Remnants from Another Age

December 5, 2017

The spate of road rebuilding and utilities work now ongoing in Blackpool all too often reveals the tell tale signs of the passage of tramcars in former decades.   Currently the strengthening of the road bridge over the railway on Squires Gate Lane requires the removal of layers of road surface under which lie double track tramlines that once provided a physical link from the seafront to the terminus of the tramway along Lytham Road.   As far as is known most of this double track line remains very much in place and embedded just under the roadway both on Squires Gate Lane and along Lytham Road all the way down to the current access trackage from Manchester Square.  The three way street track junction at Starr Gate is also very much 'in situ' hidden under the roadway.  This of course connected with Lytham St Annes tram services up to 1937.

 

Even the branch line along Station Road remains in place with its connecting tracks into Lytham Road.  One small strip of the tramtrack having revealed itself on Station Road as a result of very minor road subsidence.   Some ten years ago the entire three way track junction at Royal Oak was dug up and removed by contractors when the roadway was remodelled from traffic light controlled to a non priority roundabout layout.  At the time old tram rail and pointwork lay around in abundance to be photographed.

 

Even Blundell Street continues to reveal its former role hosting the town's first tram depot.  Extensive house building and ground remediation has removed entirely the depot tracks themselves (and much else).  However the connecting line which was added later providing an access track from the south end of the depot across Rigby Road and cutting over what is now the BTS office visitor car parking area is still in place. This became evident last week when Council workers were cutting a trench over the pavement on Rigby Road's north side at the point where this service track still remains emerging from what had been the depot's south entrance. 

 

Of course extensive utilities realignment work ongoing in Talbot Square and the Promenade, as well as the important road junction at Dickson Road are revealing further relics of former tramway infrastructure, as well they might.  The Layton tram terminus in Talbot Square with its long connecting link on to the Promenade tramway came to light this past week as a section of rail was exposed on this now forgotten piece of tramway infrastructure.   Similarly the more familiarly remembered track link from the Marton service terminus in Talbot Square also connecting with the Promenade line still reveals itself in the same way.  A complete remodelling of Talbot Square's roadway in its entirety is due next year to permit embedding of the light rail tracks leading up to North Station.  Thus much more of this original tramway layout is set to come back into view, however briefly.  It was of course last used in 1963 when the final survivors from Marton tram depot were retrieved from that classic structure and driven amid sparks from the dirt covered trackage and flashes from the dormant overhead along Whitegate Drive to Devonshire Square and thence to Abingdon Street and Clifton Street - all of which retained tramtrack access and overhead wiring for exactly this final rite. I believe that Standard Car 48 was the very last tram to traverse these tracks - quite apt really as it was also the last tram to operate to Royal Oak on the final night of the Marton tram service in October 1962.   A night to remember for many.  

 

Even more memorable was the sight of the Western Train providing a ride for the official Party of Civic Officials up Clifton Street to the opening of the new ABC Theatre on Church Street long after the Marton tram service had closed.  Here it is seen on the tight curve with Abingdon Street en route to its destination.  It will be noted that it is travelling eastbound on the westbound track.  Following this duty the set simply reversed directions being driven from the 'trailer end'  back to Talbot Square and the Promenade.    Photos :  Colin MacLeod.

 

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Working to conserve for display, trams and artefacts of the longstanding coastal tramway serving Blackpool, Thornton Cleveleys and Fleetwood.

 

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