Blackpool heritage trams need your help!

The Blackpool Heritage Trust are appealing for volunteers to help sell copies of a booklet produced to help raise vital funds to preserve the town’s tramway heritage. The Trust are hoping to station volunteers at Pleasure Beach to offer books for sale to people who are queuing for a tour of the illuminations, in order to capitalise on the busiest weeks of the season which are almost upon us.

The booklet entitled ‘Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours… the story so far’ was published recently and is priced at a modest £5, with £4.50 from every book sold going towards the upkeep of the heritage tram fleet. The Trust are now aiming to sell even more copies by targeting the queuing hoards who wait for a tour of the lights each evening at the Pleasure Beach heritage tram stop, with the added bonus that it is hoped to offer one or two volunteer book sellers a free ride on the last tour of the night, so long as there are seats available. This once again shows the level of gratitude that exists for supporters of the heritage fleet and will hopefully provide further incentive for volunteers to come forward.

Anyone wishing to offer their services (if only for one or two nights) is advised to email and efforts will then be made to co-ordinate the available volunteers, the aim being to have them present for as many evenings as possible. 1000 copies of the book have been produced and therefore a complete sell-out would raise £4,500 for the trams – opening up some potentially exciting possibilities for new projects to benefit us all! This also offers the first chance for members of the public to become actively involved with the new Trust, albeit on a small scale, and who knows what opportunities could become available in the future if this goes well?

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16 Responses to Blackpool heritage trams need your help!

  1. BigG says:

    Sorry that I am unable to help, but I wish the Blackpool Heritage Trust the best of luck with this initiative. It is about time that some of the more vociferous tram enthusiasts realised that their pleasures do not come for free and started to do something to contribute. This is a task that most people are capable of doing, so there are no excuses, and the inducements are generous. I challenge the resident Blackpool enthusuiasts (and they know who they are!) who threatened (jokingly I hope) to string me up from a traction pole at Crich during the “Electric 50″ event to make this happen – it’s not all about changing destination blinds!

  2. David Warner says:

    I think this is a brilliant idea. I purchased this book a few weeks ago and it is very informative.I was in Blackpool at the time and would gladly have volunteered , if this idea had been put into practise then. I saw the queue one evening, and I’m sure I could have sold some copies.However, good luck with this venture and hopefully this will bring more well deserved funds to the Heritage trust.

  3. Frank Gradwell says:

    I have written to Bryan and suggested that a spreadsheet calendar be created so that the dates can be entered up as volunteers come forward.

    This forum – FTS, etc could be useful sources of volunteers who’s commitment could then be recorded together with contact details so that joining information etc can be sent.

  4. JOHN says:

    Selling on the cars to a captive audience would be more beneficial than selling to the queue (and less of a security risk for volunteers carrying cash in the dark), especially when the queue gets restless waiting!!

  5. Edwin Newton says:

    I really do wish this idea gets off the ground.Many a night its wet and windy down there in so much even the locals don’t bother walking around.The only pleasure will be knowing that perhaps the volunteers have rum in there flasks.Since the start of the illuminations the whole area has been in darkness as the council have not seen fit to erect any kind of lighting there but spent thousands of ratepayers money on the same old lights that appear elsewhere year after year.That is why local hoteliers and local residents down on the south prom complain year after about the lack of proper illuminations when they are faced with having to pay more in there rates and not getting much back.

  6. JOHN says:

    If I may play devils advocate I wouldn’t be happy selling to the queue due to the darkness – depending how the queue is organised, it either spans the unlit loop or the brighter path. (Why no lights on the stop?). Totally agree with the comments that a rota can be drawn up, just need volunteers now!

    • Frank Gradwell says:

      I have sent a draft Excel spreadsheet to the Trust. If there is any way it could be reproduced here, or on the Farcebook site, or people could indicate their availability so that someone at the Trust could run it, then a reliable rota should emerge.

      I think it is a pre-requisite that onboard selling is the norm.

  7. Franklyn says:

    This is an interesting idea. However what I would really like to see is the heritage trams being operated by volunteer crews and every penny from heritage operation going back into the heritage fleet via the new trust.

