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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Manchester 'Christmas Cracker' Event

As previously announced during the previous week we attended the annual Christmas trade event at the Manchester Bus Museum and saw many familiar faces and even actual readers of Rigby Road Publishing titles - now there's a surprise.

Attended mostly by males of a certain generation and despite bad weather, a train drivers strike on Northern Rail (a weekly occurrence every Saturday now), the show was

well attended both by bus and rail enthusiasts and traders. Held within the marvellous collection of buses displayed in the Museum it is a perfect setting for meeting old friends with shared heritage interests, whilst at the same time picking through ephemera of former operators.

Always on the lookout for material on Blackpool Corporation Transport in the previous century I must confess to slim pickings to augment our own archive. However there were some classic images that caught our attention and one example, even though it is from a tramway long gone in the annals of time, is worth posting for heritage onlookers.

Burnley Colne and Nelson was a classic municipal operator in east Lancashire with its own distinctive style even to the point of purchasing centre entrance double deck buses for tram replacement during the 1930s. Burnley Corporation was an early operator of this design - with Roe bodywork and their distinctive three pane front top deck windows. However one of several builder's original photographs depicting a marvellous semi open single deck tram of Nelson Corporation Tramways is our choice for this Blog. An example of the Strand Road, Preston builders craftsmanship and early electric tram design - it was seemingly out of kilter with inclement weather associated in this Pennine location. One assumes that pipe smokers and cigars were consigned to the open end sections, whilst the curtained centre saloon was preferred by female riders of a certain class. The roof mounted headlamp might had made it hard to read the destination board positioned alongside - at nighttime. Blackburn was another area tram operator which also ventured into open single deck tram design with a single (and patently unpopular) toastrack car; whilst both Salford, Middleton and Manchester similarly were tempted into ordering semi open designs. Manchester's large fleet being necessary for the 53 Service which traversed around the city with a number of low bridges as impediment to double deck operation. A subsequent Manager, the infamous Stuart Pilcher, found this a raison d'etre to convert the service to bus operation as prelude to complete replacement of Manchester's tram system which finally concluded in 1949. As we all know the MTMS were instrumental in 'rescuing' the body of one of the 53 Service trams and its restoration to full operating condition. It can be seen (and ridden) at Heaton Park - as well as venturing onto Blackpool's tramway in past decades.

A further gem we acquired during the show was a builder's photograph of the new factory being erected in Trafford Park for the British Electric Tram company. This shortlived venture is notable for having supplied the original fleet of cars for the Lytham St Annes and Blackpool tramway, with its unique (almost) double deck toastracks, and similar cars to the British owned Malta tram system. No trams in this photograph, but the brand new factory structure with machinery being unloaded from the adjoining railway is a notable 'find'.

Congratulations to the Organisers of this event with their attention to arrangements both for visitors (free bus services into central Manchester with classic 1950s and 1960s double deck buses of the region) and much consideration for traders over two days.

Builder's Photograph - John Woodman Archive

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