Totally Transport Weekend June 2009

The fifth annual Totally Transport event took place in Blackpool on Sunday 28th June 2009. For the tram enthusiast the main highlights of the day are the heritage tram service between North Pier/Tower and Starr Gate and in addition there were special tours from the newly restored Western Train. British Trams Online Webmaster Gareth Prior made his first visit to the event and reports from both Totally Transport day and also the day before.

For one reason and another I have personally never attended the Totally Transport event before but as I get more ambitious (or some might say more insane!) I decided 2009 was the year to give it a go as an experiment for 2010 – the big year! This report actually starts on Saturday 27th June, the day of my arrival, when the main highlight was the appearance of Coronation 304 on a couple of private hires.

Saturday 27th June 2009

The weather over the whole weekend was pretty changeable with lovely sunny weather at one point and then heavy rain at another. 304 made its first appearance of the day shortly after 1500 when it ran a Private Hire from Depot to Little Bispham. Included in this trip was the unveiling by Daphne Luff of the legal writing on the tram with her father’s name (Walter Luff). After dropping off the invited guests for afternoon tea the tram ran back to Depot for its starring role in the evening.

304’s evening adventure was to be a full system tour from the Depot to Fleetwood, Starr Gate, North Pier and then back to Depot. The tour left Depot shortly after 1900 running non-stop all the way to Bold Street in Fleetwood. The tram was then manoeuvred into the loop line at the Ferry terminus for a break (to gain access to this line the tram has to go past the Ferry stop and then reverse in). 304 remained at Fleetwood Ferry for a little over a hour and during this time several service cars came and went allowing photographic opportunities of “beauty and the beast” as the majority were Centenary Cars. However, the last service car to turn up before departure was the Illuminated Trawler 737 – with the lights switched on when it came round the corner from Bold Street to the Ferry stop. Unfortunately, it being June and just before 2100 there was still a lot of light left in the sky meaning it wasn’t quite as spectacular as it might have been but nonetheless full credit to the crew of 737 for switching the lights on! Come 2100, 304 departed for its journey south all the way to Starr Gate where it once again met up with 737. On departure from Starr Gate 304 travelled through to North Pier where the trolley was turned and it returned towards Depot.

With it being June the early summer timetable was in operation which means the Cleveleys service ends early evening. In addition although double deck trams operate on the Fleetwood circuit during the day they are swapped over for single deckers during the evening – also two extra trams run from depot around 1900 which on this day were Centenary 646 and the aforementioned 737. A limited number of specials also saw operation during the day (notes only taken from around 1230) and this included Boat 600 which saw operation from late afternoon (after the heavy rain showers of earlier in the day had passed).

Service Trams:

630 (swapped for 643), 644, 645, 647, 648, 707, 712, 718, 723, 724, 761, 762 and 646, 737

Specials:

600, 622, 643, 709

Private Hire:

304 (afternoon and evening)

Also Out:

754

Sunday 28th June 2009

And now on to the main event – Totally Transport Day! Up until about a week before the event the undoubted highlight was going to be the appearance of recently restored Illuminated Western Train 733+734 on a couple of tours to Little Bispham. However, the announcement was then made that Sheffield 513 was to operate on the Starr Gate shuttle service – a tram that hasn’t seen public use for around four years.

As mentioned above the main highlight about Totally Transport was the Starr Gate shuttle which saw trams operate a regular timetabled service between North Pier or Tower and Starr Gate. In addition to 513 this was operated by Standard 147, Coronation 304, Boat 600 (although this had to return to depot midway through the afternoon because of the rain), Replica Vanguard 619 (making its first and probably only appearance at the event) and Bolton 66. These trams soon settled into operation and remained so for the majority of the day.

The other highlight of the day to do with trams at Totally Transport was the use of the Illuminated Western Train 733+734 on two tours operating Harrowside-Little Bispham-Starr Gate-Harrowside for the normal illumination tour cost. Once the second of these tours was completed the tram then ran in normal passenger service as far as North Pier before returning to Depot the wrong way round.

At Totally Transport 2008 the weather was reported as being atrocious with very strong winds ruining much of the day and some of the trams being taken out of service due to the inclement weather. Fortunately the weather in 2009 was nowhere near as bad and the day’s events even started with bright, sunny and dry weather – perfect weather to take a Boat Car down the Prom (as I did at the start of the day)! The weather did deteriorate during the day and from early afternoon it became showery with some pretty prolonged spells of wetness – causing 600 to return to Depot.

Unfortunately during the day the Blackpool Tramway was shown as its worst and exactly why major investment is needed to upgrade it with several tram failures leading to the timetabled service disintegrating. At least four trams failed during the day with two Centenary Cars (641 and 646) and two rebuilt Balloons (709 and 718) being replaced in service by 643, 645, 713 and 761. All these failures led to the inevitable service bunching and short run journeys. The Starr Gate shuttles were not immune to this problem and on several occasions there were large gaps in their operation and then several turning up at once.

For the majority of the day whilst the heritage tram service operated the Cleveleys service was altered so they only ran as far as Pleasure Beach – this allowed the heritage service to fill the gaps as otherwise the section between Pleasure Beach and Starr Gate would have a very regular tram service!

As well as the obvious attractions of the tram service there was plenty else to keep the tram enthusiast occupied with trade stalls (where it was possible to spend far too much money on stuff you really didn’t need!) and model tramway exhibitions in the Solaris Centre at Harrowside. In addition for the non-tram enthusiast in your party there were large displays of buses and other motor vehicles, donkey rides for the kids and entertainment in the front of the Solaris Centre including singing, dancing and bell ringing!

All too soon the day came to an end and I had to make a quick dash to Blackpool North station to catch a train home! All of the heritage trams (with the exception of 600 which had returned to Depot due to the rain) were still out in service when I left a little after 1700 and I believe 513 managed to stay out the latest of the lot – not bad for a tram which is supposedly mothballed!

Fleetwood Service Trams:

707, 709 (713), 712, 718 (761), 723, 724, 762

Cleveleys Service Trams:

631, 641 (645), 644, 646 (643), 648

Starr Gate Shuttles:

66, 304, 600, 619, 147, 513

Tours:

733+734

In Conclusion

Making the effort to attend Totally Transport was definitely well worth it with a large number of special trams in service (in fact it is probably the one day of the year in Blackpool where you are guaranteed a large number of the so-called heritage trams in service). The icing on the cake had to be the appearance of Sheffield 513 on the shuttle service. Full credit and thanks must also be given to everyone involved in the planning and organisation of an excellent event. The official British Trams Online rating (out of 5) for the event comes in at…

4.5

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