The Blackpool Tramway 2004 – Week 1: 4th to 11th September

n the third annual report on this subject Gareth Prior takes a look at what was happening on the Blackpool and Fleetwood Tramway for a 2 week period in September 2004 (the first 2 weeks of the Illumination period)…

Saturday 4 September 2004

Weather: PM – Cloudy with sunny spells. Evening – Warm and Sunny

Despite the best efforts of Virgin Trains and First North Western I managed to arrive in Blackpool at around 1300 and immediately made my way towards North Pier for my first look at the tramway for the year. The first tram I saw was 643 which was working a special to Pleasure Beach. Obviously because I spent a good part of the day travelling the notes I made are not complete but from my observations there did seem to be enough trams in service – although those in use were pretty full at times. There was slight disruption in the evening when 709 failed and it was seen being towed through North Pier at 2034 by Engineering Car 754. 709 had been on the main Fleetwood service. The evening was of course the first full night of the 2004 Illuminations and three tours were run, one each for 66, 147 and 633.

Fleetwood Service: 707, 709 (646?), 711, 718, 724, 761, 762

Cleveleys Service: 701, 703, 710, 720, 721

Specials: 66, 642, 643, 644, 645, 647, 648, 677+687, 678, 700, 702, 726

Illumination Tours: 66, 147, 633

Total trams in service (excluding tours): 25

Sunday 5 September 2004

Weather: AM – Cloudy but warm. PM – Sunny and hot

On this day there seemed to be a lot of bunching in the tram service which meant that at times there were large gaps between trams and then several came in quick succession. In the morning at Tower there was a changeover noted when 720 was replaced on the Cleveleys service (running only as far as Little Bispham) by 703 (which had been waiting on the centre track for 15 minutes). Despite its failure the night before 709 was seen back in service from the morning – showing how hard the fitters work on the Blackpool Tramway.

Fleetwood Service: 707, 709, 711, 718, 723, 724, 761

Cleveleys Service: 702, 710, 720 (703), 721, 726

Specials: 630, 631, 632, 642, 643, 644, 645, 646, 647, 648, 671+681, 673+683, 678, 680, 720 (afternoon), 762

Illumination Tours: 147, 633, 66

Total trams in service (excluding tours): 28

Monday 6 September 2004

Weather: AM – Sunny and warm. PM & Eve – Sunny spells with a little cloud

Another failure in the evening when 711 failed whilst on the way to Fleetwood. The tram was seen being towed by 710 at Tower to the depot at 2029. Once it had got to the depot 678 was used to complete the shunting and put it into the Electrical Compound for attention. 711 may have been replaced on Fleetwood service by 702 as this was seen operating journeys to both Starr Gate and Fleetwood in the mid-late evening, this would have been a rare journey for a non high intensity headlight tram nowadays. As for the rest of the day it was a disappointing day for the tramway with only 3-4 specials out for most of the day. Although to be fair this was probably plenty as there were not too many people about in Blackpool. There was a changeover on the Fleetwood service in the morning when 710 was replaced by 724 (at Tower) and another non high intensity headlights Balloon was on Fleetwood service for a period in the day with 720 (this is believed to have been changed over for 723 late afternoon/early evening).

Fleetwood Service: 707, 709, 710 (724), 711 (702? – definitely had Fleetwood on blind at 2057), 718, 720 (723), 762

Cleveleys Service: 701, 703, 712, 721, 726

Specials: 630, 632, 643, 646, 647, 648, 673+683, 702, 710, 720 (evening)

Illumination Tours: 633, 66, 633

Total trams in service (excluding tours): 22

Tuesday 7 September 2004

Weather: Clear skies, sunny and warm all day

Not the greatest hour for the Blackpool Tramway on this Market Tuesday as there were not enough trams travelling to Fleetwood during the morning rush from people to spend their money. I attempted to go to Fleetwood to see the specials arriving in the morning but I had to give up, as despite a 2 hour wait I could not get on a tram from Cabin. The following list shows the times trams passed going to Fleetwood with the number of spaces on the trams in brackets:

0929: 724 (2)

0945: 762 (full)

1002: Bus (full)

1005: 648 (full)

1008: 647 (full)

1010: 718 (full)

1017: 627 (full)

1018: Bus (spaces)

1025: 673+683 (full)

1027: 726 (full)

1029: 671+681 (full)

1033: 723 (full)

1039: 721 (full)

1051: 642 (approx. 4)

1052: 621 (full – overtook 642 using centre track)

1053: 761 (full)

1058: 643 (full)

1107: 622 (full)

1110: 709 (full)

1117: 712 (4)

1124: 641 (full)

1131: 701 (3)

1133: 710 (1)

What this list tells us is that in 2 hours there were only around 14 spaces on trams going to Fleetwood. The real winners on this day were the Taxi drivers who were continually hovering and taking people who were desperate enough to want get to Fleetwood as soon as possible. The first tram to have significant spaces going all the way was 724 with the 1145 service. There were no “111” (tram replacement) buses noted but there were several “Line 1” buses which are extended to Fleetwood on Tuesdays but even these were running rather full on this day. The trouble, as I saw it, was that by the time the trams were getting this far north they had already been filled up in town and on North Promenade. To make matters worse for those waiting at Cabin there were several specials which were terminating and then returning southbound nearly empty. In addition with the tramway being so busy many services were seen turning short of Starr Gate at Pleasure Beach in the afternoon so as to try and get back onto the timetable. Also of interest was that the Cleveleys (Little Bispham/Thornton Gate) service was in the hands of Railcoaches throughout the day.

