The third and final installment of acclaimed tramway historian Brian Turner’s detailed review of the Blackpool system is finally here, covering the stretch north of Bispham right up to the northern terminus at Fleetwood Ferry. This section of tramway is shown in photographs examining the many changes that have gone on since 1960, in particular chartering the transition from traditional tramroad to modern light rail system.
Previous titles in this trilogy have focussed on the tramway itself rather than the vehicles, with coverage given to the many track layouts, shelters and other infrastructure showing how this has changed over the years – ranging from the replacement of waiting shelters to more major works, such as new feeder cables and the construction of loading platforms. Also illustrated is the rarely seen Bold Street depot. Naturally, this book looks at many stops which no longer exist, with the least used stops being removed as part of the light rail upgrade. Looking back even a short amount of time, it really is astonishing to see the basic small paved area and signs that comprised a tram stop as recently as 2011! The level of detail is not quite as extensive as the two previous books – for example the relocation of the Cleveleys crossover is barely acknowledged – but is still much more thorough than your average Blackpool tram book. Even small alterations post-upgrade (and there have surprisingly been quite a few) are covered, such as the various types of paving between platforms and the introduction of new heritage stops north of Bispham from 2013.
Once again it is pleasing that negative aspects of tramway history are given fair coverage rather than being glossed over; for example, the absence of any waiting shelters at Cleveleys for five years. A few minor mishaps such as dewirements also provide additional interest to the book, as they always do – at least when it isn’t us being inconvenienced by them!
The quality of the images in the book is generally very high and most of them are in full colour. Unfortunately, the colour reproduction of some images is a little disappointing, and this seems to have affected some of the newer pictures the worst. The variety of trams illustrated is perhaps not as good as the two before it, perhaps reflecting that the core tram service north of Bispham has generally been worked by less exotic members of the fleet. However, there are still some gems to be found amongst the more familiar fare of Balloons, Centenary cars and Flexities, such as ‘foreign’ visitors Liverpool 762 and Manchester 765. Engineering car 753 also features several times over the course of the book, shown making its way to Fleetwood on inspection duties as well as being shown on its once-familiar stabling spot, Little Bispham loop. And yes, Dreadnought 59 appears in glorious colour!
Brian Turner’s books are always well worth a look and this title is no exception, despite struggling slightly to match its predecessors – which probably says more about how good they were than anything else! This is definitely a worthy addition to the library of any Blackpool tram fan and even the most dedicated enthusiast will almost certainly learn something new and see things they haven’t before in these pages. The author puts his own stamp on his text to create a personal, interesting and entertaining commentary which adds to the appeal of a book that is very easy to read.
‘Bispham to Fleetwood – the Blackpool Tramway since 1960, Volume Three’ by Brian Turner is published by Rails Publishing (www.capitaltransport.com) and can be found in stock at specialist stores now. It includes 365 images, mostly in colour, and is priced at £30.