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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Great Days On Marton's Trams

John Woodman

It's now just over sixty years from when the final tram journey between Talbot Square and Royal Oak terminus gave way to replacing bus service 26, Remarkably I was there to witness the last tram from Royal Oak to the depot on Whitegate Drive - actually riding the all too brief journey along with fellow enthusiast Colin MacLeod and many other stalwart supporters keen to bear witness to the passing of a popular tram route, unique in many ways.

The final decade of the service was the best in many ways given the transition from venerable double deck 'Standard' cars all based inside the Whitegate Drive Depot to the smooth fast accelerating single deck 'Marton Vambac' cars numbered 10 to 21. Their airy plush interiors and quiet running almost racing from stop to stop with conductors on board deftly opening and closing the folding centre doors in the flash of an eye, ensured fast getaway from stops. Always immaculately turned out in the corporation cream and green styling adopted during the 1930s, the trams were the pride of Marton Depot augmented by a handful of English Electric railcoaches to assure a full turnout of cars for the 4 minute frequency daily service.

Below : arriving in the town centre gliding down Church Street immaculate Marton Vambac car. Photo John Woodman

Not that the Standard cars were completely swept away by their modern successors from the early 1950s. A dwindling cadre of the classic British double deck tram was forever held in the depot to provide needed summer season promenade and illuminations extras. Fortunately several survived the end of their Marton days to become icons in several museums beginning with export of number 144 to Seashore Trolley Museum in 1955. Two further Standards made it across the Atlantic, number 48 (the final tram operating to Royal Oak on the last day of Marton's service) and number 147. Standard 48 travelled all the way to the Pacific coast of the US where it is now on static display in an Oregon tram museum (Upper Left); while 147 actually returned to Blackpool after several decades in isolated storage at the now closed Gerald Brookins Museum near Cleveland. The Crich Museum naturally accepted two of Marton's Standards open balcony 40 and enclosed sister car 49; Below Standard 49 seen at the Crich Museum painted in its 1920s red and white colours - these all changed to green and cream (per 48 above) following on the arrival of new Manager Walter Luff in 1933. Both Photos : John Woodman Archive

whilst a third example (158) was sadly dismantled for parts at the Museum. Another UK museum snapped up number 159 and ensured it was returned to its final livery for year round service - later being joined by Marton Vambac car 11 which had a miraculous escape from scrapping with the rest of the class. Both these trams are cared for at the East Anglia Transport Museum near Lowestoft. The Museum has most recently acquired a third representative tram from the Fleetwood Heritage Trust Collection in the form of Brush Car 290 which in fact was the final service car to depart from the old Blackpool North Station for Fleetwood in 1963. Blackpool opted to rid itself of any survivors, leaving it to enthusiasts to perpetuate the memory of the Standard Cars. Through the good offices of later more enlightened management at Rigby Road two Marton examples would re-emerge decades later in the form of Standard 147 from Cleveland and 143 which survived at Rigby Road by virtue of its final role as an Engineering Car. Local transport heritage groups played a role in ensuring both cars would gain their place in the planned Tram Museum for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

Below : In full view of Town Hall staff and Council Members, Vambac Car 208 heads carefully out on to Clifton Street from its Talbot Square terminus. The next Marton bound car waits on the left hand track. Photo : John Woodman

Below : A far cry from today's blighted scene. Abingdon Street in 1960 when trams ruled the road with an outbound railcoach awaiting the start signal from the Conductor from the tram stop just outside 'Yorkshire Penny Bank' while on the left an inbound Marton Vambac car is about to make the sharp left hand turn into Clifton Street. Classic autos compete with determined shoppers thronging this important town centre street. Those were the days. Photo : John Woodman

Sadly much more has been lost over the years including experimental english electric Vambac railcoach 208 which also found a new role on the Marton service up to 1962. Standards 41 and 160 were condemned as well, even in those final years, though they would have made wonderful static exhibits. Marton Depot itself was to suffer the usual fate of Blackpool Corporation's tram depots, however the rear part of the depot structure has been retained to provide premises for a local business. A saving grace is the thought that Blackpool's Town Councillors and officers will again be looking out from their civic space on to the frequent passage of trams through Talbot Square by the end of 2023 - in much the same way as their predecessors in the previous century.


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