    Maybe then we would see more heritage vehicles in service more of the time, taking advantage of the number of people out and about between Blackpool and Fleetwood? I can also suggest ways the widened balloons could have a more sympethetic conversion done to allow them to stop at all platforms. If it’s a volunteer run tourist service I don’t see how HM Inspector of Railways or those euro-busy-bodies could have a problem with it.

    How about it Brian? an 8 car daily service running 8am till midnight the whole length of the tramway, AND a use for those B-Fleet Balloons?

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      … and then we woke up!!!

      Seriously though, volunteer crews would be fantastic but I’m sure there are a huge number of hurdles that would need to overcome; not least of all relating to any potential worries from BTS staff. I’m not sure what the union would make of the idea to replace their paid crews with volunteers, especially as a service on the scale you propose would almost certainly steal some custom away from the Flexity trams, resulting in likely service cuts and then job losses. The tramway has changed, get over it.

      At the end of the day, I’m sure if volunteer crews are a viable option then BrYan & Co will look at it and it will happen at some point. They have done a grand job so far and generally if things don’t happen that onlookers think should, there is usually a good reason for it. Until then, my suggestion is that anyone with sensible ideas for the heritage operation put them to the Blackpool Heritage Trust – but it strikes me that so many people have ideas, most of which have not been thought out properly at all and are mostly ‘pie in the sky’ stuff, that enthusiasts as a whole may be less likely to be taken seriously as a result. It’s nice to dream but fantasies will not help the cause.

    • Christopher Callan says:

      Thought long and hard about responding to your “proposal”. Large chunks of your proposal show complete lack of understanding and appreciation of the enormous challenges faced running the heritage operation. Just next month Blackpool hard work behind the scenes will bear fruit as the 2014 Blackpool Exemption Legislation becomes law. Took an enormous amount of time and energy for them to get this far. Have achieved so much and your proposals would only serve to put at risk all the hard work put in.

      1) The B Fleet conversions were done in a way that was sympathetic as possible whilst adhering to the exemption legislation. Other than adjustments to the livery very little could be legally done. The B Fleet could not and must not stop at the LRT stops whilst performing “heritage tours” they can only do so when in revenue passenger service. And do you seriously believe the B Fleet which unlike the Heritage Fleet Blackpool Council still own would be allowed to compete with the core service in that fashion.

      2)Whilst say for the purposes of this discussion that Blackpool Trust were in a position to allow volunteers to operate on a Light Rail system. Your proposals would require: around 40 volunteers every single day. That number is nearly as high as the number of tramway volunteers operating tramcars in the entire UK…. That doesent even take into account the number of people needed behind the scenes and on the engineering side. Wildly optimistic to think volunteers would be prepared to work them hours. Just look at Crich

      3)Surely realise their is not a demand for such an operation. 2012 demonstrated that and the subsequent seasons from 2013 onwards have shown that the event format is the way forward. Yes their is a case for putting forward sensible well thought out additional day time operations (Winter, Tram Saturday, October Half Term, February Half Term, Air Show, Other Local Events all ones to look at in good time)

      Whilst your enthusiasm and optimism Frankyn certainly a positive it needs to be channelled in a way that is constructive and beneficial to the current operation. Theirs not thousands of people walking up and down for a vintage tram in Blackpool any more every day. The tramway has had to evolve to survive. The heritage operation needs supporting not constantly eroded with ludicrous suggestions. They undermine sensible suggestions the few sensible ideas that sometimes do emerge in the comments section.

    • Paul D says:

      Franklyn, I assume from the lack of realism in your postings, you have no experience of Transport Planning and have never volunteered in any heritage transport role…

      8 cars, out for 16 hours per day will require 20 crews per day. As they are volunteers, realistically each would only do 1-2 shifts per week, you will therefore need between 70 and 100 crews! Are there that many qualified heritage tram drivers in the UK if you combine all the heritage tramways??

      I look forward to seeing your blue print for how “the widened balloons could have a more sympathetic conversion” with detailed evidence confirming it will be safe to operate (for the Crew, the passenger and the public on the lineside), and will not impact on the structural integrity of the vehicle including full costings of the work involved.

