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About the Tram of the Year

Conceived as a bit of fun at the end of the year the British Trams Online Tram of the Year originally sought to find the tramcar which had done something "special" over the previous 12 months. There has never been a full definition of what "special" actually means in this case but over the years tramcars which have won have had a repaint, entered service after a repaint or gone on loan away from their home tramway to name but there examples.

In 2012 the contest was expanded to include two new categories - Event of the Year and Tramway of the Year - and then in 2014 a fourth category was voted for the first time - Light Rail Vehicle of the Year.

At the end of November each year nominations are opened for a week to allow anyone to put forward suggestions for each of the categories before our "expert panel" (which is probably neither expert nor a panel!) convene to make a decision of what should be on the final shortlist, with each category normally having around five items to vote on. Voting takes place for approximately six weeks from the start of December until mid January and we then name the lucky winners.

British Trams Online Tram of the Year 2020

Tram of the Year: And the winners are...

It’s a tram which has so often been the bridesmaid in the British Trams Online Tram of the Year contest but at the fourth time of asking it has finally won the main “Tram (Traditional) of the Year” category – that tram is Heaton Park’s Stockport 5! Other winners in this contest have been the Seaton Tramway which is named both “Tramway of the Year” and “Event of the Year” (for the 50th Anniversary event) while the “Tram (Modern) of the Year” once again goes to Manchester Metrolink with 3073 becoming the fourth of the M5000s to win that category.

Whilst 2020 was one of the most difficult years in living memory across society, Stockport 5 was still able to re-enter service at the start of December (just squeaking in to the nomination period!) and it then went to see regular use during the Lightopia Festival. It had last run in passenger service back in 2013 and since then a comprehensive overhaul has been completed on the tram which was nearly completed as the first lockdown hit us in March 2020 with the finishing touches then taking place to allow it to play a major role in December. The tram, which is now a fully fledged part of the Manchester Transport Museum Society fleet, had previously been runner-up in 2011 but nine years later finally wins the award! 5 received slightly over 50% of the total valid votes with a total of 296 of you deciding it had done enough to be named “Tram (Traditional) of the Year.

Seaton 4 was pipped to the post in the main category (coming in second with 222 votes – 38.81%) but the Seaton Tramway are still celebrating having won the other two awards they were nominated for – “Tramway of the Year” and “Event of the Year”. With the 50th anniversary of the opening of the tramway during 2020, despite all the restrictions in place across the country they managed to celebrate it – albeit in a lower key manner than they had originally hoped! – with a special “nearly all trams out day” in August. There may have been social distancing measures in place during the event but that still didn’t stop those who attended from having a good time and with no. 4 used during the event it proved to be a popular way to spend an August day! 276 votes were recorded for event (52.17%) with Blackpool Tramway’s 135th Anniversary weekend – which included a six tram parade – coming in second with183 votes (34.59%).

Keeping with the Seaton Tramway and they were the clear winner in “Tramway of the Year” with 57.79% of valid votes (308 votes) being registered. The first heritage tramway in the UK to resume operations once restrictions were lifted enough they quickly put in place new procedures to make everyone feel safe when visiting and managed to operate regular services for the rest of the year, including Twilight Trams during December, and only brining the season to an end when more restrictions were put in place around Christmas. The tramway also kept many entertained during lockdown with regular Live videos on their Facebook page – including the 24 hour Tramathon which saw trams running along the line for a full 24 hours in June.

The “Tramway (Modern) of the Year” category has very much been dominated by Manchester Metrolink over the years and that is where it went again this year with 3073 receiving 73.33% of the votes (a total of 297 voting for it) beating West Midlands Metro 36 into second place. 3073 had run the first public service on the new Trafford Park line in March and that was enough for it to receive the most votes. Although Metrolink has dominated this category it is in fact the first time since 2016 that it has won outright with last year seeing a joint win.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote and congratulations to all the winners! There may be no prize, no lavish awards ceremony (virtual or otherwise!) but you can all go away with that warm glow that the readers of British Trams Online think you have done special in 2020! Tram of the Year should be back again at the end of November 2021 – hopefully there will be lots to be nominated then!

