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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Carping Critics

John Woodman

The inevitability of online media being used as platforms for vitriolic messaging by a small minority who tend to hide behind self imposed anonymity and sad labels is the reason 'Tramtalk' does not provide such options. We had an early experience with characters when the site was put online and decided to remove the 'comments' avenue entirely. It now seems another online website otherwise providing timely and constructive news and information on UK tram matters has felt it necessary to rein in publishing comments submitted without clear identification of the sender.

For some reason 'Blackpool' tropics tend to attract critical attention. Despite all the efforts of well meaning volunteers and staff at Rigby Road's tramway heritage operation, small in number it must be said, elicits a chain of uninformed criticism from the usual 'suspects'. As someone recently pointed out the heritage side of Blackpool Transport has the endorsement of Blackpool Council which owns the tramway on behalf of the taxpayers and residents of this Unitary Authority. I am one such resident and taxpayer and find it particularly annoying to see the town's well meaning intentions regarding its tramway history being trashed by obsessive compulsive saddos.

The emphasis on running old trams on some sort of shadow service has in fact created a self imposed stick through which carping criticism emerges over non appearance of this or that tram on 'heritage service'. In fact the greater the effort to present and provide classic trams on the seafront the more carping seems to emerge from those professing interest in Blackpool's tramway story. In fact Blackpool's tram service continues as an essential part of a Fylde coast network operated by BTS in what are now particularly trying conditions overall. The added layer of old trams appearing in seasonal months has been entirely aimed at adding to the resort's unique visitor experience - and not for the sole gratification of an infinitely small cadre fascinated by light rail operation.

The twentieth century is now enshrined in memorable chapters of Blackpool's popularity inextricably linked to unique retention of trams from the 1960s; a period when every other UK urban centre had given way to diesel powered buses. Similar efforts were indeed voiced in Blackpool's council chamber but thankfully resisted by the majority and transport management. Times have moved on into an era of electric tramway/light rail respectability taken up by a handful of UK cities. Blackpool can rightfully point the finger in a 'we told you so' geature. The take up of electric power is now such that even diesel and hybrid power bus operation is succumbing to all electric transmission, while at the same time the historic Rigby Road site is to finally achieve its rightful place in the panoply of urban heritage through creation of a permanent year round tramway museum - 'Tram Town'. A pitiful number of stalwarts are working to maintain the still numerous and exotic fleet of survivors and have their labours increased to keep even a handful of vintage trams 'on the road' without having to endure social media negativity.

The fact is that the sustained efforts to retain as many of the former working fleet as possible has outrun by miles the abilities of an ever declining number of staff to take on the task of safe maintenance and repair, not to mention heavy overhaul or physical restoration. And no amount of petty criticism by obsessive compulsive 'enthusiasts' helps matters one whit. All the more reason for this website to have eliminated the easy ability of the worst of these characters to 'vent their spleen' online. As far as I am aware the bus enthusiast lobby (a much more numerous and responsible following) are mostly free of such social media issues.

Wyre Dock last week - positive signs of potential renewal for all these trams. Amid the greenery !

Rigby Road Depot three working 'Balloon Cars' where else could this be possible in 2022?

Rigby Road Works -- the enormity of reconfiguering a Balloon car with bodywork overhaul is clearly in view with this snap of 70,, last week. All photos : John Woodman


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