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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Boats, Bathing Cars and Baths

Whilst we are familiar with the remaining boat cars very much evident in the current bout of hot weather (for Britain) and ever popular with visitors - there were similar open trams for tourist elsewhere, perhaps not quite as stylish as Blackpool's fleet.

Grimsby of all places was the most unlikely town to operate an open car purely for tours - but the 'tramcoach' did just that for a few years. Possibly an ill judged venture but with just one diminutive two axle unit on to which was fitted a bathlike body with square ends and back to back transverse seating. With the cessation of Grimsby's town trams (as opposed to the more permanent Grimsby & Immingham line) the tramcoach was 'exported' to the Portsmouth and Horndean Light Railway which had running rights of a part of Portsmouth's town system (much like Lytham St Annes cars ran into Blackpool on agreed tracks). Here it apparently managed to eke out one summer season before running literally foul of Portsmouth authorities who objected to the overhand of the tram's body on tight town centre curves. Thereafter it disappeared into tramway folklore.

The Morecambe and Heysham company line with its short line and small fleet of petrol engine single deck cars, managed to keep up 'with the Jones's' by having one of its new cars delivered as a completely open summer only style (built by Leyland Motors). The service linked up with Morecambe's stolid horse tramway providing an equally interesting and contrasting excursion for seasonal visitors.

Boat cars or 'Bateaux' as they were familiarly termed operated on the touristic Spa Verviers line in Belgium, Not like Blackpool's open version but this time with unglazed windows and lightweight semi streamline bodies complete with centre entrances. Eight such examples on two axle trucks and built by Belgium's National Military Equipment company (in Liege) appeared in 1936. Due to their excessive length on two axles - their nautical progress gave rise to the nickname 'Bateaux'.

Further south in the heart of Europe - Basel's city system produced two bathlike trailers, which were towed behind one of that city's standard two axle trams on a circular tourist service from the late 1930s. Completely open with low side panels and decked in the all-over dark green colours of the Basel transport operation - they were very popular with American troops on the postwar rest and recreation visits to Switzerland from adjoining grimness of southern Germany.

Of course this little monologue does not extend to the far more numerous open and semi open 'toastrack' and cross bench cars which were a more familiar sight on UK seaside systems (including of course Blackpool which had the largest fleet of them). The tendency for tramways to trial these and similar types of cars found some interesting takers, particularly in the north of England where Blackburn of all places, Salford, Manchester and Newcastle Upon Tyne were among brave operators anxious to provide their citizens with the fresh breezes of industrial city streets and suburbs...

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