Tram of the Year: The Results

Tram (Traditional) of the Year

Stockport 5 – 296 votes (51.75%)
Seaton 4 – 222 votes (38.81%)
Blackpool Modified Balloon 707 – 31 votes (5.42%)
Blackpool Illuminated Frigate – 23 votes (4.02%)

69 votes rejected due to multiple votes (caused no change to ranking)

Tram (Modern) of the Year

Manchester Metrolink 3073 – 297 votes (73.33%)
West Midlands Metro 36 – 108 votes (26.67%)

49 votes rejected due to multiple votes (caused no change to ranking)

Tramway of the Year

Seaton Tramway – 308 votes (57.79%)
Manchester Metrolink – 198 votes (37.15%)
West Midlands Metro – 27 votes (5.07%)

66 votes rejected due to multiple votes (caused no change to ranking)

Event of the Year

Seaton Tramway: 50th Anniversary event – 276 votes (52.17%)
Blackpool Tramway: 135th Anniversary weekend – 183 votes (34.59%)
Isle of Man: Rush Hour on the Railways virtual event – 70 votes (13.23%)

66 votes rejected due to multiple votes (caused no change to ranking)

Votes received from the same IP address are considered a multiple vote. In these cases the first set of votes are accepted with all subsequent votes removed from the final rankings.

Tram of the Year (Traditional): The Shortlist

Blackpool Modified Balloon 707
In any normal year the chance of this tram being shortlisted would probably be fairly small! But in 2020 anything goes! It had been a protracted project to return 707 to service in Blackpool with troubles with its batteries meaning that its planned reactivation in 2019 was delayed but after workshop attention it was cleared to run at the Winter Gold event in Blackpool on 14th March (just before the national lockdown came into operation). This was the first time it had carried passengers since 2013 and after this day of use it would also be seen used regularly during the protracted operating season, particularly proving its worth during the illuminations.

Blackpool Illuminated Frigate 736
Having run almost constantly since its overhaul in 2004, the Frigate was to enjoy some much-needed TLC in the Rigby Road workshops last winter with this work all planned to be completed in plenty of time for the 2020 illuminations. Enter the pandemic and a delay in the work meant it wasn’t to be until the end of September that the Frigate would return to action with use on the first day of the 135th anniversary weekend and then illumination tours. With its lighting having started to look a little tired in recent years its return was a bright light in a tough year.

Seaton 4
It hasn’t received an overhaul or even a repaint in 2020 so why does Seaton Tramway 4 get on the shortlist? Quite simply the tram – which has long been one of the last tram’s used on the Devon tramway – has probably seen one of its busiest years since building, despite the fact that its already small capacity has been reduced further by social distancing. It played a starring role during Seaton’s online 24 hour Tramathon and even after the tramway reopened at the start of July it saw fairly regular use – including at the 50th Anniversary event in August. And if all that wasn’t enough as we confirm this shortlist its going to be used for twilight services on the tramway – an open tram on the Axe Valley in December!

Stockport 5
You could say that Stockport 5 is a bit of a unlucky tram. During its loan spell at Blackpool it was rarely used, it has had two proposed loans to Beamish scuppered and then in 2020 just as it was about to return to service in March the pandemic hit! But with some restrictions now lifted, 5 has returned to service on the Heaton Park Tramway with it carrying its first passengers since 2013 on 4th December and it will now be used during the Lightopia event at the Park. The overhaul on the tram has taken several weeks but the quality of the work should see the tram good to run for many years to come!

Tram of the Year (Modern): The Shortlist

Manchester Metrolink 3073
Sunday 22nd March saw Manchester Metrolink’s Trafford Park line open to the public – ahead of schedule – and to mark the occasion M5000 3073 also received an advertising livery for the intu Trafford Centre. Whether it was coincidence or by design 3073 was allocated to the first public service from Cornbrook to intu Trafford Centre and return and it is for that reason that it makes the shortlist.

West Midlands Metro 36
Cast your mind back nearly 12 months and the West Midlands Metro saw the opening on 11th December 2019 of the first phase of the Birmingham Westside extension between Grand Central and Library. The first tram to carry fare paying passengers on this day was 36 (at the time named Rudolph!) and that is shortlisted for this milestone.

Tramway of the Year: The Shortlist

Manchester Metrolink
While 2020 has not been the best of years for Manchester Metrolink with passenger numbers plummeting as a result of the pandemic and a reduced service also running for much of the year (although that reduced service for some lines has seen a higher frequency that usual!). However, 22nd March saw the opening of the latest – and currently last – extension of the network to the Trafford Centre. Metrolink has also seen the first of 27 new M5000 trams delivered which will help boost capacity on the system.

