon seating and upholstery, and on completion it was smartly turned out in the same livery as the Atlanteans. The tram was completed in July 1979, initially as a 104-seater, although some seats were removed to aid passenger flow, reducing 761’s capacity to 98 – one less than the Hovertram! Experience in service proved that 761 was slow to load and unload through just one doorway, and when the second prototype emerged as 762 in 1982, the centre doorways were retained as exits, reducing the capacity of this car to 90.
761 and 762 were useful crowd shifters during the summer months, when they ran with a conductor to assist the driver with the collection of fares, whilst during the winter they came into their own as driver only “OPO” cars.
The livery on both cars was revised in 1989, whilst in 1996 the front ends of 761 were restyled with a revised dash and head/tail lamp arrangement, and flush rubber mounted windscreens, replacing the original recessed screens. For the 1997 season 761 gained its first all over advertisement livery, for “Cresta” clothing outlet in Cleveleys, which it retained until 2001 when it was withdrawn for its first major overhaul.
Following overhaul in 2001, 761 returned to use with a refreshed interior, a slightly revised lower deck seating arrangement and new upholstery, but fortunately escaped more radical modifications subsequently undertaken on sister 762 (although it did gain large oversized destination displays at both ends). It briefly reverted to fleet livery in a revised style but was soon in all over advertising once more. Both Jubilee cars remained in service until the end of the traditional tramway in November 2011 and were then fortunately both preserved: 762 went to the National Tramway Museum at Crich, whilst 761 was saved by the local Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust (FHLT), and moved to outside storage in Fleetwood, latterly moving again to continued open storage on Fleetwood Docks.
In December 2014, recognising the historical significance of the tram, Blackpool Transport generously allowed the FHLT to move 761 to undercover storage back at Rigby Road to prevent deterioration and damage. In 2017 the FHLT generously offered 761 to the Blackpool Heritage Trust (BHT), which would facilitate its eventual return to use on heritage tram tours. Ownership passed to the FTT in December 2019 due to the merger of the trusts, and it remains the intention that 761 will eventually be returned to use as planned. Indeed, the FTT have identified a quantity of the original pattern of Atlantean bus moquette, which would enable a start to be made on returning 761 to a representation of its original appearance.