JOHN'S BLOG: TRAM TALK TODAY

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Oslo's Standards

The Oslo system's postwar cars were also locally sourced and unique. A fleet of these square ended and somewhat utilitarian trams would become synonymous with the Norwegian capital's tram services up until the end of the 1990s. Below : former typical two axle trams that were supplemented by the 'Goldfish' cars in the late 1930s - and later by the new 'Standards'. Oslo's current fleet consists of articulated models - below : It is worth noting that the system retains its pale blue livery with dark relief - so in keeping with Oslo's traditional colours. First generation trams were green with brown relief and of course a lot of lining out. Examples are on display in this first class collect

Brief Encounter (at Crich)

​The National Tramway Museum remains much as it has been for the past twenty odd years with a full Workshop, depot halls and Exhibition Hall. The route has not varied or extended, while the proforma service and display format varies little. Stripping LCC 1 is the focus of the Workshop with an almost skeletal car showing its wooden framework and detail (Above). Alongside, Glasgow 22 is undergoing attention while the almost new build LUT 159 was having further attention. Blackpool Standard 40 was one of a trio of trams in service and looked very impressive both inside and out - particularly with passengers on board. The Berlin 'Reko' car with its wheelchair provision has been very careful

Tony Stevenson retires from Crich

A familiar face from Blackpool and Member of the TMS said goodbye to his tram driving days at Crich this week. Tony Stevenson is well known in the local enthusiast fraternity and over the years has been a regular volounteer at the National Tramway Museum. By coincidence a research visit to Crich on Thursday coincided with Tony's last day at the Museum and I was fortunately on hand to test his tram driving skills. Three trams were in service on a somewhat grim day (shades of last Day of Leeds and Sheffield's Trams). Ironically Leeds 345 and 399 were the stalwarts in service along with Blackpool (Standard) 40. Tony is seen in charge of Leeds 345 on his final day. Being Halloween week the

The road to the Flexities started in 1969

By the late 1960s Blackpool's Transport Department had woken up to the fact that crew costs were killing its finances (among other demands). Whilst many, if not most other, municipal transport systems had converted routes to one man operated buses, Blackpool lagged well behind this trend which had started the previous decade. In fact Blackpool peversely kept on ordering double deck rear platform buses from 1957 through to 1968 building up a substantial fleet of obsolete and uneconomic vehicles. In 1969 the light dawned at Rigby Road and following demonstration of a one man operated single deck bus provided by Leeds City Transport, the Council approved immediate delivery of similar types

This tram does NOT go to Fleetwood

A dramatic tram design appeared in Oslo in the late 1930s with the appearance of ultra stylish bogie cars - soon nicknamed 'goldfish' (in Norwegian of course). These were dramatically different from the traditional wooden two axle trams which were of standard appearance throughout European towns and cities (more or less). The 'goldfish' design was unique to Oslo, unreplicated anywhere else. Fortunately they lasted in service into the 1960s, thus entering an era of tram preservation. Two examples have been retained in Oslo at the city's tram museum which can be seen only at very restricted hours over the weekends/ Views of Number 170 within the confines of the museum tracks. All Images :

Now For Something Completely Different

The capital of Norway retains a vibrant tram operation with distinctive pale and dark blue fleet colours. All of the locally built Norwegian trams have given way to low floor units from multinational suppliers - so the unique flavour of this system has been subsumed into the standard light rail format common to other European operators. All Images by Jessica Meyer-Rassow October 24 2015 Fortunately the Oslo transport operator assigned an old tram depot (sounds familiar) to the local preservation group and donated a considerable number of trams both from the Capital's earlier fleet as well as suburban lines. Now managed by Norwegian transport enthusiasts an impressive line up of tr

James Bond on a bus

The national media campaign marketing the latest James Bond movie has hit most British towns and cities. Blackpool is no exception. Had the Balloon cars been operating a regular service no doubt one would have been decked out with a rendition of the current advertising design. Rumour has it that Flexity 007 was to have been given a makeover to coincide with the launch of 'Spectre' but apparently this was not to be. Instead we have a menage of Tunnocks, NHS, Redrow, Fleetwood Freeport and sundry other advertising with nominal impact when compared to the distinctive and eyecatching (for better or worse) all over vinyls on trams pre 2011. James Bond makes slightly less impact on a BTS Tr

