Work to start on redevelopment at Tramtown

£800,000 has been secured to start work on the redevelopment of the heritage tram sheds at Blackpool’s Rigby Road Depot. The work is set to be undertaken in four phases and with this money now secured – through the support of Blackpool Council and Blackpool Transport – the first phase will be able to start at what is now known as Tramtown.

The first phase of works will include:

  • A new roof for a third of the tram shed (the section closest to the Tramtown entrance)
  • A new headbeam
  • A new partition wall
  • Repairs to the gutters and drains
  • Relocation of engineering equipment into the redeveloped facility

This work will be funded by the £800,000 mentioned above but in addition the hope is that an enhanced phase one can be achieved which would see the installation of purpose built doors for a third of the tram shed. A further £70,000 is needed for the purchase of these doors and a new crowdfunder has been started to secure this funding:

These doors will provide better working conditions for the engineers and also help to protect the trams stored in this part of the tram shed. As is well known the tram shed at Rigby Road has suffered with leaks for some time and the installation of these doors would provide their firs truly water-tight area and help to support the following three phases of redevelopment.

Once this work is completed there are planned to be a further three phases of work which will create a major tourist attraction for Blackpool. This would not only provide secure accommodation for the trams and the ongoing sharing of heritage skills but would also see conference facilities and an exhibition space provided.

The four phases of the project unveiled in the Tramtown vision are:

  • Phase 1 – Move workshop, repairs to the building, partial roof replacement
  • Phase 2 – Complete roof replacement, major building repairs
  • Phase 3 – Addition of front doors, complete conservation of the building
  • Phase 4 – Exhibition space, café, conference facilities, elevated walkways and retail areas

The full vision can be viewed in a video at, which includes proposed designs of what the final Tramtown may look like.

This is a long-term plan for the depot and is not going to be completed overnight but the release of the new vision and what they want to happen will hopefully show that there is an end goal and its not just the case of muddling through with what they already have.

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14 Responses to Work to start on redevelopment at Tramtown

  1. David says:

    The securing of such a large amount is very good news. I am very interested in where this money is coming from, what has happened to donations already made towards the roof repairs and why it is planned to only provide doors for a third of the shed.

    • Andrew says:

      I gather that Blackpool Council are providing the initial £800,000 to get the project started.

      The plan is to have doors for the whole shed eventually, but this is just Phase 1. Essentially a third of the existing depot will become the heritage tram workshops, and it is this section that will get doors first, understandably. If they don’t get the funding for the doors then presumably the engineers will be very cold in winter! There are some very detailed plans on the Blackpool Council website which make things somewhat clearer as to what is planned.

      Overall it looks really impressive although it remains to be seen where the rest of the money will come from; also with a third of the depot being devoted to workshop space and another third for the exhibition area – including a Victorian street scene and indoor beach! – I’d be interested to know how many trams will actually be able to be housed inside. I don’t think it would be a bad idea to clear out a few of the duplicates which look shabby, but it would seem odd to invest so much money in the depot and then have less trams in it! I’m also surprised that there is no mention of the track as the depot fan will surely need renewing before long?

  2. nostalgicyetprogressive says:

    I would expect that the static exhibits such as 710 and 715 would reside in the exhibition area and then there would be an area strictly for working trams. All the Balloons could be housed between the two areas not used for engineering work, plus a few other trams of interest. I think it would be beneficial to include all 3 Boats as they are useful on the Summer Promenade tours. A couple of Brush Cars, 279, 304, the two Centenaries and OMO 8 would make an ideal selection of single deck cars, with 143 and 147 providing vintage interest. Three non-Blackpool cars, Lytham 43, Bolton 66 and the Paisley car 16 would also be welcome inclusions. Apart from these, there would be the illuminated fleet plus one twin car (set 5 most likely). All these could be accommodated somewhere in the depot.

    The remaining Brush, Coronation and Twin Cars would need to find new accommodation elsewhere – maybe 663, 632 and the ex-permanent way Brush Car could be found a space at Brinwell Road if the FTT wished to retain these. The rest would be up for grabs by any other interested party, or else could be used for spare parts to save on the cost of specially manufactured items.

    • Fylde Transport Trust says:

      In order to ensure that no speculation is later taken to be “fake news” which often abounds on social media, the FTT can confirm that apart from 625 and 726 (which we agreed to remove from Rigby Road by mutual agreement), the remaining trams of our collection have a secure future at Rigby Road / Tramtown. There are no further planned departures of any of our trams at this moment in time. Although some of the FTT bus collection is housed at Brinwell Road, this is an operating depot and has no spare capacity for trams to be housed there. It should also be noted that 663 is not owned by the FTT, so we are unclear why this was suggested to move to Brinwell Road?

      • Andrew says:

        It is good to have some clarity on the situation with the FTT trams, and very pleasing to know that all are safe for the forseeable future. Many of them have a very important role to play in telling the story of Blackpool’s trams, either running or as static exhibits.

        Quite why nostalgicyetprogressive suggested 663 to evict is a mystery, especially as its trucks have already been refurbished and I gather a lot of funding is allocated to it. As great as 304 is, it would seem wise to aim for a non-VAMBAC Coronation car in the operating fleet at some point as 304 is likely to be more of a complex luxury as opposed to a workhorse that is out on a regular basis.

