| A Week in Blackpool 7-14 September 2002 by Gareth Prior
This page was last updated 6 November 2002
At the start of September 2002 I travelled up to Blackpool for a weeks holiday and what follows is a report on the tramway during that time and includes a day trip to Manchester. Each days sightings have now been removed from the site.
Saturday 7 September
Weather: Day - Dry with patchy sunshine. Evening/Night - Heavy Showers/Thunder
Arrived in Blackpool just after 1.30pm, a little later than planned as the connecting train at Preston was delayed. Other than that the journey was good travelling from 8am at Blackwater Station on the Hampshire/Berkshire/Surrey border.
First thing to do was to walk down to the seafront at North Pier and then decide whether to walk to my accommodation or catch a tram. Although there had been torrential rain whilst I waited at Preston the weather in Blackpool was now pleasant so I decided to walk to the accommodation which was between the tram stops at St Stephens Avenue and Lowther Avenue. The first tram of the holiday spotted was Centenary 647 which had terminated at North Pier. I was in the accommodation just after 2pm and then had the mundane jobs of unpacking and going to Sainsbury's to get the supplies for the week. Spent the rest of the afternoon watching the trams go by from the window which had a perfect view, one that would come in handy on Monday night!
The evening was to be spent at North Pier and I set off, walking, just after 6.30pm. The first 'special' tram spotted of the week was Bolton 66 which I saw travelling to Pleasure Beach at the Imperial Hotel, with its special illuminated crests on the front and back. Then at Cocker Street Blackpool and Fleetwood Box 40 was seen travelling north to Bispham. I arrived at North Pier just after 7pm with the first tram seen being 716 on its way to Cabin. This was swiftly followed by my first glimpse of the Illuminated Trawler 633 heading for Bispham. The lights were due to be switched on at 8pm for the night and Bolton 66 arrived back from Pleasure Beach at 7.40pm to form the first tour, leaving at 8pm. Just previous to 66 departing on its tour the Trawler arrived empty from Bispham ready to form the second tour of the night, which left at 8.09pm. It was at this stage that the weather decided to take a turn for the worse and the heavens opened. I decided that it would be best to make a quick exit and walk back to the flat. On the walk back it was getting more and more difficult to write in my notebook but at 8.19pm when I was at Warley Road Box 40 passed on another Illuminations Tour for the night. Once I was back at the flat I noticed Sheffield 513 on another Illuminations Tour going towards Bispham and later in the evening the Trawler was also seen going north although I am unsure whether this was on a tour. During just over an hour at North Pier 37 trams passed.
The following trams operated Illumination Tours:
1. Bolton 66
2. Illuminated Trawler 633
3. Blackpool and Fleetwood Box 40
4. Sheffield 513
(5. Illuminated Trawler 633?)
Sunday 8 September
Weather: Sunny Spells
Another fairly early start for the first real day of the holiday leaving Blackpool North on the 8.28am service for a day in Manchester. On the walk to the station just 3 trams were spotted all Brush Cars. The first Metrolink was seen before arrival at Piccadilly with 2003 spotted whilst the train was at Deansgate. After arriving at Manchester Piccadilly I headed down to the Metrolink station to catch a tram to Woodlands Road, on the Bury branch, for a visit to the Manchester Museum of Transport. The Metrolink that would form the Bury service was 1002 leaving at 10.10am having arrived 4 minutes earlier. Once I finally arrived at the museum, a long story but lets just say I missed the road, there were three exhibits that I was mainly interested in as the museum is mainly concerned with local buses. The first tram on display is double-deck open-top Manchester 173, looking resplendent in its red and white livery. The aim is to eventually operate this tram on the Heaton Park Tramway and it certainly looks the part. In the same part of the Museum there is the unrestored body of South Lancashire 65 which is, apparently, another double-deck tram although at the moment it is not easy to recognise as plenty of work needs to be undertaken. The final tram based vehicle is located in the next door room and that is the mock-up of a Metrolink, number 1000 "The Larry Sullivan". This is also surrounded by a very informative display on the building of the Metrolink system and you can also walk through the