Continuing our look at what happened on the Blackpool Tramway at the start of the 2004 illuminations.
Sunday 12 September 2004
Weather: AM – Cloudy, sunny spells, windy. PM – Rain, heavy at times, windy
Full details of the Open Day which was held on this day can be seen in the special article on the special events held for the 70th Anniversary Streamlined tram. Because of the day my notes are of course not complete as to what trams were in service. However no trams would have been able to be swapped properly as the depot was not accessible. By the evening the weather was pretty poor with heavy rain throughout and no specials were noted out at St Stephens Avenue during observation from a distance. It is believed that an Illumination Tour was rather strangely operated by another Centenary, this time 644. There is no 100% confirmation that this is what the front of the tram said though!
Fleetwood service: 707, 709, 718, 719, 723, 761, 762
Cleveleys service: 703, 710, 712, 721, 726
Specials: 66*, 147*, 622, 630, 631, 644, 706* (* – trams on the Depot shuttle service)
Illumination Tours: 736 (pre-booked), 644 (unconfirmed)
Total number of trams in service (excluding tours): 19 (was probably a lot more but notes are incomplete!)
Monday 13 September 2004
Weather: Heavy winds and showers
Unfortunately for the third consecutive day the notes of what trams were in service in Blackpool are incomplete, this time because I went to Manchester for the day. For the record the following trams were in service on Manchester Metrolink: 1002, 1004, 1006, 1007, 1008, 1009, 1011, 1012, 1013, 1018, 1019, 1021, 1022, 1023, 1024, 1025, 1026, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. In the evening the wind was very strong which kept most people inside meaning that a large tram output was not needed. All the specials were noted returning to depot pre 2100 and only 2 Illumination Tours were run – neither of which ran very full. It was of course the first turn up and travel tour undertaken by 736 since the end of the 2001 season.
Fleetwood service: 707, 709, 711, 718, 723, 724, 762
Cleveleys service: 703, 710, 719, 721, 726
Specials: 643, 645, 680
Illumination Tours: 736, 633
Total number of trams run (excluding tours): 15
Tuesday 14 September 2004
Weather: Very windy and showery
This Tuesday was very different from the previous one with enough space of trams getting to Fleetwood for those who wanted to go. It is presumed there was another tram failure in the morning as a 50 minute gap in service trams was seen at Fleetwood Ferry – 718 was on the service but was not seen again. 707 eventually replaced 718 on the Fleetwood timetable although this was not seen until the evening so 702 may have been a temporary replacement in other parts of the day. There was also a changeover on the Cleveleys service when 708 came out to replace 703 during the evening. 715 made it first appearance of the fortnight out on the tracks when it was seen with Yellow Blanks heading northbound on Central Promenade – presumably on test after its Body Shop attention. For the second time of the year 648 was on Illumination Tours duty – again doing the second and final one of the evening.
Fleetwood service: 709, 711, 718 (702?, 707), 723, 724, 761, 762
Cleveleys service: 703 (708), 712, 720, 721, 726
Specials: 630, 632, 643, 644, 646, 647, 673+683, 678, 701, 708, 710
Illumination Tours: 633, 648
Also 715 was out on test in the afternoon
Total number of trams in service (excluding tours & tests): 25
Wednesday 15 September 2004
Weather: Clear skies, sunny, less windy – clouding over later
A day full of incident although the morning was pretty standard with no failures or major delays. However the afternoon started badly with 723 failing whilst on Fleetwood service. The tram had to be rescued from the loop at Little Bispham by fellow Balloon 715 and the pair of them returned to depot at 1416. This meant that there was a bit of rejigging in the trams on service with 726 taking over on the Fleetwood service (this had been on Cleveleys service in the morning) and 701 being used on the Cleveleys run (which of course was being run to Little Bispham and Thornton Gate still!) Are you keeping up? Obviously 726 does not have high intensity headlights and so was replaced in service in the evening by 761! As if that was not enough for one day there was an unknown incident involving the new Illuminated tram 736 at Cabin. Now I had spent the evening at North Pier to see the tours off and on my walk back to my holiday flat realised that 736 was taking its time to return. On arrival at Cabin there was 736 on the southbound track but with its red lights on the front. 721 (which had been on Cleveleys service) was on the centre track showing “Tour of Illuminations” on its blind. Some of the people who were on 736 disembarked and got onto 721 which then moved off northbound. However some people had remained on 736 and just 3 minutes after 721 had left 736 did as well – still with its red lights on the front! Both an Inspectors van and a Fitters Van were in attendance and so what happened I do not know! There was also a test run for Centenary 642 in the morning – seen running northbound through Cabin at 1041.
Fleetwood service: 707, 709, 711, 718, 723 (726, 761), 724, 762
Cleveleys service: 708, 712, 720, 721 (?), 726 (701)
Specials: 633, 643, 644, 646, 647, 648, 701, 702, 703, 710
Illumination Tours: 633, 736 (& 721?)
