A Week in Blackpool: 5th to 12th September 2009

Yes, it’s that time of year again when British Trams Online Webmaster Gareth Prior makes his week long sojourn to Blackpool for a week on the trams. This year because of where the Bank Holiday falls the “Week in Blackpool” was quite late being 5th-12th September and as such all schools had gone back and obviously tram output was even further down. A day by day account detailing anything remotely exciting that happened is provided along with lists of the trams making appearances.

Saturday 5th September 2009

In 2008 the first tram I saw was Vanguard 619 so the chances of seeing something nearly as exciting in 2009 was pretty unlikely, wasn’t it? Well yes it was actually – Centenary 644 was the tram and a week of trams was officially started.

This was the final day of the enhanced Saturday service as with the closure of the tramway to Starr Gate the chance was being taken to introduce a new timetable. Needless to say the service was in chaos as soon as I had arrived in Blackpool with service cars often bunching and short running being observed on many occasions. This was just made worse with the shortened running times given to trams in the evening – these times certainly didn’t suit an Illumination Saturday.

Open Top Balloon 706 was one of the stars of the day being used on a Private Hire for BBC Radio 2 for the broadcast of the Alan Carr show in the evening. The tram was first seen during the afternoon undergoing a sound test running from Depot to Bispham and back. It then spent the two hours between 1800 and 2000 running along the Prom with the comedian broadcasting his show. The weather wasn’t exactly lending itself to an open top tram at this time with a blustery wind blowing.

Despite 706 out and the Western Train 733+734 also in operation the highlight of the day was probably the rare use of Balloon 702 on specials. The tram came out late afternoon and ran a few journeys including one to Little Bispham. From here it was swapped over with Balloon 701 (which was on one of the Cleveleys routes due to return to Depot early) with 701 remaining out on specials and 702 sent back to Depot.

Six Illumination Tours were run with two for Western Train 733+734 and one a piece for Frigate 736, Trawler 737, Standard 147 and an unlikely choice considering the weather Open Top Balloon 706. Of note was that Tours were loading on the northbound track – presumably to enable the wheelchair lift on 733 to be used effectively – with northbound trams going through the centre track. Unfortunately on this night it appears that not all drivers were aware of this as some waited at the points to the south of the loading stop for instructions.

Fleetwood Service Trams (9):

700, 707, 709, 711, 717, 718, 719, 721, 761

Cleveleys/Bispham Service Trams (6):

701, 712, 713, 715, 723, 726

Specials (13):

147, 622, 630, 631, 641, 642, 644, 645, 646, 647, 648, 701, 702

Private Hire for BBC Radio 2:

706

Illumination Tours (6):

1. Western Train 733+734

2. Frigate 736

3. Trawler 737

4. Standard 147

5. Open Top Balloon 706

6. Western Train 733+734

Total number of Trams in service: 31 (equivalent day in 2008 = 34)

Sunday 6th September 2009

The final day of trams between Pleasure Beach and Starr Gate before closure for work to start on the supertram upgrade and also the last day of the current timetable and the final day of complete double deck operation. For most of the day it was pretty uneventful with no serious late running and just three single deck trams out on specials during the day.

Things changed in the evening though with the first Tramways Monthly/British Trams Online tour taking place – “So Long Starr Gate”. Details of this tour can be found here.

The service started to disintegrate during the evening firstly due to round 1 of the World Fireworks Championships – which always causes disruption to the tram service. Many short running services were noted with some Fleetwood cars only making it as far as Thornton Gate while others only got through to Little Bispham.

The service didn’t even get a chance to get anywhere approaching normality when Western Train 733+734 broke down near to Little Bispham – taking the power out in the process! Engineering Car 754 was called from Depot to undertake a rescue and whilst this was happening Frigate 736 had to turn at Bispham whilst operating the second tour of the night. Now, this meant that 736 was operating backwards for the southbound leg of its tour but this was rectified by the tram travelling through to Harrowside and using the very rarely used crossover!

733+734 were eventually towed back to Depot by 754 – with the external lights switched off – and they were seen at Tower at 2224. By this time the service was in complete tatters and many services were cancelled or turned short and it became a struggle to work out which tram was actually work which route!

