JOHN'S BLOG: TRAM TALK TODAY

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Next Stop Aleppo

Given the headlines from Syria and tragedies being played out on this country and its neighbours it is all the more remarkable to recall the intrepid journey of Blackpool Corporation Transport bus number 298 which made its way across the troubled region of the middle east in the early Seventies. Number 298 was built by HV Burlingham at their Preston New Road factory in 1951 as one of fifty new buses delivered to Blackpool that year. They followed an earlier tranche of fifty which arrived in 1949 (201 to 250). This wholescale vehicle contract set the seal on a further fifteen years of centre entrance buses being the main feature of Blackpool's bus routes. Centre entrance operation bega

BLACKPOOL 1 FLEETWOOD TOWN 0

The very first FA League fixture which saw Blackpool FC play Fleetwood Town FC took place in pretty abysmal weather this weekend. Strong winds and sheeting rain were symptomatic of a less than inspiring result even though Blackpool were the beneficiary of three points. The only goal being scored came in the 17th minute of the match at Bloomfield Road and was the result of an own goal by a Fleetwood player. Blackpool are having an awful run of matches which sees the team in the relegation zone of Division One whilst Fleetwood manage to hover just above it for the time being. An earlier series of matches in October gave Blackpool's team some encouragement with five games either won or dr

Taking to the road

An ever changing sign of the times are the successive Driver Training vehicles of the Transport Department / sorry Blackpool Transport Services. Over the years generations of aspiring bus drivers have cautiously edged out on to Rigby Road in more or less the same style as the victim (sorry - recruit) above. In earlier years a usually elderly bus nearing its sell by date was assigned to provide a least expensive way of driver training - with a large red letter 'L' affixed to the front radiator. Leyland Titans gave way to a dedicated 1940s example which was given a new paint job and correct signage - Number 25 lasted until replaced by a succession of later postwar PD2 examples and finally P

On and on and on

Blackpool's heritage trams are receiving replica 'authentic' blinds thanks to the expert work of Peter Watts whose output can be increasingly seen on the Heritage Tour operations. Mindful of this work we include this image of one example at Rigby Road works which Peter might wish to try his hand at when he has a few weeks free ! It is shown on display as part of an Open Day. Image : John Woodman Archive

old style locally built v the new order

A fascinating insight into the comparable levels of interest and public sentiment for what we call 'trams' and others term 'light rail' is the amount of attention given online to the current prefabricated modular products assembled in foreign parts, shipped to the UK and subsidised by taxpayers. Whereas the arrival from one port or another of the latest import gains initial attention - the ensuing service life sinks into background anonymity. A rebranding exercise (the favourite of Train Operating Companies to disguise lack of investment in new rolling stock) or the headline grabbing accident / crash brings individual vehicles briefly back in the news- otherwise their clinical efficiency

1933 NEW BROOM AT WORK

1928 - NEW TRAMS FOR THE FLEETWOOD SERVICE FROM BLACKPOOL An exact description of the new pantograph current collector on the trams Blackpool Council decided that the combined workload of management of both the Electricity Department and ever expanding Tramways (with its growing motor bus operations) should no longer be borne by one man. In 1932 'Tramways' was replaced by 'Transport' reflecting the rise of the bus side of the undertaking over the preceding ten years - and a new position 'Transport General Manager' was created with invitation for applications by November that year. As is well known Walter Luff's application rose to the fore after the preferred appointee declined the positi

1918 - Lindsay Parkinson signs a cheque

In 1918 the twenty one year operating franchise of the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company was nearing its end. Rumours (well founded) were swirling around that the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway was considering making an offer for the company which would have made Blackpool to Fleetwood Tramroad much like the Burton & Ashby Light Railway (owned by Midland Railway) or the Grimsby to Immingham tramway (owned by London North Eastern). Blackpool's Mayor was Lindsay Parkinson - a very successful businessman in the building industry. He knew well the Owners of several Estate Companies which had acquired much of the farmland and private estates bordering along the tramroad with potent developme

Once upon a time - in 1898

The brand new electric tram service was inaugurated running from Bold Street terminus near the Steamer terminal in Fleetwood and the railway station on Talbot Road in Blackpool. This eight mile long line ran over open fields and farmland after leaving Fleetwood's commercial centre until it reached the Blackpool Borough boundary just north of the original Gynn Inn. As in Fleetwood, the trams then traversed street tracks along to Dickson Road and the imposing Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway terminal building. The line was privately financed throughout with a twenty one year operating lease. Its main depot with power generating station, offices and private residence for the company Secretar

Fleetwood No Longer Part Of The 'Northern Powerhouse' - Official

Headlines in today's local paper throw up the possibility of the tramway service being terminated at Victoria Square if Lancashire County Council (LCC) determine not to continue funding upkeep of the tramway infrastructure from this point north to Fleetwood. This is one of many debilitating measures under review at County Hall, Preston as part of mandated budget cuts totalling £65 Million in the next two financial years. And this is just one part of overall County budget cuts which will involve a further £262 Million by 2020. Blackpool's Council (a Unitary Authority) is itself trying to square a similar circle facing significant government cuts to its own funding in the next financial ye

Summer Lee & Blackpool Winter

A joint arrangement between the FHLT and Blackpool's Heritage team provided a useful working visit to Rigby Road and Fleetwood for a group from the North Lanarkshire industrial museum at Summerlee on Monday this week. The four visiting retired engineers responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of exhibits at the museum expressed interest in practical aspects of tramcar operation and renovation during their four hours on the Fylde coast. Wheel inspection time in the Engineering Shop. The Illuminated Trawler (633) stands as a backdrop. It is awaiting a major overhaul. Scottish enclave in Rigby Road with Mick Perrett in orange jump suit (as used at Guantanamo Bay) holding forth. A translator

