Adieu Princess Alice
Princess Alice aka 706 begins one of its 'Tours' by crossing back on to the south bound track from North Pier. Note the period angled destination which is part of a replica blind taken from a 1950s period original and provided through the work of Peter Watts - official supplier of destination blinds to Blackpool's heritage fleet.
The end of the 2015 season this weekend sees withdrawal from service of open top car 706. Faithfully restored to a close appearance of its original 1934 appearance, except of course for the single indicator at each end (among other detail features) this tram has been a firm favourite with visitors, and of course enthusiasts. Now in its thirtieth year of service following transformation from a crash damaged 'Balloon' car the decision has been taken to give it a well earned rest and eventual bodywork and engineering overhaul.
Named 'Princess Alice' in 1985 as part of the Centenary Year Celebrations by the Royal bearing that title, the tram has provided some memorable journeys along the Promenade and will no doubt be missed in the line up of heritage trams from 2016. However trams also need an 'MoT' from time to time and 706 is long overdue a detailed inspection and remedial work on bodywork and running equipment.
The tram was one of thirteen similar open top 'Luxury Dreadnoughts' arriving from Preston in 1934 (237 - 249) needed to finally remove the then antiquated trams of the same name from service. Fortunately one example survived (59) and is now the target of sustained efforts to see it returned to Blackpool from extended hibernation out of public sight at the Crich Museum offsite store.
It is pleasing to see that Blackpool's traditional trams have finally gained serious recognition from Blackpool Council - a situation which is long long overdue. Much of this is due to the exemplary effort and work of Bryan Lindop in recent years. His dexterity and persistence in pursuing a longstanding need for a permanent home and display of the town's unique tramway heritage is being notably aided by new management at BTS and Rigby Road Offices.
A roll call of future objectives is in the pending tray of future tram restoration projects at Blackpool. The list is extensive given the less than supportive stance of previous management over several decades. Unique and invaluable assets have been given away or otherwise scrapped with barely casual regard to the town's patrimony and their historical importance. Fortunately some are 'in care' while others perform an excellent role elsewhere. Contriving to bring back together a truly comprehensive display of varied types of tram prevalent on the Fylde coast over the past century is entirely feasible, given time and of course funding. What is even more assuring is the reality that they all have the potential for serving the public on the original Promenade route. Something which cannot be replicated anywhere else in Britain; saving of course the marvellous Manx Electric line just over the horizon from the Fylde coast.
Open top 706 on one of its final 'tours' on October 10 at North Pier. Top Image the tram is traversing the crossover which suffered from a cracked rail head during the past week. See previous Blog. Images : John Woodman
So Princess Alice now joins the 'must do' list at Rigby Road with other priorities no doubt being assessed by the Heritage team. The FHLT's Jubilee car will become a further project in the medium term, together with Brush Car 290 and possibly Balloon car 710 with its Coronation Street links; (over 20 million people watched the episode in which 'Alan Bradley' met his demise in front of 710).
Images : John Woodman