Following a few disapointing years, it is pleasing to confirm that Blackpool Transport will be supporting the annual Fleetwood Transport Festival – more commonly known as Tram Sunday – by providing a special heritage tram service. The 2013 event takes place on Sunday 21st July, and is expected to feature two historic trams operating between Fisherman’s Walk and Thornton Gate.
‘Tram Sunday’ began as part of the Blackpool tramway’s centenary celebrations in 1985, and featured nine vintage trams shuttling through the streets of Fleetwood, with a whole host of other veteran vehicles providing an atmospheric backdrop, whilst much of the town was closed off to all modern road traffic. The event was so succesful that it was repeated annually until 2010 when it was forced to take a year off as a lack of volunteers came forward to help with the mammoth task of organising it. From a tram point of view however, the festival had been in decline for some years; after strike action by Blackpool Transport platform staff led to the 2009 festival being dubbed ‘Tramless Sunday’, the following year saw a revised operating pattern for the vintage trams which were no longer allowed to run through the crowded streets due to growing concerns about the safety of pedestrians. A Fisherman’s Walk – Thornton Gate shuttle service did not prove very popular and eventually the historic cars were used to transport visitors between Fleetwood and Blackpool, although this did seem to contradict the original purpose of the event somewhat.
Due to the tramway upgrade works, no trams made it to Fleetwood for the event at all in 2011 apart from preserved Balloon car 710 which made a special guest appearance on the back of a low loader on behalf of its owners, the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust. Last year’s event was used to unveil the new purple and white fleet livery which had just been applied to rebuilt Balloon 700, with its more traditional sister car 717 also attending as a static exhibit, but this was a far cry from the glory days of the 1980s. It is rather pleasing that this trend of decline has been reversed, and that tram rides will once again be offered alongside the other attractions that this day has to offer.
Although the previous attempt at running a heritage tram service along the same route did not find favour, hopefully the fact that these trams have far greater novelty in 2013 than they did in 2001 will ensure that the tours are better patronised this time around. Weather permitting, it is intended to run both operational Boat cars, 230 and 600, on this special servive which maintains the long tradition of the Boat class playing a major role in this event. Naturally if the weather is not so kind, suitable enclosed cars will be made available.
Although the return of operating trams to the festival is obviously good news, it is disapointing that the official Tram Sunday website does not currently acknowledge this. Hopefully this will be updated shortly, as the event really does need to sell itself and some of the tram enthusiasts who will be tempted to ride on the tours will almost certainly visit the trade stalls and other attractions in Fleetwood, hence the event itself will benefit from their presence.