JOHN'S BLOG: TRAM TALK TODAY

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Blackpool bits and pieces

With the onset of the Illuminations and a still busy promenade scene - the town's transport scene continues to provide colourful material for those with interest in such matters. Blackpool Transport require a constant source of drivers and the assigned Driver Training vehicles are frequent sights negotiating familiar routes. Trams continue to disgorge crowds of expectant families at the Pleasure Beach stop all heading for a day's enjoyment of rides and entertainment. This daily floodtide of humanity has benefitted both the Pleasure Beach and the town's tramway for well over a hundred years; albeit with evolving changes in styles and trams up until current fashions. Early bird arrival

Blackpool Transport Has An Author PS

One of the notable encounters over the holiday weekend occurred in Abingdon Street where rerouted bus services found temporary sanctuary from the traffic mess caused on the Promenade at the Tower Headland Festival event. Many services found themselves deviating? into the otherwise pedestrian precinct around St Johns Church and befuddled travellers wandered in between parked buses to find their journey home. Among the buses waiting for their next turn of duty was a Solo with its driver taking advantage of the lengthy pause before his next duty to give attention to his laptop. Below : A busy scene in Abingdon Street over the weekend holiday and Solo. Not your normal break which usually

August Bank Holiday Scenes

The August Bank Holiday is not yet over but it has provided already quite memorable scenes in the town centre and on the promenade. Closure of the promenade to all traffic between North Pier and the Tower (including tram services) meant innumerable alterations for a long suffering Blackpool Transport having to plan for alternative scheduling and rerouting of buses whose journeys were truncated. Below : Centenary 648 hidden behind crowds and the queue for entry to the Concert venue on the Tower Headland. The structure behind is the main stage setting. Below : Less frenetic scene at Pleasure Beach with a northbound run of 680 loading at the temporary heritage stop. Tower South Platform wi

Purple rules

As far as I am aware no UK tram system has used purple as its principal fleet colour up until the introduction of the Bombardier cars on the upgraded Blackpool tramway in 2011. There have been many early variants of dark red, deep lake, maroon and so on. Edinburgh went so far as to paint a prototype double deck car in the 1930s all over Post Office red (or its equivalent). Gloucester, much earlier in the practical years of World War One gave its tram fleet an all over grey paint job - which stayed until the demise of that typical small system with open top two axle cars. However lately purple has come into vogue. London's Crossrail line - the 'Elizabeth Line' is now themed with purpl

Purple Tram 641 / Yellow Tram 642

Work on rebranding Centenary 641 is now well underway with all over purple coating now covering much of the bodywork. This presents quite a startling appearance after nearly three years of tangerine, white and black for Blackpool Football Club. Further work on the tram is anticipated in the coming days although the UK weather is hardly cooperating as far as English summertime is concerned. Presenting a wholly new appearance in all over purple - not too dissimilar to the all-over paint work styling of BTS on 642 (in yellow) before its withdrawal from regular service. Repairs to the fence surrounding 641 are being carried out prior to it being given a fresh coat of white paint. Panels have

641 donates a Compressor

Inbetween intermittent showers and blustery wind the Engineering Workshop team from Rigby Road made the short drive up to the Pleasure Beach to attend to an urgent mission this morning. Centenary Car 641 is in the middle of a makeover by a social programme of Blackpool Council and now sombre in an all grey undercoat prior to receiving a new 'look' with local programme volunteers. Ahead of the pending 'refurb' BTS used the interlude to extract the compressor motor from 641 for future use on the Centenary cars in the Heritage fleet. Given that FHLT, which owns 641, is unlikely to require its return to operating state any time soon - a request to retrieve this important component (for a good

Trams Ahoy

A sunny today on the promenade saw Birkenhead 20 tentatively take on a trial run from Rigby Road which as luck would have it coincided with my heading very slowly in traffic towards South Shore. Driven by a member of the traffic staff and a seated passenger watching closely the trolleypole and wheel as it traversed the overhead wire - Number 20 certainly got quite a few second looks as it passed the North Pier stop en route towards Cabin, and possibly further north. I managed a couple of quick images as the tram trundled past the classic Cenotaph fortunately in brilliant sunshine - portending full loadings when it finally takes up service on the Heritage Tour service. A brave sight from

North Station - fewer platforms, longer trains

Contractors are now well esconced in the precincts of Network Rail's station infrastructure and approach tracks leading into Blackpool North. One of the island platforms (most northern) has been demolished and tracks on either side removed. Further work in eventual straightening of the existing curving platforms is expected over the winter - when the entire station will be closed so that new electrification overhead installation can be carried out, without the continuing passage of trains. The impressive Blackpool North signal box will be removed as will the signal boxes at Carleton Crossing, Poulton and Kirkham (among others). Electronic controlled signals will replace the long familiar

