Blackpool tramway

Blackpool tramway

Double-deck Balloon trams 700 (green) and 720 (black) at Bispham
Type First-generation tramway
Locale Blackpool
Termini Starr Gate
Stations 61[1]
Opened 1885
Owner Blackpool Borough Council
Operator(s) Blackpool Transport
Depot(s) Rigby Road depot
Line length 11 mi (17.7 km)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) (Standard gauge)
Minimum radius (?)
Electrification 600 V Overhead lines
[v · d · e]Blackpool tramway
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Fleetwood Ferry
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Fisherman's Walk (Ash Street)
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Thornton Gate
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Little Bispham
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Gynn Square
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(Proposed spur to National Rail Blackpool North)
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North Pier
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Rigby Road depot
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Manchester Square
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Pleasure Beach
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Starr Gate depot headshunt
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Starr Gate
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Starr Gate depot
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Only major tram stops shown
Illuminated tram 633, rebuilt in the shape of a fishing trawler

The Blackpool tramway runs from Blackpool to Fleetwood on the Fylde Coast in Lancashire, England, and is the only surviving first-generation tramway in the United Kingdom.[1] The tramway dates back to 1885 and is one of the oldest electric tramways in the world. It is run by Blackpool Transport (BTS) as part of the Metro Coastlines network, owned by Blackpool Borough Council. The tramway runs for 11 miles (18 km) and carries 6,500,000 passengers each year. It is also one of only a few operational tramways in the world that operate using double-deck tram systems, others including the Hong Kong Tramways system and Alexandria Tram in Egypt.



The first part of the tramway opened on 29 September 1885, a conduit line running from Cocker Street to Dean Street on Blackpool Promenade.[2] It was one of the first practical electric tramways in the world, just six years after Werner von Siemens first demonstrated electric traction. The inauguration was presided over by Holroyd Smith, the inventor of the system, and Alderman Harwood, the Mayor of Manchester.[citation needed]

The line was operated by the Blackpool Electric Tramway Company until 1892 when its lease expired and Blackpool Corporation took over the line. A further line was added in 1895 from Manchester Square along Lytham Road to South Shore. The tracks were extended to South Pier and a line on Station Road connecting Lytham Road to the promenade in 1897.[2]

In 1899 the conduit system was replaced by overhead wires and in 1900 the line was extended north to Gynn Square where it linked up with the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad. In 1901 The Marton loop was opened, connecting Talbot Square and Central Station along Church Street, Devonshire Square, Whitegate Drive, Waterloo Road and Central Drive. A new depot was built on Whitegate Drive in Marton. A line was added from Talbot Square along Talbot Road to Layton in 1902. By 1903 the promenade line had reached the Pleasure Beach.[2]

In 1920 Blackpool Corporation took over the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company gaining eight miles (13 km) of track and three depots, two in Fleetwood and one in Bispham. The small Bold Street Depot in Fleetwood was closed and a loop constructed at Fleetwood Ferry.[2]

The original Blundell Street Depot was replaced by a larger depot on Rigby Road in 1920. Along the line to Fleetwood, between Rossall and Broadwater a more direct line was built in 1925. The final tramway extension was in 1926, along the promenade to Clifton Drive at Starr Gate where a connection was with Lytham St Annes tracks.[2]

In 1936 route closures began with the Central Drive and Layton routes. Lytham Road closed in 1961, Marton in 1962, and the tramroad line on Dickson Road to North Station in 1963. Marton and Copse Road Depots closed in 1963 and Bispham Depot in 1966. This left the track running from Starr Gate to Fleetwood, which still remains. Blackpool Borough Council transferred the operation of the tramway and buses to Blackpool Transport Services Limited in 1986.[2]

The network

Tramway route

The tramway today runs from Starr Gate in Blackpool to the Ferry Terminus in Fleetwood. Most of the route runs along the Fylde Coast sea front, turning inland at Cleveleys for the last few miles before ending at the coast in Fleetwood. The tracks consists of four different types:

  • Street running, open to all traffic - along Lord Street and North Albert Street in Fleetwood. A short stretch on the Promenade in Blackpool behind the Metropole Hotel used to be in this form, but when the whole tramway was relaid in 2011 it was converted to Paved (see below).
  • Paved reserved track alongside a road, open to pedestrians but not road traffic - along most of the route between Starr Gate and Gynn Square.
  • Reserved ballasted track, open to trams only - from Gynn Square to Rossall, and along Radcliffe Road in Fleetwood.
  • Interurban style alignment, not following a road and open to trams only - from Rossall to Radcliffe Road, Fleetwood.

