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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Single Deck Trams - Pantograph Clone

John Woodman

While English Electric managed to design an impressive successor to the late Victorian era trams which inaugurated the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad service from 1898, The 1928 delivery of ten new trams for the Fleetwood to Blackpool Talbot Road Station service certainly created a 'buzz' for the long suffering travellers on that line. Unfortunately the Preston builder was unsuccessful in attracting further orders from other tramway operators for their new design, with one isolated exception.

Liverpool was in the throes of planning transport needs utilising the Mersey Tunnel with speculative ideas on running a tram service under the Mersey connecting the Wirral's lines in Birkenhead and Wallasey each with its own tramway network. Not surprisingly tunnel headroom restrictions favoured the use of single deck cars, although perversely the only tram tunnel operation in the UK, (in London) had increased the original headroom which required single deck trams, to more generous measurements allowing double deck cars to traverses the Kingsway Subway. In the event Liverpool City Transport was prevailed upon to test out single deck operation with a for purpose prototype, of which the 1928 design for Blackpool's coastal line, fitted the bill.

A single example was ordered replicating the Blackpool 167-176 class, albeit with shorter platforms and entrance at each end. The obtrusive pantograph gantry used in Blackpool, was omitted and replaced with a diminutive and somewhat graceless trolleybase on the car's roof, whilst provision was made to allow the tram to operate in multiple unit service - such was the intention to deal with peak time travel on a large scale between the Wirral and Liverpool.

Almost a Blackpool 'Pantograph Car' in Liverpool - but not quite. Experimental single deck 757.

Photo : John Woodman Archive

The new car numbered 757 duly appeared resplendent in Liverpool's red and pale cream lined out colours and saw testing on several routes gaining few plaudits from local passengers. With the tram under the Mersey concept being shelved, the solitary single deck car was an unloved 'cindarella' and quietly disposed of within a few years, not even gaining a second life in some works car capacity. In fact the operator did have experience of single deck trams in its early years with a small fleet of imported examples from the Hamburg Falkenreid company (both two axle and four axle), and several from the prolific Brill company of Philadelphia. In the event however it was the typical two axle UK double deck open top design which won the day, most of which gained top covers of a special 'Bellamy Roof' profile which came without extended end canopies.


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