The stretch of the Blackpool and Fleetwood Tramway between Ash Street and Fleetwood Ferry closed at the end of service on Sunday 8th November for a start to be made on upgrade work for the new Supertram system, due to open in 2012. Over the final weekend a series of special tram tours were run as we said “Farewell to Fleetwood”. British Trams Online Webmaster Gareth Prior reports from the weekends events.
Friday 6th November 2009
After arriving in Blackpool at around lunchtime and having booked into my accommodation for the weekend I had the bright idea of going to Fleetwood so I could get some shots of “normal” trams in service on the street section with the next two days likely to be taken up by the organised tours. However, the weather was having other ideas and persistent – and heavy – rain meant very few decent photos were able to be taken!
The service had reverted to complete single-deck operation at the start of this week but unfortunately there seemed to be a lack of single deck trams available to operate the 10 daytime/9 evening routes and so Balloon 718 was in operation for much of the day running “Top Deck Closed”. Throughout the day all Centenary Cars and the two available refurbished Brush Cars (630 and 631) were also noted on service.
The evening saw two trams on specials – Jubilee Cars 761 and 762 whilst Balloon 717 was also out and about on a Private Hire. It is believed it went to Fleetwood. During the day Balloon 700 was also in use on a Tram Driver Experience trip.
Five Illumination Tours were run during the evening – all by the Illuminated Trams. Tour four of the night in the hands of Western Train 733+734 was cut slightly short at Tower on its return with a believed fault. Fitters were noted in attendance and all passengers alighted. The trams eventually managed to run under their own power through to North Pier and then back to Depot.
630, 631, 641, 642, 643, 644, 645, 646, 647, 648, 718 (there were a number of changeovers during the day and not all trams were out at the same time)
700 (Tram Driving Experience), 717 (Private Hire – evening)
1. Western Train 733+734
2. Frigate 736
3. Trawler 737
4. Western Train 733+734
5. Frigate 736
Saturday 7th Novmber 2009
Day one of the “Farewell to Fleetwood” commemorations was unfortunately mostly wet again although the morning had started promisingly with some sunny intervals (indeed the weather forecast had suggested sunshine and showers, it just didn’t mention all the sunshine would be concentrated to the morning!)
Despite an extra Brush Car (622) being available for service Balloon 718 was used on daytime Cleveleys service as a couple of Centenary Cars seemed to have dropped off the availability list. Five double deck specials were in use during the main part of the day with both Jubilee Cars plus Balloons 700, 707 and 717. The evening saw the Jubilees remain in service and they were joined by 713 and 724. In addition Standard 147 was being driven by Santa Claus with assistance from two elves between North Pier and Pleasure Beach during the day in aid of the BBC Children in Need appeal. The final Tram Driver Experience of 2009 was also out during the day with Balloon 711 in charge on this day.
On a visit to the Depot during the day Brush 634 was noted at the front with both pantograph and tower removed in preparation for transport to its new life in preservation at the Rushden Transport Museum in Northamptonshire.
The first of the Lancastrian Transport Trust organised “Farewell to Fleetwood” tours was due to leave Depot at 1300 with Brush 623, Sheffield 513 and Blackpool & Fleetwood Box 40 in charge. The trams departed a little over 10 minutes behind schedule and made their way to the first photo stop at Thornton Gate. Following this the trams made their way towards Fleetwood stopping off for more photos at Stanley Road. Upon arrival at Fleetwood the three trams were reversed onto the loop line at the Ferry to enable service cars to pass. It was a tight fit for three trams to fit allowing trams to pass but fit they did allowing Jubilee 762 and Brush 630 to head back south. Following this the three trams – with 40 now leading – undertook a run to Ash Street and back to allow tour participants to travel on all trams along the streets of Fleetwood.
40 then led 513 and 623 back towards Blackpool at 1523. Another stop was made at Bispham – again to allow service cars to overtake – with the trams having to reverse onto the centre track. This meant 623 was again in front for the run through to Pleasure Beach. Here the trams went round the loop and stabled on the southbound track by the Inspector’s Hut. As fortune would have it Balloon 700 was stabled on the currently disused northbound track enabling some shots of the two Wartime liveried trams together. The final sections of Tour A saw the trams head to Tower and then back to Depot.