Enterprise Zone Take Off

One important plus in Blackpool's week has been the announcement of Government approval for establishment of a new Enterprise Zone which takes over the Airport terminal and adjacent land at Squires Gate. Blackpool International - not anymore. Leisure travel gives way to higher education and technology training for the future skills needs of the energy sector and growing new companies. The former terminal buildings (below on the final day of operation) will be turned into a College training campus for specialist sectors and industry requirements, especially in northwest England. The full details of the emerging redesign and layout for this important tract of land which is owned by a conso

Manchester here we come

A Blackpool built bus to Manchester specifications stands outside the Museum at a previous Festival event. The annual Christmas Transport Festival and the Museum of Transport in Manchester is a very well attended event from previous visits - choc a bloc with stands featuring all kinds of memorabilia and artifacts. Rigby Road Publishing is taking a stand for the first time at this year's event on 5th and 6th December. We will have our latest titles available together with the 2016 Heritage Tram Calendar: plus information on new books scheduled for the next twelve months and future titles focussing on different era in Blackpool's transport history. A centrepiece will be the amazing handbu

Back to the future - the 1950s

Next in line for the Municipal Transport series (Blackpool that is) - is a further title - from Rigby Road Publications - Municipal Transport Heyday which covers the town's transport system (and much more) during the 1950s. Emerging out of the austerity years (sounds familiar) of the late 1940s Blackpool found itself in the forefront of tramcar technology when it took delivery of twenty five brand new impressive 'Coronation' cars and twelve upgraded trams to operate the town's only all-street tram service. One hundred (yes that many) new buses elbowed out the pre-war fleet from 1951 onwards; again with centre entrance design and all locally built by the Burlingham company. Change of man

Rigby Road 10 November

From time to time a drive around Rigby Road produces interesting sights and on this occasion both ends of the Engineering Workshop had something interesting to record. An alien hybrid vehicle was parked at the south end of the Workshop doors in more or less pristine state with its flanged wheels nearly invisible until close inspection. This seems to be the new overhead crew wagon acquired by Blackpool Council and as yet unnumbered and without identification. I was told it was somebody's 'new toy' and quite an expensive one as well. No doubt details will become public in due course. Below : An alien craft straddles the tracks At the northern end of the Workshop the reliable Merc

I Belong to Glasgow - dear old Glasgow town

Links between Glasgow and Blackpool are considerable given the many millions of Glaswegians who have taken a week or two by the seaside over the past hundred years - especially during the traditional 'Glasgow Fair' holiday. Blackpool's 1985 Tramway Centenary was host of several visiting heritage trams including of course the 'Coronation Mark II' postwar car preserved at the National Tramway Museum. It performed a wonderful job running along the eleven mile line with few operating issues. A Glasgow Mark I Coronation was also a visitor to Rigby Road, albeit for a relatively short time and stored quietly out of sight at the back of the depot. Number 1245 was an intinerant car, seeing many

Final Flourish

This past weekend saw the final flourish of the heritage fleet along Blackpool's tramway. In the great tradition of early November British weather patterns managed to produce the familiar pattern of squally showers and dismal overcast skies as a backdrop to comings and goings of green and cream trams. Heading south from Cleveleys my tram (the normal service purple and white version) was passed by a Centenary car going to Thornton Gate, a Balloon car going to Little Bispham - enlivening my ride into Blackpool. This procession didn't stop however as Standard 147 rolled by together with a Twin Set and last of all a Brush car - not all together of course. The problems raised by limited stop

Last night on the prom (almost)

Centenary 641 has been the focus of attention for the thousands of visitors queuing each night for a Tour of the Illuminations. The queues snake around the tram patiently awaiting the next special to arrive and have plenty of time to read the vinyl panels adorning the Football Tram display. Saturday night was thankfully free of rain (for the most part) and offered a chance to capture the nightly scene at the Pleasure Beach terminus. Some 'snaps' from tonight : A Brush Car gets in on the scene to augment Illumination Tours. Anything is better than viewing the Lights from a 'Flexity' car. All Images : John Woodman

Adieu Princess Alice

Princess Alice aka 706 begins one of its 'Tours' by crossing back on to the south bound track from North Pier. Note the period angled destination which is part of a replica blind taken from a 1950s period original and provided through the work of Peter Watts - official supplier of destination blinds to Blackpool's heritage fleet. The end of the 2015 season this weekend sees withdrawal from service of open top car 706. Faithfully restored to a close appearance of its original 1934 appearance, except of course for the single indicator at each end (among other detail features) this tram has been a firm favourite with visitors, and of course enthusiasts. Now in its thirtieth year of se

Driver Training in the rain

November 5th otherwise known as 'Guy Fawkes Night' was something of a damp squib this year - except perhaps for the more riotous events in Central London. At least Parliament didnt get burned down this time around either. The inclement weather did not deter Blackpool Transport from embarking on another round of driver training however. The company has two specialist vehicles for this purpose - a sort of mix and match between a Trident (see earlier Blog) and an unusual East Lancashire Coachworks bodied DAF Myllenium acquired in 2013 we believe. Decked out in a detailed rendition of Blackpool's former green and cream colours the vehicle is a one off in the BTS fleet. Never used in passeng

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

 

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