mock-up. On the whole the Museum is pretty good value for money especially if you have an interest in buses and has a fairly well stocked shop at the entrance. After the Museum I went back to Piccadilly Station, catching 1007, for no real reason apart from it was too soon to go the couple of stops up the line to Heaton Park. I was ready to make my way back onto the Bury line just after midday and I caught 1004 as far as Bowker Vale which gets you nearer than the Heaton Park stop to the entrance of the Park where the tramway is located. The Heaton Park Vintage Tramway has two operational tramcars and one under restoration and operates for a short distance from the Middleton Gate to the Lake with trams only operating from 1.30pm on Sundays with the Museum and depot open a little before that. The Museum is part of the depot and is fairly small and as such doesn't contain a great deal of information but entry is free although donations are welcome. The tram in operation on this day was Manchester 765 with Hull 96 at rest in the depot along with Manchester L53 which is currently undergoing restoration. After a round trip on 765 it was time to head back into the centre of Manchester catching 1019 to Piccadilly. I was back in Blackpool by 4.30pm and after having got my 7 day Travelcard, excellent value, I caught Balloon 721 for a trip back to Cabin.
The evening was to be spent at Bispham station and I set back out at around 7.15pm seeing Sheffield 513 almost straightaway heading for Pleasure Beach. I arrived at Bispham station just before 7.30pm and in 1 hour 45 minutes 31 trams passed. The first illuminations tour was operated by Sheffield 513 which arrived at 8.23pm before reversing and heading back towards Starr Gate. However, it must have been a quiet night on people wanting Tours, as the next one was not seen until 8.56pm at Lowther Avenue in the hands of Box 40. As far as my observations go only 3 tours were run in the whole night with my first view of Standard 147 from the comfort of the flat.
The following trams operated Illumination Tours:
1. Sheffield 513
2. Blackpool and Fleetwood Box 40
3. Blackpool Standard 147
Monday 9 September
Weather: Morning - dull. Afternoon/Night - heavy rain
Really a day to forget as the weather was poor keeping people inside and hence a low tram turnout. The day for me started just after 9am again at Bispham Station watching the early(ish) morning service trams. This day saw Balloons on these service trams with 718, 720, 719, 709, 701, 703, 722, 721 and 712 in control and 711 out on driver training duties. The first special of the day did not reach Bispham until 10.25am when Centenary 643 arrived for Fleetwood. In the approximately 2 hours I was at Bispham 22 trams (excluding 711) passed with just 5 specials among them.
The plan for the afternoon was Blackpool Town Centre but however the weather intervened. The rain started to come down a little before 2pm and did not stop again for over 6 hours. Nevertheless the highlight of the day came at Wilton Parade at 2.05pm when newly modified Centenary 643 failed with a loss of power. The driver could not get it to move and called for assistance which arrived with an Inspector who still got no joy and then finally two fitters arrived who swiftly fixed the problem. However all this had taken around 15 minutes but luckily only one tram was waiting behind, Balloon 703. The loadings for all trams were already fairly light by this time due to the poor weather and I caught Jubilee 761 back as far as Cabin. The evening remained very wet and I sat on the window sill watching the trams go by for 2 and a half hours and during this time only one Illumination Tour was noted, Sheffield 513, passing northbound at 8.44pm and southbound at 8.59pm.
The following trams operated Illumination Tours:
1. Sheffield 513
Tuesday 10 September
Weather: Dry with sunny intervals
The bad weather of the day before had gone by Tuesday morning and I headed off to Fleetwood to see the trams heading to the town due to market day. I headed for Cabin to catch a tram but had to wait very nearly 20 minutes before one arrived going further north than Cabin, Balloon 721. I was at the terminus in Fleetwood around 10am. I remained in Fleetwood for 1 hour 30 minutes and only saw 17 trams, despite it being a busy market day, presumably because it was fairly early. There was also a large gap of over 15 minutes after 10.15am when no trams at all appeared followed by the usual batches. I caught Balloon 716 back to Cabin at 11.35am and then stayed at Cabin for just over 45 minutes seeing 19 trams go in both directions.
After lunch I headed out again with the purpose of going down to the depot. For some reason, which I can't remember anymore, I decided to catch a tram from Bispham and Railcoach 678 took me to Manchester Square and I arrived outside the depot at 2.51pm. On arrival at the depot Balloon 704 was on Hopton Road against the Fitting Shop wall with a smashed lower saloon window. There was a fair bit of activity whilst I was there with several trams being moved from and to the Electrical Compound and other coming into the depot. Centenaries 646, 645, 642, 641, 647, Brushes 623, 621, Railcoaches 678, 680 and Twin Cars 683+673, 682+672 and 676+686 all came into the depot whilst Balloons 711 (fresh from driver training duties in the morning), 715 and 718, Railcoach 680 and Brush 621 went in the opposite direction. After the depot I walked down to Pleasure Beach before catching Balloon 707 back to Cabin.
The evening was spent away from the tramway so the trams that were on Illumination Tours are not known although Box 40 was situated at North Pier at 10.30pm, so I presume that this undertook a tour. The day was ended by catching 40 from North Pier back to Cabin at 10.33pm.
Wednesday 11 September
Another nice day weather wise in Blackpool but in all tram output was disappointing. In the morning I headed for the centre of Blackpool again, to stay at both Tower and North Pier. The first interesting observation of the day was heritage Balloon 700 heading north out of service although with roughly a dozen people on board, possibly an early driver training run? Whatever it was, only an hour later it was back in service going to Pleasure Beach. Balloon 701 was also seen out whilst not in service and it looked like this was on a test run following repairs of some sort. The driver training school continued with Box 40 being used with the tram seen several times at Tower turning before going back south. Open Top Balloon example 706 was also out in the morning operating Promenade specials for the first time in the week. In the one hour spent at Tower, 26 trams passed in service. Just before 12.30pm rebuilt Balloon 709 was seen heading southwards at Wilton Parade seemingly returning the people who went northbound in 700, 2 and a half hours previously.
In the afternoon a brief trip was made to Cleveleys catching Balloon 723 from Bispham station. I only spent just over 15 minutes there but in that time 5 trams were noted, then I caught 700 back as far as Bispham where the rest of the afternoon was spent. On the walk back from Bispham I saw the Illuminated Trawler at Cabin waiting to return south, the first time I had seen it since the Saturday.
The evening was spent at North Pier to see the evenings Illumination Tours set off, and I arrived there at 7.19pm. The Illuminated Trawler passed soon after heading for Bispham and then at 7.35pm the first Boat in action of the holiday appeared, 600, terminating. The Boat moved forward soon afterwards to operate the first tour of the evening and this left towards Bispham at 7.48pm pretty full. Princess Alice, 706, was also still out at this time being seen just before 8pm heading for Bispham on a special. Then at 8.19pm the Illuminated Trawler terminated ready for the second tour of the evening which it left with at 8.30pm, just as Boat 600 was heading back south with the first tour of the night. Ten minutes later Bolton 66 passed going northbound, the exact destination not known as the blinds on the tram were not working very well all week, 706 then passed again at 8.42pm heading for Pleasure Beach. The first tour of the night finished at 9.10pm and then the Trawler passed going towards Pleasure Beach at 9.14pm. The third and final tour of the night was left to Bolton 66 which terminated at 9.20pm and then set off to Bispham at 9.32pm. After this left I set back off to my accommodation seeing both 706 and 66 at Cliffs Hotel within a minute of each other just before 10pm.
Thursday 12 September
Weather: Mainly Sunny
Another day, more sunshine. The day started with a trip on Brush 621 from Bispham to Starr Gate, as the Brushes had taken on service duties. It would have been easy to understand why single-deckers had taken charge of the timetabled service but they all had 2 conductors, not a very cost effective use of staff. Whilst travelling to Starr Gate, Twin Car set 681+671 were noted on driver training duties. The tram arrived at Starr Gate between 10.15am and 10.20am and quickly set off for Fleetwood again. The next tram did not arrive for over 15 minutes and waited another 7 before heading back to Fleetwood. There was then another long wait until 11am for Railcoach 680 to turn up which had a quick turnaround leaving within 1 minute and taking me the whole length of the route to Fleetwood. On the way Princess Alice was noted out for the second day in a row on specials at Victoria Street, Blackpool. The visit to Fleetwood was just a quick one and at 12.10pm Centenary 642 arrived and I boarded it to take me as far as Cleveleys. On the journey to Cleveleys, Brush Car 634 was noted at Thornton Gate on the centre track having presumably failed and was later seen going through Cleveleys out of service heading towards depot and then was stabled again at Bispham a bit later on in the day. After another 15-20 minute stay at Cleveleys tram stop it was time to head back to Cabin with Brush 630 provided for the journey with several other trams having loaded up pretty full before this. One big thing that was noticed in the morning was that a lot of trams were not going as far as Fleetwood but were instead being turned short at Thornton Gate which sometimes meant that there was a large gap between trams to the northern terminus.
The afternoon was quite short on this day as the morning had over run and the evening was already booked and so was spent back at North Pier. During the 75 minutes or so spent here nothing of particular note was seen with 18 trams passing. The evening was spent down at the southern end of the tramway and on the way it was noted that a lot of special trams were out for the night and I wasn't going to see them! Balloon 701 took me from Cabin to Pleasure Beach and on the way Box 40 was seen heading north at Waterloo Road, Standard 147 was on the loop at Pleasure Beach (after we had followed it for a way from North Pier), then 5 minutes later the Illuminated Trawler arrived from the south and then moved onto the loop and finally Bolton 66 arrived just before 7pm, again from the south. Again, as on Tuesday, it is not known which trams operated the Illumination Tours on this night but there was certainly lots of choice from the trams out on specials in the early evening.
Friday 13 September
The morning mainly consisted of the usual last day of holiday duties, buying the presents! The highlight of the morning was Boat 600 out on Promenade specials noted at North Pier at 11.05am. Two trams were caught during the morning, 717 from Cabin to Cleveleys and 720 in the reverse direction. The tram output was not great during the morning as was testified when an elderly lady was heard to say at Cabin that she had been waiting 90 minutes for a tram to get her only as far as Bispham. Whilst in Cleveleys I decided that it would be a good idea to buy about 6 and a half years worth of Fylde Tramway News', however have you ever wondered how heavy that amount of paper is?! Well let me tell you I was regretting it on Saturday, more about that later!
After lunch Balloon 712 took me from Cabin down to the location of the afternoon, Pleasure Beach. On the way Boat 600 was still out seen at Central Pier heading for Bispham and then once at Pleasure Beach Princess Alice 706 and Standard 147 were noted operating on specials. In just less than one hour, 17 trams on different journeys passed me at Pleasure Beach. Following this I walked back northwards for a second and final visit of the week to the depot. Again whilst I was outside the depot there was movement of trams as some arrived and others departed. Brush 637, Balloon 710 and Railcoach 678 all arrived into the depot whilst Balloon 722, Bolton 66 and Centenary 642 all went out onto the Promenade. Then it was back to the north catching rebuilt Balloon 707 to Cabin.
Now for the final evening of the holiday. It must have seemed a good idea at the time is all I can say but I decided that I should walk all the way to Pleasure Beach and then all the way back and further to Bispham before collapsing back in the flat. The aim was to be at Pleasure Beach in time for the switch on of the lights which was at roughly 7.40pm. So I was out the flat at 6.44pm and started to make my long way to Pleasure Beach. The first 'special' tram I noted was Boat 600 at Warley Road heading for Pleasure Beach and then at North Pier the Illuminated Trawler 633 was seen on its way to Little Bispham. At Tower the Unimog, 940, was checking Pantographs and Trolleys as the trams passed and Sheffield 513 was also here running a special as far as Cabin in the semi-light. Just before 7.30pm 600 passed me again heading back to Tower at Manchester Square and then just after the lights had been switched on, when I was at Waterloo Road, Boat 607, its first appearance of the week, was heading to North Pier. I finally arrived at Pleasure Beach at 7.46pm, just over an hour after I had left the flat. Whilst I was waiting at Pleasure Beach Boat 600, Princess Alice 706 and Illuminated Trawler 633 were amongst the trams that were operating the many specials. At 8.40pm the first Illumination Tour of the night was in the charge of Bolton 66 which went down to Starr Gate, as the first tour of the night does this year, the tram returning north at 8.54pm. The second tour of the night arrived at 9.06pm with Boat 607 operating it and this went round the loop from the northern end running round the whole loop before heading back northwards. This was followed at 9.15pm by Sheffield 513 and the third tour of the night which used the same move as Boat 607 10 minutes earlier. At 9.30pm I decided to start to make a move back along the lights having seen 31 trams in 1 hour 45 minutes. When I hit St Chads Road at 9.46pm Princess Alice 706 passed going southwards with the fourth and final tour of the night. At 10.05pm Boat 607 was noted still out running specials with a service to Pleasure Beach at North Pier. After I had walked all the way back to Bispham and then back to flat it was 11pm and Princess Alice had also been seen making good use of the still pleasant weather operating more specials after its tour.
The following trams operated Illumination Tours:
1. Bolton 66
2. Boat 607
3. Sheffield 513
4. Open-Top Balloon 706 'Princess Alice'
Saturday 14 September
Weather: More sun
And so to the final part of day. I was not due to leave Blackpool North until just before 3pm so there was still plenty of time to see more trams and the day was not to disappoint. I started off the morning at Cabin and the only complaint here can be that not many trams were going any further north but were terminating here. The first Boat of the day was seen at 9.59am when 607 went through heading for Little Bispham. After around 40 minutes I moved towards North Pier and saw Boat 600 when I was at Gynn Square on a journey as far as Bispham. At 10.15am the third of the Boats was seen with 602 which was going all the way to Fleetwood whilst I was passing Warley Road. Then after I had arrived at North Pier I saw Boat 605 on its way to Cabin at 10.37am which left just one more of the class to see on the day. Another special tram was seen at 11.04am when the Replica Vanguard 619 was seen, again on its way to Cabin, swiftly followed at 11.08am by the Illuminated Trawler 633 going to Little Bispham. I made my move back north for Bispham soon after with the Replica Vanguard, 600, Boat 604 (making a full set of Boats), 602 and the Trawler all being passed on the way. And so from just after 12pm I stationed myself to watch the trams go by for the last time of the holiday and to eat an ice cream! Trams of note that passed between then and 12.55pm included Sheffield 513, Boat 604, Bolton 66, Boat 602, the Trawler and Boat 600. The final tram journey of the holiday was undertaken with rebuilt Balloon 707 taking me from Cabin to North Pier. Then after I had seen the last tram of the year, Bolton 66 heading northbound, I struggled up Talbot Road with 3 bags towards the station. And I was right 6 and a half years worth of Fylde Tramway News' are quite heavy especially when combined with various other items I had brought in the week, and why is it that I started the week with 1 bag and ended it with 3?
I was treated to some of the better weather of the year for this week in Blackpool and was not that disappointed by tram output with all of the Boat Cars making at least one appearance in the week along with all the other 'vintage' cars except Stockport 5 and Coronation 660, which I was really expecting. The most unusual day of the week had to be the Thursday when crews of 3 were used on single deck trams. Other than that there were several occasions when not enough specials were out particularly in the earlier part of the morning. However saying that the week was well enjoyed with first viewings for me of 7 trams including those in Manchester. Now I have to wait for another year until BLACKPOOL 2003!