Unlike the previous day the rain did not stop for the evening so Tour B (due to leave Depot at 1930 with Standard 147 and Balloon 712 actually started from within the Depot confines. 147 leaving from its usual track in the centre of the Depot with 712 going from in front of the Electrical Compound. The trams left at approximately 1935 and ran straight through to Cleveleys where the first (wet) photo stop of the night took place. From here it was straight through to Fleetwood from where an option was given of an optional hours break or a return journey to Cleveleys. An hour at Fleetwood Ferry in the dry is bad enough but in the pouring rain it didn’t seem to be a particularly enticing prospect for many of the tour participants. After the run to Cleveleys the two trams heading back towards Blackpool. I have to admit I bailed out at Bispham on the return in order to have another dry off and warm up but it is believed the tour ran through to Pleasure Beach and then back to Depot via Tower.
The evening also saw at least seven Illumination Tours run with two a piece for the three Illuminated trams and one for Balloon 700.
622 (Fleetwood – day), 630 (F – all day), 631 (Cleveleys/Fleetwood), 641 (C/F), 642 (F – all day), 643 (Fleetwood/Bispham), 644 (F/B), 645 (F/B), 647 (C/F), 718 (C/F)
147 (day – Santa Specials), 700 (day), 707 (day), 713 (evening), 717 (day), 724 (evening), 761 (day/evening), 762 (day/evening)
711 (Tram Driver Experience)
1. Western Train 733+734
2. Frigate 736
3. Trawler 737
4. Balloon 700
5. Western Train 733+734
6. Frigate 736
7. Trawler 737
Farewell to Fleetwood Tours:
Tour A – 40, 513, 623: Depot-Thornton Gate-Fleetwood-Ash Street-Fleetwood-Bispham-Pleasure Beach-Tower-Depot
Tour B – 147, 712: Depot-Cleveleys-Fleetwood-Cleveleys-Fleetwood-Pleasure Beach-Tower-Depot
Sunday 8th November 2009
And so to the final day of the 2009 season and also the last day for traditional trams between Ash Street and Fleetwood Ferry. The day started off as any other with 10 single deckers available for the Fleetwood and Cleveleys timetabled service. This included Brush 622 (maybe on its final day of service with the expiry of its all over advertising contract and the reputed poor condition of the tram) and Brush 623. As it was Remembrance Sunday a ceremony was held at the Cenotaph next to North Pier and this caused disruption to the tram service with no trams able to pass through the area whilst this took place. In addition there was a Parade down Lord Street in Fleetwood meaning for a time all trams heading for Fleetwood terminated at Ash Street – just, of course, as they will for the next two seasons.
Standard 147 was in use again on its “Santa Specials” for the BBC Children in Need appeal and it was joined in daytime special use by Balloons 713, 717 and 724.
An earlier start for the “Farewell to Fleetwood” tours on this day with the first of the day due to depart Depot at 1030. This tour featured Coronation Cars 304 and 660 with Balloon 700 joining in the fun due to popular demand of the tour. The three trams led by 304 followed by 700 and 660 left Depot at 1040 and headed for North Pier. Because of the aforementioned service at the Cenotaph the trams turned here to head back to Pleasure Beach. At Pleasure Beach the first photo stop of the day took place with 660 and 700 stabled on the inner loop whilst 304 was parked next to 660 enabling some good shots of the two stars of the tour together. The trams then headed back north – with 304 now leading 660 and 700 at the rear – but were still delayed at North Pier by the end of the service, so further photos were taken here.
Once the trams got past North Pier they went to regular photo stop location, Thornton Gate – leaving here at 1235 for Fleetwood. As on the previous day the three trams were to travel to and from Ash Street but this time the passing loop at Fleetwood Ferry was not utilised. After these runs the three trams headed back towards Blackpool and then into the Depot.
