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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Blackpool In The 1920s

The launch today of open balcony 'Standard' tramcar 143 resplendent in its as built 1924 appearance prompts a nostalgic trip back in time to a decade when electric trams dominated the resort's centre. Municipal red and white lined out colours for both trams and the newly introduced bus fleet presented a completely different appearance from the green and cream which would follow by the mid 1930s. Not a streamline tram or bus in sight - with the tram fleet very much redolent of systems up and down the country.

In 1923 Tramways Department's recently completed and expansive complex taking up much Corporation land at Rigby Road was a hive of industrial activity producing new trams whilst modifying most of the cars from the pre Great War period. The latter having been worn out by the heavy loads and lack of spare parts and components or any major overhauls for almost a decade. Blundell Street and Marton Depots provided storage space for much of the fleet, whilst Bispham Depot was kept very much as it had been in Tramroad Company years up to 1919.

The new 'Standard' trams proved robust and versatile able to operate on most of the Corporation routes, with exception of the Fleetwood service north of Bispham. Lytham St Annes 'blue' single truck cars sedately bounced their way into town to Central Station at Hounds Hill - latterly as far as the Gynn along the promenade line. A total of 42 of the Standards would appear in the 1920s of which seven examples were 'bought in'. Alongside were still the large capacity open top 'Dreadnoughts' and Blackpool's numerous open toastrack cars needed for summer season service including the high revenue earning Circular Tour. The Fleetwood service would enjoy upgraded trams through ten new single deck cars complete with gantry towers for small pantograph current collectors. These arrived in 1928 - a vast improvement on the corner end loading 'Box' cars and 'Yanks'. An interim solution to the need for more enclosed trams for Fleetwood and north of Bispham was rebuilding a number of the Company 'Yanks' with so many window pillar posts that they became known as 'Glasshouses' - and for good reason.

An excellent tryptych by the Late Ian Stewart for Rigby Road Publishing provided contrasts of open platform Standards (Left), Rebuilt Marton 'Box' cars (Middle) and enclosed platform Standard (Right).

In time the open ended Standards were fitted with driver's platform windscreens to a neat design at the end of the Twenties. Protests from drivers enforced to manage their shifts in Blackpool's wind blasted conditions, rain and worse - saw this simple addition being quickly added to the entire 42 strong class thereafter. Top deck balcony enclosed cars would follow thereafter on some of the Standard fleet - becoming familiar sights in a new green and ivory colour scheme during the 1930s under new management.

Two Standards pass at North Pier in their immaculate late 1920s condition. J. Woodman Archive :

Fortunately several of the 1920s Standard class (40/48/49/144/143/147/159) lasted into the preservation era. Thus we have the benefit of seven examples extant including restored 143. Standard 143 represents the original open ended design and is thus unique.

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