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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Lessons From Oporto

John Woodman

Like Blackpool the Portuguese city of Oporto, managed to retain its traditional tramway well into the present century albeit having relegated a riverfront line exclusively to a heritage service. The city's longlasting 1920s (and earlier) tram fleet provided museums in the US and Europe as well as the UK, with examples of classic cars. Both the Beamish Museum and National Tramway Museum at Crich own and operate examples from this Portuguese city. Towards the demise of the first generation tramway the city's municipal leaders saw tourism value in creating a permanent memorial to the first generation tram system by utilising a riverfront line apart from the upgraded light rail network. This emerged by the present century - and continues to expand.

A power station sited alongside the riverfront together with a small depot became an iconic heritage attraction hosting examples of almost all of the earlier types of tram used by the STCP before light rail operation took over. The adjoining waterfront tramline provided a distinctive route for visitors connecting with the city centre district, having been further extended in recent years.

Fortuitously a friend of our daughter visited Oporto recently and took time to see the tramway museum with its excellent display installed inside the former power station which has been fitted internally with original ornate centre overhead poles. A sample image taken during this visit exemplifies what might have been possible in Fleetwood; given any meaningful support from the local authority. Fortunately Blackpool's Council has woken up to the historic importance of its tram depot and extensive collection of representative cars through the previous century. This holds out promise that at least the town will finally gain a permanent memorial to its electric tramway.

Just one part of the Oporto Tramway Museum in that city. Note the cobbled layout and ornate overhead poles, complete with traditional period lampstand (actually lit). Blackpool has a long way to go to match this superlative display. Oporto hosts an annual heritage tram weekend with many of the preserved trams operating in a well organised event attracting visitors from around the world. Image courtesy Jessica Meyer=Rassow and her friend.


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