A Week in Blackpool: 30th August-6th September 2008

It’s hard to believe that it is the seventh consecutive year that British Trams Online’s Webmaster Gareth Prior has visited Blackpool at the start of September. This year it was the first week of the Illuminations between 30th August and 6th September 2008 (a rarity that I get a holiday in August!). There is no doubt that the tramway is not as busy as it used to be, especially in 2008 with senior citizens now getting free travel on buses but not trams (another cracking transport policy from the government there), but just how was the tram output in this week? Read on for a day by day report on what happened (or didn’t) in the now familiar format, as well as a written report on the day we have lists of trams on service, specials and tours and a “Good and Bad” moments of the day section.

Saturday 30th August 2008

Week begins with excellent “special” tram evening

Once I finally arrived in Blackpool (an hour later than planned because of a missed connection at Wolverhampton) the first tram I saw of 2008 was…Replica Vanguard 619! Considering I was worried from the weather forecast that I would not see the tram at all this was a pleasant surprise, the tram was on a test run with fitters on board heading northbound through North Pier at 1322 – the tram was later seen heading back to depot at Wilton Parade 10 minutes later.

The weather started off cloudy but by late afternoon the sun had shone through and this enabled three Boat Cars to be used on specials – 600 (newly painted and named Duchess of Cornwall for 2008), 602 and 605. The former two were used in both afternoon and evening including some late journeys – 600 was seen heading for Manchester Square at St Stephens Avenue at 2320 whilst 602 had returned to depot before 2200.

As well as the Boats several other special trams were in use during the evening including some pretty late journeys with Standard 147 (last seen at 2345 heading for Depot at St Stephens Avenue), Vanguard 619 – it’s test run obviously being a success (heading for Starr Gate at 2320 through St Stephens Avenue), Open Top Balloon 706 and Bolton 66.

During the evening a healthy six Illumination Tours were run including two for Frigate 736 and one a piece for Trawler 737, Standard 147, Vanguard 619 and Bolton 66. Disappointingly despite their use on specials neither of the late Boats were used on Tours. A bonus was the use of 737 on specials after it had finished its tour duty – it was last seen heading for Starr Gate at 2304 between Lowther Avenue and St Stephens Avenue.

Moving away from “special” trams and their journeys the actual service was in tatters at many stages throughout the afternoon and evening with lots of journeys running short – some Cleveleys cars only ran to Cabin, Bispham and Little Bispham whilst Fleetwood cars went to Cleveleys, Thornton Gate and Ash Street.

Fleetwood Service Trams (9) (not in route order):

703, 707, 709, 711, 713, 715, 719, 723, 762

Cleveleys Service Trams (5) (not in route order):

701, 712, 718, 721, 726

Specials (19):

66, 147, 600, 602, 605, 619, 622, 630, 641, 643, 644, 645, 646, 648, 700, 706, 717, 737, 761

Illumination Tours (6):

1. Frigate 736

2. Trawler 737

3. Standard 147

4. Vanguard 619

5. Bolton 66

6. Frigate 736

Total Number of Trams in service (including tours): 34

Good: Where to start the use of many “special” trams on specials including 66, 147, 600, 602, 605, 619 and 706 but the big highlight of that lot had to be 619

Bad: Not feeling particularly negative at this stage of the holiday but I guess the disintegration of the service was probably the worst part of this day

Sunday 31st August 2008

August ends with surprise Vanguard journeys

The first of many wet days of the week (although this was comparatively dry compared with some later in the week!). During the early part of the day it was just the standard trams out on service with a few single deckers on specials, and it probably was enough.

Throughout the day there were a number of changeovers of service trams were 713 replacing 719 on route 1, 718 replacing 717 on route 10 and 723 replaced 715 on route 7. Also late in the day the trams on routes 6 and 7 seemed to get swapped over for some reason!

The actual service was affected in the evening by the annual World Fireworks Championships (and the service always seems to be affected!) with trams losing time and leading to several short journeys.

There weren’t that many “special” trams out during the day although Standard 147 was out for several hours and surprisingly Vanguard 619 was also out. With the wet and windy weather I was not expecting it to put in an appearance but it did and I got a wet arm by taking a ride from Cabin to Pleasure Beach – at one stage I thought it was going to be a lonely journey but once in Blackpool it started to gain passengers!

Service Trams:

1 – 719 (713), 2 – 724, 3 – 701, 4 – 726, 5 – 721, 6 – 707, 7 – 715 (723), 8 – 761, 9 – 709, 10 – 717 (718), 11 – 711

Specials (12):

147, 619, 622, 630, 641, 643, 644, 646, 648, 703, 712, 762

Illumination Tours (3):

1. Frigate 736

2. Trawler 737

3. Frigate 736

Total Number of Trams in service (including tours): 28

Good: Use of 619 and 147 on specials in afternoon and evening

Bad: Service disintegration in the evening and the weather!

Monday 1st September 2008

Singles return to service as Blackpool empties out

The initial surprise of the day was the return of single deckers to the Cleveleys service during the day and Fleetwood service at night. In previous years of visiting Blackpool during this week the service had normally remained in the hands of the double deckers with some of the school holiday period still remaining (many schools not returning until part way through the week), but this year with passenger numbers down and transferred to the Line 1 bus a decision was made to bring the single deckers back. A number of changeovers were initiated in the evening to enable all seven evening Fleetwood routes to be in the hands of singles.

Not much to report on the specials front with just two used during the day and four in the evening – all double deckers. At a not too distant point in the past this would not have been enough but in 2008 it was plenty.

Other things to report during the day were the use of Balloon 717 on possible Driver Training (no “L” plates but Blackpool Transport staff on board) and during a visit to the Depot Box 40 was seen shunting to the Electrical Compound.

Service Trams:

1 –701 (645), 2 – 721, 3 – 723, 4 – 719, 5 – 713, 6 – 726 (646), 7 – 707 (641), 8 – 644, 9 – 630, 10 – 643, 11 -648

Specials (4):

703, 709, 761, 762

Illumination Tours (3):

1. Frigate 736

2. Trawler 737

3. Frigate 736

Total Number of Trams in service (including tours): 20

Good: The viewing of Box 40 shunting at the Depot

Bad: Nothing really bad, just a fairly quiet day on the tramway front.

Tuesday 2nd September 2008

Fleetwood Market sees better than expected service

Onto “Fleetwood Market Tuesday” and a day I anticipated with a bit of trepidation with the stories that hardly any specials were running through because of the Line 1 bus and the Concessionary free travel on it. In the end the day wasn’t all that bad with a number of specials making it through to Fleetwood. As well as a couple of Centenaries and Balloons the highlight was the appearance of Open Top Balloon 706. Unfortunately, although the day had started off bright and sunny by the time 706 arrived at the Ferry it had clouded over and shortly after departure the heavens opened (I am glad I didn’t give in to temptation and take a ride back to Blackpool on it!).

Working out which trams are on what route on any day is becoming increasingly difficult in Blackpool and on a Tuesday it becomes even worse! From how I worked it out there seemed to be a large number of changeovers, including all the daytime Cleveleys (once they had stopped going to Fleetwood) seemingly moving on one route during the day. Route 1 was also problematic with apparently three different trams being involved (762, 700, 718), what made this worse was that many of the trams that I thought were on service then seemed to be running specials! It took lots of head scratching and hopefully the lists below are something approaching correct!

As mentioned above the weather did deteriorate during the day but after the initial shower it became sunny again (I have photos of 717 in the pouring rain at Fleetwood followed just over an hour later at Starr Gate in perfect sunshine!), and then went downhill again. By the evening the rain was set in for the long term and it also became blustery. This meant only 2 specials and 2 tours were run during the evening.

Service Trams:

1 – 762 (700, 718), 2 – 726, 3 – 717, 4 – 707, 5 – 721, 6 – 703 (723), 7 – 715 (724), 8 – 709 (719), 9 – 761 (709), 10 – 713 (761), 11 – 718 (713), 12 – 719, 13 – 701, 14 – 711

Specials (7):

644, 645, 700, 701, 706, 712, 762

Illumination Tours (2):

1. Frigate 736

2. Trawler 737

Total Number of Trams in service (including tours): 26

Good: 706 making it through to Fleetwood as one of a number of specials

Bad: The stupid weather!

Wednesday 3rd September

Manchester wet too as Vanguard makes cold Blackpool appearance

As is traditional with my week in Blackpool I spend the Wednesday in Manchester, sampling a different kind of tram! This year was no different and the weather was also no different in Manchester with it being very wet at times. Indeed, I got absolutely soaked in Salford whilst taking photos on the Eccles branch of Metrolink – shelter is not something which Metrolink had in abundance unfortunately!

I was not back in Blackpool until 1745 and so the notes for this day are not complete. However, upon arrival back imagine my surprise – considering the weather – when as I was in McDonalds having some food and saw Vanguard 619 pass! This was one of just four specials seen – including the first appearance of Railcoach 680 with its yellow end chevrons, and all of these were back in depot by 2000. The crew of 619 returned to depot looking very cold and glad to be going home! Although there were no specials out this was not a problem as the weather became very wet and there was even a thunder storm meaning only idiots (like me!) would be out!

On service, oddly one double decker remained on Fleetwood service throughout the night, despite the fact it was another double/single split – as per Monday.

Service Trams:

1 – 713 (648), 2 – 762, 3 – 719, 4 – 761, 5 – 721, 6 – 641, 7 – 723 (646), 8 – 644, 9 – 711, 10 – 643 (718), 11 – 645

Specials (4):

619, 630, 680, 709

Illumination Tours (2):

1. Frigate 736

2. Trawler 737

Total Number of Trams in service (including tours): 20

Good: 619 being used on specials along with 680’s week debut

Bad: You’ve guessed it – the weather!

Thursday 4th September 2008

Box brightens the day as sun makes late appearance

Another day which started off very wet. Indeed, the horrendous weather led to two very early changeovers on service with 701 and 721 being replaced by 724 and 762. Once again the service was a double-single split with the singles on Cleveleys during the day and Fleetwood at night, this led to more changeovers late in the day to enable seven singles to be out.

