Tram museum aspirations - 3
Standard 49 from Marton Depot and Pantograph 167 in its all-green Permanent Way Car condition from Copse Road safely esconced at the expanding Crich museum in 1964. Glasgow Coronation 1282 joins them in this outside storage lineup - depot space being at premium then, as now. Photo : John Woodman Archive
Following hard on the heels of the street tram route closures in the 1960s and consequent closure of Marton Depot, together with the planned closure of Bispham Depot a possible museum project was 'floated' which saw Copse Road Depot - itself slated for closure being headlined for museum status.
This got so far as to involve the transfer of a small number of representative trams to Copse Road. The precise details of this proposal were not fully aired at the time although it is understood that an involvement of Leyland Motors was a factor in the scheme being taken seriously at Rigby Road. It would not the only occasion in which Leyland's own heritage objectives would crossover into Blackpool.
In the event the initiative came to nought and as we all know the Depot site was sold off through a commercial agent to eventually become a car sales venue. Bispham Depot similarly was bought by a cash and carry retail business. This had the unusual feature of including tramlines on the floor of what became a warehousing outlet for a while. Eventually of course the entire site along with adjoining petrol station facing on to Red Bank Road was acquired by the Sainsbury company. However the former home of the Tramroad Company Secretary and Manager - James Cameron, including the adjoining bowling green which had been a well tended garden attached to the house, was left intact. It is now the local Conservative Club and a popular venue.
Marton Depot, or most of it, was demolished to make way for a petrol filling station.
This left Blundell Street Depot in a 'frozen' state through the 1960s and 70s; being a convenient storage site for withdrawn and damaged trams, along with other Transport Department equipment. The then municipal ambulance service enjoyed, if that is the right term, the northern half of the depot structure with a full height wooden partition demarcating rightful purpose of both users. A new entrance, track connection and pointswork had been created at the south end of the structure to allow trams to access their rightful section of the building from Rigby Road. Blundell Street and Princess Street tracks were kept fully operational for emergency purposes in the event of closure of the Hopton Road link to the promenade from Rigby Road Depot. All of this has now ended with housing development over the entire Blundell Street Depot site.
The failure of the Copse Road Depot Museum scheme meant storage space for trams was at a premium and reluctantly perhaps the Transport management offered up its restored relics from the 1960 Anniversary, and others, to the Tramway Museum Society which at the time was THE tram museum in the UK. Standards 40 and 49 together with Box Car 40, Rack 2, Pantograph car 167 (by then the Permanent Way car) together with the electric locomotive and Works Car 2 headed south, whilst former Conduit Car 4 (then numbered 1) travelled just a bit further to join the British Transport Commission collection at the spacious Clapham Transport Museum - a former bus garage. Dreadnought 59 was taken in hand by the Blackpool Technical College as a skills training project.
In retrospect Copse Road would have been an ill advised permanent museum as its space (in the building) was extremely limited and at a pinch would have only been able to house and display five trams. The Sub Station built by Blackpool Corporation Tramways, after takeover of the Tramroad Company, took up valuable depot area as the FHLT found out in their own due diligence on the building in 2011. Of course Blundell Street Depot would have provided the ideal location for a museum project with its own immensely historical reference going back to 1885. This is for a later segment to deal with.