Fleetwood Service: 701 (711?), 707, 709, 718, 723, 724, 761

Cleveleys Service: 630, 631, 632, 678, 680

Specials: 621, 622, 625, 627, 641, 642, 643, 644, 647, 648, 671+681, 673+683, 703, 710, 712, 720, 721, 726, 762

Illumination Tours: 633, 147, 633

Total trams in service (excluding tours): 32

Wednesday 8 September 2004

Weather: Cloudless skies and warm with a breeze

The highlight of the day was the appearance of Open Top Balloon 706 on the Prom for a spot of staff training in mid afternoon. The tram was noted at Tower at 1434 with “Reserved” on the blind. An Inspector was showing either drivers or conductors how to turn the trolley and also how to fix the tow bar to the front of the tram. The tram was then seen departing southbound about 15 minutes later – where it went I am not too sure but presumably Pleasure Beach as it did not return to the depot until 1539. There was also excitement during the evening with problems with the Illumination Tours and another Balloon failure. The first tour of the evening did not depart North Pier until 2045 with Standard 147 doing the duties. There were then further delays with the second and final tour which was run with Bolton 66. The tram had to go to Pleasure Beach to pick up 10 passengers before it could go to North Pier to start the full Illumination Tour. However whilst on its way to Pleasure Beach (and also once it had arrived there) it got delayed behind service trams and was held on the loop to allow some of these out in front on it. 66 did not leave North Pier until 2141. The Balloon failure on this evening was 720 which had been operating specials – sister 702 did the towing duties back to depot – the pair were seen going through North Pier at 2118.

Fleetwood service: 707, 709, 718, 723, 724, 761, 762

Cleveleys service: 701 (721), 702, 703, 712, 726

Specials: 644, 646, 647, 648, 671+681, 673+683, 678, 680, 710, 711, 720

Illumination Tours: 147, 66

In addition 706 was out for staff training purposes

Total number of trams in service (excluding tours/training): 24

Thursday 9 September 2004

Weather: Warm and sunny again

Having not been able to get to Fleetwood on Tuesday I found myself stuck there for a period on this day! There was another tram breakdown (don’t know which tram though) which meant there was a 50 minute gap in trams arriving at Fleetwood Ferry. Blackpool Transport did manage to scramble some “111” replacement tram buses but within 10 minutes of them being scrambled to get to Fleetwood the trams were running again! The day was also notable as it saw the first appearance for the week of 708, which operated on specials in the afternoon.

Fleetwood service: 707, 709, 711, 718, 723, 761, 762

Cleveleys service: 627, 631, 644, 646, 721 (678)

Specials: 641, 643, 647, 648, 671+681, 673+683, 680, 701, 702, 708, 710, 712, 721?, 726

Illumination Tours: 633, 66, 633

Total number of trams in service (excluding tours): 26

Because of the breakdown in the morning the above details more not be 100% correct. This particularly concerns 721 and whether it ran on specials, Cleveleys or Fleetwood service!

Friday 10 September 2004

Weather: Started off hazy sun then clouded over. PM – showers, some heavy

After the excellent weather Blackpool had been experiencing all week it definitely turned today with some heavy showers in the afternoon. All of the trams which were to star on the following day in the 70th Anniversary Procession were given the day off and this meant that Twin Car 673+683 made an appearance on the Fleetwood service all day with sister set 671+681 also making a brief appearance in the evening. There was also a third Twin set out on specials, non Metro Coastlines liveried pairing 677+687 were out during the morning. There may well have been staff shortages in the evening as the choice for the second Illumination Tour was none other than…Centenary 648! The tram operated One Person Operated and was seen departing North Pier at 2036 having previously arrived from the south on specials.

Fleetwood service: 673+683, 707 (671+681), 709, 711, 718, 723, 761

Cleveleys service: 701, 710, 720, 721, 726

Specials: 627, 643, 644, 645, 646, 647, 648, 677+687, 680, 708

Illumination Tours: 66, 648

Total number of trams in service (excluding tours): 23

Saturday 11 September 2004

Weather: AM – very windy/cloudy. PM – Windy and then very wet

This was of course the day of the Procession for the 70th Anniversary of the Streamlined Trams and details of all the special events can bee seen in the separate article. The weather definitely really turned for the worst during the day with it starting off grey and windy and ending up windy and extremely wet. After the “special” trams had returned from the Procession they were all used as specials with some of them even managing trips as far as Fleetwood. The day also saw the first appearance of 719 since it suffered accident damage from the digger part of a JCB just before the 2004 season began – 719 found its way onto Fleetwood service in the afternoon. 673+683 managed to work on the Fleetwood service for the second day in a row. Unfortunately due to the severe weather conditions my notes are not complete from about 3pm onwards as it was getting too wet to write! However 600 returned to depot at around this time and it may well have been replaced by Sheffield 513 on specials as this was seen returning to depot in the evening. Of course the evening also saw the official launch of the Illuminated Frigate 736 (in the rain!) and again further details of this can be seen on the other Blackpool article.

Fleetwood service: 673+683, 707, 709, 711, 718, 723 (719) – also something else! 724 may well have found its way onto Fleetwood service in the afternoon

Cleveleys service: 677+687? (702?), 701, 720, 721, 726

Specials: 147 as 177, 600, 621, 622, 627, 630, 631, 632, 644, 645, 646, 647, 677+687, 679, 680, 700, 702, 703, 706, 710, 712, 724, 762

Illumination Tours: Not entirely clear but 633 did at least 2, 736 did the special tour for local dignitaries and 700 did a Private Tour for Trams Magazine (replacing 706 due to the weather!)

Total number of trams in service (excluding tours): 34

Apologies but the days trams may not be 100% correct due to the weather meaning I couldn’t take full notes in the afternoon!

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