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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Winter Storms Catch Out Heritage Tram Tours

John Woodman

One has to admire the boldness of the orchestrators of Blackpool's heritage tram tour department. Against prevailing weather warnings on nearly all news channels with a particularly nasty storm bearing down from the Atlantic - marketing for the first heritage tram weekend was announced earlier this month. From Friday 18th to Sunday 20th a series of tours featuring a panoply of 'traditional' trams drawn from the extensive collection held in Rigby Road Depot was advertised to those brave enough to face the resort's bracing winter chills and severe coastal weather.

Not only did the heritage arrangements find the conditions disheartening but so did the entire tram service which had its fleet returned to safe storage at Starr Gate. The merits of operating vintage trams on an exposed coastal line during midwinter in a month of forecast bad weather has to be questionable at best. Surely such initatives could wait for the onset of spring when the likes of tram enthusiasts can be tempted to expend both time and limited funds on yet another ride up and down the north Fylde coastline. Even a guided 'tour' inside the leaking tram depot with howling wind as mismatched accompaniment cannot make up for the discomfort of a cold weekend viewing Blackpool's familiar collection.

A marvellous autumn tour with 'Rack 2) seen here on Abingdon Street about to turn into Clifton Street with a Marton bound rail coach passing outbound. Photo : John Woodman

Once upon a time tram tours merited calmer dates in the calendar year, usually ending on the last weekend of 'the Lights'. Bispham, Marton, Copse Road and Blundell Street tram depots provided a diversity of static displays in addition to the main 'running shed' off Hopton Street. Up to the early 1960s (now far off era) a variety of tram routes within Blackpool allowed many options for tour organisers with Marton and Squires Gate Lane being especially desirable. A ride down Red Bank Road to the depot track fan in front of Bispham's red brick structure was also a high point for many visitors, whilst Cope Road Depot was usually inaccessible and rarely saw camera toting enthusiasts en masse - as it were. Blundell Street equally was more or less off limits being given over to bus storage in its later years, as well as housing the municipally run ambulance fleet. Marton Depot on the other hand remained a favourite stop with its welcoming staff, remaining Standard cars, and varied odd relics, in addition to withdrawn Corporation buses awaiting collection by their buyers.

Marton Depot held the advantage of viewing Blackpool trams and old time expired buses. 1937 Titan 176 is accompanied by the withdrawn 1939 Leyland 'Cheetah' open buses all looking still smart. Photo : John Woodman

I cannot recall any wintertime tour events, other than a memorable fixture involving ex Conduit Car 4 among a coterie of old trams - held during a period of freezing fog and resulting quite probably in several cases of bronchial colds by participants. One other noteworthy tour (not in winter) saw Srandard car 160 derail as it negotiated the track connection into Thornton Gate siding in an unplanned foray from the southbound running line. Given the number of enthusiast tours which enlivened the calendar years up to 1964 it is surprising that there were in fact few such incidents and no cancellations due to weather. Perhaps organisers were more savvy in those far off days.

Below : A busy scene at Station Road tram terminus with the inevitable favourite open balcony 40 paused to allow the tour participants to take their 'snaps' for the record (including the author who followed on his bike). A South Pier service car waits for 40 to clear its terminal track. Burlingham bodied rear platform 304 stands at South Pier terminus = Photo : John Woodman


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