INNOVATION AT RIGBY ROAD - 1
From the early 1960s up until advent of the 'light rail' era, Blackpool operated the only electric tram service in the British Isles (with exception of the Manx Electric Railway). Rigby Road's Engineering Workshops were on their own in the absence of any indigenous UK tram builders. Blackpool's trams remain exceptional in their longevity, having been the pioneering UK electric street tramway in 1885 using a third rail power system (conduit) which required expensive investment. Slow and unreliable - the 'horseless' trams were still the wonder of their time. (Below).
From the confined rudimentary depot on Blundell Street the conduit trams were modified for overhead current collection. An important surge in tram numbers came about with extensions to Layton, Marton and services on Lytham Road all prior to World War One. Staff were kept busy adding top covers to open top deck trams - and some times removing them.
Following on The Great War - Blundell Street's limited space and resources were insufficient to deal with a backlog of accumulated rundown trams; nor to take on the forty-one trams acquired by the Corporation in its takeover of the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company in 1919. These were all single deck cars, mostly of an open sided design. In addition to designing a 'standard' larger capacity double deck tram able to operate on all services - with exception of the Fleetwood route - an interim solution to the latter was rebuilding several of the former Company cars to an all-enclosed condition - the 'Glasshouses', so named because of their numerous glazed windows utilising all of the side pillars. Two cars of this type were used to test multiple control and braking equipment by the English Electric company: an early example of tram industry cooperation with Rigby Road.
A new and wholesome integrated workshop was built on adjoining Corporation land at Rigby Road by 1922 - creating the basis of the Department's (and Company's) operational hq to the present day. Hardly innovative - but nonetheless reliable and robust; the new Tramcar Workshops constructed from scratch nearly 35 new double deck 'Standard Cars' during the 1920s. These became the year round workhorses (as it were) of the tramway services. Their longevity as summer 'Specials' up to the mid 1960s assured seven examples of iconic status in Blackpool, and museums in the UK and the USA.
Brand new Standard 34 is posed for its formal photo at the north entrance to the Blundell Street Depot. The tramway offices are behind.
Below : Standard 160 is being 'trolleyed' back into Marton Depot off Whitegate Drive in this 1960 image by David Ellor.
Further decades of
innovation and design
would result from the
cramped space in Rigby Road's tram engineering workshop.
Part 2 to follow.