As the Reigning Monarch reaches 63 Years on the Throne - and surpasses the longevity of Queen Victoria it is worth recalling the advent of Blackpool's newest trams which also made their formal introduction in 1962 - the Coronation cars.
Ordered as the swan song of Walter Luff's management years (from January 1933) the twenty five new trams would become a finale to his transformation of the town's transport fleet (both trams and buses). Eschewing the streamline 'look' of the 1930s - their design reflected the increased allowed width (to eight feet) of road vehicles, as well as length.
A sleight of hand by which the public, council and the press were given to under- stand that the new postwar trams would become part of the upgrade of the Marton tram service - was sufficient to secure what was at the time an immense capital expenditure for the Transport Department's finances, and one which they would soon come to regret. The details of the class, named Coronations in the full flush of postwar renewal - are recounted in diverse books on Blackpool's transport history. Suffice to say they were definitely, for their passengers, the most comfortable and smooth riding of all Blackpool's trams, putting the current
examples to shame.
However all was not well in the design and fabrication. Charles Roberts were, it
seems, given a relatively open brief on their construction unlike the Sheffield trams built in the same period - the 'Jubilee' cars 501-536. Sheffield's transport chiefs had already built a prototype example before providing details design specifications to the Wakefield firm. This allowed for little if no variation.
Given the troubles which accompanied the Coronation cars in service - more or less from the beginning to the end of their comparatively short working lives - it is surprising that even now three still survive in Rigby Road depot, albeit as museum pieces. Not that Blackpool's postwar delivery was alone in foreshortened operating experience. Glasgow's one hundred strong 'Cunarders' or Coronation Mark II' design (Coronation referring to 1937) were to last even less than the Coronations at Rigby Road. The Leeds railcar duo had even less duration, whilst Aberdeen's version of the Blackpool 'Balloons' were summarily burnt in a public conflagration in 1958 - all twenty two of them.
Nonetheless in 1952 Numbers 304 to 328 heralded a bright new beginning for Blackpool's famous tram system (it had three street routes in addition to the promenade service). Accompanying the new trams were one hundred brand new buses to the same centre entrance design established in the 1930s - complete with chrome trim adornment and much in the way of livery flourishes. All of this would soon be swept away as hard economic realities hit the Department finances during the second half of the decade.
Fortunately the three remaining examples - two surviving through private initiatives and one by virtue of Departmental sentiment - are with us to provide the remarkable experience of comfortable travel on a Blackpool tram. Forthcoming events will permit their display as a trio (we believe) - just a pity the same is not possible for the new Blackpool built buses of that same era.
Coronation Cars in their prime ? Both Photos : John Woodman