Andrew Waddington reports from the Fylde Tramway Society’s tour using Illuminated Western Train 733+734 in Blackpool on Saturday 16th May – its first since restoration.
Following its launch on Thursday 14th May, the illuminated Western Train, 733+734, was used for its first tour since completion of its major restoration on Saturday 16th May. This was a very special tour which was put on exclusively for members of the Fylde Tramway Society, who were allowed to ride on it for free! Apparently an anonymous individual funded the cost of hiring the tram as a goodwill gesture to the FTS. Despite a poor weather forecast and little notice being given of the tour, the event was very well-attended… in fact, the first run of the day was nearly full to capacity!
At 11:20am (precisely on time!), 733+734 set off for their first passenger trip to Fleetwood which took exactly one hour. There, it was briefly posed by the lighthouse before making a brisk run all the way to Starr Gate, where more photographs were taken despite a heavy shower. The Train then ran to Little Bispham and Pleasure Beach, where it stayed on the outer loop for approximately 45 minutes whilst its crew enjoyed a well-earned lunch break, before heading off to Fleetwood once again.
As if the first chance to ride on the Western Train for nearly a decade wasn’t enough excitement, both of the other two serviceable illuminated trams – HMS Blackpool 736 and Trawler 737 – were also in service throughout the day! These trams were not officially connected with the day’s events, and were merely being used on timetabled Starr Gate to Fleetwood service due to the ongoing shortage of single-deckers. However, their use was certainly very welcome and added greatly to the day; more so as this was the first time that three feature cars had been out carrying passengers since 2001. It is also worth noting that Standard car 147 Michael Airey was used on specials until late afternoon, and was mainly operated between Pleasure Beach and North Pier.
In all, Saturday 16th May was a very special day for the Blackpool tramway that I’m sure will be remembered for a very long time by all present. Thanks go to everyone involved in making the tour happen, and also to everyone who has done such a fantastic job in restoring the Western Train to such an incredibly high standard.
Fleetwood service: 644, 645, 646, 648, 761, 736 & 737
Cleveleys service: 641, 622, 630 & 631
Specials: 147, 642*, 643* & 721 (those marked with a * entered service mid/late afternoon)
Private tour: 733+734
Also out & about: 754
The official British Trams Online rating of this event is…: