So here we are again, at the end of another year – just where does the time all go? With British Trams Online taking our traditional Christmas break (we will be back in early January) this will be the last update of 2015 (with the exception of one more Picture in Time upload on Christmas Eve morning) which makes it a good time to take a brief look back at the past 12 months and what we might expect in 2016.
It has certainly been another good year across the British Isles which has once again been dominated by the latest rejuvenation of the Heritage Tram Tours in Blackpool. The use of volunteers has really changed the heritage tram scene in Blackpool with a more regular service now able to be operated and the general public really seems to have cottoned on to the idea of having a ride on a traditional tram at last. Of course the highlight of the year for Blackpool was the 130th anniversary weekend which saw depot tours and an intensive tram service operated which included the sight of an almost full Pleasure Beach loop once again. But that isn’t to say the rest of the year wasn’t good either with the Gold timetable operation proving to be particularly popular with enthusiasts.
Its not all been about Blackpool though with Crich once again putting on a good show with their annual Enthusiasts’ Event in September which was celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Tramway Museum Society. The incredible sight of nine open top trams on the depot fan including the rare sight of Derby 1 in the open was a big highlight of 2015 but it does make you wonder how that can be beaten?!
Elsewhere there have been tram launches (or relaunches if you like) with Heaton Park welcoming back Hull 96 to the operating fleet, Birkenhead launching Liverpool 245 into service after an extensive restoration with Crich reintroducing London County Council 106 and Liverpool 869 to their operating fleet whilst back in Blackpool Balloon 715 and Twin Car 675+685 have been two notable returnees to service. After being spoilt in the last few years with loans galore 2015 has only seen one tram run away from its home tramway, this being Blackpool Railcoach 680 which has managed to operate on three different tramways – Beamish, Heaton Park and Blackpool.
Personally 2015 has been about going to new places as well as the usual old haunts with a first visit to Summerlee (if you haven’t been yet try and find time to go, you can’t hope for a warmer welcome) and the Riverside Museum whilst I also made a return visit to the East Anglia Transport Museum for the first time in 18 years. It just goes to show that there is so much out there to visit outside the main tramway centres.
Away from the heritage sector and on our modern tramways 2015 has seen more route openings with the most significant being in Nottingham where NET almost doubled its mileage in one effort opening to Toton Lane and Clifton South at the end of August. But that wasn’t the only route openings with both Midland Metro and Manchester Metrolink opening short extensions on the same day at the start of December, for Midland Metro this meant that trams were running in Birmingham City Centre for the first time in over 60 years.
New tram deliveries have also continued with Manchester Metrolink continuing to see the arrival of new M5000s on a regular basis at Queens Road Depot – only another 11 to go which means 2016 should see the completion of the order. London Tramlink and Midland Metro have also been welcoming new arrivals in 2015 but probably the most significant arrival was at the very end of November in Sheffield with the UK’s first tram train being delivered.
And what of 2016? Well as always we don’t know too many details at this stage but what we do know is that Beamish will relaunch Sheffield 264 into service at some point in the early part of the year, Midland Metro will further expand to New Street Station (although 2016 looks set to see the least number of new route miles open for a number of years) and we will most likely be surprised by a lot of what happens over the next 12 months – we can’t wait!
British Trams Online will be closed from Thursday 24th December (from approximately 0930) until early 2016. There will be no updates during this period at all and comments will be disabled to prevent being inundated with spam messages during our absence.
It just leaves me to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – see you next year!