Of all the streetcars in Muni’s historic fleet, none turn heads faster than its two “boat trams” from Blackpool, England. They bring smiles to so many when they sail by — nautical air whistle gaily tooting.
Muni’s boat trams are two of twelve built for the English seaside resort city of Blackpool in 1934. For many years, they ran along along the coastal promenade to Fleetwood, sharing the tracks with a wide variety of unusual English-built equipment. In the fall, Blackpool trams are specially decorated for the “illuminations,” with elaborate lighting making the cars sparkle as the sun sets over the Irish Sea.
The first boat tram to operate in San Francisco, No. 226, was leased from a museum for the first two years of the Trolley Festivals, 1983-84. The second, No. 228, was acquired for Muni with the help of Market Street Railway members in 1984 and shipped with support from Bechtel Group. No. 228 actually crossed the Atlantic twice. In 1976, it delighted Philadelphians as part of that city’s bicentennial celebration. Returned to Blackpool, it sat unused until Muni acquired it.
The great popularity of No. 228 led Market Street Railway to acquire a second boat tram, No. 233, for Muni in 2013. No. 233 was part of Blackpool Transport’s fleet until 2010, when it was declared surplus and was preserved by the non-profit Lancastrian Transport Trust (LTT). When LTT needed funding for restoration of a vintage double-deck Blackpool tram, Market Street Railway purchased it to donate to Muni. Funding for the purchase came from a generous grant from the Thoresen Foundation. FedEx Trade Networks underwrote the shipping of the tram from England to San Francisco.
Blackpool renumbered its boat trams when it reduced its fleet in the 1960s. Car 228 became 603, while 233 became 605. They have been restored to their original Blackpool numbers and livery in San Francisco.
The slight variations in these two originally identical trams reflect small changes Blackpool Transport made in them in the three decades between the acquisition of No. 228 and No. 233, a reminder that transit is a dynamic business where improvements are always sought.
Blackpool Tramways, Blackpool, England, 1934
Acquired by Muni From
Blackpool Tramways, Blackpool, England, 1984 (228)
Lancastrian Transport Trust, Blackpool, England, 2013 (233)
10′ 3″ (excluding trolley tower)
2 English Electric 305
BTH B18 (228)
English Electric Z4 (233)
Air, self-lapping, hand