During the 1970s one man operation (OMO) swept through the bus industry as an answer to escalating staff costs and falling patronage, replacing the traditional conductor.
To alleviate similar problems on the tramway, Blackpool converted 13 single deck Railcoaches built in 1934/5 into 49ft. long ‘OMO’ cars with tapered ends to incorporate the front entrances.Upon rebuilding the cars became nos. 1-13 and the first car entered service during 1972.
No. 8 was rebuilt from Railcoach No. 612 which was withdrawn after accident damage sustained in June 1972. As OMO car 8, it re-entered service in June 1974 in the ‘plum and custard’ livery originally applied to the ‘OMOs’, complete with roof advertising boxes. Later, in 1976 No. 8 was repainted in a red and cream livery that was applied to all the OMO cars after the yellow scheme was considered prone to fading. By the early 1980s the high mileages operated by these cars had worn them out and replacement of the OMOs with new single deck Centenary cars started in 1984.
However, No. 8 was involved in an accident in the autumn of 1984 and was repaired and treated to the ‘Centenary’ car style green and cream livery. It soldiered on in service until May 1992 when it was withdrawn and placed in store.
Blackpool Transport originally intended to retain an OMO car for preservation but this was later abandoned. No. 8 was gradually cannibalised for spares but an approach by the LTT resulted in the tram being offered to the collection for preservation in 2002.
8 was stored until June 2005 when funds were raised for the car's cosmetic restoration to original "plum and custard" livery, with the work undertaken by Blackpool Transport. The external work was completed in December 2005 and then 8 was transferred to the LTT's workshop in Blackpool for storage.
Restoration work continued at Brinwell Road depot to rebuild the entrance steps and platform doors, and generally tidy-up the interior of the tram. On 13 September 2010, car 8 returned to Blackpool Transport for display at the 125th anniversary depot open day and 8 carried passengers for the first time in eighteen years in November 2010.
OMO 8 is currently in store at Blackpool Transport's Rigby Road depot and has not operated since 2011.
Thanks to Brian Turner and Jason Cross for some of the pictures of OMO 8