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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Blackpool's last Standards

Lingering line-up with sunshine casting shadows inside Marton depot.

The longevity of Blackpool's traditional double deck trams into the mid 1960s ensured that a representative number of examples caught the preservation movement before it was too late. In the early 1950s after threat of nationalisation of urban transport systems had passed - the lines of dust shrouded standards held in Blundell Street Depot gradually succumbed to scrapping one by one. One example was saved through a request by the Seashore Trolley Museum President - and 144 selected as one of the better open balcony examples to become the first British tram to cross the Atlantic. This was in 1955.

1958 saw a cull of the remaining Standards with six transferred up to Thornton Gate siding where they were lined up and dismantled by private contractors. Enclosed

42 and 177 (the last Standard car to be built in 1929) with Balcony cars 28, 145, 152 and 153. Local enthusiasts' rescued' parts from many of these cars. Below : the funereal cortege awaiting last rites at Thornton Gate on 1958.

The same year saw 143 selected to become the new Engineering Car at Bispham Depot - with its bus engine providing independent power. Miraculously this has allowed the car to be restored to its as built 1924 condition after several twists to its preservation story.

Less fortunate was number 41 which split the points at Manchester Square in 1960. Stored for a short while at the back of Marton Depot it too was scrapped on site by Council workmen.

Meanwhile 158 and 159 had been given a renewal of service life by the fitting of external lighting features around their glazing and both end panels. This helped their use on premium fare Illumination Tours - as well as summer extras up to 1966.

The closure of the street tram routes by 1963 saw consolidation of depot space at Rigby Road. Expressions of interest in the Standards saw 48 and 147 join 144 in the United States (but as we all know 147 returned to renew its role on the Promenade). The Crich museum was given the last open balcony example, 40, which was a firm favourite on enthusiast tours, as well as 49 and 158 (the latter ostensibly for spares). 159 found a safe haven at the East Anglia Transport Museum where it continued to operate thereafter. This left just 160 which regrettably was scrapped at Rigby Road, again reputedly for spares.

Former Marton 'Box' car 31, whose later Engineering Car role at Bispham Depot until replacement by the remodelled 143 in 1958, was an 'ersatz' Standard for a few years having been rebuilt with top cover and extended bodywork. The top cover was not a long lasting feature from 1928 and removed for its Engineering Car role. Whilst not a 'Standard' per se, it nevertheless followed the Body Shop styling of the 1920s.

Number 147 was one of seven examples built by Hurst Nelson in 1924/5 - the others being 146/8/9/150-2. They faithfully followed the design of the bulk of the fleet with few discernible differences. Two Standards overturned. In 1927 one month old 28 was blown over at St Stephens Avenue - but returned to service. Less lucky was 50 which was caught by high winds emerging from behind the Metropole Hotel in 1940 and subsequently scrapped. It shared the same fate ie scrapping, with 46 which also was 'retired' in August that year for reasons unknown.

From a total of 41 Standards seven examples have survived - 40/48/49/143/144/147 and 159. Of these four are (or will be soon - runners). The complete sequence of Blackpool's Standard car design will also become available with 143 being retro rebuilt to open ended condition, 40 and 144 being open balcony and the remainder in the final all enclosed condition. The excellent handbook to Blackpool's early tram fleet by P.Abell and Ian McLoughlin - Blackpool Trams - The First Half Century 1885 - 1932 provides highly detailed information on all of the tram fleet up to the advent of the rail coach prototype in 1933. Photos : John Woodman

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