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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

1918 - Lindsay Parkinson signs a cheque

In 1918 the twenty one year operating franchise of the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company was nearing its end. Rumours (well founded) were swirling around that the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway was considering making an offer for the company which would have made Blackpool to Fleetwood Tramroad much like the Burton & Ashby Light Railway (owned by Midland Railway) or the Grimsby to Immingham tramway (owned by London North Eastern).

Blackpool's Mayor was Lindsay Parkinson - a very successful businessman in the building industry. He knew well the Owners of several Estate Companies which had acquired much of the farmland and private estates bordering along the tramroad with potent development opportunities - among his broad range of local contacts.

A deal was done in 1919 with the Tramroad Secretary, John Cameron, in which Parkinson personally bought the assets of the company before any other offer could be accepted - with a cheque for £284,000. Steve Palmer's excellent book 'Blackpool & Fleetwood - 100 Years by Tram' published by Platform 5 in 1998 on the Centenary of the line recounts these events in detail.

Overnight as it were, the 8 mile Tramroad was added to Blackpool Corporation Tramways which had at the time limited its northern service to a terminus facing the Gynn Inn. The Tramroad line continuing on across the promenade at Gynn up Warbreck (later Dickson) Road to the Talbot Road Railway Station terminus.

Blackpool's Council sanctioned payment to Mayor Parkinson for the full amount he had paid to purchase the Tramroad and all its assets. Within the terms of the purchase was a clause which gave Fleetwood Town Council option to acquire these assets twenty one years hence (1941). It is worth noting that there was vociferous opposition by many of Fleetwood's Councillors to the sale to Lindsay Parkinson - with exchanges of notes between respective Town Halls in the run up to 1919 - but cash on the table trumps talk; (no change there then).

Blackpool Tramways and Electricity Department had its hands full with cummulative repairs on track and its fleet by 1920 as a result of the Great War. The rudimentary workshop in Blundell Street Depot was wholly incapable of dealing with the comprehensive bodywork rebuilding to the extent required and a whole new Tramway Workshops complex was assembled on the other side of Rigby Road by 1922. The site allowed substantial renewal of ageing (and obsolescent trams) to the extent that completely new trams were produced in the following years up to 1929. These included the famous Blackpool 'Standards'.

The Fleetwood service requiring exclusively single deck trams had to make do with the inherited fleet - which by the 1920s were equally rundown and for the most part unsuited to a changed postwar era. Some of the semi open cars were given enclosed bodywork as a stop gap measure. These were known as 'Glasshouses' and provided additional all-weather capacity until new trams could be purchased for the line. The latter arrived in 1928 in the form of ten stylish single deck trams with a distinctive metal framework gantry on the roof to allow the use of the new current collector design - the pantograph. A visit by the town's electrical engineer to Budapest and other European cities influenced this novel innovation.

More anon.

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