The first specials of the day did not make an appearance until around 1500, by which time the weather had improved and the sun even made an appearance (I was starting to forget what it looked like!). Four trams – all singles – made appearances on these specials.

The definite highlight of the day was the use of Box 40 on a Private Hire in the afternoon. The tram was initially seen as I was on a tram heading south and then was later caught on its return journey at Cabin, where it stopped for a photo stop – but then had to make a quick getaway as a service car approached from the north!

Also out in the morning was Balloon 712 which seemed to be undergoing more Driver Training, although again it didn’t have the “L” plates on.

Service Trams:

1 – 707 (641), 2 – 701 (724), 3 – 711, 4 – 723, 5 – 721 (762), 6 – 718 (645), 7 – 709 (646), 8 – 648, 9 – 644, 10 – 630, 11 – 643

Specials (4):

622, 631, 680, 737

Private Hire (1):


Illumination Tours (3):

1. Frigate 736

2. Trawler 737

3. Frigate 736

Total Number of Trams in service (including tours): 21

Good: No contest! Box 40’s Private Hire

Bad: Nothing really, really bad except for the morning weather!

Friday 5th September 2008

Miserable day but Twin delight in evening

Now, I thought other days during the week, but this one certainly took the biscuit! During the day I don’t know if it actually stopped raining until the evening – it even led to me having to wear three sets of clothes as I got so wet!

With it being a Friday the service was back to all double deckers and there were a couple of changeovers during the day. This included 724 replacing 723 on route 6 but then later 723 re-emerged on route 7 instead of 703.

No doubt about the highlight of the day – the use of two Twin sets as evening specials. This was certainly a surprise and meant I got even wetter than I was as upon arrival at Bispham when I was just going to get something to eat 673+683 were on the centre track. And so, in the pouring rain I got the camera out again to get some shots of it. The other set in use was 675+685 and they both managed post 2130 journeys to Little Bispham.

There were no specials out until after 1500 again and then when they did appear in the evening there were 10 and this was certainly enough as the wet weather seemed to put people off from visiting Blackpool on this night.

Another highlight of the day was another Private Hire, this time a tour of the illuminations. Two trams were used for this Balloon 717 and Brush 623 – making its first and only appearance of the week.

Service Trams:

1 – 701 (711), 2 – 718, 3 – 709, 4 – 726, 5 – 715, 6 – 723 (724), 7 – 703 (723), 8 – 761, 9 – 713, 10 – 719, 11 – 707

Specials (10):

642, 643, 644, 645, 646, 648, 673+683, 675+685, 712, 762

Illumination Tours (3):

1. Frigate 736

2. Trawler 737

3. Frigate 736

Private Hire (2):

623, 717

Total Number of Trams in service (including tours): 24

Good: 673+683 and 675+685 in use on evening specials plus the use of 623 and 717 on an evening Private Hire

Bad: Oh, the usual, the blooming weather!

Saturday 6th September 2008

More rain as week ends with no surprises

And so the week ends for 2008 with another showery day, and one increasingly fed up reporter as there was no chance to go back to the flat to dry as I had checked out!

To be honest there is not a great deal to report from the day as the service didn’t seem to go into tatters at all with double deckers in charge on all routes – Fleetwood and Cleveleys.

There were also a number of specials out including a second appearance of the week for Twin Car 673+683, this working several Little Bispham-Pleasure Beach journeys. Also included in the specials was 717 as well as several single deckers.

For the record the last tram of the week I saw was not nearly as exotic as the first – Balloon 701 seen at North Pier on a journey to Cleveleys.

Fleetwood Service Trams: (not in route order)

711, 712, 718, 719, 723, 724, 726, 761, 762

Cleveleys Service Trams: (not in route order)

701, 703, 707, 715, 721

Specials (6):

630, 631, 673+683, 680, 713, 717

Total Number of Trams in service: 20

Good: 673+683 making another appearance on specials

Bad: More rain and the fact it was all over for another year!

In Conclusion

So, another “Week in Blackpool” is over for me. It is true the number of trams in service is down on previous years and those that are in service are not as full as they have been in years gone by. It is a particularly strange feeling going to and from Fleetwood on a Tuesday and not having any trouble getting a seat! But unfortunately that is the way it is likely to remain all the time the bus runs alongside with the government policy of only funding free travel for Senior Citizens on buses.

Apart that negative the number of different trams out and about was certainly varied. But of course the tram highlights for 2008 had to be 619 returning to service and also seeing 717 in service after its major overhaul. It was also nice seeing so many of the “vintage” trams out and also a couple of Twins in service at the end of the week. The only other negative was the wet weather, but you certainly don’t go on holiday in Blackpool for the weather!

A Note about the Routes:

I have tried on most days to work out which trams were on which route, but this has not always gone according to plan. The lists above have been done to the best of my ability and I apologise if they are wrong but they are what I thought the trams were operating. However, since arriving back and getting the latest issue of Trams Magazine, I see new routes were introduced which came out late to replace other trams – these have not been included here as I didn’t know about them, but it is fair to see these routes probably cover many of the changeovers noted above.

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