Because of delays experienced during the morning tour and to enable the crews to have a break the afternoon – and final LTT organised – tour was delayed but in the meantime Box 40 was noted departing Depot at 1430 with another enthusiasts tour, this one for the “Friends of 40”. The afternoon LTT tour was in the hands of Twin Car 673+683 (with the trailer leading for the vast majority) and Balloon 706 (not exactly a tram suited to early November weather!) The trams eventually left Depot at 1528 (nearly an hour later than originally planned and 30 minutes after the revised start time) and headed straight to Thornton Gate for some daytime photography. They then continued on their way to Fleetwood.
Once at Fleetwood the plan was that 673+683 would be reversed onto the passing loop at the Ferry whilst 706 would travel to and from Ash Street, as Twin Cars are not able to use the crossover at Ash Street from this direction. However, upon arrival at Fleetwood 40 was already on the passing loop! After negotiations the crew of 40 agreed to drive their tram down to Ash Street and back to enable 673+683 to be stabled on the passing loop whilst 706 also went down to Ash Street and back.
After these Ash Street runs 673+683 led 706 back towards Blackpool whilst 40 resumed its break on the passing loop. The tour cars ran through to Pleasure Beach where a further photo stop was taken on the loop and the trams then ran through to Tower for more photos and for the trams to head back to Depot, which they did with 706 now leading and the Twin set led by the Motor for the first time during the afternoons entertainment.
Whilst this tour had been taking place further trams had been bought into service as late specials including Twin Car 672+682 and Balloons 700, 707 and 724. A significant changeover in the service cars was also made with Balloon 717 taking charge of Route 15 – the last timetabled Fleetwood service. It is also believed 713 took over one of the Bispham routes being noted running top deck closed during the middle of the evening. However, it became very difficult to work out what was running on specials and what was on service during the evening because the service was in chaos due to power supply problems.
For a period during the evening no trams were able to actually get through to Fleetwood as power supply problems were reported near to Thornton Gate (the area affected later stretched towards Little Bispham). Needless to say this left the service in complete tatters – Fleetwood’s revenge maybe! At least 707 and 718 ran through to Fleetwood but whether this was as a special or as a takeover on timetabled service is unclear. It had also been planned that 672+682 would travel through to Fleetwood but because of the disruption it is believed it never actually made it, meaning 673+683 were probably the last Twin Car to travel on the streets of Fleetwood.
Whilst all this traditional Blackpool chaos was going on the Fylde Tramway Society’s “Last Traditional Tram from Fleetwood Ferry” tour was being prepared and taking place. This tour was due to leave Depot at 2100 and due to huge demand three trams were required, namely Box 40 (almost certainly its last ever run down the streets of Fleetwood), Balloon 702 and star of the day Brush 627 (especially resurrected for the tour). With 627 the tram most people wanted to ride on the FTS came up with the simple but ingenious plan of telling people when they were able to ride on the tram by the colour and number on their ticket. 40 led 702 and 627 from Depot at 2110 with the tour participants not actually knowing where the tour would take them with the power supply problems apparently not fixed.
The first photo stop of the tour took place at Cabin and after photos had been taken (poor old 40 probably getting the least amount of attention!) the trams started to head north again. Bispham was reached and another stop was made on the centre track here to allow photos and also because it was unclear whether the trams would be able to actually get any further north! With trams starting to head south and the problem seemingly fixed the three trams set off from Bispham at 2149. However, this didn’t mean all the problems of the night were over as 40 seemingly had problems near to Little Bispham causing further delays.
The trams eventually arrived at Fleetwood – led by Trawler 737 because none of the three tour cars had halogen headlights – and after a short photo stop they headed back towards Blackpool at 2301. On the way back to Blackpool several trams were passed heading to Fleetwood including Balloon 717 on the last journey to Fleetwood. Considering we were meant to be running five minutes behind this tram from Fleetwood the fact we saw it heading northbound at Gynn Square shows how much behind schedule we were. Rather than the trams running through to Pleasure Beach upon arrival at North Pier the three were reversed onto the centre track. Here the Mayor and Mayoress of Blackpool were present and after a short speech and the chance for more photos of the trams it was back onto the vehicles for the final run through to Fleetwood, leaving North Pier at exactly midnight.
