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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Mr and Mrs Redmond Visit The Seaside

John Woodman

Blackpool was treated to an overnight visit by Derek and Sarah Redmond yesterday en route north to visit relatives in Cumbria. As many readers know. and others suspect, Derek is a 'grey eminence; in the affairs of the Tramway Museum Society at Crich. I made his acquaintance naturally in Blackpool in the late 1950s when we met while jointly photographing trams - no surprise there. Our shared interest subsequently saw us chasing the surviving tram routes in Leeds, Sheffield and Glasgow. These were far different times to the structured Health and Safety conscious constraints of today, Exploration of the furthest interiors of darkened tram depots, whilst not encouraged, was at least tolerated by indulgent depot staff, allowing precious 'snaps' of withdrawn cars and old relics awaiting their demise. I think our favourite was Partick Depot with its Kilmarnock bogie cars and venerable Standards amid shoals of Coronations. These included the rare Glasgow single deck car 1089, and the much abused Kilmarnock bogie car 1100 - both being 'saved' following closure.

Sheffield 'Dome Roof' car 251 awaiting its end inside Thomas Ward's yard across from Tinsley Depot. The inset tram track provides evidence of the infrastructure used by the company in its contract with Sheffield City Council to dispose of the remaining trams by 1960. Photo : John Woodman

Probably the most impressive of these visitations were the opportunities to 'invade' Coplawhill Workshops and mingle alongside usually flat capped workmen toiling away at lines of damaged and withdrawn trams awaiting repair or scrapping. By the early Sixties Coplawhill's main duties lay in dismantling 'caurs' of all shapes and sizes as the tram system reduced in size to a handful of services (9, 15, 18, 23, 26 and 29) - but still impressive by Blackpool's modest operation.

A typically awful day marking the last service runs of Leeds trams in November 1959. Three 'Feltham' line up at the city terminus of two remaining services. Photo : John Woodman

Another ingrained memory is of climbing through withdrawn trams inside Tinsley Depot which seemed to lack any form of interior lighting. Sheffield's method of scrapping its tram fleet was to shunt individual cars out of the depot and across the road to the large metal dismantling yards of Thomas Ward. Here the remains of previous victims lay piled up for the smelter - a sad sight for future preservationists in need of trucks and controllers for long held restoration schemes. Derek and myself made several brief visits to Sheffield's still well maintained tram services - with cars seemingly always in smart external condition, The final night with its considerable closing procession was marked (perhaps inevitably) by pouring rain, not dissimilar to the Glasgow event two years later. Leeds also provided reason for a final journey to pay respects to that once great system. This was a dull dank day throughout with hanging mist during the late afternoon and mournful sounds of final journeys being taken to Temple Newsam filled with sombre enthusiasts of this passing mode of urban travel (at least in Britain),

Below : Inside Roberts Car 518 on the closing procession of Sheffield's tram system in 1960. An excited group of enthusiasts taking over the front top deck seats would seem to be removing items of the tram's interior fittings ! Photo : John Woodman

Derek and Sarah were treated to a meal at the new hotel facing on to gleaming tram rail on Talbot Road but sadly still bereft of trams (and overhead wiring), We then moved over to the King Edward public house to sample the bar interior and local Kareoke entertainment of questionable talent. The King Edward is destined to be remodelled as part of the proposed 'Heritage Quarter' being showhorned into the corner of Central Drive and Chapel Street. The building retains vestiges of its original interior design, albeit destined for gentrified retro development. Despite the best efforts of the kareoke performers we did manage intelligible conversations before heading inevitably to Hopton Road to view the newly gated entryway sealing off the tram depot - and viewing the new signage affixed to the fencing (See earler Blog). A reminder of the Lytham Road tram service (closed almost sixty years ago) was recalled by a respectful drive north from Squires Gate to the town centre. Thus Mr and Mrs Redmond completed their obligatory stopover by the seaside and fitting remembrance of days long ago. A quick look back below : Standard 48 preparing to run down Red Bank Road for a depot visit on a Terry Tour. Note the author's bike parked against the street fencing.

Photo : John Woodman Archive


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