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Works Car to Heritage Tram - 624 / 287

Above : Gleaming recently repainted 624 with its rail carrying crane mounted trailer (formerly Brush Car 628 underframe and bogies) alongside the Engineering Shop. One fortunate survivor in the heritage tram stakes is Brush Car 287 / 624 which was plucked from the serviceable fleet to replace an English Electric rail coach (221) assigned to Permanent Way Duties and numbered 5. The latter car was then given a third life as an OMO conversion in 1972 ironically becoming number 5 in the new OMO series. Remarkably this example also survives; having been acquired by the Tramway Museum Society for preservation - albeit stored at Clay Cross. But back to Brush Car 287. In 1972 it was one of few

Those classic 'Brush' Cars

Left : 636 in its unique Metro Coastlines livery - which it still carries under its new Owners. Apart from the omnipresent 'Balloon' cars which came to symbolise the Blackpool promenade tramway in later decades - the 1937 Brush cars twenty strong numbered 284 to 303 have proved to be remarkably resilient by their longevity and numbers. The first of the class to be scrapped was 303 when it joined the Marton Vambacs and sister experimental car English Electric 208 which also acquired 'VambaC' control equipment and resilient wheel bogies in the Marton Depot scrapyard in 1963. Thereafter Number 298 was 'rescued' through the initiatives of a small group of enthusiasts intent on seeing it ret

More new buses - and the new livery plus those citaros

Alexander Dennis Ltd known by the acronym ADL announced this month the £2M contract for delivery of ten of the company's Enviro400 City Bus model launched in 2015 - to Blackpool Transport. The new double deckers will be clad in BTS 'palladium' colours introduced on the Mercedes 'Citaro' model in 2015. One assumes that this will become (or have become) the corporate colours for BTS and repaints may reflect this starting with the two repainted Tridents now used for Driver Training. ADL's press release indicates that the new buses will go into service on the 9 route on which the author is a longstanding customer (since the mid 1950s!). They will replace the five Volvo double deckers now us

Hope for Talbot Gateway II ?

Above : The way we were. Recent statements in the Blackpool media indicate that the owners of the Wilko property on Talbot Road are putting a planning application forward to develop another site in the town centre near to the Winter Gardens. A decision by the Council is expected in March and barring unforeseen objections this may pave the way for the current store to transfer to the new location in one or two years time. Acquisition of the Wilko property which ironically occupies the footprint of the original North Station building is integral to further redevelopment of the area known as 'Talbot Gateway'. The next phase would incorporate alignment of a tram terminus for the short on s

Citadis 10 Points Flexity 3

One can see why the ever growing number of French towns and cities opening or expanding new electric tram systems have opted for the Alstom 'Citadis' design. Now a common feature across France, as well as further afield in North Africa and Ireland - this eminently successful tram design is easily sampled in the raw in the UK by a visit to Nottingham. Here two long cross city lines have both Bombardier built trams and Alstom's Citadis class in service alongside each other. The Bombardier cars are not however the same design which was developed subsequently for the Toronto and Blackpool orders. Winford Lane Station stop with safety measures between platforms - note the wide spacing of trac

Nottingham's user friendly trams

Continuing on with some first impressions from a visit in Nottingham an early example of joined up planning and design is the multi faceted information and marketing of the city's two line tramway under the brand 'Nottingham Express Transit' - NET. All trams carry timetables and latest material on 'the LINE' in a monthly pocket publication promoting both the services as well as the locales and venues along the routes. In the January 2016 issue both Notts County FC and Clifton Market are among several sports, cultural and retailing centres with current information sections. Many of the trams in the fleet are named with a mix of historical and current personalities prominently in view at ea

Nottingham's superb tram setup

My first visit to Nottingham since it introduced trams this past weekend was an eyeopener. Finding the city's railway station undergoing major renovation and served by two tram services was a decidedly refreshing experience after all of the promises made about Blackpool's own extension - and still far from realisation. Going with an open mind and no preconceived notions of either the city or the trams being operated there I came away impressed with the service being delivered. For a start the infrastructure was immaculate. Traction poles painted and the low platform station stops not dissimilar to Blackpool - having a much greater standard of design and customer features unheard of on th

