JOHN'S BLOG: TRAM TALK TODAY

Disclaimer :   The opinions and commentary voiced on this page are those of the author and do not have automatic endorsement of the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust (Registered Charity) unless otherwise stated.

Follow the regular updates on the Trust's projects, comments on Blackpool's bus and tram network and transport issues around the UK and further afield.

Featured Posts
Archive

Football Tram - Late Kickoff

The launch of the football tram celebrating the history of Blackpool's football club will be delayed beyond this week's Lights Switch On event. Work on the tram is still ongoing and its move on to the pitch at the Pleasure Beach has still to be arranged. There will be an announcement on the date and time of this late kick-off for all those interested in the special display. Watch the sporting press for details.

Ugly or what ?

The final years of traditional tram operation in Blackpool (up to 2011) featured some particularly obnoxious treatment applied to a handful of cars going through the Works. In particular three of the rail coach fleet were subjected to their own version of the 'Ugly Sisters'. One can make the same case for equally destructive modifications fitted on some of the Balloon cars; in particular prototype 237 aka 700. The decision to destroy the relatively recent retro styling on this tram to a rendition of wartime appearance - was a particularly wanton act akin to blowing up temples in Palmyra (albeit on a slightly lesser scale). To add salt to wounds the application of the Blackpool Council co

REDEMPTION - Rigby Road Wants YOU !

' This Way to Trams' points its finger at Brush Car 290 as it carefully eases its way past the former Inspector's Cabin at Pleasure Beach en route to its date with destiny - at Rigby Road overnight on the 25th/26th of August. Confounding sidewalk 'experts' predicting collapse and ruin after three years on the Promenade - 290 made a marvellous sight loaded by Lee and Mike with the help of the Trustees and David Umpleby who bravely stuck by the handbrake wheel. Quickly transported to the familiar siding at Rigby Road 290 was swiftly unloaded just thirty minutes later. The entire procedure was filmed by Nick Meskell productions and his team. John Houghton's BTS Unimog reacquainted itself with

history under our feet

Quite apart from the frequent sighting of tram rails protruding from the road surface from time to time, and giving contractors headaches every time they start digging on a former tram route - there are other artifacts clearly visible under our feet if we choose to look carefully. Below : King Edward Avenue just off the prom. Note the exposed 'cobbles' or 'setts' from the original roadway at this point. For example small metal gratings appear with great frequency in Blackpool with the letters FWB. Older residents casting their minds back to more salubrious times can recall these stand for 'Fylde Water Board' which administered the provision and supply of water in this part of Lancashire

Helping Hands

From the early days of the Trust our efforts have drawn on the goodwill and practical assistance of a good many people - sharing our view on the value and benefit of a quality visitor attraction in Fleetwood. That we haven't so far achieved that goal is not without any lack of trying and our efforts continue even if they aren't publicly posted. What is truly assuring is the ever present support for our modest initiatives from a diversity of public and private principals on the Fylde coast. The remarkable efforts of BHT understandably are welcomed by 'tram enthusiasts', whose enjoyment riding up and down on the working survivors of the former tram fleet is self evident. An expanding hor

Nature Lovers at Wyre Dock

High above Wyre Dock construction is nearing completion of a very large new wind turbine which we are told may be joined by several others in due course. What impact these obtrusive goliaths will have on the local wildlife remains to be seen Concern is already being shown with the presence this weekend of nature lovers keen to photograph what may be now endangered rare species. The Trust's trams are an endearing habitat for local wildlife with at least one tram providing a nesting home for a pair of hatched seagulls earlier in the summer. Toads, frogs, rare insects and much else find a protective home amid the Trust's collection. For some reason Motor Unit 678 notable for its many origin

Those interurban tramways

​ At the height of electric tram building mania in the late 1890s and turn of the century the Fylde coast saw not only Blackpool's new municipal system expanding its original promenade line - but also the introduction of two privately owned 'interurban' tramways feeding into Blackpool town centre. In the north, the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company with its extensive reserved trackage linked the two towns and operated long single deck four axle (bogie) trams with a great many of them of the open design: whilst the Blackpool St Annes and Lytham Tramway preferred 2 axle open top double deck cars for its service. Again many of these were open sided to entice vital summer season rid

