Coronation 304 (641) of 1952

304_01

This tramcar was built by Charles Roberts of Wakefield in 1952 as the first of 25 new streamlined single deck trams numbered 304-328. The Coronation cars were designed to revolutionise the Promenade and Fleetwood service and introduced new Mayley & Taunton ‘Vambac’ control gear and silent running bogies, based on American PCC principles. Before the body had been completed, the electrical equipment for 304 was displayed as a working exhibit at the 1951 Festival of Britain on London’s South Bank – there is a plaque inside the tram to commemorate this. The new trams were 50ft. long and 8ft. wide, making them the largest single deckers ever built in Britain, and were finished to a high standard both inside and out.

This tram entered service on 12th June 1952, and all 25 were in use by February 1954. However, their complex equipment proved difficult to maintain and within ten years their numbers began to wane as older trams were favoured for use in their place, and the first Coronation was withdrawn from service in 1963. From 1964, thirteen Coronations had their Vambac equipment removed, those retaining Vambac being relegated to mainly summer seasonal use. In 1968 the remaining 24 Coronations were renumbered 641-664, but they were now in severe decline. By 1970, 304 was the last survivor to retain its original Vambac equipment and by virtue of this was saved for preservation, leaving Blackpool in 1975.

Over the years 304 was stored in Derbyshire, Cheshire and Merseyside, but it returned to Blackpool in 2002 for a full restoration as part of Channel 4’s ‘Salvage Squad’ TV programme, first broadcast in February 2003 and watched by over 2.5 million viewers.