• John Woodman

The Festival of Britain & Blackpool's Connection - 1951/2

John Woodman


It is now seventy years since Britain's postwar showcase of design and technology opened on London's South Bank. The still imposing 'Festival Hall' continues as permanent reminder of this national exhibition intended to raise public mood and morale after the Second World War and resulting economic constraints still lingering on in the first years of the 1950s'. A Transport Pavilion embraced new designs for road vehicles of all types, whilst a sample 'R49' Underground coach in unpainted aluminum coachwork represented the latest rolling stock to be introduced on the capital's subway network.

Regrettably no attempt was made to incorporate one of the new trams then being introduced in Leeds, Glasgow or Blackpool - possibly on cost grounds; but at least through the joined up initiative of the Light Railway Transport League, Crompton-Parkinson and the Council of Industrial Design, a sample bogie, together with VAMBAC controller and associated driver equipment was on display. The bogie was intended for one of Blackpool's soon to be delivered 'Coronation' cars and later fitted under prototype 304. A special plaque was in fact placed on the driver's cab bulkhead of 304 facing into the passenger area recording the display - however at some point it was later removed by an unknown souvenir hunter and no doubt now resides hidden in a private collection.


Blackpool's coachbuilding firm, HV Burlingham on Preston New Road, was also responsible for the bodywork added to an experimental bus chassis constructed by the Midlands builder - Daimler. This double deck rear platform exhibit went on to become part of the fleet of an independent operator, Rossie Motors near Doncaster. In this case no record of the bus's fame as an exhibit in the Festival of Britain was retained for public benefit. I believe the bus went into preservation but have no details of its present whereabouts (MWU 750).


By 1951 London's tram network was fast diminishing with new RT, RTW and RTL buses being brought into service to replace what were outdated trams. There was a parallel effort by the LRTL to persuade London Transport into testing Blackpool's prototype single deck VAMBAC car which had proven its silent (and smooth) running qualities in service. Needless to say this brave approach met with no response, and the sight of 208 traversing London streets became a stillborn aspiration. The tram would go on delivering reliable service around Marton for a further decade and sadly ended up being scrapped in Marton Depot at the closure of that distinctive all street tramway in 1962. A long lost sight - Vambac 208 at the Abingdon Street tram stop with waiting passengers in 1960. Apologies for the flawed negative. Photo : John Woodman


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