Another tortuously slow journey to Fleetwood followed this time with Brush 630 being used as the halogen guide. On the way to Fleetwood 707, 641 and 718 were all seen heading back to Depot whilst at Thornton Gate 717 – the last timetabled traditional tram to travel on the streets of Fleetwood – was passed at 0038 (we were not quite only 5 minutes behind it!) When the trams arrived at Ash Street the Mayor and Mayoress of Wyre Borough Council boarded 40 for the journey through to the terminus and then gave another speech whilst more photos were taken. At 0128 (over an hour behind schedule) 630 lead 40, 702 and 627 through the streets of Fleetwood thus ending a major piece of history in UK tramways – the last traditional trams to run on the streets of Fleetwood.
Because of the delays experienced during the earlier part of the tour and the fact that the section of tramway to Pleasure Beach had not been covered it was agreed that 627 and 702 would stay out a little bit longer to travel to Pleasure Beach, Tower and then Depot. Because 40 had been experiencing problems during the evening this tram was to return directly to Depot. As the hour was so late again I have to admit to bailing out before the end of the tour, getting off at Bispham at 0206 (plenty late enough for me!) and watching the three trams head southwards. I salute anyone who stayed on the tour until the bitter end, especially anyone who then had work the next day!
622 (Fleetwood – day), 623 (F – day), 630 (Fleetwood/Bispham), 631 (F – all day), 641 (Cleveleys/Fleetwood), 642 (C/F), 643 (F – day), 644 (F/B), 645 (C/F), 647 (C/?), 713 (Bispham – evening), 717 (Fleetwood – evening)
147 (day – Santa Specials), 672+682 (evening), 700 (evening), 707 (evening), 717 (day), 718 (evening), 713 (day), 724 (day/evening)
40 (Friends of 40 Tour – left depot 1430)
1. Western Train 733+734 2. Trawler 737 3. Frigate 736 4. Western Train 733+734
Farewell to Fleetwood Tours:
Tour C – 304, 660, 700: Depot-North Pier-Pleasure Beach-Thornton Gate-Bold Street-Ash Street-Bold Street-Depot
Tour D – 673+683, 706: Depot-Thornton Gate-Bold Street-(706 only:-Ash Street-Fleetwood Ferry)-Pleasure Beach-Tower-Depot
Last Tram from Fleetwood Tour (FTS organised):
40, 627, 702: Depot-Cabin-Bispham-Fleetwood Ferry-North Pier-Bold Street-(40:-Depot)-Pleasure Beach-Tower-Depot
For the first trip to Fleetwood 737 was provided as a halogen guide whilst on the second 630 did the honours.
Monday 9th November 2009
The tramway may have closed for trackwork to take place over the winter but that didn’t mean nothing was happening on this morning. On a farewell visit to the Depot before my train left Blackpool North Brush 634 was seen being loaded onto a low loader along the wall of the Fitting Shop. The tram was on its way to the Rushden Transport Museum in Northamptonshire but unfortunately I had to leave before it was actually on the lorry for its delivery.
The weather may have done its best to ruin the early part of the weekends commemorations and then the end of the events may have been severely affected by the power supply problems but that does not detract from what was a “weekend not to be missed”. Sure, not all the tours ran exactly to time but all the advertised trams were used and the organisers from both the Lancastrian Transport Trust and the Fylde Tramway Society should be congratulated for organising a varied and interesting program of tours. Blackpool Transport should also be thanked for the weekend as it seemed to an outsider than an effort was made by those trams used on specials (with both 700 and 717 seeing regular use and even a Twin in use on the Sunday) and of course the use of 717 on the very last timetabled service. It was nice of them to even organise chaos and lots of top deck closed trams at the end of the final day!
The official British Trams Online rating (out of 5) for the weekend’s events is: