The annual Wirral Bus and Tram Show took place in Birkenhead on Sunday 4th October. As well as many buses on display an intensive tram service is operated on the Birkenhead Heritage Tramway. British Trams Online Webmaster Gareth Prior reports from the event.
For most of the year the Birkenhead Heritage Tramway operates a one tram service on Saturday and Sunday afternoons but on the first Sunday in October the Wirral Bus and Tram Show allows the volunteers from the Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society to let their hair down and run a fairly intensive service with up to four trams in service.
On arrival outside the Taylor Street Depot the four trams which were due to operate the service had already been taken out to enable stalls to be set up in their usual home. Liverpool 762 and Birkenhead 20 were stabled on the track directly outside the Old Colonial Pub (currently closed) whilst Wallasey 78 and Lisbon 730 were also stabled waiting to enter service.
The first tram to depart in service was 762 (on Duty “A”) and this was soon followed by open-topper 20 (Duty “B”). These two trams continued in service together (passing outside the Pacific Road Arts Centre) until shortly after 1130 when Hong Kong built tram Birkenhead 70 took over from 762 on Duty “A”. It is believed that the reason there was a swap was because 762 had struggled to climb the steep slope between Shore Road and the Woodside Ferry terminus after the first of several heavy rain showers. 762 did eventually manage to make the climb but once it returned to Old Colonial it was withdrawn from service and stabled whilst 70 came into service as a replacement.
Come 1200 and Duties “C” and “D” started to come into use with firstly 78 and then 730 entering service. This meant the advertised four tram service was now in operation and meant that as well as trams passing at Pacific Road Arts Centre the second track at Woodside Ferry terminus was being used. The operation at Woodside saw one tram depart just after the second one arrived with the alternate terminus tracks being used, this also enabled a few shots of two trams together to be taken although the heritage bus service also in operation on the day kept trying to put a spanner in the works by parking in the way!
The final operational tram in the Birkenhead fleet to enter service was Birkenhead 69 (the other tram especially built for the line in Hong Kong in the early 1990s) which replaced 20 in service during the afternoon. 20 had probably become the least popular tram for passengers to travel on as the rain showers kept on coming (I’m convinced at times there was rain coming from blue sky!)
The four tram service continued until shortly before 1600 when the two Hong Kong built trams returned to be stabled outside Old Colonial leaving 78 and 730 to complete the day. The last round trip left Old Colonial in the hands of 730 at 1700. From around 1600 the trams started to be returned to Depot with 78 running its final journey of the day straight into the Taylor Street Depot.
As well as the trams in operation there are three trams in the Depot which are not available for service. The current major restoration project is Warrington 2 which is being worked on in the corner of the Depot. A sign is attached to the tram stating that it is due for completion in 2009, however, the evidence suggests this will not be happening. Also in the Depot are Liverpool 245 (which has had some panelling removed in preparation for a hoped for restoration) and horse tram Liverpool 43 (I have to admit I didn’t actually see this as I’m either blind or didn’t check every nook and cranny in the Depot).
Obviously as the name suggests the day isn’t completely about the trams but also includes a large display of buses and other road vehicles. Also included were regular heritage bus services around the local area and between Woodside and Taylor Street Depot. A number of stalls were also available at Taylor Street Depot and Pacific Road Arts Centre selling items such as books, models and other transport related memorabilia.
The official British Trams Online rating for the event is…
As this was the first time I had ever been to the Birkenhead Tramway the rating was always going to be higher as going somewhere new and seeing several new trams always makes the event that little bit more exciting!
Trams in Service: