JOHN'S BLOG: TRAM TALK TODAY

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Goodbye BHS - with sadness

Thanks to the machinations of self serving City interests and behind the scene Board tactics owning the British Home Stores business this once respected and reliable UK retailing giant is closing its doors. For Blackpool this will leave a large gaping retail void in the town centre (outside of the Houndshill Shopping Centre development). For over fifty years Corporation and Market Streets have been anchored by BHS in a still distinctive architecture that has stood the test of time. Blackpool Transport's town centre flagship office stands within the structure, whilst numerous bus services deposit and collect travellers from points throughout the Fylde. Its coffee shop and friendly s

Brexit means Brexit

Forward contracts for capital spending involving imported equipment and rolling stock for Britain's railways and its light rail market cannot assume business as usual. Whilst existing orders embedded in legal contracts and delivery agreements must naturally be honoured - the sterling depreciation in relation to foreign currencies especially the Euro and the dollar (to name but two) mean imports are now significantly more expensive to the public and private purse. The news that Blackpool Council have committed to ordering two further examples of the Bombardier tram model ahead of the North Station extension with its call for further service capacity - has come quickly but not unexpected. Th

Centenary Car 643 takes its leave

The post BTS saga of this Centenary car took another turn with its departure from the Wyre Dock storage site of the FHLT. Originally acquired by the Partington Family who own both Broadwater and Windy Harbour Caravan Parks Number 643 was uniquely treated to a very impressive repaint in Blackpool Corporation Transport cream and green colours during its initial display at Broadwater. Its interior was altered to provide for table top installation and a small central servery as a themed cafe. For operational reasons this work was not fully completed and the tram gifted to the FHLT where it joined sister Centenary Car 641. Whilst 641 acquired a new role itself in 2015 to celebrate the long

ADL and the phantom hospital

Mrs Woodman has to get in on the act. A first day image for Blackpool's new generation of buses on the 9 Service. Clifton Street is getting a makeover. Monday 25th July saw the new ADL in their striking PALLADIUM branding begin to operate the 9 Service from Blackpool Town Centre (ie Clifton Street) to Cleveleys, together with the recently introduced 9A which runs to Victoria Hospital from Cleveleys. Whilst the Mercedes Citaro certainly made an impression launching the PALLADIUM fleet colours last year - the impact of the Alexander Dennis double deckers is more than twice as great. The transluscent top deck rear dome is very evident. Talbot Road now boasts both PALLADIUM services 5 and 9

New Buses Make Their Entrance

A slightly different sight on Fleetwood's Lord Street and again at the Windmill en route to Layton. Inaugural operation of the ADL fleet on Service 14. Sunday 24th July saw the first day of service of the ten strong tranche of ADL buses (401 - 410) in Blackpool. Destined to operate the 9 Service through the week and Saturdays - on Sunday, at least initially, the double deck design was allocated to the 14 Service while the 9 Service featured Citaros. I trialled the new ADL model therefore on a winding back route to Fleetwood via Carleton and Thornton relatively light loadings all the way albeit late afternoon. The bus had a surprising fast and quiet acceleration from stops and the top dec

Volvo Olympian Swansong

In a nice nod to heritage (on the bus side of things) BTS management saw to it that the final examples of this class of bus delivered in the previous century were given a last public airing before withdrawal this weekend. The stylish vehicles delivered in 1994 were built by Northern Counties (a now extinct company with a famous history itself) and delivered to Blackpool Transport numbered 374 to 379 in the company's then standard green and cream livery. Rigby Road Bus Garage and some unfamiliar vehicles in a BTS final version of the traditional cream and green fleet livery with a (new) Olympian to the fore. Later the class were 'rebranded' into the then voguish 'Metro Coastline' 'Line 11'

WORKING TOGETHER Driving the Future

Blackpool Transport had reason to celebrate today as the company took formal delivery of ten new double deck buses built in Falkirk by Alexander Dennis Ltd. Lined up on the seafront resplendent in the new Palladium branding colours the ten Enviro400City vehicles made an impressive sight and laid down a marker for what may well be further successive deliveries over the next four years. The ADL design was a show stopper at Coach and Bus Live in 2015 catching the attention of BTS delegates who immediately arranged for a sample to be made available for inspection in Blackpool. The net result after detailed negotiations and the input of all aspects of Blackpool's transport team is this first co

