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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Farewell Marton Trams - 1962

John Woodman

Its hard to believe that sixty years have passed since the last Marton tram trundled into the depot on Whitegate Drive. Blackpool's only all street running tram service with its summer service extension from Royal Oak to South Pier provided a high frequency smooth journey to and from the town centre in Talbot Square. Actually every four minutes in both direction for most of the day during summer months, with every third car traversing the three way junction at Royal Oak to join Squires Gate cars on Lytham Road and then diverge onto Station Road for a fast run to the Promenade terminus opposite South Pier (and Pablos icecream shop), The demise of Lytham Road Squires Gate service in 1961 had meant the end of the South Pier extension from Royal Oak for Marton's trams during their final year of operation, thus removing the fascinating passage of cars at Royal Oak junction with its Points Boy manually pulling the overhead frog and switching the northbound points blade for those cars turning sharply onto Waterloo Road from Lytham Road.

Exclusively served by crews at Marton Depot with its self-contained resources, the trams had their share of characters (both passengers and staff). A friendly atmosphere saw drivers waiting for their usual passengers in bad weather while the morning school specials demanded strength of character from conductors having to handle double deckers loaded with energetic youngsters. Shopping habits were very different from today's out of town retail parks, Refrigerators were new so fresh additions to kitchens saw food shopping being almost a daily task for 'housewives'.

This involved frequent travel into the town centre where Abingdon Street Market and diverse independent stores catered for all tastes, making the Abingdon Street tram stop one of the busiest on the service at certain times during the day. Above : shadows almost hide the end profile of a Marton tram as it passes the famous 'Saddle Inn' just to the left. Photo : Colin MacLeod

The route boasted its swiftly accelerating VAMBAC equipped cars supplemented by a cadre of English Electric rail coaches, not always at their best with flat wheels hammering the rails as they raced between stops (and rail joints). Always turned out with cleaned paintwork and shining windows, the trams had their adherents along the route. So when news came of the Council decision to replace the service with buses in 1962 local sentiment was very much against the move.

The ever frequent sight of Blackpool's immaculate cream and green trams was ingrained and their passing drew out crowds showing their farewells to a passing era. Of course tram enthusiasts were on hand to record the demise of this last street tram service in England with numerous special tours and events. The writer with his colleague, Colin MacLeod, invested in a wreath to add to the very last tram to Royal Oak which turned out to be Standard Car 48 taking up the final duty from the regular car at Marton Depot. The Transport Department fielded open balcony 40 and one of the illuminated Standards to ferry Councillors from the Town Hall in Talbot Square by way of civic recognition. Fortunately without rain these last journeys came and went all too quickly with Marton Depot doors closing for the final time. The depot staff held their own Wake inside which we were both invited to, having become familiar visitors over the past few years. I came away with the Marton Depot Single Line Staff by way of souvenir from the nighttime festivities, it remains in my office as reminder of the passage of this most distinctive of Blackpool's tram services - still fondly remembered.

A Marton Vambac car glides along Station Road from its terminus at South Pier. John Woodman


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