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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Blackpool Trams & The French Connection

John Woodman

In actual fact there is very little in the way of tangible links between Blackpool's trams and France - as that country celebrates Bastille Day today. Possibly the most well known, at least among the transport fraternity and heritage gurus, is the loan of a Blackpool St Annes and Lytham Tramways Company gas tram for display in Paris in the early years of the last century. At the time - gas powered propulsion was one of many emergent systems offering alternatives to horse and steam power. Originating in Dessau, Germany gas propulsion became, for a brief time, an alternative to the more expensive costs of electrical conduit installation. Only Lytham St Annes residents travelling along the south Fylde coast line were 'beneficiaries' of this technology, fortunately of short lived duration foreshortened when a strong westerly gale blew down the tram depot to bring about an abrupt halt to services. Some cars gained a second life in the south Wales town of Neath where one example was preserved and later restored for static display,

An even more brief experiment ensued much later, this time in Blackpool involving a dual mode trolleybus from Nancy. This was imported by its builders to actually operate in the resort under wires specially installed along Blundell Street - and using its batteries to travel further along the promenade to an industry conference being held at the Pembroke Hotel (later the Blackpool Hilton). The Transport Department erected dual wiring along Blundell Street to demonstrate (for the first and last time) trolleybus overhead operation; with formal photographs being taken of the Nancy import posed alongside the latest Blackpool tram - Jubilee Car 762.

A less well known French connection in the years following the end of the Great War involved an official visit to Blackpool by a women's football team from France. Their visit was a result of a match played against the famous Dick Kerr Ladies Team in Preston and naturally included a 'trip to the seaside'. As guests of the Corporation the visitors were 'treated' to a tram ride on the top deck of one of Blackpool's open cars and photographed at North Pier enjoying their brief excursion.

Apart from the Nancy trolleybus - no French urban transport vehicles have operated in Blackpool while that country has so far enjoyed no encounters with Blackpool trams. However a BCT Burlingham double deck bus (298) did travel through France on the initial part of its ambitious journey to Pakistan as a result of two students collaboration. Taking an overland route through Europe it encountered urban buses and some trams in diverse and exotic locales in an era when terrorist threats and civil unrest were relatively rare. What is even more amazing is the fact that having transited western Europe and the near East, including driving through the Khyber Pass, 298 returned to the UK (via France) in one piece ; it sadly ended up being scrapped in London.

Below : BCT PD2 298 at Puy Dome - no the bus did not scale the incline in the background but was on its way to the Near East and India !


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