Brush Car Trio

The recent attention being given to Brush Car 636 in its test role for a leading UK energy storage technology company well away from Blackpool underlines the strong hold this particular class of Blackpool tram have on the heritage fraternity. So many of these classic cars still remain on the Fylde coast as well as a generous sprinkling of examples elsewhere at Crich, Heaton Park, Beamish (of course) and on the Wirral - that they seem to typify the single deck version of the classic 'Balloon' car. Whereas the 45 examples built by English Electric in the the 1930s far outnumbered their Brush counterparts - but alas none survive in original form. The FHLT host two examples at their Fleetwood

The hottest day - 19 July 2016

Families and strollers head to the seafront from Blackpool North - this morning. Like the rest of the UK Blackpool sweltered in abnormally high temperatures today. Reaching well into the 80s (old measure) the town enjoyed, if that is the right word, clear blue skies, little in the way of breeze and hard radiating sunlight. The town's buses and trams gave little in the way of relief from the temperature - with the trams particularly ill suited to crowded conditions. Hopper windows doing nothing in terms of alleviating stressful working conditions for crews, notwithstanding the forced cooling systems kicking in when the cars pick up speed. Only the drivers would seem to be taken care of in

Tram Sunday Weekend

The weather gave a warm welcome to the important Fleetwood Tram Sunday weekend drawing out huge crowds thronging the town's streets. Much of the 'tram' part of this now long established festival is filled by special heritage tour trams running as far as Ash Street (sorry Fisherman's Walk) from Blackpool. An eclectic menage of traditional (and not so traditional) trams maintained a service of sorts with regular ticket holders having to make do with the standard Bombardier products. Somewhat questionable was the use of modified 'Balloon' cars fitted out for light rail operation operating in a heritage tour role. The overlap of upgraded double deck trams funded for light rail service filli

Now you see it - now you don't

Glorious sunshine adorned a busy morning at Wyre Dock today when a team arrived to dismantle the gantry tower off Centenary 643. With surprisingly little difficulty the somewhat ugly unpainted structure was freed from its base and transferred to one side of the site. Cleaning the car's exterior and interior is underway and a remarkably well presented tram is now ready for its journey south. With time on hand the team turned their attention to 678 and carried out a similar job removing its gantry tower - making hay while the sun shines I believe. Railcoach 678 is destined for a makeover which will do away with the abysmal black paint job that has marred its final years. Seven out of eig

678 and 680 (and 679)

Three of the modified English Electric series railcoaches which went through the Workshops in the early 1960s (is it so long ago) were turned loose to operate as solo motor units after their trailers were put into storage and subsequently disposed of. Numbers 678 to 680 thereafter had solitary lives until withdrawal themselves. Sister Motor Unit Number 677 was cannabilized to provide a replacement frame and equipment in the HLF sponsored remake of the 'Western Train'. Its Trailer 687 has ended up with the FHLT at Wyre Dock Depot and is undergoing a makeover. Trailer 687 now in an anonymous grey undercoat at Fleetwood awaiting a rebranding in 2017. Two Brush cars (288 / 300) stand guard. Th

Goodbye to Centenary 643

The fortunes of Centenary Car 643 are shortly to have another chapter. The car is being prepared for removal from its home at Fleetwood shortly. Privately purchased from the Trust last year the tram has now been acquired in a generous scheme which involves it becoming the centre piece for a learning disabled school. The car is to be transferred to a railway maintenance facility where it will be transformed into a new stylish design before presentation to the Midlands school later this year. Number 643 has remained in the remarkable rendition of Blackpool Transport green and cream livery which it acquired at the Broadwater Mobile Home centre, along with interior redesign in 2012. Given