642 was also out on test in the morning & 715 was used to rescue 723 in the afternoon
Total number of trams in service (excluding tours, tests & others): 23
Thursday 16 September 2004
Another day that saw changes on service trams with both 707 and 715 (this being its first use in service for the fortnight) being replaced at some time, although 707 did reappear in the evening. 707 was seen being replaced at Tower mid morning by 726 and it is believed that there was a failure during the morning as there were delays on the main Fleetwood service – something which caused delays for most of the morning with many services turning short at Pleasure Beach. From eavesdropping I believe that 761 may have been the guilty party on this day! As I was away from the tramway for the evening I don’t know quite what happened although from late evening observations 673+683 may well have found its way onto Fleetwood service.
Fleetwood service: 707 (726), 709, 711, 715, 718, 724 (?), 762 – 761, 673+683, 707 all believed to be on by the evening
Cleveleys service: 702, 703, 708, 720, 721
Specials: 632, 644, 646, 647, 648, 678, 680, 710
Illumination Tours: Possibly 3? Including at least 1 for 736
Total number of trams in service (excluding tours): 23
Friday 17 September 2004
Weather: Sunny spells
Not a good day for specials on the tramway with none out in the morning, just 1 in the afternoon and 5 (all one person operated) in the evening. This did mean that there was a considerable amount of tram bunching during the day and because there were a lot of One Person specials out in the evening delays were caused as the drivers had to collect all the fares – it took some trams almost 10 minutes to load at Pleasure Beach just as the park was closing. One of these delays caused the second Illumination Tour of the evening to have to wait on the loop for almost 10 minutes. Delays were also experienced in the afternoon for an unknown reason and this led to 703 being taken from depot for a journey to Fleetwood – this tram was not out for long though, presumably it was used to fill in the gaps. Elsewhere in the day there was a changeover by the evening with 711 replacing 720 on Fleetwood service.
Fleetwood service: 707, 709, 718, 720 (711), 724, 761, 762
Cleveleys service: 708, 710, 715, 721, 726
Specials: 641, 642, 643, 647, 648, 678, 680, 703
Illumination Tours: 633, 736, 736
Total number of trams in service (excluding tours): 21
Saturday 18 September 2004
Weather: Started off wet and windy – by mid morning sunny and windy
This day was a pretty good one for the tramway and especially the tram enthusiast. To start off with you can forget what was out on the main tramway, one of the most “exciting” things to be seen for a while was at the depot (I may be getting a little carried away here now!) As it was my last day in Blackpool for the year I decided to go the depot just to see what was there and as I got there I saw Engineering Car 754 along Blundell Street (I thought that that was quite “exciting” at first!) Then I went along the road a bit I saw that it was even more exciting than that as there was OMO 8 attached by a tow bar in the daylight! Also along Blundell Street was withdrawn Balloon 716, all of them had been extracted from depot so the overhead wires could be cleaned. It was good to see 8 actually out in the open and apparently, although it does look in some disrepair, the tram is more or less intact with the seats and windows currently in store (the tram is of course now owned by the LTT). As for the trams out in service it was a good day volume wise with the majority of the single deck railcoaches being seen out. The most bizarre journey was undertaken by Brush 637 which made a trip to Cabin at 0938 and then returned straight away to depot – I presume there was something wrong with the tram, as it did not appear to be picking up any passengers on the way. For completeness sake 623, 634 and 636 also made their debuts of the fortnight in passenger service, all of them were operating specials. The only Railcoaches which did not make at least a brief appearance were 625, 626 and 630 (rather strange as two of these have been overhauled in recent years). 702 was replaced in service on specials mid morning by 701 for an unknown reason but the switchover was seen at Tower at 1143. The final tram I saw of the fortnight was Centenary 642 on a Pleasure Beach journey before I left the tramway just before 1400.
Fleetwood service: 707, 709, 711, 715, 718, 724, 762
Cleveleys service: 708, 710, 720, 721, 726
Specials: 621, 622, 623, 627, 631, 632, 634, 636, 637, 641, 642, 643, 646, 647, 648, 678, 679, 680, 701, 702, 703, 712
Total number of trams in service: 34
There is no doubting that the Blackpool Tramway is in a much better state this year than it was last year but there are still areas to be improved in the future. The major cause for concern during this fortnight was the first Tuesday when trams were continually going full to Fleetwood from Cabin meaning that there were a little over a dozen spaces available in a 2 hour period. The main winners when this happen are not Blackpool Transport’s bus services but rather are the Taxi drivers who do like to tout for business at tram stops. The timetabled service ran almost totally this year with hardly any (if any) completely cancelled journeys noted. However with a loss of tension in the overhead wire at the Cleveleys crossover all Cleveleys services were either running through to Thornton Gate or turning short at Little Bispham. The problem with running short to Little Bispham was that there was an added pressure on the Fleetwood trams to transport everyone to Cleveleys who would otherwise have been able to use the intermediate service. Despite saying the above I am sure it is far from easy running a transport undertaking such as Blackpool Transport (if it was wouldn’t we all be doing it!) One of the most difficult things on the tramway must be deciding when specials need to be run as the staff situation has to be sorted out in advance – Blackpool’s tramway must be one of the last transport systems in the UK to rely so heavily on specials.
Disclaimer: The above information has been collated by one person’s notes during a fortnight and may not be 100% correct as I did not eat, drink and sleep by the tramway (well not all the time anyway!) On each day it is not necessarily so that the trams were all out in service at the same time.