There are four loops, at Starr Gate, opposite the Pleasure Beach, Little Bispham and Fleetwood, and links to Rigby Road Depot.[3]

Blackpool tramway today

Blackpool is one of the three surviving non-heritage tramways to use double-deck trams, the others being Hong Kong and Alexandria, Egypt.  They are, however, slightly outnumbered by single-deck trams, but the double deckers see the most use during the tourist season, with single deckers playing a much smaller role. Some of the single deckers are only used occasionally during the busier parts of the season to boost capacity.[citation needed] Blackpool was the only town in the UK that retained its trams, and between 1962 and 1992 Blackpool had the only urban tramway in the UK.[4] The last English city to lose its conventional trams was Sheffield in 1960.[citation needed] The last in the UK was Glasgow in 1962. The 1992 opening of the Metrolink in Manchester heralded a revival.[4]

The Blackpool tram fleet is diverse. Some of the 1930s trams are still in regular service in virtually unchanged condition. Others have had their bodywork rebuilt. Occasionally historic trams are borrowed from the National Tramway Museum in Crich for public service.[citation needed]

Open-topped Balloon tram 706 "Princess Alice" at Bispham
Brush Railcoach 623 in Mystique livery

Trams run from Starr Gate in the south to Fleetwood in the north. Some services, especially in busy periods such as during Blackpool Illuminations or on bank holidays, start or terminate short at Cleveleys, Red Bank Road in Bispham, or the Pleasure Beach. This is to allow a more intensive service through the centre of Blackpool. During the Illuminations, specially decorated trams carry passengers on the promenade along the illuminated area, which runs from Starr Gate to Bispham. Fleetwood was the only town in England to retain trams running down the main street.[5]

Following the Government's pledge to a build 25 new tram networks by 2010, a £1 billion bid for a Government grant was launched by Blackpool Council and Lancashire County Council in 2002 to expand the tram network to include St Annes to the south and new housing estates in Fleetwood to the north, with a possible further phase to include links to Poulton-Le-Fylde and Thornton. In 2004 campaigners behind the bid expressed disappointment that nothing had been done to take the plans forward in two years. By November 2007 there was no further development.[6]

For the first time the entire length of the tramway was closed in November 2007 for five months of essential repair work, the second phase of an £11,800,000 upgrade.[7] In January 2007 the City Class 611 prototype "supertram" was being tested on the tramway when it caught fire as it approached Central Pier, causing extensive damage.[8] The driver escaped when the electrical console in the cab reportedly blew up. The tram, manufactured by Merseyside based Tram Power, was being tested as part of a bid to replace the current trams.[9] The tramcar was rebuilt at a cost of £150,000 but was not permitted to resume trials, the tram is currently scheduled to form part of a trial park & ride tram line in Preston. The same tram had derailed on 30 May 2006 at Starr Gate loop during previous trials. A Rail Accident Investigation Branch report stated that the derailment was due to wear and tear on the track with a contributory factor being the new type of running gear on the two-car prototype.[7]

On 1 February 2008 it was announced that the Government had agreed to the joint BTS and Blackpool Council bid for funding toward the total upgrade of the track. The Government will contribute £60.3m of the total £85.3m cost. Blackpool Council and Lancashire County Council will each provide about £12.5m. The Government's decision means that the entire length of the tramway from Starr Gate to Fleetwood will be upgraded and 16 Flexity 2 trams will replace the current fleet.[10]

Starr Gate tram depot

The tramway resurfacing works and construction of a tram shed at Starr Gate meant no trams operated south of the Pleasure Beach from 2009 until the new trams enter service, scheduled for Easter 2012, and track work at Cleveleys halted services north of Little Bispham. A replacement bus service operated. The Rigby Road depot is being retained for older trams, although some of those have been sold. Once the new fleet is running, the heritage fleet will operate on only 18 days a year, to be specified, between North Pier and the Pleasure Beach.

