Tram 011 at Tower tram stop
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)|
|Electrification||600 V Overhead lines|
|Route length||11 mi (17.7 km)|
|Passengers (2015/2016)||4.9 million|
The Blackpool tramway runs from Blackpool to Fleetwood on the Fylde Coast in Lancashire, England. The line dates back to 1885 and is one of the oldest electric tramways in the world. It is operated by Blackpool Transport (BTS), and runs for 11 miles (18 km) and carried 4,900,000 passengers between March 2015 and March 2016.
It is the last surviving first-generation tramway in the United Kingdom, though the majority of services on the line have since 2012 been operated by a fleet of modern Flexity 2 trams. A 'heritage service' using the traditional trams now operates on Bank Holidays and weekends from March to November, as well as during the Blackpool Illuminations. Excluding museums, it is one of only a few tramways in the world to use double-deck trams, others including Hong Kong and Alexandria Tram in Egypt.
The first part opened on 29 September 1885, a conduit line from Cocker Street to Dean Street on Blackpool Promenade. It was one of the first practical electric tramways in the world, just six years after Werner von Siemens first demonstrated electric traction. The inauguration was presided over by Holroyd Smith, the inventor of the system, and Alderman Harwood, the Mayor of Manchester.
It was operated by the Blackpool Electric Tramway Company until 1892 when its lease expired and Blackpool Corporation took over. A line was added in 1895 from Manchester Square along Lytham Road to South Shore, extended to South Pier with a line on Station Road connecting Lytham Road to the promenade in 1897.
Conduit operation, in which trams took electricity from a conduit below and between the tracks, though very successful in locations such as town or city centres, proved to be very problematic on a line so close to the coast. During bad weather, sea water washed over the track and into the conduit where it short circuited the traction supply and operated the circuit breakers in the power station. Sand from the beaches was blown across the tracks and filled up the conduits. It was constantly necessary to remove this sand, as the addition of sea water would leave the conduits filled with wet sand which short circuited the supply. Another problem was that electrical resistance was greater than anticipated and the voltage in portions of the conduit was far less than that generated at Blundell Street – 230V dropped to 210V at the junction with the main line on the Promenade, 185V at Cocker Street and 168V at South Pier (then Victoria Pier).
In 1899 550V overhead wiring was installed and the conduit removed. In 1900 the line was extended north to Gynn Square where it linked up with the Blackpool and Fleetwood Tramroad. In 1901 the Marton loop was opened, connecting Talbot Square and Central Station along Church Street, Devonshire Square, Whitegate Drive, Waterloo Road and Central Drive. A new depot was built on Whitegate Drive in Marton. A line was added from Talbot Square along Talbot Road to Layton in 1902. By 1903 the promenade line had reached the Pleasure Beach.
In 1920 Blackpool Corporation took over the tramroad, gaining eight miles (13 km) of track and three depots, two in Fleetwood and one in Bispham. The small Bold Street Depot in Fleetwood was closed and a loop constructed at Fleetwood Ferry.
The original Blundell Street Depot was replaced by a larger depot on Rigby Road in 1920. Along the line to Fleetwood, between Rossall and Broadwater a more direct line was built in 1925. The final tramway extension was in 1926, along the promenade to Clifton Drive at Starr Gate where a connection was made with Lytham St. Annes Corporation Tramways.
In the 1930s manager Walter Luff, as part of a five-year plan for modernisation, introduced a fleet of modern streamlined tramcars including the English Electric double-deck Luxury Dreadnoughts (later known as 'Balloons') and single-deck open-topped Open Boats and enclosed Railcoaches. These formed the backbone of the fleet into the 21st century. In 1936 route closures began with the Central Drive and Layton routes. Lytham Road closed in 1961, Marton in 1962, and the tramroad line on Dickson Road to North Station in 1963. Marton and Copse Road Depots closed in 1963 and Bispham Depot in 1966. This left the line from Starr Gate to Fleetwood, which remains. Blackpool Borough Council transferred the operation of the tramway and buses to Blackpool Transport Services Limited in 1986.
Blackpool was the only town in the UK that retained its trams, and between 1962 and 1992 it had the only urban tramway in the UK. The last English city to lose its conventional trams was Sheffield in 1960. The last in the UK was Glasgow in 1962. The 1992 opening of the Metrolink in Manchester heralded a revival.
