The Heaton Park Tramway in Manchester held their most ambitious event to date on Sunday 21st November 2010 – “A Celebration of Blackpool’s Trams and Transport”. Gareth Prior reports from the event.
In a year of so many excellent tram events the Heaton Park Tramway were not be outdone with their celebration of Blackpool’s Trams (and buses) with the highlight being a three electric tram service featuring – on loan for just the weekend – Open Top Balloon 706 as well as Marton Box 31 (on loan for the Winter from Beamish) and Replica Vanguard 619 – all three being trams more used to seeing service in the warmer summer months because of their open nature. In addition resident works tram Railgrinder 752 was in action, this tram once again fitted with illuminations.
The day started with Marton 31 in passenger service and this was gradually joined during the morning by 706 and then 619 whilst 752 remained on display in front of the Depot. It has to be said that all three passenger trams certainly looked at home in the Park running through the trees, almost as if they were made to operate there!
For the day the stops were renamed with replica Blackpool Transport tramstops added. This included Middleton Road becoming Starr Gate, the Depot Manchester Square, at the top of the slope Gynn Square and the current Lakeside terminus, Fleetwood Ferry. Speaking of which at the Lakeside terminus a chance could be taken to see the latest progress on the extension which will see the line run further towards the cafe. The overhead has now been fully energised but some trackwork still requires completing before trams can run.
At around midday a cavalcade of the trams was formed, running from the Middleton Road Gates. This was led by Railgrinder 752 with Vanguard 619 and Marton 31 following with the star of the day Balloon 706 brining up the rear. The cavalcade ran to Whitegate before returning in reverse order.
Following the Cavalcade 706 and 31 returned to operating in passenger service whilst 619 was used on a number of Tram Driver Experience’s. After the Vanguard had finished these TDEs it too returned to passenger service. All three trams remained in use as darkness fell although the damp conditions did lead to slightly slippery rail conditions which meant a large amount of sand had to be used to help the trams climb the hill as they passed the Depot building.
As darkness fell 752 was bought out again from its resting place in front of the Depot showing off its Illuminations to good effect. As well as the “ACDO” advertising panels and stars off Bolton 66 the tram had extra lights added around the edge making it a fine sight in the darkness of the park.
Although the trams were the main attraction there was also plenty of other things going on. There were six visiting buses including four from the Lancastrian Transport Trust and these mainly operated services around the grounds of Heaton Park whilst there was also a bus shuttle service from the Middleton Road Gates to the Manchester Museum of Transport (where the chance could be taken to view further trams). In addition there were sales stalls and models on display and in operation in and around the Depot.
The event was without a doubt one of the tram events of 2010 and the Heaton Park Tramway’s ambitious plans were certainly rewarded (even the weather gods more or less played ball with only a few light showers of rain encountered and nothing which could spoil the day) with the crowds who turned out to view the unique events, including the first ever operation of an open top Balloon anywhere but in Blackpool. Riding on a Balloon in Manchester in the pitch dark of the twilight operation was a bizarre experience but certainly one your writer wouldn’t have missed for the world! Well done to all involved at the Heaton Park Tramway in the organisation and operation of the day, I am sure I speak for everyone who attended when a say a big thank you!
If you haven’t been to the Heaton Park Tramway lately, why not? You could not be made to feel more welcome and a friendlier bunch of people you couldn’t hope to meet! The Tramway will be open most Sundays throughout the winter (weather permitting and with a break over Christmas and New Year) with 31 due to be the tram in service.
Blackpool Marton Box 31 – In Service
Blackpool Replica Vanguard 619 – In Service/Tram Driving Experience
Blackpool Open Top Balloon 706 – In Service
Blackpool Railgrinder 752 – On Display/In Operation
* All four trams also took part in the cavalcade in the following order: 752, 619, 31 and 706.
Also on British Trams Online:
Gallery 250: Heaton Park Tramway Blackpool Day November 2010 – 55 photos from Gareth Prior (also includes photos of 706’s departure)
Gallery 249: Greater Manchester’s Transport Museums November 2010 – 15 photos from Gareth Prior (featuring trams on display at other museums in Greater Manchester taken over the same weekend)