Another trailer tale

​ Pursuant to the previous blog this week 'ten little trailers' we thought it worth at least giving airtime to that solitary survivor at Rigby Road - former T6 now 686 and sister unit 687 also in its final BTS fleet livery. The original end window frames are correct to the 1960s design for the 'Progress Twin-Car'. Both Photos : John Woodman

the little unimog that could !

A Helping Hand ? - thanks to the bunny on the front - overhead crew's mascot ! Arrival of the all-purpose Unimog and the BTS A-Team from Rigby Road Works heralded a combined effort with FHLT stalwarts Woodman and MacLeod in releasing Brush Car 290 from its seemingly immovable state - today. Armed with heavy duty hammers and due diligence under the car body primed the tram for a session hooked up to the Unimog's tow bar. A few moments later the wheels finally turned from their long fixed hibernation on the display track. A short session of pushing 290 to the end of the track and then pulling it forward released whatever residual grip by some of the brake blocks. 290 is now ready to roll

A blast from the past - or a bus to be proud of

​ The affection for Blackpool's old buses never diminishes (fortunately) in some circles. This is notably relevant in the Brinwell Road offices of Catch22 Buses Ltd which provides a safe haven for a varied collection of vintage vehicles acquired by the Lancastrian Transport Trust, as well as through private initiatives. One remarkable example is the former BCT PD3 from the 1960s' 516 - still going strong and having had a striking repaint in the pre-1933 colours of Blackpool's municipal buses and trams. Number 516 functions as a special hire vehicle used for weddings and other social events. More often now seen on the Catch22 service 21 to Stanley Park and Blackpool Zoo 516 has also acquir

Ten little trailers sitting in a depot

Following the original 'Twin-Set' testing in 1958 - Blackpool's decision to proceed with conversion of a further eight English Electric rail coaches to pull brand new trailers was quite a dramatic development by 1960. The ten trailers were well crafted by Metro Cammell to the extent that seven still survive fifty years later. Originally numbered T1 to T10 - they were later included in the grand fleet renumbering exercise of 1966 and became 681-690 in the then new system. The Motor Units which were permanently coupled becoming 671 to 680. Three trailers (690/688/689) were discarded following a later decision not to proceed with their conversion to control trailers with driver cabs (of a k

PS - gale force winds and tram depots on the Fylde coast

Of course there was an even more notable (and relevant) example of the Fylde coast's susceptibility to gale force westerly winds - apart from the many vessels blown off course and onto the local coastline. An earlier tram depot erected off what is now Lytham Road, close to Squires Gate Lane (as it was then) housed the gas powered trams of the Blackpool, St Annes and Lytham company. Whereas Blackpool opted for home grown electric powered trams from the off - its southern neighbour decided that German originated gas-powered mechanics sufficed for their pioneering operation which ran along the coastline to Blackpool. Quite apart from the methodology involved: fume laden lower decks and ra

Roofing Issues

An early casualty in the light rail upgrade scheme has been Blackpool's new tram depot at Starr Gate - sited just where the sea hits the land. A semi-permanent contractor's camp has now been erected outside the depot entrance to provide a base of operation for what seem to be extensive repairs to the structure's roof. Gale force winds earlier this year succeeded in peeling away sections of the depot roof, including insulation layers under the metal cladding. This forced closure of the building and cessation of service to Starr Gate; with trams terminating at the Pleasure Beach. Road closure on the Promenade at Starr Gate was instigated as a precautionary measure, while emergency

