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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Playing with Trams

A damp drab and miserably cold January weekend - what better reason than to fill the promenade with old trams on sparsely filled 'heritage tours'. The use of the current occupants of Rigby Road Depot for special hires, wedding parties and the like in out of season months is perfectly understandable - drawing important and welcome private hire fees to the coffers of the team responsible for Blackpool's heritage tram set up. I am informed such 'hires' are the most profitable income stream compared to out of season 'tour' operation.

What is questionable is the novelty of scheduling an output of cars out of season when even Blackpool landau owners and most of the promenade 'attractions' have (with good reason) shut up shop. A fifteen minute service of regular trams running to Fleetwood being augmented by the ever frequent rumblings of double deck and single deck cars perambulating their way along a mostly deserted seafront - bereft of passengers for the most part. At least three double deck runs were noted (among others no doubt) with hardly anyone on board other than the volunteer crews. Below : Just slightly more populated was this afternoon run to Fleetwood picking up riders at North Pier stop whilst 700 functions as a souvenir stand on the siding.

No doubt goodwill was generated among the hardcore 'enthusiast fraternity' - by those hardy enough to head to the seaside for a brief encounter out of season on a Blackpool tramcar of earlier vintage. But the sight of double deck trams in particular mostly empty of public take-up prompts the question of just who are these winter excursions benefitting, beyond the limited number of enthusiast stalwarts ? Below :

Hardly any busier was the Promenade Service 1 to Fleetwood with this example also picking up just a handful of passengers northbound with number 700 just visible in the background. Even the road traffic was minimal along the 'Prom'.

It is as if a steam train excursion was organised at the back end of January when many people are just getting by having expended most (if not all) of their disposable income over the holiday season - and just half the seats in one carriage are taken up, out of the six or more in total. Delightful as it may seem to dedicated followers of Blackpool trams - the economics of such cold weather excursions could never stack up in the commercial world. Even in the great days when Blackpool's tramway meant more than simply an up and down run to Fleetwood, with street routes to Marton, Squires Gate and North Station - winter tram tours were very rare events indeed. But when one did occur it attracted full loads of excursionists from far and wide. A famous tour in particular being held on an especially frosty and misty weekend - with open top cars drawing only the brave and well recorded on film by thrilled participants of the time.

Below : no doubt millions would be watching Jeremy Clarkson and his personable team on their large flat screens viewing 'The Grand Tour'.

The future of Blackpool's heritage tram set up is under examination at a time of sustained Council budget cuts affecting all manner of services and operations. Every effort needs to be expended to demonstrate the uniqueness of the town's vintage trams and their real value in supplementing the resort's attractions during important holiday periods. A cold January weekend barely cuts the mustard for any museum line - especially not even in a seaside town like Blackpool.

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