Picture in Time: Granada Studio Tours Trams

For the next couple of weeks the Traditional Tram edition of “Picture in Time” is going to be a little bit different as we feature some “trams” which were part of Granada Studios in Manchester. Obviously, they weren’t real trams and little is known about them but we present these images taken during the mid 1980s.

For a time between the late 1980s and early 1990s, Granada Studios in Manchester were open to the public with Granada Studio Tours becoming a popular tourist attraction in the city (your editor remembers visiting whilst on a family holiday to Blackpool, probably around 1992 and that is the first time I saw a Metrolink tram – although photos are very sketchy!). Included in the attraction was the Coronation Street set alongside a Baker Street set from a Sherlock Holmes series, Checkpoint Charlie and for a time sets from the Sooty & Co program (another tenuous tram link there is that a Metrolink tram did receive the Sooty & Co name too!). But as interesting as that is from a historical point of view it doesn’t have much to do with trams! The tram connection comes as there were a number of “trams” which were on site, although the internet doesn’t help much as to exactly what their purpose was. There was some suggestion they were used to transport visitors around the Tours (although its also mentioned that a bus was used for this purpose) and I’m pretty sure that in 1992 when I visited that wasn’t the case. The Tours were opened between 1988 and 1999.

This first set of photos is dated as June 1985 which would pre-date the opening of the public Granada Studio Tours and it shows one of the trams on site – apparently numbered 50 and with the B.C.T. legend on the side. It also features adverts for Lost Empires which was a 1986 ITV drama based on JB Priestley’s last novel and starring a very young Colin Firth alongside Laurence Olivier. The fact that the tram has an advert for an ITV series doesn’t suggest that this was a piece of set for a TV series which makes its purpose even more of a mystery!

Can anyone help with more information of this vehicle? We’ll be moving forward to 1986 next week where we will have more “trams” at Granada Studios to try and solve the mystery of.

Three images showing no. 50 in June 1985. With the destination blind showing “Nelson” presumably the BCT stands for Burnley Corporation Tramways. There is no track in sight which also probably means it is standing on rubber wheels?

All Photographs by Keith Chadbourne

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8 Responses to Picture in Time: Granada Studio Tours Trams

  1. geoffcurrie says:

    I saw these trams in a yard by the entrance to Granada Studios in I guess 1980/81 I was driving past, pulled up, and got my son out of the car to go and have a look, he was 4 or 5 at the time. As I approached them a security guard came out, saying that I was trespassing on private property, and I asked him what Granada were doing with them. He ignored my question, and told me to leave immediately. We left. I had no camera with me and although I have since thought them about them, this is the first time I have seen a photo, or indeed heard about since. Incidentally, I can confirm they were on rubber wheels, and had steering wheels, I think only at one end.

  2. Gareth Prior says:

    I’ve been given some more information on these “trams”:

    “From memory, there were two replica trams on site, at least one of
    which resembled a Manchester ‘Bellamy’ car. These were based on Leyland
    Tiger bus chassis and were used to transport the people around on the
    public tours. They never looked quite right to me, being a bit too wide
    and not quite tall enough. I think the people at Granada used to tell
    the guests they were originally constructed for the Sherlock Holmes
    series as that’s a story I’ve heard a lot over the years. I don’t think
    it’s true though. Why would they build Manchester trams for a series set
    in London? I think what actually happened was the two ‘tiger’ trams were
    built specifically for the studio tour, while BCT 50 was probably what
    was used in Sherlock Holmes.

    I never saw BCT 50, but your article has stirred a dim memory that a
    genuine tram body was said to have been on site around that time and
    used for filming. I think it was fitted with road wheels and pushed or
    pulled around with a Landrover or something similar. Looking at the
    photos it certainly looks like BCT 50 is a real tram body.”

  3. david l says:

    I went to the tour a couple of times in the early 1990s. There were 2 or 3 trams as I remember, they were based on electric milk floats and had 4 rubber tyres.
    They gave tours along “Baker Street”(which was actually fully indoors and was hired out for corporate functions).
    One was open top, and one a closed top
    When I last visited in 1997 the trams were out of use, as the roadway had been blocked to allow the Skyliner (?) suspended roller coaster to be built.
    I dont recall any Burnley livery trams,as I remember they were branded “Wallace Arnold” and “Tetley Beer”, both Leeds companies, but were painted in Manchester red.
    I dont know what happened to them, a photo previously posted of Debdale park , during the Metrolink trial shows a replica tram there, being used as an office, could this be one of them?
    There was also an American school bus, American taxi and an American police car, none of which ever moved,

  4. John1 says:

    I don’t think Sherlock Holmes ever featured any trams (not the Granada series anyway) and it would have been London if they had. That’s certainly the more realistic looking of them. I’ve not seen it in that livery nor ever seen reference to it anywhere before now. Certainly Burnley never had those cars. I’m fairly sure no real bodies were used to make them or someone would have tried to preserve it when they were no longer required. Certainly the straight down sides are not prototypical but may have been altered for the road chassis to fit.

  5. John1 says:

    Had this info passed to me from Trams Today.
    The trams were built for lost empires which was a 1986 tv series starring Colin firth and made by granada. The name of the series is advertised on the upper deck front panel. After the series was filmed they were kept for the studio tour but only ran for a few years..

  6. Nigel Pennick says:

    Sherlock Holmes lived at 221B Baker Street, in central London where the never were any trams, horse, steam or electric. Trains, including the steam Metropolitan Railway, feature in Conan Doyle’s stories, but no trams. Weird.

  7. John1 says:

    No Sherlock Holmes production has ever featured Trams as far as I can ascertain.

  8. James Adlam says:

    Sorry, I’m very late seeing this thread! The full series of Lost Empires is on YouTube if you search. They obviously went to some effort building these trams, which feature for just a few seconds in total. The following, as far as I can see:
    Episode 3, starting at 6:07: The ‘Bellamy’ roof tram from the rear – doesn’t look too unrealistic although it bounces along the cobbles and has the white headlamp on at the back!
    Episode 5, from 26:53: Tram no. 50 drives past. Looks pretty good, even the driver’s actions look tram-like rather than somebody steering a road vehicle.
    Ep 5, from 39:18: Colin Firth boards and rides the single-deck tram. We see it pass a double decker.
    Ep 6, from 48:09: Four trams at once! Good view of no.50 and the single decker, with the two other double deckers in the background.
    Ep 7, 39: 56: Two trams briefly in the street.
    Ironically, the last few episodes are partly set in Blackpool, which had real trams in the 80s, but we don’t see any.
    On Sherlock Holmes, Universal’s Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone were updated to the 1940s and therefore might have included stock footage showing London trams (the principal photography took place in Hollywood), but I can’t find any such sequences at the moment… though ‘Dressed to Kill’ does feature an extremely unconvincing left-hand drive “London bus”.

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