First tram to North Station

Following the recent exciting news regarding the offer of a substantial amount of the funding required to extend the Blackpool tramway to serve North Station, there has been no shortage of speculation regarding this ambitious project. Naturally the main aim of such a development will be to create a modern public transport link using light rail vehicles; however, the potential implications for the heritage trams that remain in Blackpool could also be huge.

Providing the final cash is secured and the project is given the green light, we could see construction work on the new branch line commence within two years. So, if this all happens, which tram should be given the honour of opening the new line? Clearly this would be a very significant development, as no new extensions of the Blackpool tramway have appeared since the line to Starr Gate was built! Some would say that, as a modern light rail system, it should be one of the Flexity2 trams that is used for an opening ceremony, but the temptation to acknowledge the history of trams running into Blackpool town centre must surely exist.

Your writer’s gut feeling, is that a tram with particular relevance to the North Station itself should be given this particular honour, and two cars stand out as being obvious candidates, although regrettably neither is owned by Blackpool Transport. Blackpool & Fleetwood ‘Rack’ 2, now preserved at the National Tramway Museum, is the sole survivor of a class of tram built to inaugurate the original North Station to Fleetwood route in 1898, making it an obvious candidate to revisit one of its old haunts. Although in the Tramroad era, trams leaving the station would have headed towards Gynn Square before reaching the promenade, rather than heading straight for North Pier as will be the case second time around, the thought of journeying from North Station to Fleetwood Ferry aboard one of the original 1898 crossbench cars is certainly a mouthwatering one! The possibility of a ‘then and now’ photo shoot for the press, featuring ‘Rack’ 2 and Flexity 002, would also be a potentially exciting prospect.

At the other end of the scale, the last tram to the old North Station tram terminus was Brush Railcoach 290, latterly 627. This car is now owned by the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust and is currently on static display close to the Pleasure Beach. If its owners could be persuaded to allow the tram to operate as a special guest then it would certainly give some continuity to the proceedings, although it would probably require significant restoration work to be made fit to run again. Other survivors associated with the old North Station route include Fleetwood ‘Box’ 40 and Blackpool ‘Pantograph’ car 167, the latter representing a type of tram which ran almost exclusively along that route for their entire working lives.

Bearing in mind that a new extension to North Station will bear little resemblance to the previous route, it may be worth looking to a tram which has commonly traversed Talbot Road itself in the distant past. This was once familiar territory for the Standard cars, making either 143 (assuming its restoration is completed by then) or 147 another potential candidate for a starring role.

Whatever the future holds, it is fantastic to see realistic proposals to actually expand a tramway that was facing threats to its continued survival not so many years ago. With ‘Transport for Lancashire’ pledging over £16 million to make this dream into a reality, hopefully we can look forward to seeing trams of some description exit the promenade at Talbot Square, returning with full loads of passengers acquired from terminating trains. Whichever tram may be chosen to perform the all-important first run, that is undoubtedly something to be celebrated!

A former stalwart of the original line to North Station; Fleetwood 'Rack' 2 seen at North Pier during its last visit to the town in September 2010. Hopefully in a few years trams will be able to divert from the promenade here to connect with the railway station. (Photo by Andrew Waddington)


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9 Responses to First tram to North Station

  1. Tommy Carr says:

    Procession – 2, 40, 167, 631, flexity 2

  2. John Woodman says:

    Andrew : we are ahead of you on your speculation regarding the reopening of the North Station service (albeit from Talbot Square and Talbot Road). Our Trust is examining ways and means of arranging for 290 to be returned to its green and cream livery and made ready for 2016 whether as a static display or possibly as part of the formal opening of this very important link.

    We certainly intend for recognition to be given to the last tram to operate in regular service from North Station to Fleetwood (in 1963). This will require involvement of Blackpool Council among other civic groups with whom we are in contact on this objective. The tram could serve as a permanent memorial to the original North Station service which of course began in 1898 under private company ownership. It features in the new 2014 heritage tram calendar being published this month to raise funds towards imminent moves of some of our Trust’s trams.

    The repainting of the first light rail vehicle to run to North Station might also be an appropriate gesture – into the original chocolate, teak and cream of the former Company. Blackpool & Fleetwood Box Car 40 would be a further welcome part of any opening ceremony – after all it is here in Blackpool well cared for by Blackpool Transport and its supporting Friends of Forty group, led by Steve Palmer.

    Food for thought.

    John Woodman

    • A Confused Enthusiast... says:

      “defray the costs of 761 transport from Fleetwood and in support future work on this car”

      Quoting your site. Could you confirm whether the Calendar is soley for 761. Naturally some people with specific interests in that car are more likely to support the Calendar if its a Cast Iron Guarantee that All Profit goes towards that particular car.

  3. Ash Tomlinson says:

    I don’t think a Flexity would look good in chocolate, teak and cream. Too old a livery for such a modern vehicle. If I can make a suggestion, the first Flexity to run to north station could have this journey explained to the public with a wooden board on the sides saying “The first service tram to run to North Station, Blackpool for 53 years, 1963-2016”. I’m only guessing it will be ready then but it is just an example of my suggestion.

  4. Mark says:

    I would suggest Flexity 1 followed by Standard 143 (or 147 if 143 isn’t finished!).

  5. Paul says:

    Confused by the focus on Dickson Road trams. Surely it’s Layton trams which means 31, 40, 143 or 166 of survivors in apt condition.

  6. thomas stewart says:

    In regards to the heritage calender,I for one will be rushing out to purchase it to help raise the funds to move 761 from fleetwood to rigby road.It would help if there were more people out there to support this venture,that is if they really do care about 761.In respect of brush car 290,the idea of having this car leading the procession up talbot road to north station,or indeed being at the rear,sounds extremally interesting.With this extension opening in approx 3years,there is plenty of time to repaint 290 and have it ready.Full marks must be given to the fhlt in having the foresight in saving these trams for blackpools tramcar heritage.I am sure there are plenty of people out there who would have just walked away from it all but this small group have struggled on in the face of armchair mean feat by any means when they have constantly been under attack from tram followers who at the end of the day know nothing of the battles they have had to endure .I would appeal to everyone to go and buy this some support at least.

  7. John Gilbert says:

    “Construction work COULD commence within TWO years”!!!!!!!!!! The usual British sloth then! No hurry. Why not make it 10 years – after all the idea of speed just doesn’t exist in these benighted islands!

    • Ken Walker says:

      Yes, it’s interesting how the money that the “authorities” in this country spend on finding 100 reasons for not doing / delaying doing something useful, other countries just spend on getting it done! (Unless it’s organising illegal invasions of other countries, that is)

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