Blackpool OMO Cars

Following the closure of the inland routes by 1963, there was a need for Blackpool to cut costs on operation of the tramway during the winter period when the number of passengers were lighter than during the summer months. Firstly they converted brush car 638 to one man operation, however this experiment was a failure as the door was placed too far back and it was akward for the driver to collect money and it considerably reduced the tram's capacity which was only 48 prior to the experiment taking place. It was soon converted back to a two person car.

Next up railcoach 611 was converted. It was built to look like a twin car railcoach to try and boost capacity (56 seats as opposed to 48 seats on ordinary railcoaches), also they lengthened railcoach 618 to allow a greater capacity. These experiments were unsuccessful as the expensive 2 man crew was still needed and the same number of service trams would still be required.

They then formulated a plan to turn their remaining railcoaches (excluding towing railcoaches 671 - 680) and Brush Cars to One Person Operation. However on further examination, they found that the Brush Cars could not be easily converted due to their unique framework. This ruled out their use in the conversion programme and they remained in their present form. (In hindsight this was probably lucky as following the OMO car's demise there would have been very few crew cars left to maintain the service)

Conversion was carried out on the English Electric Railcoaches by removing their unique pointed ends, extending the underframe and created tapered ends.

New enterance doors were installed at the left hand side of each end of the tram and a small drivers area containing the E.E Z6 controller and the braking system from its previous incarnation was placed on the right hand side of the cab instead of the left as per all other cars in the fleet.

Back to back bus style seats fitted to the passenger saloon. There were so few Railcoaches availiable for conversion that were in a servicable condition that works car 5 (ex221) which was replaced as a works car by Brush Car 624, (ex220) and (ex224) which had been withdrawn or used for other purposes were amongst the first to be rebuilt to allow as many railcoaches as possible to remain in service for as long as possible.

From the 30th of October 1972 OMO 1 - 5 were introduced to the winter timetable on the Starr Gate to Fleetwood Service. The OMO cars originally carried a Plum and Custard livery and the fleet were originally to be called the 'Sea Spray' class. The OMO cars operated along side the Brush Cars and remaining railcoaches until there was enough OMO's to run the whole service (approximately 1975).

Soon after introduction it was realised that the Plum and Custard livery wasnt really suitable as it had started to fade badly quickly and all cars were repainted in a red and white livery. It is thought that the OMO's were painted a different livery from the rest of the ordinary fleet to allow passengers to distinguish between pay on entry and the normal conductor operated trams.

The last remaining 'real railcoach' 615 and became OMO 11 and the experimental Railcoaches 611 and 618 became OMO 12 and 13 respectively.

The last OMO (13) entered service in 1976, but was withdrawn and scrapped after only 8 years in service. This particular tram was unpopular with drivers due to a number of faults and problems.

It was soon discovered that the OMO's could not cope with the extra length and their bodies began to droop badly at each end resulting in continual remedial work having to take place.

By 1988, there were enough Centenary cars to replace them and many of the 13 cars were withdrawn upon reaching 100,000 miles travelled. Withdrawal started with 13 in 1984 followed by 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9 which were all scrapped soon after withdrawal. OMO 7 survived following withdrawal and was converted to a replica Vanguard tram which was supposed to be similar to those which operated in Blackpool in the 1920's.

However, due to a number of problems with the centenary cars, some of the better OMO's had a reprieve from withdrawal, 1, 5, 8, 10, 11 and 12 remained in service after the centenary cars before OMO 1 was withdrawn following a compressor fire and an accident in the depot in 1989. OMO 12 was withdrawn as surplus to requirements in 1988.

By 1991, there was only 4 OMO's availiable for service these being 5, 8, 10 and 11. OMO 8 was withdrawn in 1992 and stored in the depot and 5 was given an experimental invertor, however this caused problems with the electrics of this tram and the lights would not work meaning this car could not be used after dark and soon had its original equipment restored. In 1993 both cars 1 and 12 were stripped of any remaining useful parts and scrapped. The remaining servicable OMO's 5, 10 and 11 were withdrawn, with Brush cars and the 3 ex towing car railcoaches taking over their winter duties.

Following withdrawal. 11 served as a test car for new bogies and motors for what was to become the experimental Roadliner 611 tram before moving to Canforth for further trials for before returning to Blackpool where it was stripped to it's shell and scrapped in 2000.

OMO's 5 and 8 remained stored and 10 was sold and has become a coffee shop in Reading in 1996. In 2000 OMO 5 minus windows and doors went to Clay Cross Stores, part of Crich Tramway Museum, to await restoration, whilst 8 became part of the LTT fleet and has since been repainted into its original livery of plum and custard and received windows from OMO 10 which has now been scrapped. OMO 8 has been transferred to the LTT depot for further work to take place on the tram.

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Original Number Current Number Built Status livery Notes
616 1 rebuilt 1972 scrapped
620 2 rebuilt 1972 scrapped
610 3 rebuilt 1972 scrapped
608 4 rebuilt 1972 scrapped
609 5 rebuilt 1972 preserved 90's green and cream at Clay Cross stores awaiting restoration
617 6 rebuilt 1973 scrapped
619 7 rebuilt 1973 rebuilt see preserved trams
612 8 rebuilt 1974 preserved plum and custard part of LTT collection, being restored
613 9 rebuilt 1974 scrapped
614 10 rebuilt 1974 scrapped was used as a coffee shop at a conference centre in Reading
615 11 rebuilt 1975 scrapped
611 12 rebuilt 1975 scrapped
618 13 rebuilt 1976 scrapped last built but first scrapped