2015 is set to provide a comeback for many long familiar trams that were an integral part of Blackpool promenade over many decades. In contrast to the monotonous sixteen European designed and built ‘Flexities’ which provide the year round service in their Blackpool Council corporate livery - a varied fleet of old trams in all shapes and sizes will again be a feature of the summer season and autumn Illuminations.
Balloons, boats, centenarys, twin-cars, Standards, railcoaches, in Blackpool Corporation (and Blackpool Transport) traditional green and cream are again part of the seafront attraction thanks to the initiative of BTS and its Heritage Tram team.
In addition, specially adapted double deck trams will augment the regular light rail operation operating as far as Little Bispham in peak times. These unusual hybrids were rebuilt from 2010 with extended centre doors permitting safe access from the platform stops: some being ‘rebranded’ in Council purple and white styling.
Regulatory limits on traditional (read heritage) trams operating in ordinary service and the number of operating hours permitted annually means that the sights (and sounds) of former years will regrettably remain a diminishing memory.
But a flavour of pre-light rail service will at least be a feature on the tramway in 2015, catching the attention of visitors and especially children unaccustomed to seeing old style trams outside of museums. Hopefully this ambitious effort will be rewarded by busy ‘sorry full up - catch the next one’ cries from the volounteer Conductors.
It’s a great pity that Blackpool’s remaining historic tram fleet cannot be integrated into a regular service; much like the enormously popular operation in San Francisco where two familiar ‘boat’ cars in full Blackpool livery ply their way on Market Street to Fisherman’s Wharf. The Blackpool duo add to a variety of foreign cars imported from Milan and Melbourne to create a truly international service. Classic American ‘PCC’ cars designed in the 1930s around the same time as Blackpool’s streamline fleet - are equally popular trams serving tourist areas of San Francisco - much like old London Routemasters retained to titillate visitors on a handful of bus services along Oxford Street in London’s West End.
Melbourne similarly operates a dedicated fleet of classic trams on a city centre circular service in that city - while many other tram systems from Christchurch to Stockholm, offer a lesson in making a visitor experience more memorable through the sights and sounds of classic trams from former years. Blackpool now seems set to rekindle the love affair with its own unique trams. Hopefully the initiative now set in motion as Easter approaches - bears fruit; going from strength to strength in successive years. Blackpool Transport management are to be applauded for their commitment and what is a unique contribution to the resort’s leisure offer.
Our Trust is making its own modest contribution when Centenary Car 641 freshly painted in BFC tangerine livery appears at the Pleasure Beach tram terminus for commencement of the ‘Lights’.