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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Works Car to Heritage Car - 31

In 1901 Blackpool's Tramways Department took delivery of fifteen ungainly looking two axle open top double deck trams with reversed stairs and enclosed platforms. This was the only time Blackpool ordered double deck trams with reversed stairs.

The trams were to be assigned to the newly opened Marton tram service which in those early days was almost a circular route, starting in front of the Town Hall in Talbot Square and proceeding inland to reach treelined Whitegate Drive - transformed from a track amid farm fields - to a upper middle class residential thoroughfare boasting private schools, the town's new maternity hospital (Glenroyd), and hospital (aptly named 'Victoria'); among other distinctive stylish structures. It also now gained a magnificent new tram depot with imposing frontage and depot track fan laid out in the roadway. The tram service would turn north at the new Waterloo Hotel on to what was then called Cabbage ? Lane through more fields until reaching the stylish Revoe 'Gymnasium'. From here the trams traversed Central Drive to terminate alongside the very busy Central Station railway terminus. This was just a few hundred yards south of their starting point.

The Marton 'Box' cars so called because of the sharp edged ends were unpopular. The narrow entrances and steep stairs together with open tops were impractical for voluminous clad Edwardian ladies especially those carrying wicker baskets and other appurtenances. In short order the fleet gained equally ungainly top covers which did little to improve their appearance, but at least provided protection from frequent rain. During the Great War work was put in hand to increase overall capacity of the tram fleet (six LUT cars not dissimilar to the example (159) at Crich - were hurriedly purchased in 1919). In the case of the small capacity Marton cars 63 seats tightly configured - decisions were made to lengthen the bodies and frames and fit bogies under the new extended examples. A total of five (27/29/30/31/32) were rebuilt to this form, although six had been sanctioned.

Some of these were also given top deck covers but several reverted to open top (including 31) for now obscure reasons. All of the unrebuilt cars were withdrawn probably thankfully by staff, in the late 1920s; whilst the bogie cars soldiered on into the mid 1930s. Number 31 was selected to replace ageing ex Conduit Car 4 which provided overhead maintenance duties up to 1934. Fitted with top deck gantry and stripped of seating - a new Engineering Car 4 took up its role stationed at Bispham Depot (where the former Conduit 4 was later stored). In 1958 another generation of Engineering Cars - this time former Standard 143 and renumbered 3 replaced its predecessor, which was then relegated to more mundane duties (pole painting) based at Rigby Road Depot and renumbered 754. An interest by the Beamish Museum saw it 'leased' by Blackpool Borough Transport to the Museum on condition it would be restored to an earlier condition. This was carried out in expert fashion at Beamish where it reappeared ready for public service in 1988 - a role it has successfully played / plied to the present day.

All in all a satisfying saga for a tram which first appeared at the end of the reign of the Late Queen. Above : Number 31 returned to its 1920s condition and earning its keep (to the full) at the Beamish Museum. An excellent example of restoration expertise sans sponsor advertising. Even the destination blinds look original - more for Peter Watts to ponder. They show the original terminus of the Marton trams before the 1936 closure of the tram sercice along Central Drive to Central Station. Both Photos by John Woodman in 2013.

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