Works Car to Heritage Tram - Number 143

143 still in service in the mid 1950s approaching Talbot Square on Clifton Street. A wonderful survivor from the fleet of 1920s 'Standard' cars is number 143. Selected in 1958 from those condemned for scrapping at Thornton Gate sidings this enclosed example was fortunate enough to be given a new lease of life. Bispham Depot was home to an 'Engineering Car' needed to traverse the reserved track section north of the Cabin. The concept for 143 was to allow it to operate without need for overhead wire power supply. Rigby Road's engineering staff installed the engine from a withdrawn Corporation bus (a Leyland Titan I believe) in the lower saloon which naturally was stripped of all seating.

Those Confusing Standards

For those with long memories there were two Standard cars in Blackpool which ran without fleet numbers in the usual front position. This was because 158 and 159 had been provided with exterior illuminated fittings including a fixture which covered the front dash at both ends of the two trams. The fixtures were more or less identical (as were the trams) and discerning from photos of the time which tram was which became something more suited to a pub quiz for enthusiasts. Thanks to a timely reminder from an observant follower of this blog I can advise that there is an infallible method of determining from end on photos which tram was 158 and which tram was 159. Of course inside the lower

Fleetwood transport links to be cut

Of immediate concern to people living in Fleetwood and Over Wyre are decisions being made in Preston by Lancashire County Council to cut transport subsidies as part of an exercise to meet Government funding reductions to the Council in 2016/17. These are of a significant order and already impact on the tram service which receives £280,000 from Preston towards the cost of maintaining an operation north of Cleveleys. This grant will no longer be provided from April. Blackpool Council who face very similar sizeable reduction to their Unitary Authority grant are having to make hard choices of their own in Council services. It is unlikely that Blackpool would be in a position to absorb the

Spanish trams rule in Brum

The last British trams built in the West Midlands - Blackpool's classic trailer cars Seen here on a sunny day in 2015 at Wyre Dock Fleetwood in contrasting liveries. Trams Built in the West Midlands by UK companies - not in Spain...... The BBC carried a nostalgic programme on its regional television channel on Monday covering the final run of Birmingham's first generation tram in 1953. The BBC's website contains images from the programme and excerpts of comments by Geoffrey Claydon whose west midlands origins provide him with firsthand knowledge of the first generation Birmingham tram system. Of course Birmingham closed well before my own interests in trams awakened, and anyway it was dist

Works Car to Heritage Tram - Number 4

Blackpool's practise of utilising redundant service cars in secondary lives was a feature of the system almost from the very beginning. Indeed a great many of today's valued preserved Blackpool trams owe their new status to having been relegated to a works role (or secondary use) at the end of their service careers. This practise continues right up to the present day with pending restorations. The early Conduit car fleet were the first 'victims' of an economic policy which saw the 'recycling' of withdrawn trams for alternative use. Several of the ten two axle cars in the initial conduit fleet found themselves in more mundane roles prior to 1910. The most famous of these is of course

Arnhem's 'Beamish'

A Rotterdam classic centre entrance tram from the 1920s is one of several varied trams which provide service around Arnhem's Open Air Museum. Three examples of the Rotterdam centre entrance cars of this design form part of the museum fleet 520 535 and 536. Obvious lessons for Blackpool's heritage services going forward. Quite apart from the three major urban tram systems in The Netherlands there is a remarkable Dutch version of the Beamish Museum on the outskirts of Arnhem in the Gelderland region of that country. Arnhem is famous for the 1944 battle which saw a parachute drop to secure an important bridge over the Rhine behind German lines. Memorials and museums to this epic event a

