Blackpool's remaining 'Balloon' cars from the mid 1930s have achieved iconic status in the pantheon of tramcar design. Unmatched anywhere with their longevity in service and despite the diversity of rebuilds, modifications and addendums recently affixed to a handful - they are and will be forever associated with Blackpool's unique tourism offer.
British double deck trams followed a traditional pattern of rear entrance, double ended design. The centre entrance passenger flow style was exceptional and favoured only by a small number of operators; most particularly following on the launch of the English Electric 'streamline' version introduced in both Sunderland and Blackpool in 1934.
Precursor of centre entrance double deck trams is found in the United States. In 1912 both Pittsburgh and the New York Railways Company introduced within days of each other - two prototype examples. In the case of New York this became a 'one-off' car number 6000; while in Pittsburgh that operator went on to build a further six double deck centre entrance 'trolleys'. This was the only US city to take this design seriously. Washington DC and Columbus, Ohio managed trials with fully enclosed versions but these individual vehicles (both given fleet number 1000) did not meet with any success. In fact double deck trams in North America were a rare and exotic species. South America saw a much greater proliferation - but none with centre entrance design.
14 Aug 1912
Public launch of New York's 6000 - Lower Broadway.
Omens for the future 'Feltham' design.
John Woodman Archive
Pittsburgh's 6000 also warranted the publishing of a new postcard - note the narrow dual doors.
Columbus, Ohio and its 1000 prototype. It is not going to win any prizes in the design stakes.
All these US designs involved centre bench longtitudinal seating on their upper decks. Much like the Hill of Howth