      HMRI in fact keep a very close eye on Volunteer run Heritage lines; if anything more so than the mainline systems because of a few unfortunate incidents in recent years. In no way is volunteer operation an excuse for cutting corners or avoidance of H&S or access regulation, and to suggest such just shows how out of touch with reality you are; and that implementing you schemes would be a danger to yourself, the volunteers, the passenger and the general public.
      I’m afraid your postings show no understanding of reality. You throw in these fantasy schemes with no reasoned evidence to support their viability, and when challenged to provide such evidence or proof of your qualifications/experience to back up such ideas you never respond.

      If it wasn’t for the comedy value they provide, I’m sure the moderators would simply delete each and every one of your postings…

  8. Ken Walker says:

    On-tram selling would certainly seem to be better for volunteers from a safety point of view unless some means of accommodation is going to be made available, and certainly from a weather point of view fonsidering the time of year. It would presumably remove the need to offer some volunteers a free ride on the last run of the day.

  9. Frank Gradwell says:

    Well I have done my first book selling shift – and it was hard work. the public are NOT tram enthusiasts, and we need to understand what they will react to in the heritage world to get them to put their hands in their pockets.

    There is a role though for the sellers to promote the tours in between selling bouts, discreetly, not when the absence of cars or over long queues means that all we are inviting is an even longer queue, etc!

    As to the vitriolic responses above, I’m afraid it will be those people who are likely to be eating humble pie in the fullness of time, as the reality of operating an independent trust as part of the tourist appeal of Blackpool is realised to be a whole separate business from a boring city metro and those silly restrictions that have become sacred mantras are consigned to the dustbin of history where they belong. I’m not suggesting the full blown suggestion is recommendable, but the fanatical refusal to discuss what could be made of it is depressing and distressing.

    Let’s be brutally honest – in the world of risk, where is there more risk? a ten inch step up or a three inch level gap – as shown only too clearly on the 11th September 2011 when 717 and 632 gave the game away alongside 700 at Starr Gate. The argument is practically unsustainable, and unsustainable arguments never last long in the real world. A word here and a derogation there and sense will prevail.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Well done Frank on taking the challenge and offering your time. Hopefully more volunteers will start to come forward and more books will be sold, so we can all benefit.

    • Christopher Callan says:

      First of all Well done on volunteering.

      Regardless of how trivial the legislation may seems its vital that its the legislative framework is respected. Bryan Lindop has worked incredibly hard behind the scenes getting the legal framework to act as solid base going forward. The Stop thing is actually more about service differentiation. Some of the access groups as part of the consultation still believe its important and as such regulators insisting on it remaining.

      Perhaps if the ideas weren’t wildly optimistic might be met with sensible discussion. A 8 Car 7 Day a week 16 hour a day Heritage service is not something we should be striving for. Aspects of it Franklyns proposals are interesting. But get buried by the headline grabbing proposals. In the coming years the operation will grow. Its ready for take off in so many ways. The operation can and will become a premier attraction with a world class visitor centre. To me rather than aiming for “all day every day” we should look to have a Museum, Bank Holiday Extravaganzas, Regular Private Hires, Tram Tours, Heritage Trams Supporting Local Events, Lights Tours & a Summer Season .

    • Paul D says:


      Well done on volunteering – the first I’m aware of.

      The problem with Franklyn’s proposals is not the use of volunteer crews itself, with appropriate training and supervision, safe operation is perfectly possible. As a qualified guard for heritage tramways, if it is done correctly, I’ll be near the front of the queue!! The biggest hurdle will probably be gaining acceptance from the Trade Unions.

      The issue I have is his implication that use of volunteers would be a way of avoiding certain restrictions and safely regulations, and attract less scrutiny from HMRI. I would not want to be either a passenger or trackside if I knew that crews had been trained to lesser standards.

      Volunteer crews could in the future be used, but to supplement the regular crews and enhance the existing operating days, not to replace the paid staff nor to run a daily service. In the medium term, a 2/3 car weekend service say from the late May bank holiday to the end of August may be achievable, but I don’t believe you would ever find sufficient volunteers for his proposed 8 car daily service! Even that would need to be build up gradually, mindfull of the lessons of 2012 which showed that if the heritage cars run too often the novelty soon wears off and infact people ride less…