Seaton Tramway
The only heritage tramway to make this shortlist is the Seaton Tramway. Having been forced to close in March, they reopened as soon as they could at the start of July with extensive and well laid out Covid safe plans put into place to allow everyone to travel safely and with confidence. They are also now running a special winter service which will include twilight working on selected dates in the lead up to Christmas. And if that’s not enough they have really embraced the online world with regular video updates posted on their Facebook page and of course their week long Tramathon event which culminated in a 24 hour event with trams running along their line for a full 24 hours – giving some much needed entertainment for tram fans around the world!

West Midlands Metro
As with Manchester Metrolink, 2020 hasn’t been the easiest year for the West Midlands Metro with reduced passenger numbers and several revised timetables put into operation. But at the very beginning of our qualifying period it saw the opening of the first section of modern UK tramway without overhead – phase one of the Birmingham Westside extension from Grand Central to Library. Trams first ran on this route on 11th December 2019.

Event of the Year: The Shortlist

Blackpool Tramway – 135th Anniversary weekend
Of course it wasn’t the event originally planned to celebrate the 135th anniversary of the Blackpool Tramway but despite the adversity an event fitting such a key milestone was till able to take place over the weekend of 26th and 27th September. With pre-booked heritage tours taking place from North Pier and Tower to Little Bispham or Fleetwood including a variety (which included the return to service of the Frigate after overhaul) the highlight of the weekend was on Sunday 27th September when a cavalcade ran from Pleasure Beach to Little Bispham and back. With six trams featuring, and a slow passage of the cars in central Blackpool, it was an excellent way for a low key celebration of 135 years of operation.

Isle of Man – Rush Hour on the Railways virtual event
The first ever virtual event to make it on the shortlist! It was still in the early days of the pandemic when it was announced that the Rush Hour on the Railways event over the Easter weekend would not be able to take place but not to be deterred the organisations involved in the event decided to go online! With a varied selection of photos and videos uploaded to Facebook the event gave enthusiasts the chance to still enjoy the Isle of Man’s railways and tramway at a time when they couldn’t go there. This was followed by a virtual Manx Heritage Transport Festival in July but as the Rush Hour event was the first of its kind it makes the shortlist.

Seaton Tramway – 50th Anniversary event
When the year began the Seaton Tramway had big plans for their 50th anniversary with a whole weekend of events due over the August Bank Holiday weekend which would mark the exact anniversary of the first trams running on the tramway in 1970. While this was not possible as a result of the restrictions in place, the tramway still wanted to celebrate and did this with nine trams making it onto the line on 29th August at various times. Only 12 and 19 of the usually operational trams didn’t make it into service and without doubt the big highlight for many was the use of 4 on several trips. And continuing their use of online platforms part of the event was live streamed.

Previous Contests


Tramcar - Manx Electric Railway 54
LRV - Blackpool Tramway 001 & Manchester Metrolink 3006
Tramway - Heaton Park Tramway
Event - Manx Heritage Transport Festival


Tramcar - Manx Electric Railway 14
LRV - Stagecoach Supertram 399 203
Tramway - Manx Electric Railway
Event - Manx Electric Railway 125th anniversary


Tramcar - Douglas Bay Horse Tramway 36
LRV - Stagecoach Supertram 399 202
Tramway - Statfold Barn Railway
Event - Statfold Barn Railway: Burton & Ashby 14 launch


Tramcar - Blackpool Marton 31
LRV - Manchester Metrolink 3120
Tramway - Douglas Bay Horse Tramway
Event - Douglas Bay Horse Tramway: 140th Anniversary


Tramcar - Liverpool 245
LRV - Manchester Metrolink 3100
Tramway - Blackpool Tramway
Event - Blackpool Tramway: 130th Anniversary


Tramcar - Blackpool Pantograph 167
LRV - Manchester Metrolink 1007
Tramway - Crich Tramway Village
Event - Crich Tramway Village: Electric 50


Tramcar - Blackpool Boat 227
Tramway - Heaton Park Tramway
Event - Rejuvenation of Blackpool Heritage Service


Tramcar - Blackpool Brush 623
Tramway - Blackpool
Event - Glasgow 50 at Crich


Tramcar - Blackpool Marton VAMBAC 11


Tramcar - Liverpool 762


Tramcar - Blackpool Western Train 733+734


Tramcar - Blackpool Balloon 717


Tramcar - Blackpool Brush 623


Tramcar - Leeds 345


Tramcar - Trampower Tram


Tramcar - Blackpool Illuminated Frigate 736 & Nottingham Express Transit 203 (joint winners)


Tramcar - Leeds 602

This page was last updated on Sunday 10th January 2021

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