The Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramway 2006

BRITISH TRAMS ONLINE Webmaster Gareth Prior reports for the fifth successive year on a “Week in Blackpool” – 2-9 September 2006 with details of any notable incidents on the tramway and what trams operated and when.

Saturday 2 September 2006

To say the weather during the middle of the day was inclement is a bit like saying I only took a few photos during the week! Luckily, the rain did stop mid/late afternoon, but was replaced with a strong wind, which did at least allow me to leave the flat to get something to eat and to start the tram spotting for the week!

In the evening, just before the illumination switch on (which was at 8pm all week), the service was disrupted by the failure of Centenary 646 in the Barton Avenue/Waterloo Road area on a southbound journey, causing all trams immediately behind to suffer a loss of power. 646 was removed from the scene (later seen with Unimog 939 on the Pleasure Beach loop), and after around 15 minutes trams were moving again At least seven trams (Balloons 720, 700, Brush Cars 626, 622, Balloons 702, 722 and 703) were caught up in a queue behind the incident with many of the service trams being turned short at Pleasure Beach in an attempt to get the service back on track.

The evening illumination tours saw a healthy five run (this being the first full night of the 2006 Illuminations with Switch On only being the previous night). Despite fears about what in addition to the Illuminated trams could run the tours with the dodgy track south of Manchester Square Bolton 66 did make an appearance on the fourth tour of the night. Other tours were in the hands of Frigate 736 (two), Trawler 633 and Coronation 660.

After running tours 660 ran at least one special as far as Cleveleys and 633 to Bispham. The latter was seen running back to depot at St Stephens Avenue at 10.50pm.

Because of my lunch time arrival and the earlier inclement weather, the following lists are manly based on evening trams.

Fleetwood Service: 709, 762, 713, 723, 700, 711, 718

Cleveleys Service: 722, 701, 703, 726, 720.

Specials (19): 66*, 622, 626, 630, 631, 633*, 641, 642, 643, 644, 645, 646, 660*, 672+682, 678, 680, 702, 710, 721

* – Trams ran specials either before or after operating an Illumination Tour

Illumination Tours:

1. Frigate 736

2. Trawler 633

3. Coronation 660

4. Bolton 66

5. Frigate 736

Sunday 3 September 2006

A showery day greeted this Sunday with some bright spots punctuated with short but sharp showers, the wind also stayed with us, gusting quite strong at times.

On the tram front Centenary 645 surprisingly started the day off on Route 5. The tram only managed one journey to Fleetwood and back to Manchester Square, being replaced by Balloon 723. Other changeovers were also noted during the day, Balloon 726 was replaced on Route 11 by Balloon 712 mid afternoon whilst Balloon 711 was taken off Route 3 late afternoon. Balloon 700 took on the duty with 711 later noted out on specials.

By late evening the service was in tatters, this was probably because there was a large amount of people on Central Promenade watching the World Fireworks Championships blocking the tracks. At one stage there was a near 30 minute gap in northbound trams.

Only two Illumination Tours were required, one each for the two illuminated trams with Frigate 736 doing the first duty.

Numbers in brackets are the route numbers.

Fleetwood Service: 707 (1), 713 (2), 711 (700) (3), 709 (4), 645 (723) (5), 718 (6), 762 (7)

Cleveleys Service: 702 (8), 703 (9), 721 (10), 726 (712) (11), 722 (12).

Specials (10): 641, 643, 644, 645, 680, 700, 710, 711, 715, 720

Illumination Tours:

1. Frigate 736

2. Trawler 633

Monday 4 September 2006

Centenary 645 had another stint on timetabled service today – this time it was on a Cleveleys flyer, Route 12 to be precise. It spent longer on the timecard today than yesterday, Balloon 701 was the tram that replaced it around lunchtime.

Unfortunately the timetabled service suffered throughout the day, especially the Fleetwood trams, with trams bunching all too often – sometimes Fleetwood trams were spotted right behind each other. On one occasion Balloon 723 was held up at Cocker Street whilst workers attended to some cabling connected to an overhead pole. Unimog 939 was in attendance and blocking the northbound tramway – southbound trams were more or less unaffected. There was no apparent reason why trams were disrupted the rest of the day.

The key event of the day was the return to service of Centenary 648 after the application of a new all over advert. As reported elsewhere on the site the ad is for Vue Cinema, Cleveleys. The tram made its first appearance out on the Prom in this guise for evening specials, having been noted at the front of the depot earlier in the day.

On the special front two Twin sets – 674+684 and 672+682 – were noted still running specials post 11pm.

Fleetwood Service: 707 (1), 709 (2), 700 (3), 718 (4), 723 (5), 713 (6), 711 (7)

Cleveleys Service: 722 (8), 712 (9), 721 (10), 703 (11), 645 (701) (12).

