Heritage tram driver training steps up in Blackpool

The last week of February 2015 was an interesting one in Blackpool, thanks to the appearance of several members of the retained traditional tram fleet being noted out and about on the tramway. This was part of a concerted effort to increase the pool of available drivers trained on the various different types of tram, and saw at least one tram used for five consecutive days.

The week kicked off in fine style with three Balloon cars running on Monday 23rd February. Initially cars 700 and 717 were used, allowing crews to get some practice on both a traditional streamlined tram and a member of the ‘B Fleet’ with various modifications. Unfortunately, strong winds caused some problems with 700‘s cab door blowing open during a training routine and breaking a chain on it, causing some slight damage to the side body panelling. The car was then sent back to Rigby Road to be repaired, with sister 719 taking its place and allowing the car to join 717 for a run to Fleetwood – thought to have been 719‘s first visit to the northern terminus in its current condition (if you know otherwise though, please do tell us!).

Tuesday 24th February put the single deckers in the spotlight, with another airing for the stunning Twin Set 272+T2 and its new period-style destination blinds, although it was arguably upstaged by the year debut of Centenary car 648. Not so many years ago, it was the Centenary cars which ruled the tracks every winter, but now seeing 648 running outside the peak summer season is a very rare treat – how things change! Indeed, since becoming an official member of the heritage fleet this tram has seen very little use; hopefully training more drivers on its ‘Chopper’ controls will allow it to run more frequently during 2015.

Due to interviews for volunteer conductors on Wednesday 25th February, just one tram was used for training and it was Fleetwood ‘Box’ 40 which did the honours, giving trainees some experience on the only resident tram not equipped with air brakes. Thursday 26th February saw Balloon 700 back in action, but sporting some grazed panels following its Monday mishap. The week ended with both 272+T2 and 717 being used again on Friday 27th February.

The sight of a variety of historic trams on the promenade sporting ‘L’ plates is certainly a very welcome blast from the past, and another surefire sign that every effort is being made to ensure that these venerable veterans are given more exposure in 2015 than was the case in the last few years.

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