    • John says:

      Nostalgic – there’s no room at Brinwell, why do you think they are st RR! No one will break 663 – I imagine its owner wouldn’t be happy. Theres plenty of room in the 100 capacity depot to incorporate works and displays and the fleet. The biggest question is why a Victorian street – not exactly typical of Blackpool! It should be illuminated tableux with rocket lit up in front!
      IF this project is ever finished – then there’s one Tram needs to come back for display which is currently holed up in Derbyshire out of sight……..
      the fact 16 and 43 are on the plans shows there is clearly no will to ever restore them!

  3. John Hibbert says:

    Makes sense to have the VAMBAC coronation as an exhibit and at least one of 660/663 as a runner.

  4. nostalgicyetprogressive says:

    I have to admit it’s a very long time since I’ve seen the depot at Brinwell Road. At that time 663 and 279 were stabled there. On reflection, I did think it rather crowded at that time with the presence of the trams possibly hampering progress on the bus fleet. It’s certainly not a place designed for trams – if I recall correctly, it lacks any tracks. Of course, I know that 663 is privately owned and just happened to be at Brinwell Road for a time, which led to my wondering whether such a favour if necessary could be repeated if only on a short-term basis. I do, however, agree that 663 would be better employed at Rigby Road.

    I would expect that if the space at Rigby Road were used creatively, then trams which are of interest could be accommodated in some part. It does seem worthwhile to retain two Coronation trams, maybe three at a push. However, the number of Brush Cars does seem somewhat excessive – a total of five if I count correctly. While 621 is an excellent example of such a tram in 1970s condition, it is duplicated by 632 and 631, while robust and weatherproof is an odd hybrid of the old and new with incorrectly positioned fenders to add to the strange appearence. I see the value of 634, especially as the interior has been partially restored to original condition and the livery makes it a perfect choice for the Ghost Tram. It would also be interesting to see, one day, 624 restored to 1937 appearence complete with double destination blinds and sliding doors.

    It cannot be denied that there are many duplications among the Balloons, but, with either 84 or 94 seats, these are importamt bread winners for the Heritage Trams and none should be sacrificed to give way to a single deck car which closely duplicates any other. In so doing at least 40 potential fares would be lost, which I’d suggest the organisation could ill afford with ongoing expenses and the cost of doors to find. A Victorian street scene is not wholly out of place given the Tramway’s origins in 1885, although no trams from that era would be available for display, other than on loan. I think it would be good if 59 could be placed on static display eventually, thus solving the problem of an unaffordable resoration to working condition. I doubt it would be permitted to carry passengers in Blackpool in any case as Health and Safety may not be comfortable with an end loading vehicle operating alongside light rail.

  5. Andy says:

    Am I the only one who sees this development as an extremely BAD move?

    Shifting engineering into the man depot means less space to hosue the fleet of operational vehicles. Also why build a ‘street scene’ at huge expense? better to use the money getting more vehicles into service and if you want to see them in a street, drive them up to Fleetwood!

    Forget about ‘Tramtown’ and lets have a proper heritage service, running all day, every day. The the trams themselves are the only real historic asset. Nobody cares about cardboard shops or conference centres. The West Yorkshire Transport Museum tried this trick a few years ago, with the aid of huge grants, to be reborn as ‘Transperience’ and remember how that turned out!

    • Andrew says:

      I think a proper tram museum/exhibition centre for Blackpool is well overdue, but like you I think the actual plan here is very flawed. Fake street scenes work well at a museum like Hull Streetlife where all the exhibits are static – when there is an operating tramway attached to it what’s the point? Likewise, if Crich wanted an indoor beach as an attraction for families to complement their collection of Blackpool trams I could see some logic to it, but at Blackpool which is a place people literally visit because its a seaside resort… I find it baffling.

      A nice display of trams not in service accessible to the public – yes please. Indoor beach, conference centre and fancy nonsense – no thanks! But lets bear in mind that other than the workshop section (minus doors) none of this scheme is actually funded yet… so will it even happen? And the biggest question of all, if no more funding is forthcoming then what will happen to the trams and the depot roof? Some sort of Plan B would be welcome. Somewhere along the way the main goal, to secure the future of a heritage tram fleet in Blackpool with somewhere to house them, seems to have been lost, for shame.

      • Nathan says:

        At Hull Streetlife there is a small stub of track outside the museum, I wonder if at one stage a small operating line was planned. It certainly wouldn’t be terrible difficult to combine a street scene with an operating tram depot, I think this was the plan for Pacific Road in Birkenhead as well?

  6. Steve Hyde says:

    I don’t understand this Tramtown thing at all. I can’t imagine the average visitor to Blackpool being remotely interested in spending time in a rather rundown location looking around a collection of relics in unrestored state or watching their kids playing in a sandpit in an old tram depot when the real thing exists just round the corner. It seems to me that the heritage operation is throwing good money after bad with this project. What’s needed is a smaller operation with less trams and a small well equipped covered depot/workshop.

    • Paul D says:

      As Crich, or any Heritage railway will tell you; there’s no money in just running old vehicles, you make a much bigger return from the peripherals such as souvenirs and catering…
      Blackpool Heritage don’t get a cut of the money you spend on ice cream or fish & chips or postcards at the various outlets up and down the prom.
      While I’m sure not all the proposed features will appeal to everyone, the project as a whole makes a lot of sense in providing a permanence to the operation and enabling those additional supporting activities and vital income streams to be developed and regularised.

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