2013 was certainly an interesting year here both at British Trams Online and at most of the UK’s tramways and light rail systems. Sure there have been some negatives but they have mostly been outweighed by the positives. Rather than have a straight review of 2013 this is a look back at the year through the eyes of an Editor and only features those events witnessed by those very eyes (and also those he can still remember!) so there may be some key events which you may think have been ignored but he can’t be everywhere all the time!
Towards the beginning of each year Andrew Waddington normally emails me to ask me what my tram plans for the year are and I usually respond by saying that I intend to cut back during the year and he normally doesn’t believe a word I have said, and he is normally right to do so! But 2013 began with me really believing I would be cutting back and I had plans to only do each tramway a maximum of once during the year, regardless of whether anything really exciting was happening. Needless to say I failed miserably in that and it ended up being the most varied year I have probably ever had with 15 different tramways visited.
The year actually began as I was in the middle of a deliberate six month “sabbatical” from trams as I sought to “recharge my batteries” and to reinvigorate my enthusiasm for all things tramway related (yes I am only a part-timer!), so it wasn’t until the middle of March that I set foot on my first tram of the year and that was on my most local tramway, London Tramlink. As always with that system there wasn’t really much to write home as it does what transport systems are meant to do, take people from A to B with very little fuss.
Later the same week the next two tramways were soon in the bag with both Manchester Metrolink and the Heaton Park Tramway visited. The main purpose of this visit was supposed to be the Spring Gala at Heaton Park but because of the very cold weather that turned out to be just a very brief visit (probably the shortest length of time I had ever been at a special event!) and so Metrolink proved to be a far better proposition as their vehicles are heated! Obviously that wasn’t a bad thing as it also gave me a chance to concentrate on the T68s during a visit which I thought would be my farewell to the class as I had no plans to visit Manchester again during the year. It also allowed me to make my first visits to Droylsden and Rochdale with the second location enabling me to tick off another of the things I’ve always wanted to do, take a photo of a tram in the snow, it’s just I wasn’t expecting it to happen at the end of March!
The month of April came and I broke one of my rules for the year as I visited the same tramway more than once. A trip to Beamish was planned to attend the “Our Friends, Electric” event which, on paper, was planned to be one of the biggest events of the year with lots of visiting trams. Of course things didn’t quite go according to plan and the visitors were severely delayed, if they made it all, so that the first day of the event saw neither Lisbon 730 or Glasgow 1068 operating and then day 2 saw just 730 in service. My trip was only to coincide with the first two days of the event so I was quite disappointed that I wouldn’t get to see the Glasgow open topper in service, although I had seen it delivered and unloaded. After returning home I started to think, could I nip back up to Beamish later in the Great North Festival of Transport to see 1068 in service? The answer was yes! I could catch a train at 0516 and make it to Beamish mid-morning and so train tickets were booked and trip number 2 of the year to Beamish was made and sunny and fairly warm (well it’s all relative considering how cold it had been so far in the year!) weather greeted a very busy day at the Museum. So there went my idea of only making one trip to each tramway of the year!
May started with a couple of trips over the May Day Bank Holiday weekend. First up was my first visit of the year to Seaton on the Saturday with a three tram service and then the following day I headed to Southampton for the Maritime Festival. This may not seem as if it is an event with a tram connection but it afforded me the chance to see three trams (Southampton cars 11 and 38 and Lisbon 715) for the very first time as the Southampton Tram Group’s home is within the Docks.
That was supposed to be that for May but after the positive reports about the new reinvigorated Heritage Tours in Blackpool I decided that the late May Bank Holiday would be a good time to sample the delights of them again. Work commitments meant that it wasn’t possible to go the day before so it was that 0516 train again! The weekend saw two days of excellent weather (before about the only bad day of weather for the Heritage Tours in 2013!) and lots of trams in action showing that all of the hype about the new look tours were well deserved with changeovers during each day meaning plenty of trams in action and it also saw for the first time a tram on display outside Rigby Road Depot with Centenary 648, not completed in time to take its place in service during the weekend, shown off for the photographers. The weekend also enabled me to tick off another of the things on my must do tram list as I finally got to ride a Boat all the way through to Fleetwood!
