Friendly crews make all the difference
One of the real pleasures using Blackpool Transport, and in particular the tram service, is the especial friendliness of the crews. This comes across with conductors checking and issuing tickets on trams and chance to have informal exchanges (and banter) with passengers of all ages.
I was struck by the difference an outward personality makes in welcoming visitors with simply more than proforma 'move away from the doors'. Charlie Brickman is a conductor on the trams this season - loving his job and making sure passengers are shown a smiling face and friendly disposition. Calling out stops and adjoining venues and hotels seems to be just a small portion of his verbal repertoire - which includes a lending a hand to those encumbered with small children or disability. He is certainly a wonderful ambassador for Blackpool Transport and its services.
Equally friendly were the crew on Balloon car 711 which trundled up and down between Bispham and the Pleasure Beach showing the flag today for the double deckers remaining in service. These hybrid cars being neither fish nor fowl with stiff and confined bus seating - obtrusive warnings every time the doors open and close at each stop and few of the characteristic details from their days in traditional service are far less attractive than the pre 2011 version. But these latest variants make the overall operation ever more interesting.
It was pleasantly revealing to find out during the crew break that in fact the driver is a young lady from Wroclaw in western Poland. Anna Malina was thoroughly enjoying her new job as a Blackpool tram driver and keen to see it continue. Now living in Blackpool for the past nine years she is keeping alive a tradition which in fact began in the war years when female tram drivers were needed to maintain services. The new book on Blackpool's transport during the 1940s - available from the North Pier Shop, Visitor Centre and Brooks Collectables - includes photos of the more formalised uniform of female staff and their initial training at Rigby Road (driving boat cars).
Wroclaw born Anna gives a thumbs up to her new job in Blackpool. Ray Roberts was a popular Fitter at Rigby Road Depot who died in a tragic car fire and whose memory is kept alive by Balloon 711. Below : 711's crew pose for our next book.
The crew were similarly welcoming and proud of their jobs on the trams. It is now only left to the Council to approve final details of the North Station extension - to make the eleven mile north south journey just a bit more interesting for drivers and staff of Blackpool's trams.
North Pier junction awaiting connecting tracks to Blackpool North and Bickerstaffe Square - coming soon along with a modern interchange.