For the second consecutive year South Shore Blackpool was transformed into a transport enthusiasts paradise on the last Sunday in June. Andrew Waddington reports on the days events for BRITISH TRAMS ONLINE…
Sunday 25th June 2006 was the date of the second Totally Transport event, staged by the Lancastrian Transport Trust on Blackpool’s attractive New South Promenade. The day sees much of the promenade road between Starr Gate and the south end of the Pleasure Beach closed off to normal traffic, with vintage vehicles lining up along the side of the road and visitors able to leisurely walk amongst them. Old cars are positioned on the promenade itself, and various trade stalls and attractions are located behind the Solaris building, the centrepiece of the event. Most importantly of course, a service of trams of interest supplements the usual 10 minute service down to Starr Gate, providing a rare chance to ride on some unusual vehicles at this under-valued part of Blackpool.
Having not been to Totally Transport last year, I was enticed to go by the excellent coverage of that event, and opted to stay near Bispham for a weekend. This also gave me a chance to catch up with some of the new advert liveries from both this year and last that I had not seen before. A vintage tram prom service had been advertised for Saturday 24th June – however, very sadly this failed to materialise. However, there was still a lot to take in with many recently applied all over adverts on show. These included 713 (Asda), 718 (Vodka Kick) and 723 (McDonald’s), all of which were operating Fleetwood service. Car 700 was also in use on the timetabled service. Specials consisted mainly of Centenary cars, but Brush cars 626 and 630 were also out and about, as were a few extra Balloons.
One very special tram that did venture out on the Saturday was the star of TV’s Salvage Squad, VAMBAC Coronation 304. During the afternoon 304 was out for the benefit of Friends of 40, then in the evening the tram ran to Fleetwood on an enthusiast’s tour targeted at members of the Lancastrian Transport Trust and the Fylde Tramway Society. Leaving depot at precisely 6:30pm, 304 then ran up to Tower before reversing for Starr Gate, and then it was on to Fleetwood! A clear case of being in the right place in the right time occurred at Manchester Square, when a Fleetwood bound 711 was heavily delayed (presumably due to a delayed crew changeover). The resulting ‘tram jam’ ended up consisting of a four car convoy with various other trams passing, with the Coronation being amongst those stuck in the heavy traffic. This seemed more like a ‘Tramathon’ than the one witnessed at Crich two weeks previously!
Of course, the main event was on Sunday, and the weather dawned fine and sunny. Once again Coronation 304 was set to steal the show by operating specials between Starr Gate and North Pier throughout the day. It was joined on special duties by a trio of green and cream Boats – 600, 604 and 605 – and Balloon 700. The latter seemed like a slightly poor choice, especially considering that it had been on Fleetwood service only the day before, but still proved popular. It would have been nice to see the likes of Box 40 and Bolton 66 out, but instead the remaining specials were mainly made up of Centenaries. It is also understood that both Coronations were due to appear, however 660 was unavailable on the day due to a fault. Still, it was excellent to see the Boats running down to Starr Gate, and needless to say they proved as popular as ever, as did the magnificent 304.
Things went slightly wrong during the afternoon when the heavens opened. Luckily I was on 304 at the time, but others were not quite so lucky! All three Boats were sent back to depot, and despite my hopes that the crews would bring out enclosed cars such as 40, it was then left to 304 and 700 to operate the vintage service by themselves. However, one other unusual tramcar did put in a surprise appearance – experimental City Class tram 611 was seen heading down to Starr Gate, although I believe it actually turned back at Harrowside. This created a huge amount of interest and, despite only being out on test, the car threatened 304‘s status as the star car.
After being out for a very short time, 611 ran in and the event began to wind down. However, there were a few more surprises in store! Boat 600 came out again with the female driver off 604 – and guess what, yes, she got another soaking!! Whilst riding up to North Pier for tea, the tram driver got out of his cab at Tower to inform us that we may be delayed as there had been a breakdown in front of us. A mad dash to North Pier revealed that 647‘s pantograph had collapsed, indeed quite a few bits of it could clearly be seen hanging down from the top of its tower! One of the new Unimogs had already been called out and its inspection bucket was used to examine the overhead line on the crossover where the northbound line veers to the left, to accommodate the central track. Once this was done, 647 was towed back to depot in disgrace by none other than the wonderful 700. Somebody give that tram a medal!
After tea, it was time to head back to Bispham ready to leave for home, and the first tram to pull up at the stop was…. Coronation 304, still out on specials and now heading for Bispham. This extra treat was certainly a fine way to end what had been an extremely memorable day!
If you haven’t been to Totally Transport yet and are considering it, I would highly recommend it to any tram or transport enthusiast. The event attracts more vehicles than Fleetwood Tram Sunday and they are also well spread out, making it easier to photograph. This year saw over 500 vehicles at Totally Transport. Also, the advantage of having trams running right through the heart of the site, but at a safe distance from the other attractions, gives this day a distinct advantage over other transport gatherings. The organisers have clearly worked incredibly hard to put on such an impressive show, and a very enjoyable day was the clear result of their efforts. Well done everyone, and thank-you!