1st December 2002. The day the internet changed! Well, not really but it was a significant day for this website as that was the day we officially launched to a completely unsuspecting world. Of course that means that today marks our 15th anniversary!
If anyone had told me back in 2002 that this small idea I had for a website would still be going strong 15 years later I don’t think I would have believed you but here it is, we are still here and I like to think that in those 15 years we have firmly established ourselves as one of the best sources of tram news from across the British Isles as well as bringing you regular photo updates and providing fleet lists of most operating tramways. To be honest to still be here after 15 years is something I am proud of and despite there being some issues over the years when we seem to have upset a lot of people with some of the news and opinions we have reported we aren’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future!
So how and why did British Trams Online start? It came at a time when I had come out of University, started working and seemed to have some spare time during the week and thought that there wasn’t anything on the web reporting on British trams so why don’t I try something? And try it I did! Although the official launch date was 1st December 2002 I had actually started working on the site and writing news articles from September 2002 so you could say that our birthday was a few months ago! In those early days – apart from having a very “interesting” yellow based design, no idea why I thought that would look good! – it used to take a couple of hours each week to update with maybe a little more time when I was adding photos (which was not nearly as often as now and when there were Photo Galleries they didn’t have many photos included). The basic outline of the site was set from the start with a homepage containing an editorial and photo, a gallery section and fleet lists and obviously having decided that was a winning format we haven’t changed since with a few additions – some of which have stayed whilst others have been and gone.
Since those early days the website has certainly developed a lot and we have seen numerous different designs over the years – all of which have been designed by my own fair hand using my limited HTML skills which is why the site isn’t quite how I would like it to look but at the end of the day we would rather have the right contact than making it look too pretty. At our previous anniversaries we have launched a new look but not this time around and we don’t currently envisage there being any major design changes in the future because of the amount of work involved.
When we started it was very much a maximum of one update a week – almost exclusively on a Sunday evening. But now, it is considerably more than that and although the main site (photos, fleet lists etc.) still sees one update a week the news blog is updated several times a week. Indeed the launch of the news blog in December 2011 saw a major change for British Trams Online as this enabled us to update news stories a lot quicker and easier and didn’t necessarily require me to be at home to upload the pages with the blog being accessible from any internet enabled PC. This has led to the couple of hours a week from the early part of the century turning into a couple of hours most days! Just as well I have too much spare time to devote to the website!
It hasn’t just been about the website though as we have dipped our toes into a couple of other areas in the past. In September 2009 we co-organised a tram tour in Blackpool – So, Long Starr Gate! – on the last weekend of traditional trams to the southern terminus of the tramway with no other organisations having organised anything. This was a one and only event as following the evening when things didn’t go according to plan and I realised that timetabling wasn’t for me! So we decided to leave it to the experts in the future!
We have also sponsored two trams over the years, both to help celebrate significant anniversaries. For our 10th anniversary we sponsored the repaint of Blackpool Boat 233 into original green and cream whilst it was under the ownership of the Lancastrian Transport Trust and on loan at Beamish. As has been well publicised this didn’t end particularly well with the tram only spending half the loan period at Beamish before it was sold to San Francisco. Nonetheless with our 15th anniversary this year we again looked for a project and after much discussion decided on sponsoring the transportation of Birkenhead 20 from the Wirral to Blackpool earlier this year with the idea being that this would provide a much needed open topper in Blackpool with only one Boat Car available. Alas, since arriving in Blackpool 20 has only been on a few test runs and hasn’t actually managed to enter service. Hopefully next year otherwise we may start to think that we are cursed when we sponsor a tram! If we aren’t cursed it looks as if our next project will be to celebrate the 21st anniversary at the end of 2023!
And what of the future? When I wrote a similar article to this to celebrate our 10th anniversary I said I had a number of ideas floating around in my head and to be honest most of those ideas are still up there but the same old problem of not having enough time comes back to haunt me time after time. Hopefully one day we might get all pages on the website having the almost same design but who knows!
To celebrate the 15th anniversary December will be a celebration month and we will have updates every single day of the month with three new series starting. Two of these will be looking back at the past 15 years whilst the third will be a departure for British Trams Online and is being used to see if there is an appetite for something a bit different.
I would like to end this article by thanking everyone who has helped British Trams Online over the past 15 years in any way. There are some people who helped in those early days who are sadly no longer with us but provided support with both technical ideas and news updates as we started out and didn’t have as many sources as we do today. Today I am grateful to everyone who has contributed in any form over the past 15 years, from those of you have just sent one photo or snippet of news through to those who provide extensive updates. There may not be many tramways in the British Isles but there are too many for us to be able to cover absolutely everything that happens – even if we do try! Some of you have also had the fortune – or misfortune, I will let you decide! – in meeting me! I would also like to thank those of you who just view the website, without you there would be no point in spending the time in updating it! Thank you one and all!