Specials (10): 622, 630, 643, 644, 645, 648, 671+681, 672+682, 674+684, 680

Illumination Tours:

1. Trawler 633

2. Frigate 736

Tuesday 5 September 2006

Ah, Tuesday on the Blackpool and Fleetwood Tramway, it should be a dream for any tram enthusiast with plenty of specials running through to Fleetwood for the Market. Having read horror stories about a lack of specials to the “northern outpost” and lots of “111” replacement buses I didn’t know what to expect but I have to say that the day was fairly successful for trams. Eight trams made it through to Fleetwood on specials between 11am and 12.30pm, namely Centenaries 642, 643 and 645, Twin Cars 671+681 and 673+683 and Balloons 703, 722 and 723 – at least one other tram was seen heading for Fleetwood after this time too. I also have to say that in three and a half hours in Fleetwood I did not see a single tram replacement bus.

Of course, with this number of trams in service there were delays to the service throughout the day. This was particularly noticeable during a period of observation at Starr Gate between 2.30pm and 3.30pm. In this time only one Fleetwood service car made it through (presumably the others were turned short at Pleasure Beach). Then a little later 674+684 was quickly followed by 700 (both Fleetwood cars) and then 721 (on Cleveleys service).

Later in the day there was obviously further late running as 674+684 had been running trailer (i.e. 684) first but by the evening the motor was in front. In addition 709 was noted on the centre track at Tower just about to resume a southbound journey, presumably it had been terminated here on a northbound service earlier. 726 was seen heading for Fleetwood, probably covering for 709.

Fleetwood Service: 707 (1), 718 (2), 709 (3), 684+674 (4), 700 (5), 711 (6), 713 (7)

Cleveleys Service: 721 (8), 701 (9), 710 (10), 720 (11), 712 (12).

Specials (15): 626, 630, 631, 633*, 642, 643, 644, 645, 671+681, 673+683, 680, 703, 722, 723, 726

* – Tram ran a special after operating an Illumination Tour

Illumination Tours:

1. Frigate 736

2. Trawler 633

Wednesday 6 September 2006

I spent the main part of the day away from Blackpool with a day in Manchester and the Metrolink system. For the record the following trams were seen in service whilst in the city:

Altrincham/Bury Service: 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004, 1006, 1007, 1008, 1009, 1011, 1012, 1013, 1014, 1017, 1018, 1019, 1022, 1023, 1024, 1025, 1026

Eccles Service: 1010, 1015, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005

Back in Blackpool, Balloon 719 (the “dreaded” Wall’s Ice Cream tram) made its first appearance in service of the week and it managed to last the whole day operating Route 3. In fact as far as my notes can tell there were no changeovers at all during the day with the same 12 trams on the routes in the evening as first thing in the morning.

Evening specials were few and far between with only three trams being noted out at Cabin. Of course, it is not known if there were more out during the day.

For the first time since Saturday night more than two tours were run with Bolton 66 being given the honour of operating the final tour of the evening – 633 and 736 did the first two. 736 ran specials after its tour was completed, running North Pier-Bispham-Pleasure Beach (and then presumably Pleasure Beach-Tower-Depot).

Fleetwood Service: 707 (1), 709 (2), 719 (3), 713 (4), 711 (5), 718 (6), 723 (7)

Cleveleys Service: 712 (8), 720 (9), 726 (10), 710 (11), 721 (12).

Specials (4): 631, 701, 703, 736*. * – Tram ran a special after operating an Illumination Tour

Illumination Tours:

1. Trawler 633

2. Frigate 736

3. Bolton 66

Thursday 7 September 2006

Sunshine! After five days where rain fell for at least some of the day the sun finally decided to shine on this day, and the heavy wind also fell, although the waves were still bashing the sea wall at Norbreck.

With the previous day seemingly seeing no changeovers, that was more than made up for on this day with four of the seven Fleetwood cars changing during the day. Route 1 changed from 711 to 709, Route 2 from 707 to 631 (this was only a late change in the day and was a rare appearance for a Railcoach on timetabled service during the summer), Route 4 from 684+674 (a second appearance on Fleetwood service in the week – both starting the days Trailer first!) to 700 and Route 7 ended the day with 713 having been in the hands of 703 (another rarity with its non-halogen headlights) at the start of the day.

Centenary 646 made its first appearance since its Saturday night failure, but it was just a test run with engineering staff. It was seen returning to depot at North Pier in the afternoon and it did not make another appearance during the week. This was not the only tram to be seen out on test in the afternoon – Frigate 736 made a rare daylight appearance, being seen a few minutes after 646 returning to depot.

The most special special out during the day was a debut appearance for the week for Open Top Balloon 706. The tram made at least one journey as far north as Cleveleys, seen at Norbreck at 11.51am. Unfortunately, despite the improved weather there was no Boat appearance. Another debut maker was Balloon 724 (also on specials), a tram that managed to avoid me last year and I thought it was going to do so again this time!

Fleetwood Service: 711 (709) (1), 707 (<631) (2), 719 (3), 684+674 (700) (4), 723 (5), 718 (6), 703 (713) (7)

Cleveleys Service: 726 (8), 701 (9), 721 (10), 710 (11), 712 (12).

Specials (14): 622, 626, 631, 642, 645, 648, 673+683, 678, 680, 703, 706, 707, 720, 724.

Trams on Test (2): 646, 736.

