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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

The Poles Arrive

Hidden behind the wall bordering Talbot Road where contractors working on the North Station extension have their storage yard deliveries of new tram poles have arrived.

Bore holes for the overhead poles have already been positioned along the route of the tram extension from the Promenade up to Dickson Road - but understandably the eastern extremity awaits final demolition of the Wilko property later in 2019 (god willing).

From a passing bus the poles clad in protective covering would seem to have a tapered design but until one is embedded the 'look' of these essential features remains 'under wraps'. The amount of span wire in Talbot Square to cover the three way track junction will be considerable and significantly impact on this otherwise bland open space crossing the promenade. Possibly a plus.

The last three way tram junction in Blackpool was sited at Royal Oak complete with an automatic trolley reverser to ease the job of conductors on Marton trams terminating just before Lytham Road at a busy traffic junction. At the end of 1962 this overhead was removed when the truncated Marton service was replaced by new bus service 26 following the same route as the trams from their other terminus in front of the Town Hall. An earlier effort by the Transport Department to move the Marton tram terminus to a point in front of St Johns Church - avoided the need for trams traversing busy Abingdon Street and Clifton Street in order to reach Talbot Square. The Council decided not to accept this proposal and so matters remained very much as they had been for sixty years with the Marton service terminating in Talbot Square until the very end of the route.

A second overhead trolley reverser was installed at the final and resited terminus of the North Station tram service. This was in use for just three years after the earlier single track stub terminus immediately in front of North Station (now the Wilko building) was relocated further north in front of the Odeon cinema (now Funny Girls). The North Station service was closed in 1963 without any bus replacement.

Hopefully the new tram poles to appear in the near future on Talbot Road will be painted and in pristine condition. This will contrast with the neglected, faded state of poles installed at the onset of the light rail upgrade and now looking particularly miserable on the track north of Cabin. Blackpool Transport was formerly responsible for maintaining tramway infrastructure and a pole painting team was to be seen adding new layers of green or cream paint at regular intervals ensuring the tram operation was at least kept respectable to patrons and residents. Sadly this all went out the door in the deregulation edicts of the 1980s with consequent neglect attributed naturally to Council economies still ongoing into 2019 or just plain indifference.

The case for placing responsibility for maintaining tramway (or is it light rail?) infrastructure in the hands and remit of the operator is self evident - whether shared with the Local Authority or simply reassigned by deft accounting. Blackpool's light rail fleet and its passenger facilities are clearly in need of a makeover and rebranding - a la the current West Midlands line between Birmingham and Wolverhampton. The contrasts between the two lines could not be greater.

In another era this is Dreadnought 59 turning northbound from Waterloo Road on to Lytham Road at Royal Oak junction. Rack 2 follows on a depot run from Marton to Rigby Road by both trams. The trams were not on a tour (note lack of passengers). The southbound tracks can be seen that allowed Marton trams to continue further along Lytham Road to yet another junction for Station Road where they would then travel the short straight run to finish up facing the Promenade and South Pier. Photo : John Woodman.

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