Boating in February!

The second ‘Winter Gold’ heritage tram running weekend in Blackpool took place over the weekend of 27th & 28th February, once again putting a fine selection of historic trams to work on the tramway. For many, the highlight – and certainly the most unusual event of the weekend – was the surprise use of Open Boat 230 on both days, surely the earliest in a year that a Boat car has ever been used in public service!?

Two days of dry but cold weather encouraged the dedicated (crazy?) volunteers at Blackpool to bring out an unexpected treat in the shape of 230. As if the novelty of a Standard, an unrefurbished Balloon car and two Twin sets running in winter wasn’t enough, quite a healthy number of hardy souls couldn’t resist sampling an open tram ride along the promenade in winter, something few if any of those present would ever have experienced previously. Boat 230 even made it to Fleetwood on both days, a ride certainly not for the faint hearted but definitely a memorable occasion and one for the history books! Another notable occurrence was the placing of a temporary heritage tram stop near St Chad’s Road to serve a nearby model tram show; the first time passengers have been able to board or alight a traditional British-built tram at this location since 2011.

Unfortunately, the reliability of the heritage fleet is becoming a cause for concern with a few problems arising on Saturday 27th February. Both Ex-Towing car 680 and Western Train 733+734 were rostered to operate but neither even made it onto the promenade before failing. The illuminated Train was due to be the first heritage car out but suffered a defect on its way out, which blocked the line from Rigby Road depot and delayed the start of the day’s action. The day’s output therefore comprised Box 40, Standard 147Boat 230, Twin set 272+T2 and Balloon cars 715 and 717, although late in the day 717 also suffered a minor fault and was replaced by Brush Railcoach 631.

Sunday 28th February saw cars 40, 230 and 272+T2 out again, this time joined by Centenary car 648, Twin set 675+685 and Balloon 723. Happily this day was much less eventful and all six trams completed a full day of service with all of them managing a visit to Fleetwood, with the Boat car being especially popular once again. Of note, several trams were making their year debuts (230, 272+T2, 715 and 723) with 723‘s snowplough having been hastily removed to enable its appearance. Saturday was also the last expected outing in Blackpool for car 147 before its much-anticipated visit to Beamish Museum, and the tram is expected to depart for this destination in the next few days.

Despite some unforseen challenges, the heritage team did their best to put on an impressive spectacle and the winter operating weekends certainly seem to have been a great success on the whole, offering enthusiasts and the general public alike some very unusual tram riding opportunities. Amazingly it is now only four weeks until Easter, and the next gold heritage weekend in Blackpool – bring it on!

This is no ordinary image of a Blackpool Boat car in the sun at the Pleasure Beach - because it was taken on 28th February! 230 is seen during a pause between trips on the winter gold weekend. (Photo by Rob Bray)


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5 Responses to Boating in February!

  1. Kev says:

    What a fantastic weekend it was and well done to all! Especially the hardy souls on the Boat. Though I think ‘becoming a cause for concern’ is a bit over egging it. Were you there years ago when Trams regularly went pop after winter stotage? It happens! From what I was told 680′s problem was the batteries for its transponder not the vehicle itself. 717 was indeed a minor fault and was sorted on return to depot. The Train, whilst delaying service (not for longh though) is not something which could not have been foreseen. Coupling issues are very rare in blackpool and it was sorted quickly. It was quickly and professionally sorted.
    What did concern me more, though were the so called enthusiasts who were trespassing in the new stop work site just to get photos. Some bloke with a big pole surely didn’t need to! maybe they thought Scotsman was coming.

    On the whole though it was a great weekend, Trams were busy and passengers all seemed happy – a huge number of new faces among the volunteers too, including some ladies (previously only Jane Cole had flown this flag alone). They seemed great guys and gals, very friendly and fitted right in witht he established volunteers.

  2. paul kray says:

    Bravo to everyone who’s time, effort and dedication made it possible. Riding 230 to Fleetwood in February was an experience in itself!

  3. Ken Walker says:

    Excellent day on Sunday aided in no small part by perfect weather for the time of year. I only managed to do Bispham to the Pleasure Beach on 230 and I have to admit I wasn’t terribly sorry to have to change into a nice warm 648 for the next stage of the journey! An experience not to be missed nonetheless, if only to see the looks on the faces of some intending passengers waiting for service cars at stops along the route!
    Well done to all who were involved in the weekend’s activities.

  4. Paul says:

    We’ll done and thanks not only to the Heritage tram crews (including 3 or 4 making their Service debut) but also to the organisers of the model show which included young active volunteers from both Blackpool Heritage Tours and Heaton Park. The provision of the temporary stop showed the ‘can do’ spirit and the various groups working together for mutual benefit.

    As Kev said the problem with 680 was simply that someone forgot to plug in the battery charger! The issue with the Train was more concerning, but better it happened when and where it did…

  5. John says:

    It seemed very well received and credit to all for turning out – especially popular was the additional stop! As a driver there were a few firsts for me, the first time I had recovered a demic and taking a boat to Fleetwood! Massive shout out to BTS colelagues for sorting it out so quickly, and to the bemused lads working at man Square working on the track who leaped into action!
    A brilliant weekend, fantastic new colleagues, great models, lighter wallet.

    BUT the question, when has a Boat carried fare paying passengers in winter? 600 certainly ran in winter at Heaton Park but I think that was private hire and staff transport only as there was no winter opening until the 2000s. So apart from hires, did any operate in the early days in Blackpool?