Classic Tram 648 - Read On. Image : John Woodman
Time passes by quickly. It was just a few years ago then Blackpool's tramway still operated with an almost amazing mix of trams: double deckers, single deckers, trailer sets, open cars, and one person operated cars. The enormous variants of colours far outweighed the traditional green and cream examples to make a constant kaleidescope of colours and shapes as each tram passed by.
The frequency of services and addition of 'Extras' and 'Short Workings' continued to the very last the great tradition of first generation tram systems in the UK.
Just one example of their impact. Here is Centenary Car 648 (nee 651) in its final sponsor vinyls for the Houndshill Shopping Centre - stopped outside the Cliffs Hotel with its landmark design appropriately sited adjoining the rising gradient north of the Gynn.
Of course 648 was given a mid-life rebuild retaining the original front styling of East Lancashire Coachbuilders just a few years before its withdrawal from service, along with its seven cousins. The sympathetic rebuild was very different from the sequence of previous Centenary overhauls and intended for eventual preservation at the Crich museum. Surprisingly the TMS deigned to accept this classic tram for their national collection. Even more so as it represented the final all-British tram design prior to mandatory low floor (or high platform) products originating from outside of the UK.
Fortunately wiser minds at Rigby Road ensured 648 would be retained there and it has subsequently become a very welcome part of the Heritage Fleet complete with Blackpool Corporation green and cream livery and signage. It is of course joined by sister car 642 in its midlife rebuild styling. Elsewhere the prototype Centenary Number 641 of 1984 is amazingly on display in static condition having been saved by the FHLT for their collection - and can be seen at the Pleasure Beach loop.
But nothing can compete with the scenes of these classic trams doing their year round duties between Fleetwood and Blackpool - high steps, high floors and no frills interior design.