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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Broadway to Blackpool (June Offer)

During June the forthcoming new title 'Those Elusive Centre Entrance Double Deck Trams' now in the course of production, can be ordered at the pre-publication offer of £19.00 plus £1.80 post and packing - through our online Shop at A saving of £5.00 on the retail price after publication date. Please visit the Shop page after June 1st to ensure your personal copy of this limited run title from Rigby Road Publishing.

Pre-paid orders ensure your copy is mailed (or otherwise delivered in Blackpool) upon publication. The story of Blackpool's now iconic 'balloon cars' began on Broadway, New York in the formative years of the twentieth century. Surprisingly few transport operators were tempted to sample centre entrance double deck trams - even though their single deck cousins were far more commonplace; both in Europe and elsewhere.

The benefit of a single step into a centre entrance tram was very noticeable in an era when two or three sometimes high steps were required to access a streetcar. The Blackpool & Fleetwood Company's disregard for their passengers was clearly evident in the awkward narrow corner doors inset into their 'box' cars - requiring three steps to gain the interior saloon. Imagine accessing such cars in icy, cold winter conditions. So introduction of cranked centre frames with single step into a tram whether double or single deck was a definite plus. Survivor Number 40 is fine as a summer excursion, but on regular wintertime service running to Fleetwood without heating or much else? And of course the quite comfortable transverse sprung seating was a later 'improvement' by Blackpool Corporation Tramways - replacing the original wood seats from 1914.

Interestingly the foremost proponents of centre entrance double deck trams in the UK were of course Sunderland and Blackpool. The Manager of Sunderland had been appointed to take charge in Blackpool by the end of 1932 but a change of heart kept him on at Fawcett Street, whilst Blackpool opted for their second choice, Walter Luff, whose employer, West Riding, had already determined to replace their worn out double deck trams with new centre entrance buses bodied by Leeds builder Roe (naturally) and utilising Leyland Titan special chassis. This policy would be quickly adopted by Blackpool from 1933 with increasing preference for local coachbuilder HV Burlingham.

English Electric's marketing team made a bee line both for Sunderland and Blackpool with their planned high comfort centre entrance design, which in turn had picked up on licensing of elements of the London tramway combine's design for its solitary centre entrance prototype 'Cissie' built as one of three trial cars at Feltham. We have 'Cissie' in its marvellous preserved condition working out its retirement at the National Tramway Museum to remind us of this solitary experimental design, owing as it does paternity of the granddaddy of centre entrance cars - the Broadway Battleship number 6000 in New York City (hence the title). To read all about it - order your advance copy of 'Broadway to Blackpool' online on the Shop Page after this coming weekend.

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