Another look back in time

This time in Glasgow. Like many enthusiasts now of a certain age there were a handful of destinations in the UK - diminishing with ever increasing frequency by the late 1950s - worth heading to to witness the demise of the once great British tram. Each one had its own distinctive style of operation with very different trams of a design unique to that location. Of course I was fortunate in residing in the one urban centre which had opted to go against the trend and not only retain its trams but also to modernise, insofar as it could, a still sizeable fleet of almost 160 cars. Dwindling systems still operating tramcars by the time I became engaged in this rarified pastime were Liverpoo

A look back in time : PS

Nostalgia is wonderful when one can cast one's mind back over fifty years to the moments briefly captured on a simple camera and film allowing 12 or 36 images. And all in vivid black and white. Balloon car 250 (713) rumbles over the three way junction at Royal Oak en route to 'Squires Gate and Airport' with a light load of passengers. Both driver and conductor (he can be seen sitting on the steps catching a breeze from the open platform door) are wearing summer linen jackets. Notable in the background is the original 'Dog & Partridge' Public House which would soon be demolished for a mundane angled block still in situ on this site. The tram boasts a marvellous handpainted advertisement

Goodbye to the semaphores

A constant reminder of railway history is expected to disappear when work begins on the track realignment into Blackpool's North railway terminal during 2016. Network Rail require closure of the station entirely for a period of up to six months while the platforms and tracks are relaid to conform to the requirements of new rolling stock running into Blackpool from 2017/18. This includes the possibility of the link line from Preston via Kirkham and Poulton Le Fylde being electrified for which purpose road bridges over the entire line have been heightened to accommodate overhead cabling and supporting fixtures. Whilst Blackpool North's once extensive track system and platform capacity has

Cardiff Norrkoping and Blackpool

A commonality of fleet liveries is shared between three very different transport operators it seems. Blackpool's Catch22Bus services are noteworthy for the eclectic vehicles which appear on their bus routes 6, 22 22A and 12. You never know from one day to the next whether you will be riding on a red London bus, or a former BCT Atlantean, or more likely one of the several former Cardiff single deck buses some of which come complete with teal and dull orange livery of the Welsh Capital's bus company. Most retain bilingual public notices and several still boast a rendition of the welsh dragon emblem. That Welsh connection : Catch22Bus Ltd. launches one of its newest acquisitions in servic

New buses in the offing ? Yes

The old order giveth way to the new. It seems only yesterday when Blackpool Transport proudly showed off the first tranches of their new Trident double deckers branded in the dark green 'Line 14' and light blue livery for 'Line 11' under the 'Metro Coastline' branding instigated by Steve Burd when he was managing the company. Now these buses are beginning to show their age with two examples demoted to Driver Training work and wearing a third livery introduced last year with the impressive Mercedes 'Citaro' delivery. Word on the street is that more of these single deck design are likely to be delivered in 2016 - again with the same pale grey 'Palladium' styling. Replacements for the agein

Lytham St Annes Corporation Transport lives on

A peek inside the restored interior of LSTA Lion 34 - with its reupholstered seating reflecting the original lighter blue colours of this operator in the 1930s. Image Courtesy of CatchBus22 Ltd and Lancastrian Transport Trust. One of the missing liveries on Blackpool (and Fylde) roads is that of the former Lytham St Annes (later Fylde) transport undertaking. Subsumed into Blackpool Transport its dark blue and white colours were a continuing reminder of the distinctions between the conservative ethos of the south fylde coast and the boistrous qualities associated with Blackpool. Now long gone into heritage annals nonetheless quite a number of former Lytham St Annes Corporation vehicles n

danke merci gracias

In the previous century Britain's manufacturing sector turned out fleets of vehicles, locomotives of all types, aircraft, trolleybuses and of course, trams satisfying the domestic market and shipped them to markets throughout the world; from China to South America. Trams built in Preston, Loughborough and the industrial heartland of Scotland were part of the streetscape in diverse overseas towns and cities. Still today, the 'descendants' of designs originating in Preston, clatter through the streets of Kolkotta; whilst British double deck style trams are the mainstay in one of Hong Kong's central districts. Of course these are isolated exceptions in the now sizeable light rail market

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


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