From Blackpool to Lowestoft via Havant

Jeffery Grayer’s article in SW30 about the Hayling Island branch mentioned the plans of the Hayling Light Railway Society to convert the railway to a modern tramway. The railway closed after traffic on 2 November 1963. The recent closure of the street routes in Blackpool meant that a number of modern tramcars were surplus to requirements and therefore available to the proposed Hayling Island tramway.

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The vehicle chosen was Blackpool car 11, one of the Vambacs (Variable Automatic Multinotch Braking and ACcelaration) rendered redundant with the closure of Blackpool’s street route to Marton on 28 October 1962.  The tram was purchased and transported to Havant in 1963. After arrival it was stored in the Havant goods yard at the end of the station furthest from the branch platform.

The tram was built by English Electric in  Preston in 1939 and was one of a batch of 12, numbered 10-21. Originally built as ‘sun saloons’ for use on the promenade services, these trams had wooden seats, opening roofs, semi-glazed windows and 4ft  wheelbase trucks. They were rebuilt with fully glazed windows and fixed roofs probably in 1942. A second rebuilding programme started in 1947 when the cars were equipped with new Maley and Taunton HS44 6ft wheelbase bogies. Vambac equipment was installed and the programme completed by August 1952. The Vambacs then settled down to provide the Marton service for the next ten years. Car 11 was the final service tram on the Marton route.

This modern car, with little more than 10 years use since rebuilding, would have been an ideal vehicle for the planned tramway. Sadly the project failed to come to fruition and trams never connected Hayling Island with Havant.

Having languished in a siding for six years, the Marton Vambac was rescued for the East Anglia Transport Museum by a consortium led by Eric Betts, and arrived at Carlton Colville near Lowestoft in 1969. The museum bypassed the Vambac equipment and used the car in service from 1978 to 1984. It was then withdrawn for a major overhaul and restoration. Since then a small dedicated group worked towards its full restoration spending an estimated total of 17,500 hours of volunteer labour.

Fully restored both in body and Vambac equipment, car 11 formally re-entered service at the East Anglia Transport Museum on 26 March 2005.

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