Following the Government's pledge to build 25 new tram networks by 2010, a £1 billion bid for a Government grant was launched by Blackpool Council and Lancashire County Council in 2002 to expand the tram network to St. Annes to the south and new housing estates in Fleetwood to the north, with a possible further phase to Poulton-Le-Fylde and Thornton. In 2004 campaigners behind the bid expressed disappointment that nothing had been done to take the plans forward in two years. By November 2007 there was no further development.
For the first time the entire tramway was closed in November 2007 for five months of essential repair work, the second phase of an £11.8 million upgrade. In January 2007 the City Class 611 prototype "supertram" was being tested on the tramway when it caught fire as it approached Central Pier, causing extensive damage. The driver escaped when the electrical console in the cab reportedly blew up. The tram, manufactured by Merseyside based Tram Power, was being tested as part of a bid to replace the current trams. The tramcar was rebuilt at a cost of £150,000 but was not permitted to resume trials; it is currently scheduled to form part of a trial park & ride tram line in Preston. The same tram had derailed on 30 May 2006 at Starr Gate loop during previous trials. A Rail Accident Investigation Branch report stated that the derailment was due to wear and tear on the track with a contributory factor being the new type of running gear on the tram.
On 1 February 2008 it was announced that the Government had agreed to the joint BTS and Blackpool Council bid for funding toward the total upgrade of the track. The Government were to contribute £60.3M of the total £85.3M cost. Blackpool Council and Lancashire County Council would each provide about £12.5M. The Government's decision meant that the entire tramway was upgraded and 16 Flexity 2 trams replaced the fleet.
The tramway resurfacing works and construction of a tram shed at Starr Gate meant no trams operated south of the Pleasure Beach from 2009 until the new trams entered service, in April 2012, and track work at Cleveleys halted services north of Little Bispham. A replacement bus service operated.
In 2011 the line voltage was raised to 600 V in anticipation of the arrival of the new rolling stock. 6 November 2011 marked the last day of running for the traditional tram fleet. The tramway reopened on 4 April 2012 with Flexity 2 cars providing day to day services. Some of the traditional fleet has been retained and some of them have been restored, with unmodified trams being part of the 'Heritage Fleet', and modified, widened trams as part of the main fleet. The new depot at Starr Gate houses the Flexity 2 fleet. The Rigby Road depot, near Manchester Square, is where the traditional trams are kept. Much work is being put in to make sure that the traditional trams have a safe future.
Blackpool tramway today
Trams run from Starr Gate in the south to Fleetwood in the north. Some services, especially in busy periods such as during Blackpool Illuminations or on bank holidays, start or terminate short at Cleveleys, Little Bispham, Bispham, or the Pleasure Beach to allow a more intensive service through the centre of Blackpool. During the Illuminations, decorated trams carry passengers on the promenade along the illuminated area, running from Pleasure Beach to Bispham.
The Flexity 2 trams now operate main services, with modified Balloon double-deck trams available if necessary. Unmodified, traditional trams provide a 'heritage service' on weekends, bank holidays and summer months, as well as operate on tours during the illuminations. They stop only at special 'heritage stops' next to normal tram stops at Pleasure Beach, North Pier, Cabin, Bispham, Cleveleys and Fleetwood Ferry.
|Starr Gate||Fleetwood Ferry||Every 10 to 15 minutes daytime*||Mon–Sun (inc. B/H)||Flexity 2|
|Pleasure Beach||North Pier/Cabin (Fleetwood on B/H and special days)||Up to 20 minutes on running days||Limited winter weekends and every weekend from March–November (inc. B/H), and during Blackpool Illuminations||Heritage|
*Regularity is dependent on season and/or time of day.
The tramway runs from Starr Gate in Blackpool to the Ferry Terminus in Fleetwood, mostly along the Fylde Coast sea front, turning inland at Cleveleys for the last few miles before ending at the coast in Fleetwood. The tracks consists of four different types:
- Street running, open to all traffic – along Lord Street and North Albert Street in Fleetwood. There is also a stretch in Blackpool from Rigby Road Depot to the Promenade along Hopton Road and Lytham Road used for trams entering and leaving service only. A short stretch on the Promenade in Blackpool behind the Metropole Hotel used to be in this form, but when the whole tramway was relaid in 2011 it was converted to Paved (see below). The new line to Blackpool North station is expected to also be in this form.