Goodbye John Fishwick & Sons, Leyland

The shock announcement last week of the termination of local services between Leyland and Preston by independent bus operator, John Fishwick & Sons, was wholly unexpected. Commencing in 1907 this proud and distinctive independent was a local institution in the south Ribble area with its two tone green liveried buses serving communities around Leyland and south of Preston. The longevity of the company made the sudden notice of closure (last Saturday) even more shocking for local communities and regular travellers on their services. Interim replacement was arranged by Stagecoach Preston - until more formal arrangements and operator(s) could be put in place. I never rode on the company's serv

Will the Prime Minister consider ?

Parliament's Prime Minister's Questions last week were enlivened by a question tabled by Cat Smith MP for Fleetwood and Lancaster asking the Prime Minister if the people of Fleetwood could enjoy free travel access for holders of the NOW card on Blackpool's trams running through Wyre Borough. David Cameron replied by saying "I will look carefully at the point the honourable lady raises." Much like his considering the report from a national health body on the impact of over consumption of sugar - and rejecting its findings on need for a tax on sugar. The following day Junior Transport Minister Andrew Jones MP sent a proforma statement to Cat Smith affirming there are no plans to extend the E

Balloons to Fleetwood

A rare sight this week has been the toing and froing of Balloon car 700 in regular service as far as Fleetwood. Whilst the seasonal heritage travel along the Promenade has become pretty much an accepted part of Blackpool's visitor scene this year - the use of double deck trams in normal service is definitely an 'upgrade' in and of itself. Just how far this initiative will be pursued is very much an open question which only BTS management can answer. However waiting passengers at Cleveleys (and stops north) must have taken a second look at a double deck tram bearing down for all stations to Blackpool. Funding for conversion of the core double deck cars to allow them to operate as part o

Supporting UK steel manufacture

Above : Utility work along Dickson Road in 2015 revealed sections of the former North Station service track which remains under the surface along the entire length of the street route in Blackpool from the Gynn roundabout. No chinese steel here. Now that the headline news on sudden closures of strategic industrial infrastructure - ie steel manufacture with the accompanying enormous hardship inflicted on 'hardworking families' is crowding out the photo-ops of a State Visit by the Chinese Premier to London, it is worth recalling that all of the Blackpool tramway upgrade involved imported steel track from Germany. No doubt had the upgrade been taking place in 2016 we would be seeing Chinese

Learners

One of the familiar sights on Blackpool's roads is a Learner Bus Driver - or is it a 'Trainee'? Blackpool Transport has had a designated Driver Training Bus since the mid 1950s when Titan 25 was exclusively assigned to this duty. It was recognisable both for its wartime dark green roof which it retained on being repainted for this new role - as well as the fixed signs in its front destination panels. Two large red 'L' on the front also gave the game away ! Living in Bispham which had two significant inclines in an otherwise flat terrain on the Fylde coast - Number 25 was a familiar sight with crunching sound of gear change and engine roar negotiating these challenges by novice drivers

Standard 143

One of the marvellous reincarnations of Blackpool's tramway history looms with completion of work on Standard Car 143 to its open ended condition when built during the mid 1920s. Number 143 was fortunate in being selected to replace Engineering Car 4 in 1958. Fortunately for both cars in fact as they will soon share the spotlight in Blackpool Corporation Tramways livery at Beamish and Blackpool respectively, resulting from their long 'second lives' as works cars. Number 143 of course is familiar from its initial role based at Bispham Depot still retaining top deck end compartments and given a repaint in more or less Standard Car livery of the 1930s which it retained, (albeit in a somewh

Squires Gate to take on a new role

The news this week highlights imminent changes to the large site occupying land between Blackpool and St Annes. Government approval for the creation of an Enterprise Zone that utilises existing industrial units is likely to transform this part of Blackpool (and the neighbouring Fylde Borough). It seems likely that the familiar Airport passenger building will be demolished or converted to a specialist training college and a smaller facility created closer to the runway apron. Short hop flights, private aviation and helicopter operation (for the Irish Sea Gas Field rigs and emergencies) will continue from Squires Gate under the new proposals for the airport. However longer haul services

Cropping a Balloon

A firm favourite for visitors wanting to ride on a 'traditional' Blackpool tram is undoubtedly open top 706, otherwise referred to as 'Princess Alice'. Up until this tram's head on collision at the Pleasure Beach with sister car, 705, it had been an unremarkable member of the 27 strong fleet of 'Balloon' cars. Originally on its delivery in 1934 number 243 as it was first numbered was in fact open top: one of thirteen examples from 237 to 249. The war called for their being given enclosed top decks to the same styling (more or less) as the fully enclosed version delivered a year later and number 250 to 263. It was initially assumed that 706 would follow the same fate as its cousin 705

Semi enclosed Standard ?

In 1985 Rigby Road prepared for the largest tramway celebration in its history with the Centenary of Blackpool's electric tramway requiring an especial programme of events. These included an infusion of visiting trams loaned by several museums and groups. The first example being the successful testing of a 'foreign' tram with arrival of the superb restoration of a typical Bolton Corporation four axle car- number 66. This tram has become a permanent member of Blackpool's heritage fleet ever since and extremely popular with visitors. More interesting and appropriate was arrival of Blackpool open balcony Standard number 40 from the National Tramway Museum. In this case its delivery at Ri

Friendly crews make all the difference

One of the real pleasures using Blackpool Transport, and in particular the tram service, is the especial friendliness of the crews. This comes across with conductors checking and issuing tickets on trams and chance to have informal exchanges (and banter) with passengers of all ages. I was struck by the difference an outward personality makes in welcoming visitors with simply more than proforma 'move away from the doors'. Charlie Brickman is a conductor on the trams this season - loving his job and making sure passengers are shown a smiling face and friendly disposition. Calling out stops and adjoining venues and hotels seems to be just a small portion of his verbal repertoire - which i

The Leeds Vambac

One of the glistening exhibits in the Exhibition Hall at the National Tramway Museum in Crich is the only surviving 'Vambac' tram outside of Blackpool's examples 11 and 304 (at the Lowestoft museum of EATM and Rigby Road). Below : a not too recent view of 602's display venue at the NTM Leeds 602 (and sister car 601) were to have been flagships for the postwar renewal of the city's tramways. Built locally by Charles Roe company (their only tram contract), the two cars were a derivation of an earlier design for Glasgow which was to have been part of Glasgow's 100 strong 'Coronation Mark II' trams in the late 1940s. Proposals for a small batch to be built as centre entrance

Bispham Tram Station - an eyesore ?

One of the depressing sights along the tramway is the rundown state of the classic Tram Station building at the top of Red Bank Road. Once regarded as a landmark structure affirming Bispham's importance as a distinctive community - it has long since found itself without any caring organisation following the upgrade of the tramway in 2011. In sharp contrast, directly facing the promenade and Tram Station is an apartment building owned by a local hotelier which has been given a splendid makeover to highlight its art deco features. If only the same care and attention could be given to the equally noteworthy Station building. During the light rail upgrade Norbreck and Rossall School brick tra

A sampler for the new fleet ?

The very first Blackpool double deck bus to gain BTS's new livery was seen out and about this week - but carrying no passengers. Trident former 304 new in 2002 and now renumbered into the 'Trainer Bus' fleet as 974 has been smartly turned out in the 'Palladium' brand scheme complete with silvered BTS logo above the driver's side windows. An invitation to join BTS as a bus driver adorns the distinctive yellow? band below the lower deck windows. A designated phone number at Rigby Road for wannabe drivers is boldly posted between decks - although an email address 'wannabeadriver@bts' etc might catch the younger generations addicted to ipads, tablets and mobiles ! Whether this is a taster for

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

 

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