Progress replaces history on Blundell Street

The site of Britain’s oldest surviving section of street tramway along Blundell Street and Princess Street in Blackpool has undergone further changes recently, following the removal of further overhead wires along this historic section of tramway. This is part of the ongoing regeneration of Foxhall Square, which has already seen the former Blundell Street depot site cleared to make way for new housing.

Earlier this year the changes commenced when the first wires connecting the track along Princess Street to the promenade line were taken down, whilst the rails along the promenade road itself also disappeared when the road resurfacing work was carried out. However, the latest development has been even more drastic, with the remaining overhead wires along virtually the entire section now removed. Princess Street is now completely devoid of any overhead wires for the first time in well over a century, whilst on Blundell Street, only a short length alongside the Fitting Shop remains in situ. This means that, if any trams are to be moved in or out of the Fitting Shop using the northern entrance doors, they will have to be shunted using either a unimog or Engineering car 754, in the absence of any means of power for an electric tram. Ironically, this returns the area to an appearance somewhat resembling 1885 when the line first appeared to serve Blackpool’s first tram depot, and conduit cars ruled the system.

In a remarkable twist of fate, the wires were actually removed on 29th September 2013 – exactly 123 years to the day after the tramway opened! It remains to be seen whether further work in the vicinity will see further track or overhead line disappear for good, but whilst appreciating the town’s motto ‘Progress’, it is to be hoped that at least a short section of rail can be retained for historic reasons. Although the rails themselves are not original, they follow the same configuration as the original route between Blundell Street depot and the sea front, and it would be a great shame if this link to the town’s past was to be completely discarded in favour of a new housing development.

A last look at the Blundell Street line a few weeks before the removal of its overhead wires, also showing the site previously occupied by the Blundell Street tram depot, and later used as a car park. (Photo by Andrew Waddington)



This entry was posted in Blackpool Tramway. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Progress replaces history on Blundell Street

  1. John Woodman says:

    I have been with the contractors for Foxhall Village scheme and seen the redesign planning for this entire area of Blackpool. The present street layout will be completely reconfigured, with more extensive demolition work to continue on Blundell Street and Princess Street in the vnear future. Regrettably there is minimal chance of this historic piece of Blackpool’s tramway infrastructure remaining in situ thereafter.

    All of this is very unfortunate but there was never any recognition given at Council level, to the former role of Blundell Street car park site and its adjoining track access from the Promenade. Many of us had at various times held out hope that the Blundell Street depot site could be resurrected to host a permanent tram museum and exhibition space. The very recent demolition of the depot with unearthing of tram track (and much else) dispelled these sentiments forever.

    Ironically of course, as one section of tramway disappears, another section is resurrected; with reconstruction of the tramway from the Promenade outside North Pier, up Talbot Road to serve North Station. This repeats the previous tramway along this road which was doubled and relaid in the mid 1920s, to finally disappear in the late 1940s. It
    provided a link for the former North Station line which ran along Dickson Road from the Gynn, closed in 1963, as well as the original route further along Talbot Road to Layton Cemetery which closed in 1936.

    Further redevelopment and redesign of the new Talbot Gateway project now nearing completion will be required to integrate the Blackpool North light rail terminus (possibly labelled ‘Talbot Gateway’). This should involve disappearance of the ugly car park and Wilkinsons structure which now blights this impressive part of the town centre. That site will provide opportunity for further investment, with creation of a ‘quality’ transport interchange facing arriving rail passengers at Blackpool North. One hopes this will incorporate vastly more superior tram station shelter and facilities – than the mediocre products cheaply installed and without electronic signage thus far permeating the current route.

    A big question arises over the capacity of the existing Bombardier fleet to handle the planned extension due for completion in 2016. Given the very high loadings on the light rail vehicles during 2013, with further increases likely during the holiday season – a probable need for additional trams must form part of Council planning. We all regret the omission of the remodelled Balloon cars from service – but the fact is that their lack of luggage and storage area for the myriad add on wheeled vehicles and accessories now common to the passenger loadings preclude their use except in especial circumstances. The preference of many passengers to avoid climbing the steep stairways is a further factor mitigating against double deck trams (at least of a traditional design). One important role they do fulfill is providing ideal viewing platforms for families and younger generations – to see the ‘Lights’.

    Blackpool continues to offer unique and fascinating developments for transport enthusiasts (and professionals) – with its rare combination of modern light rail sharing tracks with traditional tram operation. Long may this continue with much more to come.

Comments are closed.