Blackpool Tramway – The End of an Era: Editor’s Top 10 Memories

As is inevitable when something comes to an end – such as the end of traditional tramway operation in Blackpool – we start to look back and think of all the happy memories it has bought us. British Trams Online Editor Gareth Prior is no different and presented here are his top 10 memories of the Blackpool and Fleetwood Tramway (only events he has seen and have made him think “that’s rather exciting”!). You will probably take a look at some of these and think, “what, really? You found that exciting?!?” but we will all have our own personal memories of the Blackpool Tramway and there will be probably be very few which are the same.

Stockport 5 on Test

August 1996

The first of my memories will be one of those you probably can’t believe it’s in my top 10! During a family holiday in 1996 walking into town along the Prom a small red and white double decker came into view – Stockport 5. It was under test having recently arrived in Blackpool and after that day I became rather obsessed with the tram! It was to be a full ten years before I would actually see the tram out again and get to ride it!

Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Centenary

July 1998

The first special tramway event I had attended this was a pretty wet week in July when we celebrated the Centenary of the Tramroad to Fleetwood. Highlights of the week were the rather bizarre works trams on display at the Depot midweek and of course the loanee trams including Rack 2 and Pantograph 167 (and I don’t remember either of them failing during the week!)

70th Anniversary of the Streamlined Trams

September 2004

The 70th anniversary of the introduction of the iconic streamlined trams in Blackpool was deemed a good excuse for another celebration in the town with a weekend of varied events. This included a procession of trams including Standard 147 renumbered as “177” for the weekend and examples of the English Electric cars, the launch into service of Frigate 736 following its rebuild and a Depot Open Day.

OMO 8 on Blundell Street

Saturday 18th September 2004

This may be one of those “really, that is a highlight?” ones! On the last day of my holiday to Blackpool I popped down to the Depot – as I do practically every year! – and to my shock and delight on Blundell Street by the Fitting Shop wall were three trams: Engineering Car 754, Balloon 716 and OMO 8. This was before 8 had been repainted into the Plum and Custard livery and was looking rather sorry for itself sitting there but it was certainly a highlight for me to get some photos of it out in the open once again.

Railcoach 679 Farewell Tour

Saturday 29th November 2008

This was actually the very first tram tour I went to and it seemed an opportunity I couldn’t possibly miss at the time as it meant I could combine it with a visit to Heaton Park. 679 had recently been secured by the Lancastrian Transport Trust for preservation and the idea of the tour was a final run on the tramway before a start was made on restoring it to original pointed end condition. Coronation 304 was also used on the tour which was the first to use the now familiar timetabled shuttle service before a run through to Fleetwood in the thick fog.

So Long Starr Gate Tram Tour

Sunday 6th September 2009

Never again I believe were the words I uttered after this tour took place (and I’ve been true to my word!) – the one and only tram tour that British Trams Online have been involved in the planning and “organisation” of. This tour was run alongside colleagues from another tramway website which, at that time, was a rapidly expanding source of tram news and was put together as no other organisation had plans to commemorate the closure of the tramway between Pleasure Beach and Starr Gate for a start to be made on the Supertram upgrade works. To say nothing went according to plan would be an understatement although in the end it proved to be better than we could ever imagine! Due to wet weather our tram of choice Box 40 was unavailable so this was replaced by Standard 147, we then departed Depot about 10 minutes earlier than scheduled (surely a major rarity for an enthusiasts tram tour!) and set off for the Prom. I had prepared a timetable which would see us make several runs between Starr Gate and Thornton Gate, but this proved that I did not have a career in timetabling as it soon fell completely apart and we ended up just shuttling around as and when. It was then that things went even further off plan – following discussions between the tram crew and inspectors it was decided that the tour would become the last tram to depart Starr Gate on that night! And so we made history and were the last tram with passengers onboard on this section for around two years. Special mention must go to my now colleague Andrew Waddington for being a major part of organising the tour on the night. It was after this tour that I decided it was best to leave tours to the professionals!

Farewell to Fleetwood

Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th November 2009

Just two months after the closure of the Pleasure Beach-Starr Gate section of tramway came the closure of the final significant part of traditional tramway street running in the UK, again for Supertram upgrade work between Ash Street and Fleetwood Ferry. A weekend of tram tours were organised by the Lancastrian Transport Trust and Fylde Tramway Society and this included many trams which would never run in Blackpool again (not that we were really aware of that at the time) including Brush 623 and Balloon 712 whilst Balloon 700 also made its last passenger runs before receiving the widened entrances. But the main highlight of the weekend was the FTS organised “Last Tram to Fleetwood” tour which used Box 40, Brush 627 (specially resurrected for one night only!) and Balloon 702 (last runs in Blackpool). Power supply problems caused chaos on this evening and the tour was severely delayed with final departure from Fleetwood Ferry not being until 0128 (over an hour late) and then 627 and 702 ended up travelling from here all the way to Pleasure Beach thanks to agreement with Blackpool Transport and then back to Depot meaning the tour didn’t end until around 0300!

Blackpool Tramway 125th Anniversary

Thursday 23rd to Wednesday 29th September 2010

So many memories from this week of events to mark the 125th anniversary of the tramway it is hard to pick just one. Is it the mad Saturday – one of my most enjoyable days on the Blackpool Tramway ever – when there were big queues at Pleasure Beach as all four Twin Cars were out at once with enthusiast tours taking place and Rack 2 having “issues” or could it be the Tuesday when the “foreign” trams toured the tramway or any of the other tram tours which took place during the week? To be honest I can’t decide so let’s just say it was an enjoyable week!

Coronation 660 at Starr Gate Depot

Tuesday 13th September 2011

This highlight is a bit like the OMO 8 one of seven years previously as it was just a viewing and a photograph rather than a ride but its rarity value makes it join my list! As most readers will be aware Coronation 660 was not part of the operational fleet in 2011 as it was not fitted with a transponder so imagine my surprise when on going down to Starr Gate depot there was 660 being used to test the new depot wash! Balloon 700 was also down there but it was rather overshadowed by the Coronation making its only appearance out of Rigby Road depot in 2011.

End of Traditional Tramway Operation

Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th November 2011

What else was going to be tenth highlight but the last weekend? It may not have been a classic weekend but it was certainly not to be missed and I for one would certainly have regretted it if I hadn’t been there. Personal highlights of the weekend included being on Jubilee 761 for its final journey in Blackpool and being at Manchester Square to watch the trams one by one head back to Depot one last time. Of course there was so much more going on and nearly 700 photos suggests I had a good time in the last five days of traditional tramway operation. It is just a real shame that Blackpool Transport decided it was nothing special to commemorate by using Balloon 707 (which is to be retained) as the last tram to Depot. If hadn’t been for the fluke of Balloon 711 failing and being replaced by Twin Car 672+682 the last evening would probably have been a rather disappointing occasion.

* So those are my memories? What are your favourite memories of the past 126 years? Why not join us on our Facebook Group to discuss it?

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