Blackpool 167 visits old haunts and makes new friends

One of the most anticipated tram events of 2014 occurred on Saturday 24th May, when Blackpool ‘Pantograph’ car 167 made its debut on the heritage tram service in Blackpool. Having last run in its former home town in 2010 – when it infamously only managed a single day of use before failing – the return of this tram on loan from Crich resulted in this day being very well attended by enthusiasts, which helped to make up for poor weather conditions.

167‘s first duty of the day was to operate a tour to Fleetwood in the company of Standard 147, another 1920s veteran painted in the latter day green livery. Unfortunately the arrival of both cars at North Pier was delayed due to some issues with 147‘s transponders, which occurred again a few times during the day. The attractive pair were joined on the promenade by Open Top Balloon ‘Princess Alice’ 706 from midday, although after just a few journeys this tram made a hasty retreat back to Starr Gate depot due to the onslaught of rain, which sadly became increasingly heavy as the day wore on. Its place in service was therefore sensibly taken by Balloon 717 which then rounded off a highly enjoyable, if rather wet day, with the early evening Fleetwood run.

However, probably the highlight of this day for many people was a surprise trip to Thornton Gate by 167 during the afternoon, granted at the request of a few enthusiasts. This gesture was very much appreciated by those who managed to find a seat for this very popular journey, which took the car back to its old stomping ground: following withdrawal from passenger service, 167 was of course used as a works car and pictures of the tram in the Thornton Gate permanent way yard have graced the pages of numerous tram books over the years, making this a highly appropriate destination for the tram. The torrential rain at the time made for a rather dull afternoon, but the warm glow of the Pantograph car’s interior was extremely welcoming and for your writer, it was easy to imagine a time when 167 and its sisters would have transported many commuters back home along the tramroad on a daily basis.

Having proved exceptionally popular during its visit to Beamish, 167 looks certain to be even more popular for its latest return visit to Blackpool if its first day in traffic is anything to go by. Despite only operating a single test run since arriving and the fitting of transponder equipment, the tram performed superbly all day and has undoubtedly gone a long way towards redeeming itself for its past misadventures!

At lunchtime on 24th May, the delightful duo of Pantograph car 167 and Standard car 147 pose together at Pleasure Beach, with a cheeky glimpse of 'Princess Alice' 706 passing on the main line heading towards Bispham.

24th May was also the first time that 167 had ever operated in passenger service alongside Blackpool's latest class of tram, the Flexity 2 fleet. Here it meets 004 at North Pier before returning south.

The quality of the image may not be the best ever, but we just had to use this photograph - its 167 on the centre track at Thornton Gate in appalling weather conditions. (All photos by Andrew Waddington)

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13 Responses to Blackpool 167 visits old haunts and makes new friends

  1. Daniel says:

    What is the transponder?

    • Paul D says:

      Electronic “transmitter & responder” A radio device used to communicate both ways between the tram and infrastructure. On the heritage cars it is used only to change points and change trafficlights at road crossings, but on the Flexities could also be used to report information about the tram back to the depot such as location and fault data or tell the tram speed restrictions.

    • Bryan Lindop says:

      Hi Daniel,
      A transponder is the electronic device that controls the points and signals on the tramway.

    • Tommy Carr says:

      In a less technical way, it allows the traffic lights at various points on the system to turn red automatically when a tram crosses the road after going over another transponder on the track. I think!

  2. Paul says:

    it would nice if 167 could come to the midlands for a visit

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Whereabouts in the midlands do you want 167 to visit?

    • Phill says:

      Assuming you’re not thinking of Crich, where it lives…

      The 2nd generation tram systems of the midlands (Sheffield, Birmingham and Nottingham) would pose huge operating problems. The two most obvious being voltage (trad trams are 550V DC, 2nd gen from 750 upwards), and overhead compatibility. As well as being unsuitable for trolley poles, I believe 2nd gen systems are a different wire height, though this would be less of a problem with a single decker like 167. Besides that there would be mountains of paperwork and approvals to go through! Blackpool was of course rebuilt to accomodate their heritage fleet, hence 167 can drop straight on and the paperwork is already done for the home fleet.
      Theoretically it could be adapted to suit, but it would be a fair old effort and expense. Still, who knows?

      • Andrew Waddington says:

        I’m sure it could be adapted to suit, but would the TMS allow that bearing in mind the tram’s status as part of a designated museum collection? From what I gather Crich personnel had to be involved in fitting clips to the side of 167 to allow a bamboo pole to be hung on it, so I dread to think what modifications this would entail and how they would be sorted out! I’m not even sure why we’re discussing this anyway – let’s just be glad that 167 is back in Blackpool!

        • Phill says:

          OK, apologies for going a tad off topic. It is an interesting thing to discuss though. Personally I’d love to see it done. Modifications would just have to be reversible I’d think. So all electronic control systems are out, but a big ballast resistor on a new trolley tower should be OK…

          Anyway, I’ll shut up, lest a certain Doctor Mop gets ideas…

  3. Phil Hart says:

    So a transponder is a bit like the two-way telemetry in F1 cars?

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