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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Blackpool's Visitors

Sheffield City Transport and Manchester Corporation Tramways delighting visitors in Blackpool and Fleetwood. The latter during a Tram Sunday event (the first) when trams did actually traverse Fleetwood's commercial centre unimpeded. P hotos : John Woodman Archive

Through the decades of tram operation along the promenade and elsewhere on the Blackpool tramway visitors and residents have become accustomed to seeing (and riding) on trams originating elsewhere in the UK (and on occasion from further afield).

Irish, Scottish and Welsh trams have tackled the Blackpool tramway at varying times.

Hill of Howth 10 was a marvellous addition to the Tramway Centenary Programme in 1985. Both Edinburgh (35) and Glasgow (1297) carried the flag for Scotland in the same memorable event. Cardiff Water Car 131 appeared in a utility role for a brief period in the run up to the light rail opening, performing the task it was built to do.

A further Glasgow tram which proved elusive for enthusiasts was Coronation Car 1245 providently stored at Rigby Road (but not moving) during an extended stay before finally returning north of the Border to the Summerlee Museum where it is now being restored to operating condition.

The Lytham St Annes tramway link brought trams originating from Accrington, Preston and the Dearne & District company line (shortlived) in south Yorkshire. Obviously the Lytham St Annes fleet offered a remarkable contrast on Blackpool metals up to 1937.

London United Tramways sold six of its early open top cars to Blackpool straight from storage immediately following the end of the Great War in 1919 - such was the need for additional capacity by the seaside. The only time Blackpool Corporation bought used trams to run here. Southampton 45 having been exiled to Leeds I believe after closure of that system in 1949 ended up for several years at the back of Marton Depot. It would be run out on to the depot track fan on Whitegate Drive for enthusiast tours

but never carried passengers during its extended stay here before finally reaching Crich. Colin MacLeod swears he saw this diminutive red car pass his home on Whitegate Drive (but without camera to hand). Bolton, Stockport, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool are other systems with representative trams travelling to Blackpool for diverse stays - Bolton 66 of course became more or less an honorary member of Blackpool's heritage tram fleet since its arrival over four decades ago.

The great 1985 Centenary Tram Procession assembling at Hopton Road (just a small segment of it) Hill of Howth Number 10 resplendent in its all teak fleet livery (one of two examples) regauged to standard rail especially for this occasion by the efforts of the Mode Wheel group. A wonderful sight. Image : John Woodman Archive

Trampower brought their prototype articulated design to Rigby Road on two seperate occasions for extensive testing - providing a remarkable contrast with the Blackpool fleet. GEC Traction also was involved in a complicated arrangement whereby a tram owned by that company with very different running gear would operate alongside the then new Centenary cars with the fleet number 651. On purchase by Blackpool Transport it was provided with bogies of the same design as the rest of the Centenary Car fleet and renumbered 648. An exotic visitor from Crich was the classic American Brill bogie car design from Oporto magnificently restored but sadly achieving only a brief appearance after mishaps I believe at the Pleasure Beach turning circle. Even more exotic was the solitary journey of a steam tram engine during the Tramway Centenary in 1985 - with the restored unit originating in the UK for an Australian system and subsequently returning to Britain for final preservation.

A very happy team 'chug chug chug' along the promenade in 1985. All the way from New South Wales and only the second occasion when steam engines rode along Blackpool's promenade. Image : John Woodman Archive

I am sure there will be future interesting visitors in the years ahead when a later generation of heritage enthusiasts build on the efforts of those of us engaged in ensuring at least some 'relics' were kept from the scrapyard in those former times.

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