Sheffield's wonderful trams

By the mid 1950s Sheffield, like other British municipal systems decided to throw in the towel on running trams. Notwithstanding that the topography of the city lent itself admirably to electric traction with trams handling the many inclines, some quite steep, without problems much like Lisbon. The exclusive use of two axle double deck trams was not unique, but certainly for a system of this size it was notable. Nonetheless the city's transport department had a high reputation for maintaining both trams and buses in first class condition. The conservative pale cream and dark blue colours did much to brighten otherwise dark industrial areas and blackened buildings. One of the city's stylis

Now for something very different

Hybrid 1100 outside Partick Depot shows off its unique redesign features - a cross between a 1920s Kilmarnock Bogie and a 1930s Coronation car. The latter neatly showing up the comparison. The main line running to Dalmuir West in the background. The vogue for enthusiasts to follow the minutae of tram museum developments as opposed to actual tram systems is understandable given the lack of character or uniqueness in the light rail vehicle world. With rare exceptions, accidents, renumbering and fleet livery changes - today's rolling stock is a world removed from the first generation tram fleets. Blackpool managed to retain an extended operating life for its 'traditional' trams and bravely

Rebranding on Market Street

A smart transformation has taken place in Blackpool Transport's public outpost on Market Street to emphasise the 'Palladium' brand which is taking over the company's bus operations (but not its tram service which remains in the grip of Council corporate styling). The facia has been redone in the new grey and silver colours whilst internally a vast improvement to the former layout involves a remodelling of the public space. Smart new frontage design for BTS. Upping value of the Company. Taking a lead from banks, the Post Office and Airline desks - the counter space has been given three service points neatly numbered - 'Come in Number Three' but so far with only one person staffing which r

Blackpool Transport gains plaudits

Rebranded BTS buses now on the 7 Service in Lytham last week Deservedly so in the local media today. Whilst Blackpool's tramway is a frequent feature in Gazette coverage; whether the light rail extension, or encounters with errant drivers or heritage tram tour operation: the bus side of the system is rarely in the news. This is very unfortunate given that BTS buses are the main carriers of passengers on the Fylde coast, and there are far more of them than trams. However today the Gazette carries a feature story on how BTS management are striving to recast the image and quality of Blackpool's buses with some notable success. Arrival last year of the Mercedes single deck buses in the mo

Celebrating the 4th of July

Given our family's extensive US relations this is a potpourri of items taken during my year's living in New York. Branford Trolley Museum with my wife and youngest son (both now in Blackpool) demonstrating the summer qualities of a Brooklyn Transit 'Convertible' Car 4573. Below : something for the steam engine fans. This is East Broad Top Railway near Orbisonia, Pennsylvania. A rare example of a complete steam railroad line with original rolling stock, trackage, roundhouse, and of course locomotives. Principally used for hauling timber originally, the entire operation was acquired by steam fans and now runs alongside the Orbisonia electric trolley museum - both well worth a visit if of

Crossleys Bridge is coming down

Phase One allows for traffic flow in both directions but with restricted lanes. The next phase will involve complete closure with consequent severe traffic delays on Devonshire Road - the only alternative for north south traffic, other than the Promenade and along Dickson Road from the Gynn. The demolition of the key road bridge over the railway line at Layton Station takes a step forward on Monday with lane closures and initial contractor work around this important landmark. Signage warning of impending work has been erected on the approach roads while preliminary ground work on the north abutment is already visible. Final closure of the bridge will take place immediately after the Illum

The Somme Remembered - Heaton Park

Famous California Car 765 adorned with period posters awaiting entry into service on July 1st 2016. Individual tributes in clay tiles to loved ones fallen at the Somme battle - laid out in Heaton Park on June 30, 2016. July 1 2016 - Centenary of the Battle of the Somme which saw bloodletting on an industrial scale along a few miles of the Western Front over an extended four months in 1916. Cities, towns and small communities throughout the United Kingdom (including Ireland); as well as Commonwealth/Empire Dominions saw a continuing flow of telegraph traffic to individual homes bearing the sombre news of the death of a loved one : a father, brother, son, husband. And In many cases al

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

 

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