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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Rigby Road Works - testimonials

Blackpool's tramway workshops got into their stride in the early 1920s when cummulative strains on the tram fleet through the Great War, and the increasing demand on services required robust new cars. Rebuilding of many of the existing fleet was but one part of the demands on the new workshop and its staff - assembled on Corporation owned land off Rigby Road.

A whole new class of double deck trams emerged, (partly through stealth on the part of the Tramways Department accounting). These of course were the famous 'Standard' trams which began to appear in 1922 with the final example being built in 1929. This impressive output cemented the Workshops' role in future years.

A succession of rebuilds and upgrade work took place through to the 1950s, culminating in the 'Progress Twin-Car' prototype set in 1958 constructed from two 1930s English Electric rail coaches. This in turn led to a further nine sets which included outside supply of ten brand new trailers to partner with the ten rebuilt railcoaches.

The 1960s and 70s saw inevitable moves towards reducing staffing costs and increasing crew passenger ratio. An interim but important Workshop project involved extending the bodyframe of another English Electric rail coach (618) and providing it with an angled cab end to allow it to pass trams on curves.

Above : two testimonials to the skills of Rigby Road Works in the 1960s. Rebuilt English Electric rail coach 618 with its extended frame and new cab design passing a Twin-Car at Fleetwood Ferry terminus. Both trams being remodelled from 1930s rail coaches but to vastly different designs. Photo : John Woodman Archive

This in turn laid the groundwork for the important One Man Operated (OMO) tram design which involved complete reconstruction of thirteen rail coaches, including the already rebuilt 618. This monumental achievement was in great part responsible for the longevity of Blackpool's electric tramway in a period when the town was alone in Britain in operating trams.

We are fortunate in having examples of these endeavours in working order - as living testimonials to the crafts and skills of successive generations of Transport Department staff at Rigby Road. There were far more achievements above and beyond the three examples cited here, and more of this in due course.

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