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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Fylde Transport Trust

John Woodman

Under its former title the Fylde Transport Trust (FTT) was the first group in Blackpool taking active steps in preserving examples of classic cars in the Corporation fleet. Regrettably these moves came after the closure of the street tram routes and consequent downsizing of the system. It was fortunate that the 75th Anniversary of the tramway in 1960 prompted a hurried crash programme of restoration at Rigby Road Workshops. This saved for posterity two former Tramroad Company cars - Rack 2 and Box Car 40, plus the last surviving example of the unique dual staircase Dreadnought cars; and equally importantly the remaining tram from the original 1885 conduit fleet. The latter had been 'squirrelled away' at the rear of Bispham Tram Depot after its works car duties were taken over by a surplus Marton Box car number 31 in the 1920s.

At the time the town's Council decided there was little merit in retaining these artifacts and offered them to the Tramway Museum Society which commendably accepted them. This was during a time when other demands from tramway closeures in Glasgow, Leeds and the Grimsby and Immingham line were taking funding and storage space at the nascent tramway museum being established next to a quarry at Crich. Blackpool's remaining traditional 'Standard' trams from the 1920s also found little sympathy from the Transport Department or Council - and all were disposed of, with one being converted to works duties (replacing the 1920s example).

Fortunately during the 1970s a groundswell of recognition of the historic role of Blackpool's embrace of electric power during the previous century finally gained ground. The Lancastrian Transport Trust was created to conserve worthwhile remaining examples of both buses and trams representative of previous era. In the absence of local political endorsement the LTT laboured alone on behalf of conservation, spurning the devotion elsewhere to enthusiast tours along the remaining seafront tramway. It was through the initiatives of the LTT that the last remaining Coronation car with original VAMBAC technology became the subject of a television restoration programme which funded the costs of returning number 304 to operation. Engineering Car 3, formerly Standard 143, became the object of what would become a lengthy restoration to its 1920s condition, culminating on launch of the tram in 2021 (but meeting technical problems).

Deja vu at Rigby Road. The author stands by the return of a ghost in the form of English Rail Coach 279 - marvellously returned to a close rendition of its original styling of 1935 - thank you FTT.

The LTT stepped into save a remaining OMO car on withdrawal of that 'home built' series from service, as the new Centenary class began to take up duties. A further 'lost' class was the once multitudinous English Electric rail coaches (45 strong at one time). The LTT or as it became the FTT saw that one example was acquired on withdrawal with intention to return it to its 1933 style. Number 279 is now about to gain its early green and cream Corporation colours and return to special heritage service during 2023 - a remarkable achievement. And of course there are the two 1960s remarkable illuminated creations of Rigby Road's craftsmen. The amazing 'Tramnik One' and bulk of the 'Hovertram' represent past era and remain stored awaiting finally when funding can be secured to return them to the promenade when nighttime appearances will again wow the crowds.

Another classic Corporation bus built in Blackpool by HV Burlingham, Number 300 of 1951 awaits its time in the sun after extended labours by John Hinchcliffe in Yorkshire. It is one of two examples of this once 100 strong class of buses ordered in the postwar renewal programme of Walter Luff. The other, number 246, is in the hands of the Fylde Transport Trust, similarly awaiting restoration in Blackpool.

Hard to believe this tram looked like number 279 when it was built in Preston in 1934. Totally remodelled in Rigby Road Works by Corporation craftsmen OMO Car Number 8 was saved for preservation by Philip Higgs and supporters of the Lancastrian Transport Trust. Now stored inside Rigby Road Depot it is a further classic tram deserving of display in Blackpool. Photos : John Woodman Archive

And this is just about the FTT's work with trams ! The buses are a whole other story. At some point in future years a public and private sector partnership will recognise the importance of the work of just a few individuals giving time, knowledge and funds. Blackpool and the Fylde coast deserves a standalone transport heritage centre freed from parsimonious authority purse strings and the ever willing contributions from enthusiasts. Ribble Motors, Scout Motors, HV Burlingham, Lytham St Annes Corporation Transport Department, Standerwicks, Seagull Coaches, Jaguar SS Motors (of Cocker Square), TVR Motors of Hoo Hill (and Bristol Avenue, Bispham); and of course the superlative work of Blackpool's own municipal transport operation in three centuries, plus innumerable local family coach operators - await deserved recognition.


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