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  • John Woodman

2018 Has Arrived (well nearly)

With the arrival of Spring even though it doesn't feel like it - both the swallows and the next FHLT Calendar herald another warmer season. The 2018 Calendar will be on sale at the end of this month focussing on Blackpool trams which came through Rigby Road Workshop over successive decades.

There are a lot to choose from starting of course with home built Standard cars and of course six toastracks of which 166 remains as a 'souvenir' at Crich. There was the small matter of rebodying the former Company 'Yanks' to enclosed saloons thence forward becoming 'Glasshouses' for the many side windows which utilised the original side posts on these cars. And the Works did try at its hand with building buses in the 1920s, fortunately as it turned out of brief duration given their clunky design.

Setting aside the remarkable illuminated 'floats' and some unusual special duties cars, the Workshops of course enclosed the top decks of several open balcony Standards, and added new top deck covers to a classic design, to thirteen open streamline cars during the war years - no mean feat at the time. Two prototype 'Vambac'upgrades of course followed by complete upgrade of the former 1939 Sun Saloons to the superb class of 'Marton Vambacs': one might consider these to be Blackpool's finest trams ever for those who knew them well

Downgrading the Coronations of course - probably Blackpool's worst new tram purchase with exception of the three two axle 'De Luxe' cars of 1911 - but for the record I did not know these at all. Mr Franklin's 'Progress Twin Car' prototype of 1958 and the consequent rebuilding of eight more 1930s rail coaches to pull brand new trailers was a ground breaking programme at Rigby Road in the early 1960s. Followed of course by three experimental cars 611, 618, 638 and finally the innovative redesign of thirteen trams to become the successful OMO Cars. These trams managed to keep the tramway alive in a period when its closure was being seriously under threat by the Council - given increasing operating losses year on year.

Two marvellous double deck rebuilds to a similar objective - one man operated 761 and 761 with advanced control systems among other new features followed. A less than popular remodelling of a further four Balloons to a flat fronted bland design complete with even more bland interiors. Midlife overhauls of the eight Centenary cars even as radical changes of the tramway were being brought forward were followed up by the unusual reconstruction of several double deck trams to allow their operation alongside the light rail fleet. And all of this ignores the continuing work on rejuvenating the illuminated trams; restoration work on several cars such as 147 and 717 - and simply keeping the still sizeable fleet of traditional trams on the road.

A remarkable story over the years since 1923 to the present day. Twelve months in any year simply cannot deal with such a remarkable story - but we give it a try in the 2018 Tram Calendar - on sale from the end of April. Order from the Tramtalk online shop or our sponsor shops at Waterloo Road and next to Cleveleys Tram Station. The Visitor Centre near North Pier will have the Calendar on sale, together with some of the classic Blackpool transport titles by Rigby Road Publishing.

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