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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Coronation 2023 - more food for thought

John Woodman


The date for the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla is now fixed in next year's calendar with preparations and planning for this memorable occasion being worked on by an array of agencies and government departments. The first Coronation in over seventy years deserves marking with special display as part of the 2023 Illuminations. We read elsewhere that urgent attention is being given to restoring the Vambac equipped Coronation car 304 for return to service as recognition of this once important design launched in the coronation year of the Late Queen Elizabeth II.


At the same time Blackpool has just been awarded sizeable grants towards the Illuminations from national funding programmes announced this month. That the Council funded autumn visitor event needs renewal on a vast scale is self evident given the tired and repetitive format no longer with allure of former years. The Monarch's Coronation has received recognition by the Illuminations and transport department's tramway workshops through decades of the last century.


Electric powered tramways quickly became a natural platform for special illuminated tram displays from the inception of electric power replacing steam and horse power operation in the late 1800s. Blackpool was understandably at the forefront of harnessing this magical technology (as it must have seemed to former generations). The Coronation of Charles III harnessed to new funding made available to Blackpool Council brings togetjer an admirable combination which makes continuance of this long tradition of illuminated trams a desirable achievement.


Given the stressed limits of staffing in the tram workshop a far simpler option is necessary to the once extravagant building of new 'floats' culminating in the marvellous 'Western Train' in the early 1960s. Placing LED lighting on the side of a redundant, but operational, 'Balloon' or 'Millenium' car capable of passenger tours would incur far less capital costs or workshop effort - while at the same time creating an eye-catching moving display along the entire tramway from Starr Gate to Fleetwood. In the writer's opinion an available double deck car would provide for enlarged renditions of the newly approved royal ciphers of the Monarch and Queen Consort being displayed on either side of the tram. Possibly a royal crown motif could be affixed to the front at either end -the crowns of the Queen Consort and Monarch are each different.


A sponsor could be sought to underwrite the material and design costs should this prove necessary with the tram being repainted in a simple gold and purple design. Postcard publishers would be delighted, with the town gaining considerable publicity of its unique recognition of the Coronation.

By all means return Coronation car 304 to service - possibly with rooftop display 1953 - 2013 in its gantry roundel - this was an annual illuminations feature on Blackpool trams until the mid 1950s.


1953 Coronation recorded on this Corporation bus and its Union Jack overlay on the BCT crest.


It is also worth recalling that Blackpool Corporation Transport Department added the Union Jack design to its Department roundel on the sides of buses in 1953; and at the same time redesigned the side panels of the 'Progress' illuminated car to record the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. No doubt the 2023 summer timetable will gain a commemorative design, given the new found energies of Blackpool Transport's graphics team. This would be continuance from the 1953 transport guide. I am certain there is marvellous creative talent on hand to make Blackpool's transport output truly memorable next year.

How Portsmouth added external lighting design on one of their then new trolleybus fleet for the 1937 Coronation. Having overhead power sourcing made this a natural addition.

Lessons to be learned?

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