Blackpool tramway in popular culture

In 1989, Alan Bradley, a character in the soap opera Coronation Street, was killed when he fell under the wheels of a Bispham tram (tram 710) outside the Strand Hotel on North Promenade.[11]

Fleetwood Transport Festival

Each year the Fleetwood Transport Festival, known locally as Tram Sunday,[12] is held on the third Sunday in July. The festival celebrated its 21st anniversary in 2005.[13] The festival attracts thousands of visitors to the town[12] and takes place on the full length of the main street, Lord Street. There are vintage tram rides from Fishermans Walk to Thornton Gate.[5][14] In 2007, the festival, despite its popularity, was nearly cancelled due to a lack of support organising the day.[12] A last-minute appeal for help resulted in the festival being saved.[15]

Overhead wiring

The tramcars are powered by 600 V overhead wire with electricity transmitted to the tramcars by pantograph and a few by trolley pole.[16]

The system originally used the conduit system, in which trams took electricity from a conduit situated below and between the tracks. Electrical resistance was greater than anticipated and the voltage in portions of the conduit was far less than that generated at Blundell Street—230 V dropped to 210 V at the junction with the main line on the Promenade, 185 V at Cocker Street and 168 V at South Pier (then Victoria Pier). In addition there were difficulties during floods. Despite the difficulties, the conduit line was extended to Station Road in 1897. 550 V overhead wiring was installed in 1899, and the conduit removed. In 2011 the line voltage was raised to 600 V in anticipation of the arrival of the new rolling stock.

Tram depots

Over the years six depots were built to service the fleet:

Headstone from Bispham depot in Crich
Corporation Tramways building, Blackpool
Rigby Road Depot, Blackpool
  • Bispham Depot was built in 1898 and extended in 1914 by Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company, to house 36 trams on six tracks. A substation was built to the side of depot. The depot was used to receive pantograph cars in 1928 and Brush cars in 1940. It closed on 27 October 1963 and was used as a store until the mid 1970s. The building was eventually demolished to make way for a Sainsbury's supermarket and the depot's headstone was installed at Crich's National Tramway Museum.
  • Bold Street Depot opened in January 1899 and had a capacity of four cars on two tracks. The depot was used only by the last two trams to Fleetwood in the evening and the first two trams in the morning. After Blackpool Corporation took over the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company in 1920, the depot was closed. Wires were taken down in 1924 when the Fleetwood loop was built. After World War II the depot was used by Fisherman's Friend. It was demolished in 1973 to make way for flats.
  • Blundell Street Depot opened in 1885 to house ten conduit trams. It was extended in 1894 an 1896, and in 1898 when the roof was raised to accommodate overhead wiring. After extension, the depot housed 45 trams on five tracks. The depot became a store in 1935 when the new central depot opened at Rigby Road. The inspection pits were filled in after World War II and after 1956 the building was used as a bus garage. The depot was reopened for trams in March 1963 after the closure of Marton depot. A new entrance was built in July 1964 but capacity was restricted by the presence of an ambulance station in the building. Following damage to the central roof caused by a gale, the depot was demolished on 4 November 1982.
  • Copse Road Depot was built in 1897 by the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company with six tracks, capable of housing 18 trams. It was originally used as a store and service depot. After passing to Blackpool Corporation Tramways it was used to dismantle old trams. Between 1925 and 1949 a line connected the depot with the railway and was used to shunt wagons. The depot is now a car showroom and the substation still feeds the Fleetwood section.
  • Marton Depot was built in 1901 to accommodate 50 trams. It was used for central routes but declined in use after the closure in 1936 of the Layton and Central Drive sections. The depot closed for tram use between 1939 and 1944 due to the war, and accommodated aircraft of the Vickers Aircraft Company. The depot closed on 11 March 1963, with the last car to leave the depot being Standard car 48. The front half of the depot was demolished with the rear half in commercial use. A petrol station is now on the site.
  • Rigby Road Depot was built in 1935 and is the only depot still in use. It has a capacity of 108 trams. It was designed to replace the Bispham and Blundell Street depots and has been modernised several times. In 1955 tracks 15 to 18 were enclosed by a partition to be used as an electrical compound and in 1962 a tram washing plant was built, along with the replacement of the roller-blind doors by folding aluminium doors.
  • Starr Gate Depot was built during 2011 as part of the complete network refurbishment, and cost £20m. Officially it will open in Easter 2012 and is currently storing the new trams until they enter service in May 2012. It has a maximum capacity of 20 trams. It is being built to house the 16 new supertrams, an expansion public attraction to display heritage units is currently unfunded.[17]

Tramcar fleet

The Blackpool tramway has a varied fleet of tramcars. The standard livery being introduced is one featuring purple fronts, with cream sides and a purple criss cross pattern on the lower sides. The tramcars also use the traditional green and cream livery of BTS, in various styles from the 1930s to the 1980s, and carry a number of colourful all-over advertisements.[16] Some former trams are in use and on display at the National Tramway Museum at Crich in Derbyshire.

