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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Lost Tram Depots on the Fylde's Coast - 2

A further grievous loss was the tram depot built by Blackpool Corporation as part of its development of the tramway around the town's eastern district to Marton - and thence by almost circular route back into the commercial and leisure centre at Hounds Hill ending at Central Station. This was completed in 1901. At the time Whitegate Drive was essentially a wagon track surrounded by open fields. This quickly changed following the Corporation's approval of the new line. Large single family residences with equally large gardens sprang up almost overnight, together with a new 'Victoria Hospital' and several educational venues alongside the new tramway. Land was available for a brand new tram depot sufficent to hold all of the cars needed for the service plus ample space for summer season extras and potential fleet expansion. Light and airy with tiled walls and office space - the building facade carried the town's corporation crest on a stylish frontage. Given the lack of road traffic the depot track fan was left outside on what was to become a busy roadway by the 1940s. The all street running Marton tram service was to be the very last route still operated by double deck 'Standard cars' - many built by the Tramways Department - and a sizeable number would be retained for summer season Promenade 'Extras' into the 1960s. They were always visible from the roadway lined up on the southern side of the depot until its closure with the Marton service in 1962. Thereafter the building interior was used for scrapping redundant trams (railcoaches and Marton Vambacs) before finally being sold for redevelopment as a petrol station. The rearmost part of the structure has been retained and seperately used by a building supply business - but with little or no evidence of its origins.

Squires Gate Lane lies on the boundary between Blackpool and the Lytham St Annes (now Fylde) local authority. In fact the middle of this roadway has one (south) half owned by Lytham St Annes Council (now Fylde) and the other (north) half in ownership of Blackpool's Unitary Authority (formerly Borough Council/Corporation). With a double line tram track traversing the road from its seafront junction with the Promenade at Starr Gate, thence crossing over the Preston to Blackpool Central railway line to the road junction with Lytham Road - this modest section of tramway was the cause of much bureacratic dispute between two tramway operators ; Lytham St Annes Corporation and its predecessor private operator - and Blackpool Tramways Department and successor entity until closure of Blackpool's Lytham Road to Squires Gate tram service in 1961. On the south side of this stretch of tramway was the site of the main (and only) tram depot of the Lytham St Annes system. Built by the original private electric tramway operator in traditional red brick style with gabled frontage facing on to Squires Gate Lane - the depot complex also housed the offices of the system - immaculately maintained with manicured lawn and floral features.

Lytham St Annes trams ran into Blackpool along several varying routes through the years of tram operation up until April 1937 when the former Council opted to convert its tram service to bus operation. This reflected in part preceding tram service conversions in Blackpool in 1936 with closure of lines running to Layton from Talbot Square, and along Central Drive from Central Station as far as Waterloo Road. The Squires Gate depot was then made over to house the Lytham St Annes bus fleet whilst keeping the depot forecourt tram tracks and pointwork in situ. A noteworthy feature of the section of track along Squires Gate Lane from the threeway junction at Starr Gate to the connecting track at Lytham Road were the different overhead wire fittings evident between the two operators. Long after the blue trams made way for new Leyland Titan buses in the 1930s - Blackpool's deregulated and privatised (but Council owned) transport company bid for and acquired the bus operations and assets of its southern neighbour which had similarly undergone deregulation to reemerge as ' Blue Buses' and 'Fylde Transport'. This included the depot site.

Under new ownership of Blackpool Transport Services Ltd - and a brief operating period under new management - the decision was taken to sell off the depot and land and concentrate all bus operations at Rigby Road. Inevitably the Squires Gate Depot succumbed to developers and following demolition was replaced by anonymous flats. Nothing remains to tell the tale of the once proud municipal transport undertaking then housed at this boundary location. Thus one singular original tram and bus facility has remained as a constant - Rigby Road still with its period art deco style headquarters offices and combined bus garage and tram depot from the 1920s and 30s.


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