The iconic Western Train illuminated feature tram is recognisable by children of all ages. The locomotive (fleet number 733) was constructed during 1962 on the remains of Railcoach 209. The underframe and one half of the passenger saloon of 209 was retained with a boiler and locomotive cab added. The carriage (fleet number 734) was a simple modification of 1928 Pantograph car 174, which was already sufficiently American in style to play its role as a classic western train carriage. The train was the very first illuminated tram designed to carry advertising and was sponsored by ABC Weekend Television and entered service for the 1962 Illuminations season. On 31 March 1963, the Train had the honour of being the last tram on the former Marton route (which closed in October 1962) when it was driven to Church Street for the opening of ABC’s rebuilt and modernised new cinema, formerly the Hippodrome and only recently demolished.
An overhaul and re-wiring took place in 1979 and a long association with Fisherman’s Friend as a sponsor commenced. In 1987 the trucks were replaced with former One Man Operated Tram bogies with rubber suspension and both vehicles were repainted. In 1999, the deterioration of the locomotive (speeded along by the lively suspension on its replacement bogies!) was giving cause for concern and it ran its last tours that November. It emerged on the Promenade on 24 January 2000 for filming but was then laid up. In October 2006 Blackpool Transport was awarded a £278,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the train and work commenced in May 2007. A new underframe was constructed for 733, and the saloon was replaced with the frame of scrapped English Electric Railcoach 677 (itself rebuilt from 1935 Railcoach 277 and only one year younger than 209!) The original locomotive features were fully restored and the ‘footplate’ area was ingeniously modified to incorporate a wheelchair lift without altering the historic appearance of the tram. 734 was overhauled with its underframe and body conserved and restored and its passenger saloon interior returned to 1928 condition. Both vehicles were returned to their 1962 appearance externally, including the original historic ABC advertising. The train returned to use in 2008 and continues to be a much loved, head-turning feature of the annual Illuminations.
The Western Train has been supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to restore this unique tramcar to operational condition.