|Last Updated Sunday 2nd August 2009|
|On Saturday 18th July, the owners of Stockport 5 held a full system tour along the Blackpool tramway using their tramcar. As followers of the Blackpool tramway scene will doubtless be aware, Stockport 5 is a very elusive tram which rarely operates apart from one annual tour for the 'Friends of Five'. However, a chance invitation to ride on the car proved to be too much to resist for regular British Trams Online contributors Tony & Andrew Waddington - and what follows is an account of what happened that day.|
Surprisingly few enthusiasts were gathered outside the tram depot around lunchtime on this date, waiting to see a little-used vintage tramcar. At about 1:00pm, Stockport 5 was brought out of the depot to greet it's adoring public. The tram was quickly loaded up and headed for the promenade, where it headed for North Pier and then reversed for Starr Gate. En route we passed fellow 1901 built tramcar Bolton 66 en route, which was parked up at Pleasure Beach for a crew break. One particularly amusing incident occured when a would-be passenger chased 5 for quite a distance along New South Promenade as it did not stop when he stuck his arm out; despite the conductor telling him a few times that he could not get on as the car was on a private tour, the chap still insisted on running after the tram until it got some speed up!
Upon reaching Starr Gate, most of the passengers alighted to make the most of the rare opportunity to take photographs of the tram at the southern terminus - and who knows, with the tramway upgrade set to commence at the end of the season, this may have been 5's last visit to this location. After a while, 5 set off again, and ended up chasing Bolton 66 along the promenade! As luck would have it, 66 was terminating at North Pier, and after being asked politely, the driver of 5 kindly agreed to an impromptu photo opportunity of the two vintage trams side by side. Eventually, it was realised that 761 on Fleetwood service was approaching, so the tour participants were ushered back on board and the Stockport car set off for Fleetwood. With 761 on our tail, it was suggested that 5 might use the centre track at Bispham so that the service car could overtake it, but on arrival 622 was already there, so it was onto Plan B - namely a quick dash to Thornton Gate, where 761 was finally allowed to overtake us! Yet more photos were taken and then it was an uninterrupted and very enjoyable ride along the Tramroad to Fleetwood Ferry. The recent track renewal has certainly improved the performance of four-wheelers like 5 along this track, and the car ran surprisingly well in spite of it's lack of use.
Once at the Ferry, 5 was to be stabled on the passing loop for a 45 minute break to allow other trams to pass. This involved the car unloading at the Ferry loading stop, then being taken a short distance to clear the points, before reversing onto the loop. Presumably this is due to problems with the points at the other end of the loop, but as it was another unusual filming opportunity for me to capture on camera, I certainly wasn't going to complain about it! Some of the party then had a refreshment break at the nearby cafe, although the majority seemed more interested in taking even more photos of 5 with 762 and then 713 alongside it. Again, this may well have been the car's last appearance at the Ferry, so it was well worth recording the moment.
All that was left then was the journey back home. Again, Stockport 5 gave a surprisingly good ride along the reserved track all the way back to the depot. The tram was then put back to bed in front of a row of withdrawn cars, and it was back to normal, as if it had never been out at all. There was one last nice surprise though... soon after the tour ended, Bolton 66 appeared on Hopton Road, as it too had finished its shift on the promenade for the day. The tram was then put back in the depot next to Stockport 5, which was itself next to Sheffield 513! There was therefore an opportunity to take photographs of all three non-Blackpool cars currently based at the town together, which was pretty much the best possible way to end a truly fantastic day.
My thanks go to Stan Heaton and anyone else who was involved in organising the tour, and especially to the tram crew for being so accomodating and letting the tour participants get some truly superb photographs, most notably of 5 and 66 together at North Pier. This was the undisputed highlight of what was a very enjoyable day - it was however a shame that the tour was not better attended. The 'Friends of Five' were happy to allow some non-members who happened to be in the right place at the right time join them for the tour; although I can understand that they may not want a horde of people waiting to board the tram, it seems a shame that more couldn't be made of the tour. At a bargain price of just £5.00 for the full tour, I'm sure it could have easily been filled. It was also a great shame that car 5 did not appear again the following day for the Fleetwood Transport Festival despite quite obviously being available for service!
Which leaves only one thing left to say: the official British Trams Online score for this excellent tram tour is:
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