FHLT - No More
After a decade of sustained effort ably supported by professionals in planning and design, the aims of realising a viable heritage visitor attraction in Fleetwood at Wyre Dock are still unfulfilled. With the added concerns posed by a global pandemic ever present - and outline proposals by Wyre Dock's landowner, ABP, to redevelop their waterfront site and former dockside land - the FHLT have decided to call it a day on continued labours as far as a heritage transport display in Fleetwood is concerned.
The Trust's cumulative collection of trams, stored at Wyre Dock courtesy of ABP, are to be disposed of this year, along with the single car (290) kept at Rigby Road Depot with permission of BTS. Before demolition of Copse Road Tram Depot the Trust also acquired the Sub Station control panels which handled power distribution along the tramroad from Thornton Gate to the Ferry terminus (and back). These were installed by Blackpool's Electricity Department during the 1920s after purchase of the Tramroad Company's assets at the beginning of that decade. The panels have been stored seperately through the good offices of Builders Supplies (West Coast) Ltd.
Copse Road Depot Sub Station - Control Panels in situ prior to removal by the FHLT
The Trust has disposed of several trams already in its collection. Notable amongst these is Jubilee Car 761 which returned to Rigby Road through an agreement between the FTT (LTT) - which allows it to become part of an eventual display for wider public viewing and importantly as tribute to the skills and crafts of Rigby Road Works. A Centenary Car was acquired by a private group for the benefit of a special school in the Midlands where it is used for classroom use. Balloon Car 726, together with a Brush car, were also transferred to the ownership of a local enthusiast who has very recently made arrangements for both cars to become part of the FTT and Blackpool Transport's heritage collection. Centenary Car 643 which was to have also featured in the Fleetwood heritage display was sadly vandalised whilst stored at the Squires Gate property of its sponsor - and subsequently scrapped.
Sad Night with 761 posing with its final crew at Bispham before the last passenger journey to Rigby Road. Photo : John Woodman November 6, 2011
Still remaining at Fleetwood are several trams in need of new (caring) homes. Fortunately the Trust has received expressions of serious interest for Motor Unit 678, Balloon Car 710, and 290. The Trustees are engaged in an effort to enable two or three cars to remain in Fleetwood as permanent memorials to the town's role in pioneering an electric interurban tram service in 1898. This may also incorporate the display of electric substation panels from Copse Road Depot to portray power sourcing of an earlier age. A sponsor is being sought to cover re-installation of the sub station assets from the 1920s potentially as part of an educational display of electric power a century previously.
Twin Set 673 and 683 in their Metro Coastline colours remain to be assigned to new ownership and display - as does trailer unit 687 seperately acquired by the Trust from storage at Knowsley where it was to become part of the aborted scheme for the Wirral Waters development, along with other Blackpool trams. Fortunately a private enthusiast stepped in to acquire the Knowsley trams and returned them to the Fylde coast, thus safeguarding them from the scrapyard which was a very real possibility at the time. Another Fylde coast enthusiast placed an early claim on the twin-car set 673 and 684 with intention for their display in Fleetwood - his individual efforts were taken up by the FHLT before his demise a few years ago. The future of this set remains open as things stand with the Trust remaining hopeful of a positive outcome ideally in Fleetwood.
Centenary 641 also at Wyre Dock awaits similar solution, potentially alongside the sub station control panel display. One further privately owned tram Brush car 637 also is 'hanging on' at Wyre Dock needing a caring sponsor to place it in public view. This tram still uniquely carries the handpainted all over advertising for Blackpool Zoo - itself an historic asset from a time before vinyl application completely took over from paper and hand applied signage,
All in all a rare 'off piste' collection of tramcar treasures in need of caring new sponsors and deserved recognition by future generations. The ravages of coastal weather over several years have understandably taken a toll on the trams, but they are still a long way from the structural remains of less fortunate survivors unearthed in woods and fields from time to time.