Posted by: SB Websites | October 17, 2012

17/10/12 A Look at Balloon 713

Balloon 713 is one of the original fleet of 26 built by English Electric with this example being build in 1935 when it was numbered 250. The original plan behind the Balloon cars was initiated by managing director Walter Luff who aimed to replace the ageing stock with new streamliners. 250 was the first of the batch to be ordered with a closed top and has remained in this format throughout its life, whereas the earlier cars 237-249 were bought new as open toppers but after just seven years (1942) they began to have roofs fitted. The main intention of the tram was to use it on the Lytham Route to Blackpool Airport to replace the standard cars while boosting capacity and comfort for passengers, though it was also sometimes employed on the Promenade service.

Photo Thanks to Wikimedia Commons – Original Author Dr Neil Clifton

One feature that set 250 apart from the rest of the class was during the year of 1946 where it was fitted with fluorescent lighting that was only ever applied to this car. It is presumed that this proved unsuccessful, with 250 reverting back to the original lighting in the 1970’s. As per the rest of the fleet (with the exception of cars 700, 703 and 721), it began to show signs of modernisation with the removal of roof windows and was fitted with the new standard single destination display. During this time the fleet renumbering occurred which involved all Balloon cars moving into the ‘700’ series, with 250 then becoming known as 713.

Moving into the 21st Century the poor condition of tram became apparent which saw its withdrawal from service in 2005 due to a rotten underframe. Due to the general decline of the tramway, at this time it was unknown whether the tram would ever return to service or if it would join the likes of 704 which have never run again. However, 713 was soon to be treated to a full overall which saw the entire tram being rebuilt with many modernisation features occurring along the way. Externally the front end had been remodeled to remove the front curving windows while brand new windows were applied throughout the rest of the tram with pull-in windows replacing the traditional sliding windows. New LED light clusters were also fitted to both ends with similar styles only being applied to 720, with the standard design varying between each cars overall. Internally the tram regained the fluorescent lighting, saloon heating  and new interior panels giving a more pleasant ride. Quite possibly the most missed feature was the removal of swing over seats, which were replaced with fixed bench seats in the standard multicoloured Blackpool Transport moque.

When returned to service in 2007 713 was painted in all over white, latterly sporting T-side adverts for Fleetwood Freeport. By the following season this bland livery was replaced by the Metro Coastlines Line 7 Yellow and Purple livery where it once again gained Fleetwood Freeport T-side adverts and continued to operate this way until the end of 2008. At this time 713 was being fitted with the center door modifications including automatic doors as part of the tramway upgrade and received an all over advert for the Houndshill Shopping Centre. Along with the other Balloon Cars 713 has made infrequent appearances in service during 2012, though it is hoped their usage will greatly increase next year.

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