Friday, 19 October 2012

Coronation Tram Arrives at Beamish

Blackpool tram 304 has arrived at Beamish Open Air Museum in County Durham. The 'Coronation' car will be used on the Beamish tram circuit during the next few weeks and yesterday I visited the museum in order to have a look at the vehicle.  

Before it can run at Beamish some repairs are required to the roof mounted electrical pick up gear but hopefully this should be completed in about a week. This will be the first time that a 50ft long tram has operated on the museum system.
In 2003 Channel 4's Salvage Squad featured the restoration of Blackpool 304 and since then the tram has been regarded as a bit of a star. 
It was originally delivered to Blackpool in 1952 and entered service in July of that year. The Coronations were 50 ft long and 8 ft wide much larger than the normal trams of that time. They were fitted with a new style of control system called Vambac (Variable Automatic Multi-notch Braking and Acceleration Control) designed to give high rates of acceleration and braking and smooth movement, all from one control lever.
The revolutionary system wasn't reliable however, with short circuits taking place within the accelerator section of the unit and also problems with brakes failing to work.
Many of the class were therefore converted to conventional control systems although 304 survived in original condition until withdrawal in October 1970. It was sold for preservation and was stored in various locations depending on who owned it at the time and is now owned by the Lancastrian Transport Trust.
The eventual restoration featured in Channel 4's Salvage Squad and the tram made its first move under its own power for over 30 years on 10th November 2002. The programme was well received and since given inspiration for further restorations.

 The interior has lots of glass, including cove windows giving a light, modern look. 

 The Vambac control gear is housed in the centre of the car above the entrance area

The Coronation is only paying a brief visit to Beamish so if you want to see it in action in the next five weeks and maybe ride on it, keep checking the Beamish website for news of when it is planned to be in operation.
If you want to watch the Salvage Squad programme it can be found on YouTube.