Well, that’s another year very nearly over (they seem to go faster and faster every year!) and it also brings us to the end of a decade too! Like most other years it has had its ups and downs but despite that (and keeping in with the Christmas spirit) there has still been plenty to keep us occupied – having travelled just over 5000 miles just get to the tramways this year it certainly has for me!
The first half of the year certainly had plenty of positives with the announcement of not one but two tram loans to Beamish for their Great North Steam Fair in April. Firstly, it was revealed Manchester 765 would be making a return visit before a Beamish debut was confirmed for Blackpool & Fleetwood 40. Whilst 40’s loan was tinged with some sadness as it meant its long loan spell in Blackpool would be coming to an end as after it had finished with Beamish it was returning to Crich for the foreseeable future the sight of both 765 and 40 at Beamish was one of the highlights of the year.
Elsewhere on the heritage tram front it has mainly been a year of consolidation or in some cases “what might have been”. No new trams entered service with the biggest disappointment coming in Blackpool where Standard 143 almost did but failed on its inaugural run and has remained in depot ever since waiting for repairs to its motor. I’m not going to dwell on this too much as a lot has already been written on the failure but whilst there is no doubting it was huge disappointment that the tram failed having missed two earlier launch dates the most important thing is that lessons are learnt from 143’s restoration. When dealing with heritage vehicles like trams should deadlines be set for their completion which may mean full testing isn’t possible? We’ve seen it many times in the past across the country of trams not being fully completed when launched which has meant launch day hasn’t gone according to plan and if truth be told this probably won’t be the last but a little bit more pragmatism may be needed when announcing launches in the future. The other big lesson to be learnt is about publicity and keeping the public informed of what is going on – it may have it critics out there but the internet is the best tool to keep people updated on various things as it is instantaneous rather than having to wait until the next printed edition of something is out and whilst there will also be disappointment if something previously announced isn’t going to happen most people will be understanding if they know about it as soon as possible. Food for thought and hopefully something which can be improved in the future.
When does a negative become a positive? Although if you asked the hard working volunteers at the Heaton Park Tramway if they would have wanted their overhead to be stolen one night in September their answer will be an unequivocal no the way the industry responded to get them back on track again was heart-warming and one of the most positive news stories we have reported on during 2019. You don’t often hear about how behind the scenes various tramways across the country work together but with offers coming in quite quickly to assist with the repairs, the TfGM and Keolis Amey Metrolink made arrangements for the repair work which meant the tramway was only closed for a month.
Away from heritage tramways and the “modern scene” and constant livery changes have kept us on our toes throughout the year! No more so than on the West Midlands Metro where the blue revolution has swept across the Urbos 3 fleet making a huge improvement in the look of the trams.
It has also been a year of extensions. Only one may have opened but work on the Trafford Park extension in Manchester has made excellent progress and the big news from Edinburgh was approval of the Trams to Newhaven project with the first construction now having commenced. The one opening extension was on the West Midlands Metro with the first phase of the Birmingham Westside extension carrying passengers earlier this month – and its also the first section of modern tramway to be purposely built minus overhead wires with the trams being fitted with batteries!
I’m often asked (well, sometimes, well at least once!) what goes into creating British Trams Online? At a very conservative estimate I have probably spent at least 500 hours in 2019 preparing content for the website and as briefly mentioned above have travelled over 5000 miles to visit tramways – and that doesn’t take into consideration the distances travelled when there! Bit the website would be nowhere near what it is without you reading this article and those who send me information and photos through. Unfortunately, I can’t be everywhere, all the time and do have a full-time job and other interests of top of the website so am very much reliant on other contributions and give a huge thank you to those who do send stuff through. If you are ever our and about and see something you think we may be interested in please let me know!
That is just a flavour of some of the highlights of 2019 and I have probably forgotten an awful lot of what went on! Do you have any highlights? Why not share them below?
It just leaves me to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, hopefully it is a tram filled period! There will be no further “main site update” of British Trams Online until the new year but this News & Features page should continue to be updated each and every day (subject to those irritating technical gremlins!). The BTO “offices” will be closed from 24th December to 2nd January (aka I won’t be checking any emails or responding in that period!) but please do continue to send any contributions through! See you in 2020!