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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Digging up the toilets

Talbot Square, Clifton Street, Dickson Road are all town centre locations where sights (and sounds) of contractors hard at work can be witnessed this week. Clifton Street is revealing more of its tramway heritage as further excavations of the road surface uncover the lingering telltale remnants of the former Marton tramway which continued from Abingdon Street curve to the tram terminus facing the promenade and North Pier.

The former single track which linked Clifton Street's tramway with the two terminal lines in Talbot Square is being cut up with discarded sections marking contractor's progress. Pointwork immediately in front of the Town Hall entrance (where else?) was the subject of the acetylene torch attention in the images below.

Clifton Street's tram tracks being removed in the new layout for Talbot Square and disused (recovered) tram rail lying to the right of the images.

Above : the acetylene torch is applied to the points section leading to the terminus tracks in Talbot Square from Clifton Street and the single track access. (This was shown on an earlier Blog).

Elsewhere on the site of the former tramway terminus shelter which once served both Layton and Marton passengers - the underground toilet complex has undergone major surgery leaving exposed steel beams and sundry stonework, as well as protruding tram rail. This was once an important public venue with a classic designed waiting room and seperate stairs down to both 'Ladies' and 'Gentlemen' basement facilities. In the case of the 'Gentlemen' a hairdresser practised his trade on select customers, whilst on the pavement surround, a shoeshine stand was manned to provide that extra additional polish to the 'man about town', Originally Blackpool's Council provided funding for an ornate and elaborate fountain as the centre piece of this new civic space in front of the Edwardian (or was it late Victorian?) Town Hall. Horse buses plied their trade to South Shore and other inland communities until the smart new electric trams promptly took away their business. (This was in 1901 and 1902).

Subsequently a glassed in shelter circular was erected around the fountain, until this too was deemed outdated for a progressive town in the aftermath of the Great War. The concrete stylish central shelter (retaining the sublevel public conveniences) added a certain municipal elegance without the flummery of ornate ironwork and glazing. In turn this would be rendered dust in the aftermath of the Marton tramway closure - and a realignment of traffic in and around the former terminus. What was left was a barren wasteland of pavement, devoid of life or colour, and at the same time elimination of the public conveniences below - at least by simply paving the entrance and glazed covers. Below : The excavator is busy unearthing structural material from the sub level toilets which were once a familiar? public convenience underneath the Marton tramway terminus in Talbot Square. Tram rail can just be detected in the horizontal section immediately in front of the camera. A lot more work to do as the entire area has to be completely excavated and then filled in with concrete mass - allowing connecting tramtrack to be inserted for the North Station/Talbot Road extension from the Promenade where points await their turn to be brought into use.

All of this now frenetic work is essential before the visitor season gets going and to clear utilities and other sublevel impediments prior to insertion of new concrete base for the tram tracks which will enter from the Promenade and proceed in an easterly direction as far as the site of the current Wilko Store property (due for demolition). The latter work to be dealt with upon end of the Lights this year. Out with the old, in with the new.

On Dickson Road's former tram terminus outside the equally former classic 'Odeon' cinema opened in 1939 (at the time the second largest in the country) - resurfacing of the roadway underneath which lies the North Station route stub terminus track is well underway. This track has come to light in previous work at this site and remains embedded to the present day - unlike tracks in Talbot Square and Abingdon Street. Below : the view looking up Dickson Road with the 'Odeon' on the right hand side and more or less the exact alignment of the original North Station tram terminus. All images taken today by John Woodman

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