Driver Training (1): 630.

Illumination Tours:

At least two were run with 633 and 736 both seen returning to depot just before 10pm.

Friday 8th September 2006

Another day and more sunshine, even more than the previous day. 706 made another appearance on specials but the other daytime specials disappointly did not see the appearance of a Boat, although this may well have been due to the fact all crews were three person.

The service was in complete tatters in the mid afternoon after Twin Car 674+684 derailed coming off the loop at Little Bispham. Somehow, and I cant quite figure out how, all seven Fleetwood cars were trapped by this incident north of Bispham meaning severe delays were felt for sometime. It took around one and a half hours for the RAIB to be informed and the tram to be rerailed, by which time there were also three Cleveleys cars stuck around the incident.

In the meantime an attempt was made to run a service south from Bispham using six trams (703, 706, 710, 719, 720, 722). Of these trams 706 (a pleasant surprise journey for this tram) and 719 were sent to Fleetwood once the incident had been cleared from the northbound track. Finally trams started to filter through from the north, with around 11 trams seen in a little under 15 minutes:

1538 674+684 – Not In Service

1538 726 – Not In Service

1539 723 – Starr Gate

1539 711 – Pleasure Beach

1539 701 – Starr Gate

1539 762 – Manchester Square

1543 712 – Starr Gate

1545 707 – Manchester Square

1546 713 – Terminated from the north and then returned north

1550 718 – Manchester Square

1551 709 – Manchester Square

The Twin set returned to depot for attention, and was not seen in service again during the week, whilst all the other trams were sent to Manchester Square for the service to be reformed.

There was one changeover on the service during the day, 724 started the day on Route 3 but by mid-morning it had been replaced by 707.

In the evening there was a pleasant surprise with the entry of Boat 602 into service on specials. At the start of the week I thought the only boat I was likely to see would be one floating down the Prom, so this was very welcome! The tram stayed out late and was seen operating after 10pm a Bispham to Pleasure Beach journey.

On the tour front, there were three run on this evening with Bolton 66 joining the two illuminated cars as the protagonists.

Fleetwood Service: 711 (1), 762 (2), 724 (707) (3), 713 (4), 718 (5), 709 (6), 723 (7)

Cleveleys Service: 726 (8), 701 (9), 712 (10), 703 (11), 720 (12).

Specials (14): 602, 622, 626, 630, 631, 633*, 642, 674+684, 678, 680, 706, 710, 719, 722 * – Tram ran a special after operating an Illumination Tour

Illumination Tours:

1. Frigate 736

2. Trawler 633

3. Bolton 66

Saturday 9th September 2006

And so to the last day of “Blackpool 2006”, and it was another sunny day – but the type of trams put out on specials was a bit of a disappointment. Despite making appearances in the last two days 706 was not seen in the period of observation (I left the Prom for my train home at around 1.30pm). The initial output of trams on specials was a healthy number including several Railcoaches, but unfortunately there were no Boats at this stage. This was altered in the second wave of specials from depot when 602 was initially seen at approximately 11am. One other tram of note was put out on specials, this being Bolton 66, although this had troubles with its destination blind at one end for most of the day with the winding mechanism seemingly not doing its winding!

Fleetwood Service: 724 (1), 719 (2), 700 (3), 707 (4), 713 (5), 709 (6), 723 (7)

Cleveleys Service: 722 (8), 712 (9), 720 (10), 703 (11), 721 (12).

Specials (14): 66, 602, 622, 626, 630, 631, 643, 645, 678, 680, 701, 711, 726, 762

Observations & Conclusion

So another “Week in Blackpool” is over, this being the fifth consecutive year that I have been to Blackpool in more or less the same week. Unfortunately this year was probably the worst for tramcar variety with the Balloons being the tram of choice not only for the timetabled routes but also for specials. The weather did not help in this respect with open trams being confined to depot at the start of the week, with some heavy rain and wind meaning there was no chance of them making appearances. However, when the weather did pick up I was still disappointed that more Boats didn’t get usage on specials (this is of course just my own personal opinion and I’m sure there was a very good reason why they weren’t used). The vintage trams were also few and far between with the track south of Manchester Square in such a state that their use is limited, for this reason the North Pier-Pleasure Beach weekend vintage service was not even advertised this year.

On another point, for some reason a day can’t seem to go by without there being delays of some kind or another on the timetabled service. OK, there are always going to be failures and delays during the day (these are trams over 70 years old) but when they do the tramway just can’t cope and it takes so long to recover. The number of times you see two timetabled Fleetwood cars right next to each other (when they should be 20 minutes apart) is unbelievable. As for the Cleveleys service why is it that often the first journey of the day is running several minutes late? When this happens what chance is there for the rest of the day?

On a personal front as mentioned in the main article only one Boat was in use, but all the serviceable Railcoaches (including Brushes) and Balloons did see at least some use. One Twin Set (675+685), one Centenary (647) and one Jubilee (761) were not noted in service but for just one week there are always going to be some trams you don’t see!

Now, it’s time for a break ready for the sixth annual Blackpool report in – “Week in Blackpool 2007”!!

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