INNOVATION AT RIGBY ROAD - 3
The 1960s saw Blackpool's tram fleet undergo a cull following closure of the three street tram routes. The consequent sale and disposal of both Marton and Bispham Depots (and Copse Road) required a wholesale withdrawal of redundant trams that included many of the English Electric rail coaches, inroads into the problematic Coronation cars, the end of the much reduced Standards, and sundry other trams, historic and otherwise. Fortunately some found new homes and others were transformed into new roles.
One especial example was English Electric rail coach 618. Operating economies, especially during the winter months saw the Transport Department in an ongoing search for greater efficiencies on buses and trams. After indulging (wrongly) in a wholesale purchase of rear platform double deck buses when the national trend was to forward entrance one man operated vehicles - a U turn would see (finally) Blackpool's bus services converted to single deck forward entrance operation from 1969.
On the tram side - such changes were problematic at best. Saddled with a pre-war tram fleet (now much reduced in numbers) all of centre entrance design, and lack of alternative new vehicles except from vastly expensive (for the UK) foreign built trams - Rigby Road Workshops embarked on a gradual process of finding their own solution. A relatively straightforward task involved the lengthening of a sample English Electric rail coach (618) which was given an extended frame requiring tapered ends for clearance in the depot and on curves.
Retaining its eaves glazing along of course with centre entrance, 618 was very much a 'hybrid' given its now constrained cabs and extra length.
The additional seating was a plus; but need for the familiar roving conductor negated whatever savings may have accrued overall.
A Coronation car gave up its own driver's front windows to 618 giving a foretaste of what would be the emergent OMO design in subsequent years.
The 'hybrid' would not last long in its new form - being finally rebuilt again as the last member of the most successful OMO class a few years later.
Number 618 leaves Ash Street, Fleetwood showing off its unique end profile and silvered 'fender'.
This was a creditable creation by the Body Shop which would set an immediate challenge and the next logical task of creating a front entrance tram capable of one man (ie Driver) operation.
In this next phase a Brush built rail coach would be selected.
Both Photos by
John Woodman at Ash Street, Fleetwood