Service 1 Displacement

The annual Blackpool Air Show draws enormous crowds to the seafront from mid morning onwards and this year over the entire weekend. Understandably promenade traffic flow is disrupted to the extent that bus services, in particular the P:romenade 1 Service between Starr Gate and Fleetwood has to be truncated. Nor is the only problem for BTS as Blackpool's ageing road bridges can no longer withstand the volume of traffic and require urgent repair or replacement. Already the important Skew Bridge on Lytham Road and 'Crossley's Bridge' on Bispham Road have been either strengthened or replaced in the latter case. Harrowside bridge is now closed and the equally important bridge over the railwa

Friday in Blackpool - this and that

A chance encounter with a green Brush car on the promenade this morning brought me to the Pleasure Beach terminus where it rested before departing on its next journey northwards. Miserable blustery weather and grey skies did little to enlighten visitors' moods other than the pending Air Display this coming weekend. A peak inside that Brush car 1980s refurb style. At the Pleasure Beach the Trust's Centenary Car (641) has seen work started on removing the vinyl panel images for Blackpool Football Club, by now much dated after three years on display. A new 'look' is planned for the tram in conjunction with a group of social programmes supported by Blackpool Council - ahead of a major event n

Goodbye to the Signalman

A century old and more feature of train travel has been the iconic signalbox which portends a junction or level crossing or some feature on the railway tracks which requires human oversight and control. The Fylde has retained several classic signal boxes to a traditional Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway design or appearance. One of these controls the important (and busy) level crossing at Carleton which brings traffic across the main line between Blackpool North Station and Preston. (Below) Along with the traditional signal box are the varied distant and near signal gantrys which still are a feature on the Fylde's railway lines (but not for much longer). Looming overhead electrification

Fleetwood, Pennsylvania

I've made many visits to the Keystone State - Pennsylvania, during my years in the United States, visiting towns and communities large and small. New Hope is one place in particular which stays in memory as a centre for creative arts in Bucks County on the border with New Jersey. I made the long drive to a classic train and trolley museum in the middle of the State at Rockhill Furnace on several occasions; as well as another thriving museum at Washington, PA. Since those now far off days a further dedicated trolley museum has emerged in Scranton - Electric City another famous industrial centre in the state - there are a great many more. Scranton had a most interesting streetcar system wi

Watch your Trolley !

Once upon a time drivers of 'Twin-Sets' needed to give especial care to the fact that if they were trailer unit leading (as in this case) the trolleypole was mounted on the Motor unit and therefore quite a distance behind when it came to activating points (among other routine actions). Not a whiff of metric measurement on Blackpool trams ! The use of pantographs instead would not alter the distance issue of course. The warning notice was definitely in the driver's line of vision at all times from the cab end of the trailer unit.

Fleetwood's Auto Heritage

Both main roads leading into Fleetwood announce both the town and a twinned relationship with its namesake in the USA - Fleetwood, Pennsylvania. Not much would appear to have happened of late in these tangible links between the two towns. However efforts are now underway to correct this. Fleetwood Mac is probably the most famous application of the name; but for those with interest in automotive history there is a compelling chapter which from time to time is highlighted in classic car shows, both here and in the USA (and indeed across Europe). General Motors Corporation was at one time the largest car make in the world. That accolade has of course been passed on to other manufacturers,

Grafitti takes on the police station

The lubyanka concrete edifice sited on Bonny Street reminiscent of Stalinist Russia is soon to be demolished thankfully - a new police hq has been built elsewhere in Blackpool and presumably the courts will follow. In the meantime an industrious group of spray paint artists are in town busily adding colour to the monolithic structure (or at least a portion of the ground level wall). Coinciding with an influx of punk, rockers and other colourful groups attending concerts and fringe events in the town centre - Blackpool definitely had a fresh feel to its central shopping area (far too many shops now - far little discretionary spending in this economy = empty storefront premises). Demolition

Scott's Antarctic 'Hut' & Rigby Road 'Works'

A fascinating aired programme this week on the conservation of the Base Camp used by Captain Scott and his team attempting to reach the South Pole - threw up some parallels with the extant structures at Rigby Road, used over decades (since 1922) to maintain, repair and rebuild Blackpool's trams. After a hundred years the original wooden structure which was erected for the Scott Expedition still stands in Antarctica. It remains more or less as it was at the time of the expedition which ended with the deaths of Captain Scott and his colleagues in their attempt to return to the Base Camp from an abortive trek towards the South Pole. Inside, the hut retains diverse supplies, material, perso

Route Branding Par Excellence

Not too many years back Blackpool's town centre was the scene of a kaleidescope of bus liveries, each depicting assignment to this or that individual route - or in the case of 'Metro Coastlines' - 'Line'. Now overtaken by two successive fleet rebranding exercises instituted by different management - the former colourful parade of Blackpool's buses is just a receding memory. A visit to Oxford this past weekend encountered a repeat of the 'route branding' approach on the part of several bus operators, all of whose vehicle styling is very much direct and 'in your face' - as opposed to the discrete corporate image now evidenced by Blackpool Transport Services in 2017. Given the diversity a

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

 

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