Repent - the end is nigh

Now that 290 is once more the focus of chatter elsewhere it is reassuring that this particular example of a twenty strong class of Blackpool (British) tram is a cause celebre for some all too familiar names. We commend a read of the varied suggestions, including admonition that the Trustees of FHLT should repent for multiple sins incurred in the display of this tram for wide public benefit - placed on social media sites specialising in end of pier entertainment ! There are within this froth of schadenfreude spleen a few constructive suggestions - that are noteworthy. However the Trust has the engagement of professionals who are dealing with our much commented on hiccup with 290. Fortunate

Houston - we have a problem

Attempts to remove 290 from its display track this week ended in failure - fortunately the astronauts did not suffer any serious injuries on re-entry. During the tram's initial attempt at re-entry it lost part of its heat shield but was otherwise undamaged. Image above shows the pre-entry phase. The length of the tram's display on the promenade (three years) meant that the brake blocks needed adjustment of the manual kind before a second attempt on re-entry to Rigby Road is attempted. Mission Control at Rigby Road is working on solutions to this problem so that the tram (sorry capsule) can finally regain traction after its long earth orbit on Promenade. Fortunately the window for remov

Blackpool's preserved buses

Amid all the furore about perceived need to save every last tram from the pre -light rail era in Blackpool, spare if you will, a thought for the bus preservation movement and what little has been retained from the once iconic municipal bus fleet. Very little is the answer. It was not until the end was in sight for Blackpool's open rear platform Leylands that a sudden rush to acquire an example saw several of these classic British buses achieve museum status. Up until then successive generations of corporation green and cream vehicles made a one way journey to scrapyards near and far. All of the pre-war double deck fleet are now simply historical references - while of the single deck classe

Variety is the spice of life .....

One of the pleasures of Blackpool's summer season is you never know what bus is going to turn round the corner on the Catch22 services 12, 22 and 6. Blackpool now has two bus routes numbered 12 - just to make life interesting for residents and visitors of course. Whereas the BTS Service has the predictable yellow and black liveried buses (always looking clean and smart) - the Catch22 Service seems to have a potpourri of liveries and vehicle types which range from a former Hong Kong three axle open top monster, to miniature single deckers with anonymous colours. Cardiff area liveried single deckers in Catch22's official colours can be seen (also looking clean and smart) just to keep pa

Buses, trams (& ambulances)

Rigby Road Works is naturally associated with Blackpool's former tram fleet which was sustained over decades by skilled craftsment and engineers. Since the 1960s this a period when Blackpool was THE only UK tram operator (outside of museums and the Isle of Man's quasi heritage operation). Not only did trams undergo periodical rebuilding and in many cases complete redesign; but also the same workshops dealt with the much larger bus fleet. Up to the 1970s Rigby Road was also responsible for servicing the municipal ambulances. Their maintenance (and painting) came under the purview of the Transport Department so one could see buses, trams and ambulances in proximity undergoing work in the same

Britain's lost tramways

Coming to a tram stop near you - in Jerusalem. Courtesy : Jessica Meyer-Rassow As reports reach these shores of new tramways / light rail operations opening at an almost indecent rate in France, north Africa, the United States, the Arab world (and Jerusalem) and of course China, not to mention Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Turkey and various other places around the world - we in Britain must make do with incremental extensions in Nottingham and West Midlands, a tramtrain trial to Rotherham from Meadowhall, Sheffield; and a truncated opening in Edinburgh. Blackpool might get lucky with a quarter mile link up Talbot Road. What went wrong after the brave new world of light rail was launched by no l

Historic trackage on the way out

The tramway connection at the Foxhall leading from the Promenade on to Princess Street was severed last year thus ending a feature which existed from the very early days of the original electric tram operation in 1885. The single line along Princess Street allowed access to the principal depot, offices and rudimentary maintenance facilities which were all contained within Blundell Street Depot. A further section of track was installed along Blundell Street to then connect with the integrated tramway workshops, and new depot with other resources built on Corporation land adjoining Rigby Road in the early 1920s and Thirties. Whilst both of these important track infrastructural assets linge

Working to conserve for display, trams and artefacts of the longstanding coastal tramway serving Blackpool, Thornton Cleveleys and Fleetwood.

 

This website and the content is © 2020 of Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust