10th August 2015
© copyright photographs by Colin Duff
It is forty years (plus a few months) since I last visited Blackpool - then a long day coach trip from Birmingham to celebrate finishing finals at University. I recall we took the trams from the Tower area to the Pleasure Beach, and then down to Starr Gate and back to the Tower. We traveled on "Balloon" and "Railcoach" trams. Of course the Blackpool tram system was then the only surviving first generation tram system still in operation. It has continued to operate, but by the early 2000s was in increasingly poor condition. (It seemed OK to me in 1975!)
Between winter 2008 and spring 2012 the entire line was upgraded to modern light rail standards with a new fleet of 16 Bombardier Flexity 2, 5 section, 6 axle articulated cars built in Germany between 2011 and 2012. Full service began on 4th April 2012. Blackpool retains two large fleets of heritage trams which operate charters in addition to the timetabled service.
(above) 015 out of service recessed in the loop near the North Pier, in the lee of Blackpool Tower and the box-shaped Wedding Chapel on the seafront on the right. Some Heritage services reverse here, hence the need for a loop.
(left) 015 at Starr Gate, the southern terminus, which is well into an area of residential housing. This terminus is adjacent to the tram depot - out of sight to the left - and the tram will draw forward and reverse into the platform on the left before taking on passengers. So tourists taking a round trip have to de-tram and change platforms!
The other end of the line, the northern terminus at Fleetwood Ferry, a long ride from the centre of Blackpool and within sight of the submarine facilities at Barrow on Furness.
Here 004 rests before returning south to Starr Gate. Tourists doing the round trip can remain on the tram here as there is a clockwise loop round part of the town, however getting out for a quick stretch of legs and sight of the Lake District in the distance is recommended (at least when it is warm and dry, I suspect given the location in inclement weather this is not an attractive option).
A Day Rover ticket (which is also valid on Blackpool Transport) buses for £4.50 (£4.00 if bought from a PayPoint outlet) is good value, however, with each tram having a driver and two conductors, the economics of the operation must be challenging.
|Part of the "C" fleet, 1901 Electric Railway, Tramway and Carriage Company Bolton Tram number 66 working south along the Promenade just drawing into the North Pier stop.|
|Just a few tram lengths south of the North Pier stop "C" fleet 1934 English Electric open top "Balloon" tram number 706 moves slowly towards the Pleasure Beach loop.|
|Passing Harry Ramsden's on the Promenade on its way towards the Pleasure Beach loop "C" fleet" 1935 English Electric "Balloon" tram number 717.|
|A shot take on the fly from the Central Pier, "C" fleet F736 "Illuminated Frigate" re-built by Blackpool Transport in 2004. From the "L" plate, this appears to be a driver training working.|