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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Sixty Years Ago

John Woodman

Hard to believe but its now sixty years since Lytham Road's tram service saw its final operating season. For the dwindling band of survivors who can recall riding the worn out rails from Manchester Square all the way to the tram terminus at Squires Gate, there can be no better time than this summer to reminisce. The Squires Gate service, usually running either from Cabin or Bispham was given over to a mix of English Electric rail coaches or their Brush built cousins.

Unlike the Marton tram service, Lytham Road more or less was a straight line all the way to Squires Gate Lane; albeit with a small kink in the route at Bloomfield Road and the Skew Bridge just past Station Road. However the street running section from Manchester Square to the terminus offered some especial distinctions along its path. Bloomfield Road more familiarly known by football fans as the home of Blackpool FC for nearly a century - boasted a crossover for short workings on match days, although I never saw it used for that purpose. Further along Lytham Road trams clattered their way over the three way track junction at Royal Oak which itself was the terminus of the Marton service from Talbot Square. However summer season timetables warranted extension of that service for every third car which involved a left turn from Waterloo Road on to Lytham Road and thence to the next street junction at Station Road. Here a manually operated points lever and frog pull permitted the Marton tram to turn sharply on to Station Road for the short straight run towards the Promenade. Almost every season witnessed at least one forgetful conductor failing to return the points used to access Station Road to their regular directly straight forward position. Grooves in the road surface being testimony to such transgressions. The South Pier extension included a curving track connecting with the Promenade tramway but this was never used.

Below : Lytham Road approaching Waterloo Road and Royal Oak. Two Standards en route to the Promenade from Marton Depot (having reversed further back at the Station Road crossover just before the railway 'Skew Bridge' in the far background. Sandwiched in between is a Brush car on the Squires Gate to Bispham service. Image : John Woodman

Immediately after the Station Road junction a further crossover permitted short workings to that point directly before the incline over the angled railway bridge. Trains from Blackpool's Central Station would pass directly below on their way to and from south Fylde coast stations. Meanwhile trams regained the straight run southwards towards Squires Gate (and Airport). An important tram stop at Watson Road was announced by some (not all) conductors as being convenient for the Pleasure Beach, entailing a ten minute or so walk up to the rear of this ever important Blackpool visitor attraction. The character of the route changed immediately after the railway bridge to a tree lined residential avenue with increasingly distinctive homes the further south one progressed.

Passing Arnold School - a busy stop in term time, the service continued on uneventfully until it reached the important road junction with Highfield Road and its local shops and services. Here too another intervening crossover allowed shortworkings in the summer season, avoiding a queue of waiting trams at the Squires Gate terminus. Highfield Road was a 'popular' shortworking for crews with frequent turnbacks of double deck cars during the summer peak months. Both Balloon cars and Standards could be seen having their trolleys turned in traffic with care being taken to avoid vehicles in both directions.

Below : Cresting the top of 'Skew Bridge' this southbound Balloon car's driver has preempted his return journey by changing the destination blinds to 'Cabin'. Photo : John Woodman

Below : apologies for badly scratched negative. South Pier tram terminus with the inevitable Standard 40 on one of its many enthusiast tours about the head back along Station Road to allow the service car to gain its terminal point (and a tea break for the crew). A Burlingham bodied rear platform bus on service 23 stands at its usual terminus adjoining Pablos Ice Cream and tea room - with the usual lavatorial facilities much appreciated by both bus and tram crews.

A relatively short run to the terminus fronting on to Squires Gate Lane brought trams to their requisite destination 'Squires Gate & Airport'. However both tracks actually continued onto Squires Gate Lane and over the railway bridge before reaching Starr Gate and a further three way street tram track junction. This had been used last in the mid 1930s but one track connecting with Lytham Road eastbound had been retained to facilitate the Transport Department's profitable summer season 'Circular Tour' - about which more later. The premises of Blackpool's southern neighbour - Lytham St Annes and its immaculately maintained dark blue and white bus fleet was an important landmark (for transport cogniscenti) complete with connecting tram track and track fan retained in place. Formerly the tram depot of this undertaking it was conveniently sited on the south side of Squires Gate Lane outwith Blackpool's municipal boundary. To be Continued......

Below : Sixty years have passed since trams terminated on Lytham Road at Squires Gate Lane. Here are two contrasting service cars in the later 'white front' paint scheme looking north from the terminus. Photo : John Woodman


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