The weather managed to provide extremes for participants gathered at Rigby Road today for the final tour of Birkenhead Number 20 loaned from the Wirral Museum this year. The tram had experienced a sparse number of outings, partly as a result of a trolley dewirement fairly early on after its arrival - and subsequent workshop attention on its truck and wheels by agreement with Blackpool Transport. In fact it was not until the final week or so of the 'Lights' that the car ventured forth on Promenade Heritage Tour duties and a special tour for host organisation members from the Wirral (and elsewhere). A reference to the latter was made in a previous blog last month.
I have a very positive impression of the Wirral tram group working diligently on their Museum line and restoring an expanding portfolio of area trams, including of course two (or is it three?) trams from that great system across the Mersey. So it was with much pleasure that I signed on for the final outing of this Birkenhead visitor which took place in glorious sunshine today (at least in the beginning). This tour and fund raising exercise to provide more money in aid of the workshop plans to restore open top 706 to service was an excellent idea and despite the short notice and out of season midweek date - drew enthusiasts from as far away as Burnley and Euxton !
The tram was thus well loaded when it set off on an extended double run along the promenade as far as Bispham (and latterly the Cabin) and back to the Pleasure Beach loop. Opting for the comfort (wooden side bench seating) of the ornately decorated lower saloon I joined with similar less adventurous passengers on this final excursion before the tram's return to its home depot in the near future. James Millington, perhaps inevitably, was our driver exercising due caution with his Heritage Tours colleague in negotiating overhead frogs and points. Most of the paying travellers determined to enjoy the seaside breezes on the open top deck and for a while this was tolerable but as a bank of darkening sky and heavy rain clouds ominously approached the coast - this judgement was rapidly called into question.
By the time of our arrival at the Pleasure Beach circle the top deck emptied and the lower saloon filled up to the point of standing passengers only. I have persuaded a well known (and respected) photographer to capture my pose at the controls - for the record; with a promise to minimise flaws, chins and warts with his photoshop skills. The result to follow in due course if it passes the censors.
Heritage Tours team, the Workshop and organisers are to be congratulated in providing this rare opportunity to give the Wirral Museum their time by the seaside. Of course another marvellous restoration from the same museum had been a visitor in previous years, in the form of Liverpool bogie car 762. It is to be hoped that despite the hiccups in Number 20's sojourn here it will not be the last example of a Wirral and Mersey area tram to clang and clatter its way along Blackpool promenade. Very well done to the organisers. A most memorable excursion today and extremes of weather to assure variable photographic coverage from both passengers and lineside observers. Some brief moments from the Author's inexpensive equipment below :
In the beginning - Hopton Road as usual. Stalwarts already on board including a world famous tram photographer and sunshine outside. Below : Who can resist a ride on the top of the car ?
Meanwhile at Bispham with 20 facing south and ominous rain clouds heading towards the Fylde coast in a quickening envelopment -photographers hasten to regain their places before departure.
Number 20 now pausing at the Pleasure Beach for a few moments whilst James Millington prepares to envelope himself in appropriate waterproof cladding and the top deck passengers have acquainted themselves with the interior saloon which has filled up completely! For eagle eyed readers, that's 641 in the background providing a colourful talking point for visitors year round. Some illuminated features may follow on in 2019. Images : John Woodman