Balloon 241/704 restoration begins

Work has commenced on the full overhaul and restoration of Balloon car 704 (formerly 241). Initially moved into the Fitting Shop during October, the first job was for our electrician to strip out and document all of the old wiring circuits so that these can be replaced like for like with new materials as the restoration progresses. Previous Balloon car overhauls have seen the original lighting and bell wiring replaced with low voltage circuits, but 704 is to be correctly restored with DC wiring, as built. Once the wiring and the controllers were removed, 704 then transferred to the Body Shop where, during December, the tram has been stripped to its basic wooden framework – revealing this to be in good condition.
As previously reported, all of the main sections for 704’s new underframe have already been fabricated and this will be assembled in the early part of the new year. In addition, work has resumed on a set of Balloon car bogies (which were midway through overhaul when routine heavy engineering ceased in 2011), onto which the new underframe will be mounted. A set of Z6 controllers has also been overhauled in readiness – and it is fair to say that we are well ahead of ourselves with this project!
The work on 704, which is to be restored to its late 1950’s condition as “241” represents the most extensive work carried out on any tram so far in the “Heritage” era, and it is great to see the team tackling the various aspects of it with such enthusiasm. 704 is privately owned by Mr. Iain Taylor, but on permanent loan to Blackpool Transport for future use as part of the heritage fleet. Iain has provided considerable financial input into this project, which has allowed us to increase our workshop team. He also has his own team of skilled engineers who will be undertaking certain parts of the job. This includes a full set of replica “ex-open top Balloon” swing over seat frames, which have already been manufactured.
Our photos show; Top: 704 in the Fitting Shop in late October with the overhauled bogie frames intended for it in the foreground. Below left: Mid December, and 704 has been stripped to its wooden frame. Below right: A pair of controllers under preparation for 704 showing the varnished wood central column and new copper contactors in place.