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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Talbot Road Trams and more

Blackpool's town centre leaves much to be desired outside of the heavy footfall Houndshill Shopping Mall. So many For Sale, To Lease, Closing Down and worse detrius abounds in once flourishing streets, no longer attractive for retailing or much else. Away from the promenade (and not far away) a squalid run down malaise is shunned by residents and visitors alike - apart from those in pursuit of alcoholic escape.

Talbot Road was at one time a prime destination for shoppers, feeding into Abingdon Street, Birley Street and Church Street, among other busy commercial avenues. It even had a tram service to provide Corporation travel for graveyard visits at Layton Cemetery and a faster journey home for artisans and their families filling newly built workers housing along Talbot Road and in proximity to the new terminus in Layton (from 1902).

This came to an end in 1936 with abrupt removal of the familiar 'Standard' cars that ploughed up and down Talbot Road from outside the Town Hall. In their place came smart streamlined comfortable new buses with centre entrances and flexible operation. Talbot Road's tracks were tarred over to remain unnoticed into another century when their silent rusting reminders now reappear ahead of a new generation of tramway infrastructure currently being embedded along the very same path.

Work on the street running section from Talbot Square is now well underway and reaching past the junction at Abingdon Street, where at one time a single track connection allowed trams to turn from Talbot Road for special workings and extras. The connection itself has long been removed but the double track on Talbot Road itself is very much in evidence as contractors diligently progress eastwards towards the goal of a new terminus on the site of the still standing Wilko store. Rumour has it that the demolition of the Wilko property is behind schedule; throwing into doubt the time- table for completion of this on street extension serving 'Blackpool North' and the Talbot Gateway development. There could well be need for an interim onstreet crossover on Talbot Road closest to Dickson Road allowing the new service to commence in a timely fashion pending completion of the planned offstreet double track terminus on the site of the Wilko property following its welcome demolition. All of this is reminiscent of a not dissimilar scene outside the original North Station when trams on Dickson Road unloaded onto the usually busy roadway before reversing to collect queues of waiting passengers heading north - from a stop facing the Odeon cinema as it was then.

Whilst Talbot Road is a scene of some frenetic labouring and installation of light rail tracks - traffic patterns around this principal artery have been somewhat stressed. BTS bus services now terminate and congregate on Queen Street outside the Central Library (as they once did in the late 1920s and early 1930s) with shoals of now standard palladium liveried buses clustering together alongside waiting queues (and shift changing BTS staff). At one time plans were proposed to run trams up and down Queen Street to provide a loop onto the Promenade for the Fleetwood service cars - this was not to be and lower Queen Street now hosts a conglomeration of drinking establishments many of dubious social value. The same might be said of Talbot Square, Corporation and Market Streets - all of which now exhibit a similar function of little redeeming relevance for residents year round who require a broader range of consumer comestibles and public services in their town centre.

Central Library and Queen Street provide interim terminal space for Blackpool buses on services to the town centre. A shoal of ADL buses lined up on the 9 and 14 here.

Rudimentary arrangements for passengers on Queen Street. No shelters, no seating and perplexing signage.

Brand new street tramrail inexorably edging east from Talbot Square (in a straight line). Seen here passing Abingdon Street.

The most easterly end of tramway so far and installed this week.

The same scene from the southeast corner of Abingdon Street and Talbot Road junction. A classic public house anchors the image, whilst contractors busy themselves with paving the roadway and preparing for the next section to be dealt with.

Finally looking towards Talbot Square from above Abingdon Street junction. A protruding rail from the first generation tramway on Talbot Road is silent testimony to a preceding service - in this case running all the way to Layton. Images : John Woodman

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