June was a barren month so it wasn’t until the beginning of July that the next tram action was seen and that was another unscheduled trip, this time the first visit of 2013 to the Crich Tramway Village. With warm sunny weather continuing unabated in the country and the first day of “A Capital Event” including the return to service of London United Tramways 159 the main highlight it was the perfect excuse to make the trip. Although 159 did have a minor incident during this day the warm, sunny weather and four trams in service along with rare outside appearances by Prague 180 and Edinburgh 35 helped to contribute to an enjoyable day which was well worth the effort of attending and as an added bonus I could have a lie in with the train in the morning not leaving until after 0600! The end of July saw a second visit to Seaton for the year with one of the Eastbourne running days taking place. Unfortunately this day was not exactly met with sunshine but it was still good to see a lot of the older trams in service, something that you don’t get on a normal operating day. July saw one further tram trip with a day trip to Manchester (that 0516 train again was my friend!) on a very warm Friday (see it doesn’t always rain in Manchester!) with the opportunity taken to ride on and take as many photos of the T68s and T68As I could before their inevitable withdrawal.
Onto August and the main highlight of the year as I finally made it to the Isle of Man. Despite the fact my interest in trams goes back 20+ years and I have been doing this website for over 10 I had never managed to get to the Isle of Man but I have had plans for several years that 2013 would be the year and indeed it was! But before I made it to the Isle of Man I managed to fit in a brief visit to the Birkenhead Heritage Tramway with Wallasey 78 forming the service. A week was spent on the Isle of Man and the weather was, for the most part, not bad although it seemed to take a turn for the worse every time I decided to go up Snaefell! A number of different trams were able to be experienced for the first time (obviously) and although there wasn’t a huge amount of variety on offer on either the Douglas Horse Tramway or Manx Electric Railway it was good to experience the time warp of the Isle of Man for the first time. It’s just a shame it’s an island which means you have to either fly or go by boat (the latter of which is fine if the weather is nice, otherwise it’s not!) Then on the way home from the Isle of Man because hotel prices in Liverpool on a Saturday night are atrociously high I ended up staying the night in Manchester which meant I had to ride on more trams on Metrolink! Did this include my last ever ride on a T68? (Almost certainly!)
September has always been a fairly busy month of tramming for me as it is often the first chance I get to take a holiday after a busy summer of work and 2013 was no different. First up was a trip to Sheffield for Supertram on my way to the big event of the year at the Crich Tramway Village: Enthusiasts’ Day. As usual this event proved to be the perfect mix of operational trams and static exhibits with my own personal delight being the display outside of Leicester 76, of all the trams which I hadn’t seen outside of the national collection previously this was the one I wanted to see the most and it made the trip worthwhile. But this wasn’t the only excitement as there was a London line-up (including London Transport 1 ahead of its restoration) and a line-up of five horse cars including recent arrival Leeds 107.
The month continued with a visit to Nottingham Express Transit swiftly followed by visit number two of the year to Blackpool, the one which was planned at the start of the year! Fortunately the weather in Blackpool for the five days of my visit was good but otherwise it was fairly disappointing, especially on the Illumination Tour front. The Saturday (the big day of tours normally) of my stay saw only four trams in action on tours rather than the planned five because of staff shortages and this meant that very large queues developed (not surprising considering it was Glasgow weekend) and whereas I was expecting to have a least two tours I ended up giving up and not having a single tour! Added to that was the “service” on both the Friday night and Saturday during the evening left a lot to be desired with the same age old Blackpool Tramway problems of the bunching of trams and then huge gaps in the service. Despite that there were highlights including the use of Princess Alice on Illumination Tours and it is good to see the tramway so busy and should bode well for the future.
And that was almost it for me in 2013 although there was still time for a trip to Midland Metro at the start of October and a visit to the Docklands Light Railway during November. And then came the end of my tram year with the start of my winter break – when will it all begin again in 2014 I wonder?
Things I learnt in 2013
I can do day trips to Beamish!
I can make the start of a days operation of Heritage Tours in Blackpool
I used the 0516 service from my local station too many times!
I don’t like going on boats during rough seas
Expect the unexpected and then you might just be somewhere close to what will happen!
I probably really should cut down on the number of tram events I do in 2014…