Blackpool OMO Cars

Technical Information:

Numbered: 200 - 224 (608-610)(Series 1) and 264 - 283 (611 - 620)(Series 2) as railcoaches and 1-13 as OMO

Built: 1933-34 (series1) and 1935 (Series 2) rebuilt 1972-1975

Built By: English Electric, Preston and rebuilt as OMO by BCT

Trucks: English Electric equal-wheel bogies, 4ft wheelbase

Motors: English Electric 305 57 Horse Power (2 on each tram)

Controllers : E.E. Z4 (Series1) , E.E. Z6 (Series 2)

Braking: Westinghouse Air Wheel, hand wheel and rhetostatic

Current Collection: Trolley

Length: 43ft 3 inches

Seating: 48

Following the closure of the inland routes by 1963, there was a need for Blackpool Corporation Transport to cut costs on operation of the tramway during the winter period when the number of passengers carried was drastically less than during the summer months. There was three inital experiments carried out using existing members of the fleet to see if costs could be saved.   Initially, there was an experimental conversion of Brush Car 638 to one person operation.   The initial experiment was a failure as the door was placed too far back, the driver had to swivel round to collect money from passengers and with the narrow entrance door, it would make loading slower.   638's seating capacity would also have been reduced, the capacity was only 48 prior to the experiment taking place. It was soon converted back to a two person car.

Next up railcoach 611 was converted. It was built to look like a twin car railcoach to try and boost capacity (56 seats as opposed to 48 seats on ordinary railcoaches), also they lengthened railcoach 618 to allow a greater

capacity. These experiments were unsuccessful as the expensive 2 man crew was still needed and the same number of service trams would still be required.

In the late 1960's / early 1970's, many bus companies had began to dispense with conductors and convert their vehicles to One Person Operation so the logical decision was for them to follow suite and use OPO on their trams on winter services. The issue they had, however was that none of the fleet of trams were capable of OPO operation in their then present form and with the failed OPO experiment on Brush Car 638, a new idea was needed.

A brand new fleet of OPO trams built from scratch was out of the question, both on the grounds of cost and the probable need to import new trams from abroad as Blackpool was the only remaining tramway in the UK at the time, so the only real solution was to rebuild some of the existing fleet.   The single deck fleet at that time consisted of 3 Series 1 EE Railcoaches, 10 Series 2 EE Railcoaches, 10 twin car motors and 17 Brush Cars.   

BCT then formulated a plan to turn their remaining railcoaches (excluding towing railcoaches 671 - 680) and Brush Cars to One Person Operation. However on further examination, they found that the Brush Cars could not be easily converted due to their less substantial framework. This ruled out their use in the conversion programme and they remained in their present form. (In hindsight this was probably lucky as following the OMO car's demise there would have been very few crew cars left to maintain the service).

The conversion from Railcoach to OMO would require extension of the underframe and tapered ends to be fabricated.   Series 2 EE railcoach 616, which was in store following a collision with a Twin Car in 1970, was chosen as the prototype for conversion.  Work on the conversion began with the removal of the distinctive pointed cab ends.   The existing underframe was strengthened as was the remainder of the frame.   The underframe was extended and tapered ends were created.   The new tapered extension not only served as the entrance to the tram (on the left hand side of the tapered area) but also on the right hand side was a small driving cab containing the E.E Z6 controller and the braking system from its previous life as an EE railcoach.  Uniquely for the Blackpool fleet however, was the placement of the controller and brake.   The controller was placed on the right hand side of the cab, with the braking systems situated so they could be operated by the left hand.   This was the opposite of the layout on the other trams in the fleet.   The reason for this was to give sufficient room for the collection of fares by the driver.

In the passenger saloons, back to back bus seating was fitted and the bare bulb lighting that was becoming standard on refurbishments of the time was also fitted.   The central entrance doorways were retained, however were used as exits only.   

With so many of the series 1 EE railcoaches having been scrapped in the 1960's and ten of the twenty EE Series 2 railcoaches having been converted for twin car operation, there was very few Railcoaches available for conversion that were in a serviceable condition that of the first 5 conversions, one was accident damaged (616), three were stored requiring an overhaul (608, 610 and 620) and one was an ex works tram (609, or works car 5).    These five trams were chosen to be converted first to allow as many railcoaches as possible to remain in service for as long as possible.

From early October, the OMO trams began to find use on specials with OMO 2 being first to be used.   From the 30th of October 1972 OMO 1 - 4 were introduced to the winter timetable on the Starr Gate to Fleetwood Service   OMO 5 would join them in November 1972.   OMO 5 required more work to be done to it than the other trams as the underframe and body frame required more straightening and strengthening work than the others. The original livery for the OMO trams was  Plum and Custard livery to distinguish the OMO trams from the regular crew trams.   Initially the OMO trams were to be called the 'Sea Spray' class but the OMO name was more commonly used (as well as the nickname 'coffins' which were used by the crews due to the shape).

Following the introduction of OMO 1-5, the remaining conversions would require Series 2 railcoaches to be withdrawn from service.   617 and 619 were withdrawn from service in 1972 and would become OMO 6 and OMO 7.   OMO 6 had a distinctive shape as straightening works carried out on the original 1935 part of the underframe led to the cab ends pointing upwards slightly.

The OMO cars operated along side the Brush Cars and remaining railcoaches until there was enough OMO's to run the whole service (approximately 1975).

Soon after introduction it was realised that the Plum and Custard livery wasn't really suitable as it had started to fade badly quickly and all cars were repainted in a red and white livery. It is thought that the OMO's were painted a different livery from the rest of the ordinary fleet to allow passengers to distinguish between pay on entry and the normal conductor operated trams.

The last remaining 'real railcoach' 615 and became OMO 11 and the experimental Railcoaches 611 and 618 became OMO 12 and 13 respectively.

The last OMO (13) entered service in 1976, but was withdrawn and scrapped after only 8 years in service. This particular tram was unpopular with drivers due to a number of faults and problems.

It was soon discovered that the OMO's could not cope with the extra length and their bodies began to droop badly at each end resulting in continual remedial work having to take place.

By 1988, there were enough Centenary cars to replace them and many of the 13 cars were withdrawn upon reaching 100,000 miles travelled. Withdrawal started with 13 in 1984 followed by 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9 which were all scrapped soon after withdrawal. OMO 7 survived following withdrawal and was converted to a replica Vanguard tram which was supposed to be similar to those which operated in Blackpool in the 1920's.

However, due to a number of problems with the centenary cars, some of the better OMO's had a reprieve from withdrawal, 1, 5, 8, 10, 11 and 12 remained in service after the centenary cars before OMO 1 was withdrawn following a compressor fire and an accident in the depot in 1989. OMO 12 was withdrawn as surplus to requirements in 1988.

By 1991, there was only 4 OMO's available for service these being 5, 8, 10 and 11. OMO 8 was withdrawn in 1992 and stored in the depot and 5 was given an experimental invertor, however this caused problems with the electrics of this tram and the lights would not work meaning this car could not be used after dark and soon had its original equipment restored. In 1993 both cars 1 and 12 were stripped of any remaining useful parts and scrapped. The remaining servicable OMO's 5, 10 and 11 were withdrawn, with Brush cars and the 3 ex towing car railcoaches taking over their winter duties.

Following withdrawal. 11 served as a test car for new bogies and motors for what was to become the experimental Roadliner 611 tram before moving to Canforth for further trials for before returning to Blackpool where it was stripped to it's shell and scrapped in 2000.

OMO's 5 and 8 remained stored and 10 was sold and has become a coffee shop in Reading in 1996. In 2000 OMO 5 minus windows and doors went to Clay Cross Stores, part of Crich Tramway Museum, to await restoration, whilst 8 became part of the LTT fleet and has since been repainted into its original livery of plum and custard and received windows from OMO 10 which has now been scrapped. OMO 8 was transferred to the LTT depot for further work to take place on the tram.   It made its returned to service in preservation with Blackpool Transport on 29th September 2010.

Original Number Current Number Built Status livery Notes
616 1 rebuilt 1972 scrapped

620 2 rebuilt 1972 scrapped

610 3 rebuilt 1972 scrapped

608 4 rebuilt 1972 scrapped

609 5 rebuilt 1972 preserved 90's green and cream at Clay Cross stores awaiting restoration
617 6 rebuilt 1973 scrapped

619 7 rebuilt 1973 rebuilt
see preserved trams
612 8 rebuilt 1974 preserved plum and custard part of LTT collection, being restored
613 9 rebuilt 1974 scrapped

614 10 rebuilt 1974 scrapped
was used as a coffee shop at a conference centre in Reading
615 11 rebuilt 1975 scrapped

611 12 rebuilt 1975 scrapped

618 13 rebuilt 1976 scrapped
last built but first scrapped