For the record the last timetabled service to run from Starr Gate to Fleetwood was Jubilee 761, from Fleetwood to Starr Gate was Balloon 700 (running as a special) and to/from Starr Gate (should have been from Fleetwood but had only made it as far as Thornton Gate) was Balloon 718. But this was not the final tram to depart Starr Gate as this honour fell to Standard 147 on the TM/BTO “So Long Starr Gate” tour – departing at 0024.

Fleetwood Service Trams (7):

761 (1), 707 (2), 713 (3), 723 (4), 718 (5), 717 (6), 711 (7)

Cleveleys/Bispham Service Trams (5):

709 (8), 712 (9), 701 (10), 715 (11), 721 (12)

Specials (7):

642, 644, 646, 700, 719, 726, 737

So Long Starr Gate Tour:

147

Illumination Tours (3):

1. Western Train 733+734 (failed during tour)

2. Frigate 736 (included some backwards running)

3. Trawler 737

Total number of Trams in service: 22 (equivalent day in 2008 = 28)

Monday 7th September 2009

This was a day spent mainly away from Blackpool with a visit to Manchester (for a day on different trams!). This was the first day of the new timetable and the basic pattern sees six trams needed on Fleetwood service (double deckers) and four on Cleveleys service (single deckers) in the day. Then in the evening three double deckers swap onto the Bispham service whilst six single deckers (the four from Cleveleys service and two fresh from Depot) operate to Fleetwood.

The service disintegrated again for reasons unknown which saw more short running. One Fleetwood service was noted heading only as far as Thornton Gate whilst one Bispham-Pleasure Beach service only got as far as Tower.

The Western Train 733+734 was still out of action and so Standard 147 was used as the third tram for tours – of which four were run in total.

Service Trams (12):

641 (Cleveleys/Fleetwood), 644 (Fleetwood – evening), 645 (C/F), 646 (C/F), 647 (C/F), 648 (F – e), 707 (Fleetwood – day), 717 (Fleetwood/Bispham), 718 (F – day), 719 (F/B), 723 (F/B), 726 (F – day)

Specials (5):

642, 644, 648, 737, 761

Illumination Tours (4):

1. Frigate 736

2. Trawler 737

3. Standard 147

4. Frigate 736

Total number of Trams in service: 17 (equivalent day in 2008 = 20)

Tuesday 8th September 2009

The days of classic Fleetwood Market Tuesdays are over with the advent of concessionary free travel on the buses but not the trams and so this day just saw four single deck specials making it through to Fleetwood (Brush 631, Centenary 642, Centenary 645 and Centenary 648) but at least there were daytime specials! Most of the trams (specials and service) were arriving full in Fleetwood but not as full as the Line 1 buses.

The service managed to stand up quite well during the day with only the odd gap noted. One notable absentee was Jubilee 761 which must have been turned short on a journey whilst Balloon 721 was also significantly late on one journey. At one stage in early afternoon three trams arrived at Fleetwood Ferry within a couple of minutes of each other (one service tram and two specials).

Unfortunately a number of southbound journeys were delayed just after departure from Fleetwood Ferry because of the bus stop at Albert Square. If buses don’t pull in fully to the stop trams are unable to get by and so must wait for the bus to complete loading. On one occasion 645 was held up behind a bus for eight minutes! 645 then managed to get by the bus before drawing up to its own stop further down Lord Street – and delaying the bus slightly!

In the evening the Western Train 733+734 was back in use on Illumination Tours and its fellow Illuminated cars also ran a journey each.

Service Trams (12):

641 (C/F), 644 (C/F), 645 (F – e), 646 (C/F), 647 (C/F), 648 (F – eve), 707 (F – day), 709 (F/B), 718 (F/B), 719 (F – day), 721 (F/B), 761 (F – day)

Specials (7):

630, 631, 642, 645, 648, 715, 717

Illumination Tours (3):

1. Western Train 733+734

2. Frigate 736

3. Trawler 737

Total number of Trams in service: 20 (equivalent day in 2008 = 26)

Wednesday 9th September 2009

This was just an ordinary day on the Blackpool and Fleetwood Tramway with the service managing to cope throughout the day with only the odd late and short running tram in the evening.

Highlight of the day out on the tramway was probably the appearance of Standard 147 early in the morning with “Reserved” on the blinds – presumably undertaking conductor training or something similar. The tram was noted going north through Cabin at 0934 and was then noted on the centre track at Bispham.

