JOHN'S BLOG: TRAM TALK TODAY

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Changing of the Guard

An almighty sigh of relief will be heard throughout the northwest this weekend as the current franchise holder of Northern Rail relinquishes control over this part of the UK rail network. Apart from their liberal application of large quantities of dark blue paint on fixed assets (and rolling stock), little else was changed over their operating franchise years. The same tired ramshackle rolling stock has been worked (almost to death) on services into and out of Blackpool whilst fares have continued their upward spiral (albeit in moderation). Peak hour travel into and out of Manchester has been a nightmare on Northern Rail trains due to the limitations on the number of carriages/coaches (t

All Change 3 April

Blackpool Transport will be making alterations to services from April 3 on several of their bus routes. Notices and individual route timetables are available from the 'Travel Shop' aka as Information Office in former days - providing details on each of the Service Numbers. Notable are the repercussions of the withdrawal of bus operating subsidies on some services outwith Blackpool Borough which hitherto have been provided by the County Council. This impacts on services to Knott End, Staining and other parts of the periphery communities east of Blackpool. There is a strengthening of services running to Victoria Hospital which is gaining increasing importance in direct relation to the la

Palmyra, Syria

Long before the emergence of a cancer in the near east which continues in its barbarity reaching far into Europe - there was a time when travellers could journey mostly unhindered and without fear through a region proud of heritage and culture. Who would think today of taking a Blackpool Corporation bus overland through the mosaic of countries and customs stretching from the Bosphorus to the sub continent of India? Number 298 was one of countless foreign buses and coaches which could be seen negotiating the challenging terrain of Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan as part of their venturesome journeys to and from Europe. No more. The amazing ruins of Palmyra as seen by visitors arriving on Black

OMO Car graveyard

With the gradual withdrawal of the OMO cars thought was initially given to the possible utilisation of their equipment; frame and bogies for potential 'new' illuminated floats. Two skeletal remains were towed up to Thornton Gate Siding for open storage. This location's history as the 'graveyard' for withdrawn trams is well known - but following complaints by local householders whose homes looked out on to the actual siding it was decided that further scrapping of trams would be undertaken elsewhere - at Rigby Road. With the assignment of Thornton Gate (Blackpool Council owned land) to the lead contractor for the tramway upgrade starting in 2010 - BAM Nuttall; a clear out of residual tr

All change for Knott End

Once upon a time one could detrain at Garstang (on what we now call the west coast mainline) and make connection with the local train to Knott End at the edge of the Fylde overlooking Fleetwood and the River Wyre. A private railway company - the Garstang Knott End Railway (what else) operated this relatively short line of 11 miles over low lying agricultural land which unfortunately provided little in the way of regular travellers being sparsely populated. Nevertheless the company owned a some diminutive locomotives and a mixed bag of rolling stock including carriages with open balcony ends much like the American trains of old. However these were not rolling prairies but green pastures whi

Norbreck North - the way we were

There is a small whiff of deja vu in seeing the newly opened tram stop between Norbreck and Little Bispham. Whereas previously the stop was marked by a simple sign (above) and a short stretch of concrete laid alongside each of the tracks with a pathway across between the two safety gates leading from the road - now its very much a case of bells and whistles, platforms and electronics. A definite plus will be installation of the two new tram shelters - which is a lot more than bus passengers get waiting for the Service 1 - in either direction. Images taken on the last day of traditional tram service in November 2011. The Twin-Set (along with a flotilla of other 'specials' was on an enth

Norbreck North return please

Blackpool's Mayor and Mayoress were on hand to formally declare open (and operating) the new tram stop (sorry - station) at Norbreck North yesterday. With a crowd of well wishers the new platforms with a dedicated light controlled crossing for pedestrians on the seafront road - were declared open for business. Councillor Callow, representative for Anchorsholme had campaigned hard to get the former tram stop at Norbreck North returned to serve residents of the extensive housing development which runs behind the promenade at this point. This stop had been one of many eliminated in the light rail upgrade and created a lengthy gap between Norbreck and Little Bispham. Mrs Woodman tests out th

Talbot Road's new tramway

Above : Tram 290 - the very last tram to depart from North Station terminus to Fleetwood - in 1963. Now saved by the FHLT and in store pending the formal opening of the new tram service to North Station three years hence. Blackpool's tramway link to North Station was unveiled today in the local media with impressions of the reconfigured site occupied presently by Wilko's store and a large multi storey car park. Preliminary work is underway from North Pier and along Talbot Road to assess realignment and need for adjustment of existing utilities along the route of the tramway extension. Final details of how the tram terminus layout and contiguous link with the existing North Station term

Goodbye Blackpool : Hello TVR Ebbw Vale

It is ironic that at the same time as the last physical remnants of the former TVR car assembly factory on Bristol Avenue have been levelled - the new reconstituted TVR company announces it is setting up an assembly plant in Wales. This is good news for Wales and particularly the people of Ebbw Vale where the company has opted to establish its brand and base in 2016. Located in the Ebbw Vale Enterprise Zone TVR management have announced plans to design and build four new models as part of a ten year plan with projected annual output of 2000 units by 2022 (six years hence). Around 150 direct new jobs are being created - all of a high value - and no doubt at least two or three times indirec

The old order changeth

Blackpool Transport's fleet livery styles contrasting against the concrete bunker which blights the Talbot Gateway development as it stands. Fortunately there are winds of change blowing around this particular part of Blackpool with the full expectation now of tram rails being laid (imported from Germany or Austria of course -and not from south Wales) in the foreseeable future. The consequence, it seems, of an agreed sale or transfer of ownership, of the Wilko property. This will free up land for a new alignment of the planned Talbot Road extension from from the promenade - to facilitate a seamless? interchange between heavy rail, light rail and town bus services. All to be revealed. I

Thank you Jane and colleagues

Steve Palmer waiting for the rest of his tour party - on Box Car 40. A memorable tram tour today brought together the enthusiast group from Steve Palmer's Box 40 event at the beginning of January - which itself was noteworthy inasmuch as the writer stood in as Guest Speaker for Blackpool Transport MD, Jane Cole. This last minute substitution fortunately went off without any cries of 'rubbish' from the assembled guests. Due to a mistake in diaries and a hitch at Rigby Road in the availability of Box 40 for its pre-scheduled tour departure for 'Friends of Forty' BTS decided to offer all concerned a replacement tour, this time with Jane Cole and colleagues on hand - and especially interesting,

Who ordered Domino's ?

Possibly irritating everytime one finds oneself at the tail end of 'Hollyoaks' on Channel Four - but definitely a popular pizza chain nationwide. The Blackpool outlets (I have used the one on Devonshire Road from time to time) - justify a wraparound vinyl on a diminutive 'Catch22bus' vehicle. It has been an elusive bus to photograph but it was tracked down to its lair today at the company's depot on Brinwell Road in Mereside during an opportunistic visit. A very eyecatching design - full marks to the originator ! Images : John Woodman

Blackpool Hybrid - 3

Blackpool Hybrid - rebuilt Marton Box 32 seen here in the late 1920s with its extended lower saloon clearly identifiable at each end. The inpanelled staircase is a notable feature not copied on further conversions. Neither is the top deck saloon design which looks vey much like a make it up as you go along creation. Photo : John Woodman Archive Urgent requirement for more capacity on the existing tram fleet during the Great War - when new trams were unobtainable (except through loans or deals between systems), meant that Blackpool's Tramway Department was pressed to find ways of making the loaf bigger from existing cars. The Marton 'Box' cars 27 to 41 had proved to be less than satisfac

dots wraps and vinyls - britains contribution to tram development

As the UK continues to see deliveries from Europe of million pound trams to the second generation tram systems created over the past twenty odd years (all seven of them) - it is wonderful to see local investment being added to these expensive imports before they enter service here. All those grey dots being meticulously positioned on the sides of the German trams serving Greater Manchester must take some doing. Now the Croydon fleet is being enlivened by 'pop art' style vinyl wraps being added (locally of course) to the latest German arrivals on that system. Nottingham opts for vinyl transfers of 'names' on the sides of their light rail vehicles - French imports this time; whilst Edinbur

Let's hear it for Charles Furness

The recent naming of yet a further Nottingham tram - seemingly a never ending desire to give this fleet personalised identities brings a whiff of wartime bravado with it. The wonderfully evocative names assigned to bombers by their crews - together with an even more alluring design is perhaps best captured in the film - 'Memphis Belle'. The practise began in the mud of Flanders with the first British tanks being 'named' by their crews. A particularly famous example being 'D 51 - Deborah' which was unearthed from its entombment in a French village after eighty years. Now forming part of a museum to the battle of Cambrai - D for Deborah was commanded by a Blackpool born officer who won

Blackpool's last Standards

Lingering line-up with sunshine casting shadows inside Marton depot. The longevity of Blackpool's traditional double deck trams into the mid 1960s ensured that a representative number of examples caught the preservation movement before it was too late. In the early 1950s after threat of nationalisation of urban transport systems had passed - the lines of dust shrouded standards held in Blundell Street Depot gradually succumbed to scrapping one by one. One example was saved through a request by the Seashore Trolley Museum President - and 144 selected as one of the better open balcony examples to become the first British tram to cross the Atlantic. This was in 1955. 1958 saw a cull of th

Britain's more successful trams ?

A great deal of fixated attention is being paid to the remaining examples of Blackpool's double deck centre entrance trams - originally twenty seven strong in total. Designed by English Electric's Preston drawing office - this design found few adherents beyond Blackpool. The company's double deck example was part of a 'family' which started with a single deck version and prototype in 1933 (200). Whilst Blackpool ended up with forty five 'rail coaches' not one other operator followed suit. An open version (much cheaper) followed very quickly, together with an open double deck model (225 and 237). Both designs were also unique to Blackpool, with little interest from other UK systems. Thi

Spanish Armada invades Edinburgh

Who would have thought that the sole revival in Scotland of a second generation tramway would involve a fleet of Spanish built trams taking over the city's premier thoroughfare ? Scotland had such a proud tradition of designing and building its own tram fleets - with Glasgow leading the way (numerically). Edinburgh dismissed trams quite early on having continued building new cars in the post war period - albeit to their own design of the 1930s. Glasgow on the other hand kept faith with its tram operation until nationalisation of power generation put into doubt the economies of electricity for public transport. Over a hundred new trams were turned out postwar by the city's famous Copl

15th September 1950

Switch - On Night Wilfred Pickles at the Town Hall Depot turn out Log for Blundell Street and Rigby Road. A total of 65 trams from these depots alone. Not counting Marton and Bispham Depots. Now those were the days. Number 21 would appear to be still based at Rigby Road but shown on the Marton service. U.T. Cabin = Uncle Tom's Cabin to give it the original title. Note the 26 Specials on the Promenade - more than the total tram fleet today. From the Archives.

678 Anyone ? PS

678 en route into the Paint Shop following repanelling and sundry other attention. Image : Copyright John Woodman. PS Note the PD3s, Gas Holder and Canteen Building in the background to help date the photo. PPS I am advised by Tony Armitage that the two images of before and after the Paint Shop were taken in 1984. Thank you Tony One tram in the FHLT ownership has so far been very much out of the limelight since its departure to Fleetwood storage. Motor Unit 678 unfortunately was the victim of a disfiguring all over advertising scheme in its final years of service - and it continues to bear its lingering black paint job more appropriate to a firm of Funeral Directors. However despite

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

 

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