On Thursday 29th May, a large number of historic tramcars graced Blackpool’s promenade, just a few days after the most recent spell of operation for the heritage fleet. This time however, the cars were not available for the public to ride on, but were instead being transferred back home to Rigby Road depot, having resided at Starr Gate for several weeks due to ongoing access issues with the old tram shed.
With work on the Manchester Square junction, including its traffic control signals, nearing completion at long last, it was decided to return most of the operational heritage trams to Rigby Road depot, freeing up much-needed space at the Starr Gate complex. It is expected that full access to the former site will be restored ahead of the next heritage tram running day on 22nd June, and so it was decided to move the fleet back to their usual home turf. Rather than wait until Friday to move the trams, as has been the norm of late, a total of nine trams (plus two trailers) made the short journey along the seafront between the two depots.
The trams which were moved on this day were: Bolton 66, Standard 147, Open Boat 230, Twin set 272+T2, Open Boat 600, Brush Railcoach 631, ‘Princess Alice’ 706, Balloon 717 and the Western Train 733+734. Most of these trams had starred in the recent Spring Bank Holiday weekend event, although car 66 has been a little shy of late, having not operated since Easter. This frenzied activity left just Pantograph car 167 and Boat 227 at Starr Gate; the latter still being out of action following the discovery of some electrical faults requiring rectification. Also in residence inside the modern building is the 1992-built Engineering car 754, but after several weeks of heritage domination this is a considerable reduction in the amount of non-Flexity trams based there!
Not content with that level of action, the same day also saw the return of Fleetwood Box car 40‘s freshly overhauled trucks to Rigby Road, following attention at Crich. They will now be reunited with the body of the tram, which has been receiving some remedial attention in Blackpool Transport’s own workshops, including a full interior repaint and other cosmetic improvements. It is now expected that the century-old tram will be back in use for one of the summer tram events, before it heads to Crich for a visit in connection with the 50th anniversary of electric tram operation at the National Tramway Museum.
We would once again like to thank everyone who was involved in ‘putting up’ the historic trams at Starr Gate, and ensuring that they were able to run over the last three Bank Holiday weekends; something which would not have been possible had they remained at Rigby Road. Although being based from the southern end of the tramway has created a few operational challenges, the heritage service was able to run as planned which is obviously the most important factor, but hopefully now this challenging period is at an end and the trams can settle back down at their old home once again.