I Don't Believe It
Having agreed the disposal of the FHLT tram which was the very last service car to run from North Station (Blackpool North in today's parlance) to Fleetwood way back in 1963 - and looking forward to its departure for pastures new in East Anglia, I was confronted today by the sight of test trams carefully arriving and departing from the tram terminus installed in Talbot Gateway development to serve travellers arriving and departing from Blackpool North Station - from 2023. Some sixty years have passed from the departure of Brush Car 290 (Built in 1937) from the tram terminus on Dickson Road opposite the Odeon Cinema (as it was then) - to the present day when Blackpool's light rail vehicles venture forth on Talbot Road towards Dickson Road terminus on trial runs in daylight for the first time.
The sight of Bombardier's Flexity trams rumbling along Talbot Road and taking the slight curve on to the development site which formerly was Wilko's store - is a rare moment in time worth recording. A covey of yellow hazard vests were on hand to monitor the cars traversing the busy and somewhat complicated road junction at Dickson Road where it meets Talbot Road with verbal assurances that the potential for 'road traffic accident' was certainly high.
Of course trams traversed Talbot Road from 1901 to 1936 when the service from Talbot Square to Layton Cemetery (Gates) saw Blackpool 'Standard' cars and their predecessors run what in effect was a short shuttle service between the two termini. The tramway stimulated a surge of development along Talbot Road, with a brewery, isolation hospital, steam laundry, gravestone business and army drill hall and public houses, among the ribbon of investment. Layton itself then grew rapidly with terraced housing erected close to the tram terminus - serving working class residents. For a penny a ride, journeys into town and then home again became an affordable proposition and one which was unlikely to become attractive to visitors. Plans were made in the aftermath of the Great War for the Layton tramway to be extended northwards from Layton Cemetery along what became Westcliffe Drive up an incline to the road junction which saw northbound traffic to Bispham and the level crossing at Bispham Station; and eastward towards Carleton and Poulton. Directly opposite the Windmill public house (now the site of Tesco Express) the tram service would have terminated on the crest of the hill. However this was not to be; with a Town Council becoming skittish and averse to yet more street tramways in the town - favouring instead the flexibility of motor buses which had begun service in 1921.
Below : Talbot Road's tramway left with a Standard tram on the Layton service in the 1930s.
Today's Bombardier cars traverse exactly the same route, although Yates Wine Lodge has given way to a smart new hotel on the same site. Photos : John Woodman
Below : hazard vests galore await arrrival of the next test tram on to the Station terminus
And here it comes from Talbot Road crossing over Dickson Road into the new terminus site :
Looking up towards the road junction at Dickson Road
And a scene we will be getting used to next year looking towards Talbot Square - note the double yellow lines on the left hand side of Talbot Road. Not even unloading vehicles here once the tram service begins. Photos by John Woodman today. Apologies for lack of clarity.