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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman



An exact description of the new pantograph current collector on the trams

Blackpool Council decided that the combined workload of management of both the Electricity Department and ever expanding Tramways (with its growing motor bus operations) should no longer be borne by one man. In 1932 'Tramways' was replaced by 'Transport' reflecting the rise of the bus side of the undertaking over the preceding ten years - and a new position 'Transport General Manager' was created with invitation for applications by November that year.

As is well known Walter Luff's application rose to the fore after the preferred appointee declined the position almost in the eleventh hour (the week before Christmas). Taking stock of his new responsibilities was a challenging exercise, given that his predecessor, Charles Furness, had ably held down and guided the town's transport systems, its electrical power supply organisation and overseen the successful annual illuminations for over twenty years.

Nonetheless a new broom with wide sweeping mandate saw almost immediate changes, one of which was introduction of centre entrance loading buses and trams more or less from the start. A change of livery to conservative dark green and dominant pale cream was quick to appear (always a Manager's prerogative it seems). In 1934 new trams and buses started to appear with the first of what would be forty five single deck 'rail coaches' following the successful launch of the prototype in 1933. These were destined to dominate the seafront services and sweep away the last vestiges of the early Company trams. Three years on and a further twenty superlative versions arrived, this time with air operated sliding doors, much like the new double deck buses which transformed the bus fleet and image of the Department.

The Fleetwood to North Station (formerly Talbot Road Station) still retained its relatively young 'Pantograph' cars, although these ironically saw trolley poles fitted in place of the new technology. However the 1937 delivery of 'Brush' rail coaches took on a dominant role in the service to Fleetwood and they remained very much workhorses until the closure of the line along Dickson Road in 1963. Both Bispham and Copse Road Tram Depots kept their individual status as former Tramroad Company bases of operation; although Copse Road would forever be relegated to hosting the Permanent Way gang and supplies for the reserved right of way track running from Fleetwood to the Gynn.

Postwar renewal in the late 1940s saw track spacing widened to allow operation of eight feet wide bodywork in a preliminary phase to the order for twenty five new trams. These were built by Charles Roberts Company in Horbury and assumed a principal role on the entire sea front service from Starr Gate to Fleetwood - upon this note the Walter Luff era ended in 1954. Dickson Road street tracks to North Station had not been widened and in any event the traffic around the busy terminus precluded wide bodied trams so the Coronations never saw service to the original Tramroad terminus in Blackpool. Ironically these trams were to be ill-fated despite their advanced technology and smooth riding (and comfort). One

Vambac equipped example - prototype Brush Car 303 would stay part of the Bispham Depot output up until 1962 and could be seen (and ridden) to North Station as a 'what might have been' experience.

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