Blackpool Boat car 600 became the first non-illuminated tram to work an evening heritage/illuminations tour during the new era of the tramway on Monday 3rd September. This followed on from speculation that only the three feature cars would operate on tours for the remainder of the season, and its appearance on this unusually warm night was certainly very welcome.
600 was in fact the first tour car to leave the depot, which enabled it to complete a round trip and get back to Pleasure Beach in time to operate a second tour, the final such working of the night. Although it had to reverse at Bispham on its first northbound run, this was a small price to pay to see an open tram work two tours. On this occasion 600 took the place of the Trawler 737, with the other two feature cars both in use as normal, and eyewitness reports state that all three trams were filled to capacity. After struggling to attract passengers to ride on the heritage fleet all season, this is excellent news and will hopefully prove that there is sufficient interest to justify the continued use of the old fleet in Blackpool.
Whilst staff shortages may limit the number of tours that can run, hopefully a precedent has now been set and further mild evenings may lead to further appearances by the Boat cars. Critics of the illumination tour operation have been silenced after just a few days, and whilst it would be understandable if the feature cars are used most – after all, they do contribute greatly to the annual spectacle – hopefully there will be further appearances by historic trams on these tours. It is certainly pleasing that the Blackpool tramway continues to provide some nice surprises in the modern age, and hopefully these will continue over the weeks, and indeed years, ahead.