Heaton Park Tramway 30th Anniversary Celebration

The Heaton Park Tramway in Manchester celebrated their 30th anniversary over the weekend of 27th and 28th March 2010. The first day of the celebrations was reserved for members but on Sunday 28th March it was open to anyone, and this brief report – from British Trams Online Webmaster Gareth Prior – concentrates on the second day.

For a tramway which has only four trams on site how does the Heaton Park Tramway continually conjure up entertaining and enjoyable events? Well, however they manage it they did it again for their 30th anniversary. Not only was this a chance to celebrate 30 years of service it was also a bit of an end of an era as the two electric passenger trams which have provided the service for the past 12 years were operating together for the last time for a while with Leeds 6 off to Beamish for a few months and Manchester 765 heading to Blackpool in June for their 125th anniversary celebrations.

The day started with a two car electric tram service – in the hands of the aforementioned 6 and 765 – whilst the other two trams – Manchester Eades Reversible Horse Tramcar L53 and Blackpool Railgrinder 752 – were stabled outside the Depot waiting for their turn in the limelight.

L53 was to be used for a number of journeys between the Depot and Middleton Road Gates – the only time this year that the tram is to be in operation. Once again horses were to be used from Latham Shire Ltd from Atherton, Lancashire. The horses arrived just before 1030 and after preparation works the horses – Bob and Jake – were attached to L53 in readiness for a test run to take place. A new tow bar was used on the tram which, it was aimed, would enable the horses to actually turn the tram (L53 is of course an Eades Reversible tram which means the body is turned rather than the horses moved from end to end).

Unfortunately it was discovered during the test runs that it was not possible for the horses to turn the tram, even with the new tow bar. Technical problems were also experienced with L53 during the day, initially with the tram’s body not turning properly and then after the initial passenger runs a brake problem. These issues were both quickly resolved and the tram managed a number of runs in passenger service, including one with the Mayoral party.

During the day Leeds 6 was taken out of passenger service on a couple of occasions to be used for the “Tram Driving Experience”, where members of the public could pay just a tenner for a short session driving the tram under the watchful eye of an experienced tram driver.

The day was not just about the trams in operation as the newly remodelled museum was officially reopened, there were model tram layouts on display and as briefly mentioned above a Mayoral party attended for an official visit. This visit included rides on both L53 and 765 and the lady Mayor even had a go at driving the latter. Also there was special celebratory cake during a couple of brief ceremonies celebrating the 30 years of the tramway.

As the day started to draw to a close Blackpool Railgrinder 752 was bought from the Depot siding with its newly fitted illuminations ablaze. The illuminations – normally to be found on Bolton 66 in Blackpool – were fitted to the front and side of the tram with a noisy generator also fitted to the tram to power them. The star illumination – which was fitted to the side of the tram – even had the normal “66” replaced with a “1”. The tram made a couple of trips down to Lakeside in partnership with 6. Unfortunately because the clocks had gone forward the night before these trips were made in pretty good light and so the effect of the illuminations was not really felt.

Just after 1800 Leeds 6 made its “farewell” trip at Heaton Park – well, for a few months at least – before it returned to the Depot just after 1830 for preparation work to commence for its trip to Beamish (which took place just two days later on Tuesday 30th March). The opportunity to see the start of this preparation work was offered to those few committed people who remained still enjoying the day.

All in all, another enjoyable day at the Heaton Park Tramway, and a visit to Manchester for a ride can always be recommended. One of the website’s linked below says that you would be hard pushed to find a friendlier or more enthusiastic bunch of people and it is really hard to argue with that! There should be plenty to encourage you to visit the tramway in the remainder of 2010 with Oporto 196 now at Heaton Park as a swap for Leeds 6 (this was due to be in operation for the first time as I write this article on Sunday 4th April), Blackpool Replica Vanguard 619 is due to arrive when Manchester 765 goes to Blackpool in June and Blackpool Open Top Balloon 706 will also visit in November for a few days for their Blackpool event on 21st November.

The Stars of The Day:

Blackpool Railgrinder 752 (in use with illuminations and on display)

Leeds 6 (in operation and Tram Driving Experience)

Manchester Eades Reversible Horse Tramcar L53 (in operation and on display)

Manchester 765 (in operation)

Also on British Trams Online:

Gallery 215: Heaton Park Tramway 30th Anniversary Celebration March 2010 – 32 photos from Gareth Prior

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