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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Maroon, Red, Green, Cream, Purple

John Woodman

Blackpool's tram fleet today seems downright dowdy when compared to other UK operators, small in number though they may be. What seemed an inspirational livery when it first appeared in 2011 on the light rail fleet, has morphed into a discoloured worn appearance disfigured by multiplicity of warning notices liberally applied to windows and doorways, plus roof level advertising of less than appealing designs. Possibly the only two Bombardier cars with anything remotely close to a user friendly branding are of course the examples promoting a pink themed product.

The less said about the same Council colours applied on several of the classic Balloon double deck cars - the better. Just how a full on dark purple paint job got past Council chiefs is beyond me. Of course these corporate branding exercises emanated not from Rigby Road but Blackpool Council 'oligarchs' seemingly content to sign off on what passes for 'style' . Having endured over a decade of endless usage up and down the eleven mile coastal tramway - the Bombardier trams now look worn, tired and generally depressing.

Croydon, Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, West Midlands have all managed to update and uplift their tram liveries during the same period - with the West Midlands system achieving two different branding changes. Blackpool's transport operation was once held in high esteem, both for the design and quality of its trams and buses. Blackpool trams (and buses) were painted in a maroon and an off-white livery in the 1920s - with double deck trams also gaining distinctive teak coloured lower deck panels below : (Standard 49 seen at Crich Museum in the red and white 1920s style)

All this was to change abruptly in 1933 with the new manager determined to introduce a totally new look with green and cream schemes on both trams and buses. He was aided by the arrival of shoals of brand new vehicles from English Electric Company works in Preston, and Blackpool coach builder HV Burlingham on Preston New Road. After initial deliveries to conservative prevailing designs in bus bodywork, by 1935 open single deck buses with centre entrance canopies brought something of an exotic flavour to seasonal services to Stanley Park. They were accompanied on the Promenade by similarly styled open 'boat cars' - several of which thankfully remain from that era.

The bus fleet was further transformed with seventy five centre entrance streamline double deck buses - whose styling was successively upgraded in 1940 and again in 1949 with further deliveries. Both the tram fleet and buses were kept in immaculate condition (even allowing for wartime constraints on use of varnish). The green and pale cream colours remained a constant during the next General Manager's longevity in office, from 1954 into the 1970s - although economies saw a reduction in the use of green paint and eventual all cream bus fleet. The latter being particularly prone to discolouring. Introduction of One Man Operated trams in 1972 came with a flourish from the Paint Shop and smart bright yellow and 'plum' livery - denoting the driver only operation from the more numerous crew operated trams (in summer season). By contrast the bus fleet was augmented by introduction of a small number of former London Routemasters which were given a very smart red and white branding complete with yellow lining out on lower panels. Below : Blackpool Standard car 40 also in its 1920s fleet livery (for the 1985 Tramway Centenary) at Crich museum pursuing a 1930s Blackpool 'boat car' in the green and cream livery introduced by Walter Luff.

Both Images : John Woodman Archive

A further new Manager took immediate dislike to the dominant all cream bus fleet which was quickly transformed by introduction of green features, abetted by delivery of front entrance Atlantean buses and phasing out of the open rear platform bus fleet. The era of this type had finally arrived in Blackpool almost three decades after one man front entrance double deck buses became the accepted norm for British urban operators. The trams continued on in their undisturbed duties along the coastal route gaining a final infusion of new front entrance models (built in Lancashire) from 1984. These too arrived in a smart green and pale cream livery ensuring the tramway would continue on into another century. To be continued.


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