Into the evening and the Western Train 733+734 was absent from Tour duty again with the two floating Illuminated trams and 147 running the required tours.

A private tour of the Depot complex was undertaken at lunchtime on this day with Bryan Lindop doing the honours (thanks to Andrew Waddington – Assistant Editor of Tramways Monthly – for organising this). There were no trams in the Paint Shop but the Body Shop had two trams undergoing attention – Balloon 720 and Boat 600. As has been widely publicised 720 is undergoing a major overhaul which will include driver operated power doors with a “porch” added to the widened centre entrances (this will enable the tram to be used on the upgraded tramway). The tram also has the front skirt as fitted to sisters 713 and 717. A start has now been made on the overhaul of 600 with much of the panelling now removed. Unfortunately it was revealed during the tour that 600 is also to receive end skirts despite Blackpool Transport’s best efforts to keep the external appearance of the tram.

Into the Fitting Shop where there were another two trams undergoing attention – Centenary 643 and Balloon 724. 724 was presumably undergoing attention following its collision with Bolton 66 the Friday before. The Electrical Compound was busy with no less than five trams present – Boat 602, Balloon 700, Balloon 707, Balloon 715 and Bolton 66.

Probably the most exciting part of the tour was walking round the back of the Depot and seeing many “old friends” of the mothballed fleet just wanting to be loved again! Full coverage of the trams seen is available in here but those trams noted included several withdrawn Brush Cars (including 634 which is to have a brighter future and Works Brush 259 which has had a start made on its restoration), Twin Cars (including the orphaned trailer 687), withdrawn Balloon Cars (including 704, 708 and 722, Boat 607 and Rocket 732.

Service Trams (12):

641 (C/F), 642 (F – e), 644 (C/F), 646 (C/F), 647 (C/F), 648 (F – e), 712 (F – day), 717 (F – day), 719 (F/B), 721 (F/B), 726 (F/B), 761 (F – day)

Specials (3):

630, 631, 645

Conductor Training:

147

Illumination Tours (3):

1. Frigate 736

2. Trawler 737

3. Standard 147

Total number of Trams in service: 18 (equivalent day in 2008 = 20)

Thursday 10th September 2009

Now that’s more like it! After a couple of days which could probably be described as pretty dull on the tramway there was a lot more action on this day – although much of it was unlikely to be welcomed by Blackpool Transport! Starting with the good Brush 623 made an appearance on the Tram Driving Experience day being seen at Fleetwood Ferry at around 1245 where it stabled on the passing loop for around 30 minutes.

The service completed disintegrated in the early evening after an incident near Cabin, believed to be with the overhead. Both 645 and 648 suffered severely damaged pantographs and had to be towed back to Depot by 644 (which was operating specials) and 726 (which was sent from Depot for the task) respectively. Needless to say there was huge disruption to the service. I was at Foxhall Square during at the time of the incident and there was no southbound service tram to Pleasure Beach between 1648 and 1811 and no northbound tram for Fleetwood from 1710 until at least 1915. Once the demic trams had been cleared a succession of trams headed past Foxhall towards Pleasure Beach:

761 (Out of Service) – 1811

647 (Pleasure Beach) – 1811

709 (Pleasure Beach) – 1812

713 (Pleasure Beach) – 1818

712 (Pleasure Beach) – 1819

When trams started to head north again Fleetwood was not on the radar! Service trams went to Little Bispham, Tower, Little Bispham, North Pier and Bispham instead of their correct destinations. Fortunately during the disruption there were three trams out on specials able to run a service of sorts between Pleasure Beach and North Pier (147, 641 and 642).

When the trams were towed back to Depot 700 was on hand to complete the shunt into the Electrical Compound. With two Centenary Cars now out of service (and with 643 also out of service) for the first time during the week a Brush Car made it onto timetabled service – 630 the tram chosen.

