When the Illuminated Western Train was withdrawn from service and moved into the Workshops at Blackpool Transport’s Rigby Road Depot following its use in the lead up to Christmas last year few could have imagined that its overhaul work would have been interrupted by a major global pandemic meaning that the popular tram would miss the start of the 2020 Illuminations. But, unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened with Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours recently confirming that the tram would not be ready by September and the start of the extended 2020 Illumination season.
As we’ve reported before, after 10 years of regular service (practically nightly during the illuminations) the Western Train had started to look a little rough and ready with numerous lights out and unable to be replaced because the actual fittings had degraded to such an extent that it wasn’t as simple as putting a new bulb in. The chance was taken after Christmas to transfer the tram – made up of the Locomotive and Carriage – into the workshops where it could receive some much needed TLC, including to its wiring and receive a full repaint.
Unfortunately, the pandemic led to staff being furloughed at Blackpool Transport which meant that work stalled, although some limited work took place with the coach painter still able to complete this. Indeed, the Locomotive was unveiled a few weeks ago looking resplendent in a fresh coat of paint.
But the Carriage has not been so lucky as once the side panels were removed it was discovered that some wood will need replacing before it can be repanelled and the new lights wired in. This bodywork will be progressed once the engineers return to work but the amount of work required does mean it won’t be possible for the tram to be returned to service in time for the start of the illuminations.
Probably sensibly no indication has been given as to when the tram may be ready to return to service. The Frigate had also been admitted to the workshops for its own overhaul but no recent update has been given as to the progress on this. If this is also delayed it could be that the Trawler is (once again) going to be left flying the illuminated feature tram flag.
Details of Illumination Tours for 2020 will also follow in the coming weeks but tickets or arrangements for these have yet to be announced (although pre-booking is likely).