The 6th November 2011 marked the last day of running for the traditional tram fleet. The tramway will now no longer be operational until Easter 2012 when the new Flexity 2 Cars enter service. Members of the traditional fleet will be retained, either as part of the 'Heritage Fleet', or as part of the main fleet, running alongside the new trams. These cars are in the process of being fitted with new, enlarged doorways to allow the cars to operate with the new disabled access platforms.

The tram fleet, including the reserve fleet, for 2011 includes the following:

Balloon cars

Name[18] Balloon Cars
Controller 2 x EE Z6
Chassis EE 4' 9'' wheelbase
Balloon car
712 at Bispham.jpg

Balloon tram 712 at Bispham Station
Manufacturer English Electic 1934-1935
Passenger capacity seats 78-94
Engine power 2 x EE 305 type,
57 hp (43 kW)
Current collection method Pantograph
Axle load br
Gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)

Commissioned in 1933 by Walter Luff, the controller of the network, in a bid to modernise the tramway's fleet, they were intended to replace the Dreadnought cars that had been in service since the opening of the tramway. They were built by English Electric during 1934 and 1935, the first being presented to Blackpool on 10 December 1934. 27 were delivered, of which thirteen were open-topped. Numbered 237-263 and used on both summer and winter services.

They had central doors and stairs, with a capacity of 84-94. Half-drop windows provided ventilation and art deco curved glass lights provided electric lighting. The enclosed-top trams had sliding roof windows and thermostatic-controlled radiators.

The closed top cars originally worked on the Squires Gate service, and it was during this time that they became known as Balloon Cars because of their rounded streamlined appearance. During World War II the need for the open-top cars fell significantly and cars 237-249 had their tops enclosed to look almost like 250-263. Also during this period the fleet was painted in a dark green and cream livery in order to conserve paint and time, as well as to reduce the chances of their being spotted from the air.

After the war years the Balloons were neglected slightly in place of the new Coronation Cars, as they were considered old fashioned and too slow to load. Blackpool Corporation soon changed its mind after experiencing the temperamental nature of the Coronations and the Balloons began to make a comeback in the late 1950s. In 1958 check rail was installed through to Fleetwood and the Balloons increasingly began to appear on market-day specials, as they were useful for moving the large crowds travelling north. The Balloons continued to run their normal Squires Gate service until its closure in 1961, and following this the entire class solely worked on the promenade service.

In 1968 they were re-numbered to 700-726. Between 1979 and 1982, Balloon cars 725 and 714 were totally rebuilt into two new Jubilee cars, 761 and 762.[16] The reconstruction of 725 included moving the stairs to the end and extending its body length. However, 762 retained a central door. During 1980, an accident at the Pleasure Beach loop caused 705 and 706 to be withdrawn. 705 was scrapped and 706 was rebuilt as an open-topper, later named "Princess Alice". During the early 1990s a number of Balloons that had been retired from service were heavily modernised, re-emerging with flat ends and modern interiors known as Millennium cars.

In 2002 the Balloons were banned north of Thornton Gate due to the poor condition of the track. Following heavy repair work the Balloons were allowed back from 2005.

With the arrival of the Flexity 2 trams, some Balloon cars are being fitted with widened doors and other modifications to enable them to run alongside the new fleet (see below). Some others are being preserved: the first to leave, number 249/712, is preserved static (but with the interior open to the public as it was when withdrawn) in pre-war livery at the National Tramway Museum at Crich. One is remaining in operational condition at Beamish Open Air Museum, but as Sunderland 101 in a red and cream livery.

Millennium class cars

These are double deck cars which were rebuilt from Balloon cars between 1998 and 2004 to an in-house design. They have a much more rectangular shape which gives the upper decks increased capacity. The trams retain the numbers they carried in the Balloon series.[16]

Jubilee tram 762 at the Sand Castle, Blackpool

Jubilee cars

In the late 1970s, Blackpool Corporation decided that the tramway fleet needed modernising after the closure of the inland routes during the 1960s. Attention was drawn to two Balloon Cars, 714 and 725, which had been mothballed as they were in dire need of an overhaul. It was felt that these would be useful on the promenade during the summer due to their high seating capacity and reliability. So, with funds left over from their One-Man Operated (OMO) programme[clarification needed] the corporation set about rebuilding these old Balloons into "Jubilee Cars".[16] The first to be rebuilt, 725, was stripped down to its shell and had its under-frame and body lengthened, controller changed, doors and stairs relocated to the front and iconic pointed ends replaced with square ones. The bogies were replaced with fabricated ones able to accommodate "Metalastik" rubber/metal bonded suspension in the manner of the "OMO" vehicles and the tram officially entered service in 1979 after testing as Jubilee 761. Balloon 714 was later rebuilt in a similar fashion, except it retained its original central doors as well as the front ones in order to improve passenger flow at stops. 714 re-entered service in 1982 as Jubilee 762.

Scrapped cars

Until 2009, only one of the cars (705) had been scrapped, however on October 15, Car 722 made a move into the body shop to begin the scrapping stage, and, as of May 2010, has been fully scrapped. More cars were expected to follow over the winter closure period,[19] however, this didn't happen, as all the stored trams have been sold.

Modernised cars

During 2011, a number of Balloon and Millennium class trams were modernised so that they could operate after the £100m refurbishment of the whole tramway. New widened doorways have been fitted, with driver operated doors which fit to the new platforms which have been built at tram stops for the new Flexity 2 trams. This means they are also now have level access for disabled passengers. Fixed seats and a new passenger information display has also been fitted to match the new trams. Speedometers have also been retrofitted to the driving console.[20]

Boat cars

Name[18] Boat Cars
Built English Electrics 1934
Capacity 52-56 Passengers
Motors 2xEE 327, 40 hp (17.5 kW)
Controller 600, 607: 2xEE DB1
602, 604, 605: 2xEE Z type
Chassis EE 4' wheelbase
Boat car
Open boat at bispham.jpg

Open Boat tram No 600 at Bispham
Engine power 2xEE 327, 40 hp (30 kW)
Gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)

Built by English Electric in 1934,[18] these cars are single deck open-topped models with central doors and gangway. They are numbered 600-607,[21] originally 225-236 and have a passenger capacity of between 52 and 56. These cars are known as "the boats" due to their ship-like streamlined appearance and are one of the most iconic Blackpool trams. All cars are virtually identical, except for 600, which has shorter body panels.[22]

The boats were first commissioned by Walter Luff in 1933, in accordance with his five year plan. The first prototype boat arrived in Blackpool during early spring in 1934 along with four other designs. After an initial trial period, company directors approved an order for eleven more production cars, which arrived in July and August 1934. These new boats were numbered 225-236.[22]

Work began on the circular and coastal tours, replacing the original toastrack cars, which were considered dangerous and old-fashioned. They were stationed at both Rigby Road and Marton depots for ease of access and continued
there until the war years, when they were stored out of service due to the withdrawal of the circular tour and general lack of demand. This continued until 1946, when they returned to work on the promenade service.

The full twelve cars remained in regular service until the closure of the inland routes during 1963.[22] The fleet was reduced to eight cars and renumbered 600-607, with 229, 231, 232 and 234 being mothballed and eventually scrapped in 1968. In the early 1990s the boats were refurbished and received a number of new liveries, including Routemaster red, blue and yellow as well as a fictitious wartime livery.[23] The fleet was converted from trolley pole to pantograph conductors. However, they were soon converted back, as passengers regularly complained at being showered by grease and dirt from the power line when it rained.[citation needed]

In addition to the cars at Blackpool, there are boats currently serving in the United States. Car 226 (601) has been at the Western Railway Museum, Suisun City, California since 1971. Car 228 (603) was loaned to Philadelphia in 1976 for the United States Bicentennial, and was then returned to Blackpool where it was stored until 1984, when it was acquired as a gift for the San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) where it is still occasionally operated.[24][25] Finally, car 606 was given to the Trolleyville Museum, Ohio, in September 2000, in return for Standard 147, which has been restored to original condition.[24][26]

Railcoach cars

English Electric Railcoach No 679 at Bispham

The English Electric streamline fleet also included standard enclosed single deck trams known as railcoaches. None of these trams remain in their original form with ten cars rebuilt as towing cars for the Progress twin cars in the 1950s and 1960s and thirteen having been converted to the One-Man Operated (OMO) class in the 1970s. These have all since been scrapped or withdrawn. The railcoaches in today's fleet are the heavily modified former towing cars 678–680 which were converted back to single trams with driver cabs at both ends. None of these remain in the active fleet as 680 was withdrawn around February 2009.

Progress Twin cars

Single deck towing and trailer cars. 671–680 (towing cars) and 681–687 (trailer cars). The towing cars were rebuilt from English Electric cars between 1958 and 1962. The ends in particular were heavily redesigned to resemble the then contemporary Coronation cars. Powerless trailers, which look almost identical except for the lack of a pantograph tower, were built from scratch. Although originally only driven from the towing end, they were later converted to be driven from either end with driver cabs fitted to the trailers. They operate in regular pairs, such as 675 and 685, except for 678 to 680, which operate singly.[16]

Brush cars

Built by Brush in 1937. 20 Single deck cars which closely resemble the original English Electric railcoaches. Numbers 621-638, originally 284-303. Car 633 has been rebuilt into the illuminated Trawler and is now number 737.[16]

Centenary cars

Centenary Tram no. 643 at North Pier

The centenary cars are single deck trams with flat ends and doors positioned at both the front and centre giving them a more bus-like appearance. They are numbered 641–648[16] and have a capacity of 52 passengers (of which 16 is standing). They can be operated by one person, as the position of the doors means that the tram can be solely operated by the driver, as opposed to a team of three. This is useful during low season and early morning/late night services when there is little demand, as it allows the network to keep labour costs down.

Centenary cars were built by East Lancashire Coachbuilders in 1985,[16] the tramway's centenary year, hence their name. Originally intended to replace the OMO cars which were suffering from metal fatigue, twelve were ordered. However, due to cost cutting only seven were ever built.[27] The cost cutting continued as, although the bodies chassis and bogies were brand new the motors and wheelsets were pre-war, refubished from various withdrawn cars. The bogie design continued the theme of the "O.M.O." and L.T. Underground cars, having "Metalastik" rubber/metal bonded springs.

Vintage cars

The tramway owns or borrows a small number of trams which are preserved from previously withdrawn fleets. They are not used in normal service and are normally seen during the busy seasonal weekend and illuminations tours.

Preserved Standard tram 177 at Bispham

Standard cars

A total of 55 cars built between 1923 and 1929 by Blackpool Corporation Transport Department. They are double deck, originally with open balconies and a capacity of 78 passengers, with 32 seats on the lower deck and 46 on the upper deck. The four-window design came from the 1902 Motherwell trams. They were 33 ft 10 in (10.31 m) long, 16 ft 7 in (5.05 m) high and 7 ft 2 in (2.18 m) wide. They had Preston McGuire bogies with 4 ft 1 in (1.24 m) wheelbase and 30in diameter wheels, BTH B510 motors with hand and rheostatic brakes. All were built as the "open balcony" type, but in later years some were enclosed. Standard 40, now preserved and operational at the National Tramway Museum at Crich, became the last double-deck open balcony tram to operate commercially in Great Britain. Until 2000, no standards survived in public service in Blackpool until boat 606 was given to the Trolleyville museum in the United States in exchange for Standard car 147, which has been restored to its original 1924 condition and can often be seen operating in Blackpool during the busier seasonal weekends and illumination evenings.

Pantograph cars

Preserved Pantograph Car No 167 at the Crich Tramway Museum

Built in 1928 by English Electric in Preston. These cars were single-deckers and purchased at a cost of £2,000 (£89,327 as of 2011),[28] by Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company. They were designed for interurban use and of American appearance. They could carry 48 seated passengers. Originally given the nickname "Pullman" cars due to their more luxurious assets, they were equipped with a pantograph built by Brecknell, Munro & Rogers, mounted on a tall tower, which very quickly earned them the longer-lasting nickname "Pantographs". They were subsequently fitted with traditional trolley poles. The first car (167), was delivered on 30 July 1928 and the last, (176) in 1929. They were 40 ft (12 m) long and 7 ft 6 in (2.29 m) wide, had Dick Kerr bogies, BTH B510 motors and air-brakes, with hand and rheostatic brakes. One now survives in Blackpool, as the illuminated trailer to the illuminated Western Train, which received a £278,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant to restore both the entire tramcar units which first ran in 1962. It was withdrawn from service in 1999 and stood derelict at the Rigby Road depot.[24] The sole surviving true member of the class, car 167, is preserved at the National Tramway Museum at Crich. It returned to Blackpool for the 125th Anniversary celebrations in 2010.

Coronation cars

Preserved Coronation tram 304 at Fleetwood

Named because they were introduced in Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation Year, 1953 only three members of this class of car remain. They were built by Charles Roberts Ltd at their Horbury Junction works, nr. Wakefield. Two were preserved under the private ownership of the Lancastrian Transport Trust (LTT). The sophisticated Variable Automatic Multinotch Braking and Acceleration Control (VAMBAC) control system of these vehicles proved to be their achilles heel as it was unreliable in service. Thirteen of the class had their VAMBAC systems replaced by conventional controllers during the 1960s, prolonging their comparatively short service life to 1975, when they were withdrawn. The unmodified examples were withdrawn from service in 1968.

Blackpool Coronation 304 (later 641), the first of the fleet, was bought for preservation and achieved celebrity status in 2002, when it was the subject of the seventh episode of the second series of Channel 4 television programme Salvage Squad. It was returned to working order by Salvage Squad and LTT members and unveiled to the public on 6 January 2003 when it was filmed carrying out test runs along Blackpool Promenade.[29][30][31]

Illuminated cars

Illuminated Western Train Tramcar

A variety of rebuilt single-deck cars, of different designs, rebuilt as illuminated theme trams. They run along the illuminated part of the promenade, from Starr Gate to Bispham, during the Illuminations. There was no numbering series.[16] A campaign by the local newspaper, the Blackpool Gazette in 2006 to get one of the illuminated trams, Western Train, back on track,[32] resulted in a £278,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant to restore the tramcar which first ran in 1962. It had been withdrawn from service in 1999 and stood derelict at the Rigby Road depot.[33] The tramcar returned during the 2008 Illuminations Switch-On.[34] In January 2008 it was revealed that another iconic illuminated tram, the Rocket tram, which had been in service between 1961 and 1999 but which had since then stood idle, is also due to be restored with expectation being that it would return to service for the Illuminations in 2009 at a cost of about £150,000 and with the help of a newly created Friends of the Illuminations group.[35]

Flexity 2

As part of the upgrade of the entire tramway, 16 new Flexity 2 trams have been ordered, for use on the tramway.[36] The worldwide launch of the tram, including showing the first new tram occurred on the 8th September 2011 at the new Starr Gate depot in Blackpool.[37]

They feature many new improvements over the heritage fleet, including step free access and faster acceleration.

These will be accommodated at a new depot built at Starr Gate by Volker Fitzpatrick.[38]


There have been several accidents where pedestrians have been hit. Most recently a pedestrian, Maureen Foxwell age 70, was struck down and killed by a speeding driver at a designated crossing on 5 August 2009. The driver who was travelling at thrice the speed limit was sentenced to 15 months in prison.[39] Only two very serious collisions between vehicles have occurred since operation began in 1885. These are:

  • 6 July 1980 - Balloon trams 705 and 706 collided head-on on the turning loop at the Pleasure Beach. 705 was bound for Starr Gate whilst 706 was stationary on the loop. 705 was led onto the wrong line due to the points being incorrectly set and went straight into 706 which was about to depart for Fleetwood. Both trams were severely damaged by the collision; 705 was scrapped, the only balloon to meet this fate until 2009 when 722 was scrapped. 706 was rebuilt as an open-top. A subsequent County Court judgement in 1982 found that Blackpool Corporation were 80% to blame for the collision.[citation needed]
  • 13 March 2004 - Centenary tram 644 derailed and collided into a wall on the promenade near Gynn Square. One of the poles from the Illuminations had been deliberately placed in the groove of the left-hand rail of the northbound line. 644 narrowly missed a pedestrian walking along the promenade and went through the wall, knocking debris onto the walkway below. The tram was balancing on the wall, but was certain not to fall off it.[40]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Blackpool trams". Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Blackpool Trams". Fylde Tramway Society. 3 September 2004. Retrieved 2010-11-19. 
  3. ^ "Blackpool tram route: Starr Gate–Fleetwood". Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  4. ^ a b Bowen, David (17 March 1996). "Trams hit cost barrier". The Independent (London). 
  5. ^ a b "Visitor Information". Fleetwood Transport Festival. Archived from the original on 2007-08-09. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  6. ^ "Anger over tram network". Fleetwood Weekly News. 26 March 2004. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  7. ^ a b Parkinson, Shelagh; Harris, Emma (30 May 2007). "Track blamed for tram drama". Blackpool Gazette. Retrieved 2007-11-03. [dead link]
  8. ^ "New tram catches fire during test". BBC News. 24 January 2007. Retrieved 1 October 2010. 
  9. ^ Butler, Heather; Harris, Emma (25 January 2007). "Not so supertram". Blackpool Gazette. Retrieved 2007-11-03. [dead link]
  10. ^ Parkinson, Shelagh (1 February 2008). "Blackpool gets £85m for trams". Blackpool Gazette. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  11. ^ Marsden, Paul (17 September 2007). "Looking back with TV soap favourites". Blackpool Gazette. Retrieved 2007-11-03. [dead link]
  12. ^ a b c Lark, Claire (12 July 2007). "Tram Sunday Volunteers' Plea". Fleetwood Weekly News. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  13. ^ "Tram Sunday celebrates 21st Anniversary". Fleetwood Weekly News. 10 March 2005. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  14. ^ Evans, Karen (12 July 2007). "Full steam ahead for Tram Sunday". Blackpool Gazette. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  15. ^ "Fleetwood Transport Festival saved". Blackpool Gazette. 5 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "The trams". Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ a b c "Blackpool and Fleetwood Tramway Fleet List" (Microsoft Word Document). British Trams Online. 12 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-04. 
  19. ^ "Balloon 722 scrapped". Tramways Monthly. 15 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  20. ^ Tramways Monthly Issue 27
  21. ^ "The Blackpool Tramway: Trams". Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  22. ^ a b c "Blackpool Boat Cars". The Blackpool Tranway website. Archived from the original on 2009-10-25. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  23. ^ "Fleet Liveries". Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  24. ^ a b c "Passenger Cars - Part II". Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  25. ^ "Blackpool Boat: ‘The People’s Choice’". Market Street Railway. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  26. ^ "Our Collection - City Cars - #Car 606 ("Boat Car")". Lake Shore Electric Railway. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  27. ^ "Blackpool Centenary Cars". The Blackpool Tramway Website. Archived from the original on 2009-10-24. Retrieved 2009-02-11. 
  28. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Lawrence H. Officer (2010) "What Were the UK Earnings and Prices Then?" MeasuringWorth.
  29. ^ Higgs, Philip (12 May 2004). "Coronation tram – back on the Blackpool throne". Old Glory Magazine. Retrieved 2007-03-12. 
  30. ^ "Hall of Fame: Blackpool Coronation 304". British Trams online. 3 November 2003. Retrieved 2007-03-12. 
  31. ^ "Salvage Squad - tram". Channel 4. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  32. ^ "Help save resort 'Western Train'". Blackpool Gazette. 5 May 2005. Retrieved 2007-11-03. [dead link]
  33. ^ "Readers win battle to save Lights tram". Blackpool Gazette. 4 October 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  34. ^ "Public delight at tram cash pledge". Blackpool Gazette. 10 October 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  35. ^ Ettridge, Lisa (14 January 2008). "Iconic Blackpool tram to make Prom return". Blackpool Gazette. Retrieved 2008-01-16. 
  36. ^ Modern Railways Issue 731 August 2009 "Tram order for Blackpool" page 10
  37. ^ Blackpool Gazette 08/09/2011
  38. ^ "Railway Gazette: Tram bogie turntable". Retrieved 2010-07-25. "Volker Fitzpatrick" 
  39. ^
  40. ^ "MAJOR DERAILMENT IN BLACKPOOL". British Trams Online. Retrieved 25 July 2009. 

Further reading

  • Abel, P.H.; McLoughlin (October 1997). Blackpool Trams: The First Half Century 1885-1932. I. The Oakwood Press. ISBN 0853615039. 
  • Higgs, Philip (April 1984). Blackpool's Trams: As Popular as the Tower. Lancastrian Transport Publications. ISBN 095094050X. 
  • Johnson, Peter (July 1986). Trams in Blackpool. AB Publishing. ISBN 1869915003. 
  • Joyce, James (April 1985). Blackpool's Trams. Ian Allan Lt. ISBN 0711014752. 
  • McLoughlin, Barry (24 July 2006). Blackpool Trams and Recollections: No. 6. Silver Link Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1857942809. 
  • Palmer, P. (August 1988). Blackpool and Fleetwood by Tram. Platform 5 Publishing Ltd. ISBN 090657983X. 
  • Palmer, Steve (25 July 1996). The Heyday of Blackpool's Trams. Ian Allan Ltd. ISBN 0711024596. 
  • Palmer, Steve (15 October 2007). Blackpool's Trams Past and Present. Venture Publications Ltd. ISBN 1905304226. 


External links

Coordinates: 53°46′41″N 3°03′26″W / 53.778130°N 3.057276°W / 53.778130; -3.057276

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