Service Trams (14):

630 (F – e), 641 (F – e), 642 (F – e), 644 (F – e), 645 (C – towed to depot), 646 (C/F), 647 (C/F), 648 (C – towed to depot), 707 (F – d), 709 (F – d), 712 (F/B), 713 (F/B), 715 (F/B), 761 (F – d)

Specials (4):

147, 641, 642, 644

Also Out:

623 (Driver Experience), 726 (to tow 648 back to depot)

Illumination Tours (4):

1. Trawler 737

2. Frigate 736

3. Standard 147

4. Trawler 737

Total number of Trams in service: 17 (equivalent day in 2008 = 21)

Friday 11th September 2009

Centenary 648 was back in use on the Cleveleys service with a new pantograph after the incident yesterday. Other than that the first part of the day was pretty uneventful stuff. However, all that changed from mid afternoon when the specials started to come out.

The weather had been pretty good from Wednesday onwards but this had not persuaded anyone to take a Boat out for a spin on one of the early evening specials but on this afternoon that was to change. All three serviceable Boats 602, 604 and 605 were out on specials from 1430-1500 onwards along with Vanguard 619 and Standard 147. All three Boats remained out fairly late with the last of them – 604 – noted returning to Depot just after 2300. 619 was not out in service for long not being seen again after 1800 whilst later specials to come out were Open Top Balloon 706 and Bolton 66 (making its return to service after its accident the previous Friday).

The second round of the World Fireworks Championships took place on this evening and of course that equalled completed service disintegration again. During a period at Pleasure Beach there was no tram for Fleetwood for nearly one and a half hours! The inspector was getting so desperate she was checking to see whether 66 was permitted to go through to Fleetwood but just as she was doing that 644 arrived and was able to cover the journey. It is, however, believed that 147 did make it through to Fleetwood covering for late running service trams.

A strange journey was noted from Depot at 2243 involving Brush 630. The tram had a full crew on board with Fleetwood on the blinds – obviously being used on Fleetwood service (special or timetabled is unknown).

Five Illumination Tours were run with Western Train 733+734 making a return to service and this worked two of the tours with Trawler 737 also doing two and the other in the hands of Frigate 736. 733+734 were also seen doing a daylight tour being noted northbound at Pleasant Street at 1836 (with its external lights on).

Service Trams (12):

641 (C/F), 642 (F – e), 644 (F – e), 646 (C/F), 647 (C/F), 648 (C/F), 707 (F – d), 718 (F – d), 719 (F/B), 721 (F/B), 723 (F – d), 726 (F/B)

Specials (11):

66, 147, 602, 604, 605, 619, 630, 631, 645, 706, 709

Illumination Tours (5):

1. Western Train 733+734

2. Trawler 737

3. Frigate 736

4. Western Train 733+734

5. Trawler 737

Total number of Trams in service: 26 (equivalent day in 2008 = 24)

Saturday 12th September 2009

Unfortunately the Cleveleys service remained in the hands of single deckers on this the last (half) day of our “Week in Blackpool” report. With a busy Illuminations Saturday promised it had been hoped that double deckers would have been used but this was not to be.

711 started the day off on Fleetwood service but only managed one journey to Fleetwood before it returned to Depot.

As it was another warm and sunny day more Boats were used on specials with 604 and 605 in use and they were joined by 147 and 706. In addition Jubilees 761 and 762 (making its first appearance of the week) were used on specials.

And so come lunchtime the week was over. The final tram seen? Well it wasn’t much more exciting than the first – Balloon 718.

Service Trams (13):

642 (C), 644 (C), 646 (C), 648 (C), 700 (F), 707 (F), 711 (F) (c/o 709), 713 (F), 717 (F), 718 (F)

Specials (6):

147, 604, 605, 706, 761, 762

Total number of Trams in service: 19 (equivalent day in 2008 = 20)

Summary

I am afraid to say that the classic years of the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramway are well and truly over as has been seen over the last few years and emphasised by the tram output during this week. Unfortunately specials were at an all time low for this equivalent week and to be honest there weren’t a large number of people waiting for a tram being left behind because there weren’t enough trams out. I guess it just has to be something we all have to get used to that there are not the passengers out there to be carried on the tram – fact which has been multiplied by the ridiculous government made effect of the concessionary bus passes not being valid on the trams (will the next government be brave enough to save money by cancelling this scheme?).

The weather this year certainly helped to add to tram variety with the second half of the week seeing warm sun leading to the Boats making appearances and who can possibly resist a Boat Car on the Prom in the sun (although to be fair I couldn’t resist a Boat Car on the Prom in the rain!)

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