Heaton Park Tramway celebrate MTMS 50th anniversary in style

Sunday 2nd April saw the Heaton Park Tramway celebrate 50 years of the Manchester Transport Museum Society with no fewer than nine trams featuring on the day in one form or another including an impressive four trams in service.

The day was due to start at 1100 with a two tram service but before that could take place some shunting was needed to get some of the stored trams out into the open. The stunning Manchester 173 was the first stored tram out with this being moved onto the short stub outside Middleton Road Depot where it resided for the day. 173’s lower deck was also open to the public with a small photographic display inside showing 173 over the years.

Down at Lakeside Depot Blackpool 619 was in use as a depot shunter where it was moving various trams into prime position. Fellow Blackpool streamliner Balloon 702 was pulled out of the depot and put on display just outside the depot (it’s lower deck was also open to the public on request with the familiar “Top Deck Closed” barriers also in place to recreate a bit of Blackpool history! Next to be moved was Blackpool Railgrinder 1 which was hauled by 619 across the road crossing and was then stationed at the old Lakeside terminus (its position allowed numerous photo opportunities during the day as the service cars passed by).

Two other vehicles of interest (or should that be three?!) were also brought out of Lakeside Depot. First of these was the Manchester Horse Bus, donated to Heaton Park several years ago by Beamish, which has recently been placed on Rawtenstall 23’s truck enabling its easier movement around the depot when required. Initial restoration work had been undertaken on the bus in the north east but it is very much a long term project but hopefully one day it may be possible to see a Manchester Horse Bus running alongside a Manchester Horse Tram with Heaton Park’s Eades Reversible Horse Tram L53 currently on display at Bury Transport Museum. The final tram to come out for display was the body of Oldham 43. Again a long term restoration project the scale of work which will be required on this tram was evident to be seen.

Whilst all these vehicles were positioned for the day the service cars started with the first passengers carried shortly after 1100. The plan was that for the first two hours Manchester 765 (the flagship tram since the line reopened in 1980) and Hull 96 (the most recent tram to enjoy major workshop attention) would form the service and this is what happened. Meanwhile Blackpool 619 made the trip from Lakeside to Middleton Road where preparations were made for the tram to enter service. At Middleton Road it met up with Blackpool 623 which was also being readied for its day in the sun. Come 1300 and the two Blackpool single deckers entered service with Hull 96 taking a break. For 623 this was its first passenger trips at Heaton Park since 2015 with it being available for limited use only, despite this it performed faultlessly and proving popular with visitors to the tramway. There was one final change in service cars at 1600 with 96 returning to action with 623 also staying in use until the end of the day.

The only tram currently at Heaton Park which didn’t make it outside was Stockport 5 which remains in the workshop at the Middleton Road Depot where it is undergoing attention. It is hoped that this work will be completed during 2017 after which it will be able to take pride of place in the operating fleet again where it is sure to be popular with visitors to the park. Once this work is completed it is planned that Blackpool 619 will enter the workshop area (towards the end of 2017) to receive some much needed TLC; it shouldn’t be forgotten that before the new Lakeside Depot was completed 619 had to spend a couple of years out in the open.

Throughout the day the trams carried healthy loads of passengers not just from enthusiasts but also from families who were enjoying a sunny early spring day at Heaton Park. 50 years ago the Manchester Transport Museum Society was formed and this event was a fitting tribute to the past 50 years of history. In that time they have been involved in the restoration of Manchester 765 which has operated on four different tramways in preservation before leading the project to open the UK’s only true preserved tramway just within the gates of Heaton Park. For a small group of dedicated enthusiasts their achievements continue to be impressive and the quality of this event should be a good omen for their continued success. If you haven’t been to the Heaton Park Tramway for a while why not take a visit this year? You are guaranteed a friendly welcome!

* A full gallery of images will be added to British Trams Online later this month.

Daffodils and trams – where else but Heaton Park! Blackpool 619 was one of four trams to run in service for MTMS 50.

Probably the shot most wanted on the day – the two Manchester trams side by side. 765 passes 173 outside Middleton Road Depot.

Another tram in service was Blackpool 623. With Oxford Hotel on the destination blind 623 uses the crossover at Middleton Road gates as it terminates. (Photographs x3 by Steve Kemp)

Two of the stored trams on display were Blackpool 702 and Oldham 43. The pair are seen here outside Lakeside Depot. (Photograph by Gareth Prior)

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3 Responses to Heaton Park Tramway celebrate MTMS 50th anniversary in style

  1. Bill Brinkley says:

    I had a great day at Heaton Park Tramway I would like to thank all the Staff for a day to rememberi

  2. Martin Bryan says:

    Thanks for your kind words Bill. The team put a lot of work in not just on the day but in the build up and behind the scenes as well so comments like yours mean a lot to us.

  3. Rob Glysen says:

    I went for the first time a few weeks ago when it was really sunny, it was magical.

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