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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

1933 - A Very Good Year for Trams : Fiducia Middleton Bogies Rail Coach

From the mid 1920s to the late 1930s tram development flourished across many countries and continents. Notwithstanding the competitive pressure placed on the industry by bus, coach and trolleybus advances - investment in infrastructure, new routes and of course bodywork styling saw groundbreaking designs.

1933 is notable of course in Blackpool's tramway annals through the appointment of a forward thinking General Transport Manager - Walter Luff. Quite literally a wind of change swept through the Transport offices with almost immediate effect, not the least of which was the commissioning of a modernistic single deck tram from the nearby manufactory of English Electric Company in Preston. No doubt picking up on new tram styling and features elsewhere in Europe and the USA - English Electric saw

a large window opening up by the seaside for a 'family' of streamlined trams with several variants. They had done their homework well. An equal but lesser opportunity of course came from Sunderland whose Manager was equally determined to propel his operation into the forefront of vehicle/tramcar design. Sunderland ended up with a token delivery of streamlined double deck trams and buses not dissimilar to to the English Electric deliveries to Blackpool - although after a prototype bus (120) - all of the large bus bodywork contracts went to local builder HV Burlingham.

A totally different tramcar was quickly built and delivered to Blackpool in June that year in time for an important tramways industry conference. Unnumbered and with a pantograph on an elegant gantry tower it went on (static) display at the Gynn Square siding. A further forty four examples would follow in the following two years along with twenty seven double deck versions - all with centre entrances and common styling features. A final twelve open single deck versions completed the Company's order book in 1939.

Across the Pennines in Leeds a further change of Transport Manager had just ocurred with appointment of Blackpool borne W. Vane Morland as General Manager in June 1932. An early decision was to commission a new tram design - this time double deck and with powerful motors to handle the inclines of the Middleton route. Built by the Brush Engineering company Number 255 was totally unlike anything seen on the streets of Leeds up to that time. Smart rounded contours straight forward facing stairs and seperate driver cabs echoed the revolutionary Feltham trams in London which had appeared just three years previously.

The prototype led to sixteen more production models in a contract shared with English Electric. These exceptional trams far outshone the two axle traditional styled Chamberlains and Horsfield cars which preceded them.

On the other side of the world in Wellington, New Zealand 1933 also saw the launch of a prototype tram design - again another single deck car which broke away from the city's previous style of tram. Nicknamed 'Fiducia' the bogie double ended car had simplistic lines and a clean interior look devoid of the internal wooden panel finish of previous classes. Some 28 production models followed over an extended period with the last four being completed after WW2. Wellington was the last tram system in that country (1963) which allowed the preservation of a great many examples from that city's fleet including at least five 'Fiducia' cars. Sister city Auckland followed up in 1935 with its own design of a 'modern' single deck tram - completely different in style from the 'Fiducia' model. I am certain there are further exceptional prototype or launch tram designs elsewhere in 1933 - but these three certainly stand out.

Sales brochures of SKF in the 1930s when British tram development was very much an important market.

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