Pole Painting - A Vanished Art on Blackpool's Tramway (and more)
There was a time, now long past, when the town's overhead tramway poles were religiously repainted with a fresh coating of corporation green or cream paint -during the winter and pre-season months. Usually in time to present a smartened appearance before the onset of the holiday season. This task was undertaken by the Transport Department which provided a double deck superannuated tramcar to deal with the reserved track section along the seafront. The paved promenade and street tramway sections were dealt with using long ladders and corporation lorries. Latterly former Engineering Car 4 was assigned to pole painting duties extending its long life to the point when its pedigree became lead to the tram's deserved preservation as ex Marton Box Car 31 and now a star attraction at the Beamish Museum.
The fragmentation of tasks and responsibilities between Blackpool Council and Blackpool Transport Services Ltd. post 1970s saw the transport infrastructure becoming the responsibility of the Council and the rolling stock and operation of services being delegated to the new arms-length company (BTS). Thus the provision and maintenance of shelters devolved on to a Council department along with overall responsibility for tram track (permanent way) and overhead power supply. A further consequence of the tramway upgrade to light rail standards meant more challenges for the Council with new tram track and overhead power supply, signalling and enhanced safety requirements
Somewhere in the fine print of these mandated improvements the responsibility for keeping the tramway overhead poles in a presentable state was either overlooked or lost. The Council understandably sought to minimise its capital obligations insofar as the tram shelter provision was concerned - and opted for the lowest cost option which came without real time information for travellers, the barest of seating provision, whilst lacking need for painting the shelter structures.
Overhead pole upkeep would seem to be sporadic at best, with the consequence that many of the overhead poles erected north of Cabin have been left to endure the elements since their erection a decade ago. It is possible that Lancashire County Council bear some responsibility towards the 'tramroad' from Cleveleys to Fleetwood, but this does not obviate the neglectful stance by Blackpool's technical team for the now appalling state of overhead infrastructure along the cliffside line, and nor the broken tram shelters within Fleetwood. One might have thought that advertisers revenue from shelter displays would go (at least in part) towards the upkeep of the tramway infrastructure. In contrast to these woes - the bus side of BTS operations has benefitted from a burst of bus stop pole painting which adopted orange (or is it tangerine) branding = - at least in the northern suburbs of the town and neighboring districts. Even more recently a bout of bus shelter renewal has seen replacement of old structures with smart chrome and glass designs complete with illuminated advertising sections on one end. (A previous blog highlights a new example speedily erected in Layton). Whereas Blackpool's transport services came with well maintained standard design shelters in smart green and cream colours, the town's current streetscape has a bewildering profusion of old (and older) shelters showing both age and vulnerability insofar as missing panels are concerned. Some examples of these diverse styles and condition will follow in due course.