Blackpool Boat Cars

600 waits on the centre track at the Cabin July 2006

In 1933, Walter Luff was looking to replace the fleet of Toastrack trams running on the promenade, as they were past their best and dangerous for the conductor. The conductor would have had to move along the running boards on the outside to gather in fares whilst trying to avoid colliding with trackside obstacles such as traction poles as there was no centre isle in this type of tram and no other way of collecting fares.

Walter Luff's idea was for an open topped car with a centre entrance and central walkway for the conductor to collect the fares safely and to allow for safe boarding and disembarking for the passengers.

The prototype boat numbered 225(now numbered 600)arrived in 1933 and was immediately used in service. 225 had lower bodysides than the 11 production boats which would also enter service later that year and gained the nickname 'Little Willy'.

The 12 boat cars were allocated between 2 depots with 4 based at Rigby Road for easy access to the prom and 8 based at Marton Depot for circular and Coastal tours.

During the War the boats saw little use as there wasnt as many visitors and the crewing of the main service cars took priority.

The boats returned to service following the war and operated on the prom once more. The Circular tours returned in 1957 for a brief period of 4 years operated by the boats until the Lytham Road route closed in 1961. From 1962 the boats operated on a different circular route, (Pleasure Beach - Little Bispham)

Following the closure of Marton Depot in 1962, the depot's 8 allocated boats were moved to Bispham Depot to operate from there during 1963 and following that depots closure that same year, they were moved to Blundell St depot in time for the 1964 season.

All 12 cars remained in service until after the North Station route closed in 1963, when there was a general reduction in the number of trams availiable for service. 229, 231, 232 and 234 were all withdrawn and stored before being scrapped in 1968 as they were surplus to requirements whilst the remaining boats were renumbered 600 - 607.

In the 1970's both 601 and 603 were sold to museums in America where they still operate today with 603 operating in San Franscisco with its original number 228. 600 spent a period on long term loan to Heaton Park Tramway in Manchester from 1984, before finally returning to Blackpool in 1998 where it received sponsorship from the Flyde Tramway Society and was painted back into its original livery. In 1988 boat 606 became the first boat to appear in a livery other than the usual green and cream (being repainted in blue and yellow) and was loaned to the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival were a special tramway was built through the exhibition site. 606 became the first and to date only Blackpool tram to operate in Scotland. 606 returned to Blackpool following the end of the festival in September 1988.

In 2000, boat 606 was transferred to America in exchange for Standard 147, which has now been restored back to its 1924 condition in Blackpool.

During the early 1990's, the boats received new two piece windscreens and some of the boats were painted in a multitude of colourful liveries, 602 was painted in a very smart yellow and black 'handy bus' livery, 604 in routemaster red and white matching balloon 701 which was also outshopped in this livery(604 has since been repainted into 90's style green and cream), 605 was painted into wartime livery (a fictitious but smart livery for this type of tram as the boats remained in original livery during the war), 606 was painted blue and yellow and 607 was painted yellow and green and covered with Travelcard adverts.

602 and 604 were also fitted with pantographs with nylon ropes tied onto the current collectors to stop them falling off and hurting a passenger. Although the addition of a pantograph made the boat trams look smart and cut down the amount of maintenance needed, they were soon converted back to trolley operation after Blackpool Transport received many complaints and compensation claims after passenger's clothes were showered with grease and dirt from the overhead line when it rained.

In 1998, boat 600 returned from long term loan to Heaton Park in Manchester and was repainted into original livery and received Fylde Tramway Society roundels in it's trolley tower.

In 2004 boat 600 was fitted with strings of lights just like during the illuminations in the 1950's and 60's. The fitting of these lights was tram procession for the 70th Anniversary of the streamlined fleet, in which 600 was to take part.

At the end of the 2004 season all boats were withdrawn as part of a fleet reduction exercise. Following a number of complaints and a huge outcry by the public, 600, 602, 604 and 605 were returned to service during 2005 and have remained in service ever since proving just how popular this type of tram really is and that it's true that nothing beats a ride along the prom on a boat tram on a warm and sunny day, the downside to this is that 607 has remained out of service since October 2004.

600 was refitted with strings of lights from it's trolley to further enhance it appearance on illumination tours. In June 2008, 600 was repainted in its original livery and named "Duchess of Cornwall". During 2009, 600 will receive an overhaul. Hopefully this will not be too drastic and keep the original shape and features. 602 and 604 have been withdrawn for 2009 although if the weather is good hopefully Blackpool transport will see sense and re-instate one, if not both cars (and even 607 as well).

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Original Number Current Number Built Status livery Notes
225 600 1933 being overhauled green and cream had strings of lights from its tower to poles at the front of the tram in 2004
has shorter body sides than the rest of the boats. Named "Duchess of Cornwall"
226 601 1933 preserved in America
227 602 1933 in service yellow and black
228 603 1933 preserved In America at San Francisco
229 1933 scrapped
230 604 1933 in service green and cream
231 1933 scrapped
232 1933 scrapped
233 605 1933 in service wartime green and cream boats didnt actually carry this livery during the war. Looks good though.
234 1933 scrapped
235 606 1933 preserved became the first Blackpool Tram to run in Scotland, and first boat not to carry green and cream in America
236 607 1933 withdrawn green and yellow carries adverts for Blackpool Travelcards