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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Signs of the Times

Trams finally reach North Station (well figuratively) with the placement of new visual vinyl posters on the grim exterior of the Wilko property this week (Below).

Portents of improvements to streetscape and transport links the newly installed signage faces directly across from the executive offices of Blackpool Council in Bickerstaffe House. They also serve to blot out the depressing concrete structure which replaced the former Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Station originally a most welcoming and elegant landmark on the same site up to the 1960s.

With its soaring glass arch covering the station platforms and concourse North Station, or Talbot Road Station as it was originally named, was a landmark asset to the town marking as it were, the town's coming of age in the late 1890s. Two tram routes would serve the comings and goings of passengers. One directly outside the front on Dickson Road scooped up (not literally) shoals of arriving visitors complete with baggage and family members, onwards to North Shore, Bispham and Cleveleys, and thence to the busy dockside district in Fleetwood. Pupils arriving for term time at Rossall School would be deposited directly in front of the school gates - a facility soon to be restored when the new tram extension is completed with services again connecting the train with the school entrance at Rossall.

Ongoing signage work underway on a depressing afternoon (December 19th) as trams again reappear in proximity to Blackpool's railway terminus on Talbot Road. A familiar Blackpool company specialising in outdoor (and other) classic signage is noteworthy.

The other tram route passing Blackpool's railway station on Talbot Road in former times was of course the 'Cemetery Line' which ran a relatively short distance directly east from Talbot Square to Layton Cemetery gates. Opened in 1902 the service was more or less a shuttle of just over a mile but helped open up a whole new district for the town with housing for workers hurriedly constructed along what then was called 'New Road'. The red brick terraced housing remains very much as built just off today's very busy Talbot Road and in proximity to Layton Cemetery and Westcliffe Drive. The planner's intention at the time was to extend the Layton tramway northward from the Cemetery up to Hoo Hill where a noteworthy public house 'The Windmill' so named for obvious reasons dominated the highpoint prominentory. Detailed track plans were tabled for approval which saw the new terminus directly opposite the Windmill - and just before the road junction (then a quiet country road) which led north to Bispham with a level crossing at Bispham Station, and east towards Carleton and Poulton.

Eventually, and perhaps inevitably, the same Layton tram route will re-emerge in time to continue on eastbound to the precincts of the ever busier and even more important Victoria Hospital - the major health treatment centre for the entire Fylde coast. Ironically the original Victoria Hospital was sited alongside a then new tram route that ran also from Talbot Square but diverging on to Church Street and what became known as Whitegate Drive - then a very upmarket area for middle and upper classes whose villas and ample residences can still be seen along the curving roadway. Blackpool's main maternity hospital - Glenroyd, and the original town hospital being both sited convenient to the new electric tram service opened in 1901. Fashionable schools also opted similarly for the same reason to site themselves with new facilities served by the trams; not the least of which became my own school in later years. Blackpool Grammar School, from which I was able to espy the passing trolleyarms and sounds of tramcars interrupting (every three or four minutes) my Latin classes (and much more) still stands proudly on Raikes Parade in typical Edwardian redbrick splendour dominating the streetscape of this part of Church Street.

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