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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

641 An Old Favourite from 1984

Parked at the Pleasure Beach loop is a well disguised Blackpool tram. Owned by the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust Centenary Car 641 is actually a historic tram in its own right. When Blackpool Council in 1983 to commissioned construction of a totally new tram as a prototype for replacement of the by then worn out OMO class conversions - it would turn out to be the very last design of a British tram before light rail and disability access requirements changed forever the formatting of public service vehicles.

The Centenary cars as they became known were criticised for their 'buslike' appearance by tram cognoscenti and fell way below the accepted norms of traditional tram design - or so it seemed at the time. In fact 641 and its sister cars would be the very last four axle bogie tram design ending a long history of UK tramcar development.

Low floor articulated modular construction design is now the accepted and familiar appearance of vehicles operating light rail systems across the world. With of course the exception of heritage lines sticking closely to their traditional formats. Lisbon, Hong Kong, Istanbul, New Orleans, Milan, San Francisco and more recent 'retro' tramways with replica cars such as the newly opened El Paso tram service, and Philadelphia's Girard Avenue line with its revamped PCC cars in former green and cream colours spring to mind.

Toronto will shortly replace entirely its once large fleet of four axle high floor trams and their articulated cousins with Bombardier Flexity2 cars not entirely dissimilar to those first introduced in Blackpool. Zurich has given up its once familiar 'Standards' and their later articulated models - which gave that marvellous system its eclectic image, whilst Vienna and Melbourne similarly have phased out fleets of reliable older trams (with their own individual styling) in favour of low floor off the shelf designs.

Blackpool's final 'standard' tram may not have had the flair and stylistic image of its predecessors but it assured continued traditional service into a new century and is now the subject of nostalgic tours on two operating survivors. The prototype (641) will soon move from its present location to regain a semblance of its earlier appearance. Some memories of how it faithfully carried out its duties up to the end of traditional tramway service in the resort Below : 641 looking pristine in its newly applied all over orange livery and loading at the Norbreck tram stop southbound.

Below : And on the Promenade in more colourful times : Images John Woodman

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