top of page
  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

New Year's Resolution 2022

John Woodman

After several missteps during 2020 and 2021 - I must produce and publish my long promised title commemorating Blackpool's bus operations through the years from 1921. Work has started intermittently during the past several months with emphasis on the 1930s and 1940s. One problem has been sourcing previously unpublished images of Corporation buses in their first decade and the final years of Charles Furness as Manager. Offers of material will be gratefully acknowledged.

Most of us are heartily glad to see the back of 2021 - with reservations on what the new year is bringing beyond incessant headlines and news blips on the pandemic. It seems every television bulletin is preceded by noxious reporting on the latest statistics of coronavirus infections and deaths. If only we could bang the heads of producers and programmers together and steer them on to news and features that have nothing to do with the NHS or interminable talking heads in front of their computers and cameras waffling on about subjects outwith a normal/average person's understanding. Save of course those of us with an above average knowledge in medical science.

Turning to Blackpool's transport scene and indeed the wider dimensions of the town's future - there are demonstrable signs of physical change for the better. Notably of course ongoing work in proximity to North Station with construction of a class hospitality venue linked to the tramway extension terminus and its street running features along Talbot Road. Who would have thought we would see both tram track and overhead wires again traversing this commercial corridor leading from Talbot Square.

More impactive construction is certain to transform neighbouring streets in 2022 creating a ripple effect of further new development on and around Church Street where finishing touches are being made on the town's bespoke conference centre - a long awaited civic objective. Elsewhere the car parking black hole which occupies the footprint of Central Station, along with the Stalinist 'Lubyanka' courts complex and former police headquarters structure are both due to be swept away entirely, to be replaced with a transformative year round leisure project complete with new hotels. This will hopefully bring ripples of further new investment on the now blighted Central Drive corridor which is presently a rundown eyesore for arriving visitors to gaze on.

A further all weather visitor destination is finally at long last being injected with municipal stimuli at varioud levels - to realise a transport museum at Rigby Road (or is it Hopton Road?) Reorganisation of transport infrastructure some of which dates back almost a hundred years has been triggered by implementation of forward thinking strategy involving all electric buses in this decade. Electric powered vehicles are due to replace many, if not most, of the present fleet of buses - dispensing with diesel fuel if not entirely, then for the mainstay of bus services.

An immediate consequence forseeen by planners is the need to sweep away even more of the residual remains of Rigby Road's now historic infrastructure which emanates from the aftermath of the Great War. A complex of new workshops was assembled at the beginning of the 1920s to provide necessary resources for a greatly expanded tram fleet, as well as introduction of 'motor buses' needed for new services. The workshop buildings were diligently erected using surplus hangars then being hurriedly disposed of by the 'War Department' from 1919. Opportunity to 'upcycle' or 'recycle' yet again some of these buildings to house transport heritage collections and displays elsewhere in the Fylde should not be discounted. The Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trustees are probably just one of the charitable groups pursuing this worthwhile objective.

In any event 2022 will see these, together with other initiatives, potentially coalesce for the benefit of future generations living and working on the Fylde coast. A remarkable display of tramway history is certain to emerge within Rigby Road's tram depot given the profusion of trams and material retained here. However worthwhile lessons can be learned from examples of similar venues in towns and cities stretching from Prague to Johannesburg, Brussels to San Francisco and beyond. Blackpool has an enviable reputation in transport heritage circles around the world and finally looks like it will have chance to showcase its unique story stretching back to 1885. Three centuries of electric powered urban transport will beckon visitors and their families to Rigby Road.

An amazing survivor from 1885. Former Conduit car 4 from the initial electric tram service seen here traversing the Promenade in 1961. It is now fitted with overhead trolley mast and numbered 1 for the 1960 75th Anniversary of the tramway. Turning heads as it passes by.

Photo : John Woodman Archive

Featured Posts
bottom of page