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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Illuminated comings and goings

As many of our readers and supporters are preparing to turn their new Calendars to the Month of January 2016 with a distinctive colour image of Blackpool's first illuminated feature car - Number 68 (in its final year of operation - 1936) the passage of many of these fine creations of Rigby Road Works is worth a mention.

We have lost all of the early classic 'floats' namely the Gondola and Lifeboat and the 'Bandwagon' of 1937 - which morphed into the 'Progress' car of 1949 - all casually sent for scrap or spare parts for preservation groups. Even the wonderful 'Blackpool Belle' which replaced the 'Progress' car in 1958 did not make it to a preservation state despite initial transformation to a single deck version at the hands of a US group in Oregon. We see the 'Belle' all ready to depart Rigby Road for its transatlantic journey and eventual fate in the US.

Thereafter the two Standards 158 and 159 were sent packing in 1966 - with 158 destined for 'spares' at the Crich Museum and 159 for a more honourable working retirement at the East Anglia Transport Museum near Lowestoft where it is well cared for (and operates). The view below catches less fortunate 158 en route to its disreputable fate at the hands of the Tramway Museum Society.

Another important creation - the 'Hovertram' was fortunate in being acquired for a Scottish bus museum initially and has since been transferred to a North East transport collection for eventual static (and illuminated) display. It is seen here in better times with its new sponsor's advertising replacing the 'Shell' promotional design which financed the tram's creation initially from the frame and equipment of a withdrawn rail coach. Both 'HMS Blackpool' aka the 'Frigate' and of course the magnificent 'Western Train' have had major makeovers ensuring their long term operating survival in Blackpool. Former Brush Car 633 is also now about to gain a similar makeover funded by its sponsor 'Fisherman's Friend'. The superlative Rigby Road creation - Tramnik One aka 'the Rocket' survives thanks to the efforts of the Lancastrian Transport Trust and latterly again on public view at Gynn Square is now securely stored at the back of Rigby Road Depot. For those with interest in acquiring one of the remaining copies of the 2016 Illuminated (Heritage) tram calendar by Rigby Road Publications - these are available from the Visitor Centre on the Promenade, Toys2Save shop at Cleveleys tram station, and Brook's Collectables on Waterloo Road (and from the Trust).

All Images copyright : Rigby Road Archive 2015

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