- Paved reserved track alongside a road, open to pedestrians but not road traffic – along most of the route between Starr Gate and Cabin.
- Reserved ballasted track, open to trams only – from Cabin to Rossall, and along Radcliffe Road in Fleetwood.
- Interurban style, not following a road and open to trams only – from Rossall to Radcliffe Road, Fleetwood.
Fleetwood Transport Festival
Each year the Fleetwood Transport Festival, known locally as Tram Sunday, is held on the third Sunday in July. It celebrated its 21st anniversary in 2005. It attracts thousands of visitors and takes place on the full length of the main street, Lord Street. There are vintage tram rides from Fishermans Walk to Thornton Gate. In 2007, the festival, despite its popularity, was nearly cancelled due to a lack of support organising the day. A last-minute appeal for help resulted in the festival being saved.
The tramway is to be extended to Blackpool North railway station after Blackpool Council approved the project, and work is expected to begin by 2018. A new tram terminal will be provided as part of the project.
A feasibility study is currently being undertaken regarding a further extension to Lytham St Annes.
There have been seven depots:
- Bispham Depot was built in 1898 and extended in 1914 by Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company, to house 36 trams on six tracks. A substation was to the side of the depot. The depot was used to receive pantograph cars in 1928 and Brush cars in 1940. It closed on 27 October 1963 and was used as a store until the mid-1970s. It was demolished to make way for a Sainsbury's supermarket and the depot's headstone was installed at Crich's National Tramway Museum.
- Bold Street Depot opened in January 1899 and had a capacity of four cars on two tracks. It was used only by the last two trams to Fleetwood in the evening and the first two trams in the morning. After Blackpool Corporation took over the tramroad in 1920, the depot was closed. Wires were taken down in 1924 when the Fleetwood loop was built. After World War II the depot was used by Fisherman's Friend. It was demolished in 1973 to make way for flats.
- Blundell Street Depot opened in 1885 to house ten conduit trams. It was extended in 1894 and 1896, and in 1898 when the roof was raised to accommodate overhead wiring. After extension, the depot housed 45 trams on five tracks. The depot became a store in 1935 when the new central depot opened at Rigby Road. The inspection pits were filled in after World War II and after 1956 the building was used as a bus garage. The depot was reopened for trams in March 1963 after the closure of Marton depot. A new entrance was built in July 1964 but capacity was restricted by the presence of an ambulance station in the building. Following damage to the central roof caused by a gale, the depot was demolished on 4 November 1982.
- Copse Road Depot was built in 1897 by the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company with six tracks, capable of housing 18 trams. It was originally used as a store and service depot. After passing to Blackpool Corporation Tramways it was used to dismantle old trams. Between 1925 and 1949 a line connected the depot with the railway and was used to shunt wagons. The depot is now a car showroom and the substation still feeds the Fleetwood section.
- Marton Depot was built in 1901 to accommodate 50 trams. It was used for central routes but declined in use after the closure in 1936 of the Layton and Central Drive sections. It closed for tram use between 1939 and 1944 due to the war, and accommodated aircraft of the Vickers Aircraft Company. It closed on 11 March 1963, with the last car to leave being Standard car 48. The front half was demolished with the rear half in commercial use. A petrol station is now on the site.
- Rigby Road Depot was built in 1935 and is still in use. It has a capacity of 108 trams. It was designed to replace the Bispham and Blundell Street depots and has been modernised several times. In 1955 tracks 15 to 18 were enclosed by a partition to be used as an electrical compound and in 1962 a tram-washing plant was built, along with the replacement of the roller-blind doors by folding aluminium doors. It has increasingly become primarily a bus depot.
- Starr Gate Depot was built during 2011 as part of the complete network refurbishment, and cost £20M. It officially opened in Easter 2012, and is now fully operational. It has a maximum capacity of 20 trams. It was built to house the 16 new trams. An expansion with a public attraction to display heritage units was planned when Rigby Road Depot was due to be disposed of, but it was not built, with Rigby Road Depot being retained for the heritage trams.
The tramway has a varied fleet. The standard livery introduced on the Flexity 2 trams has purple fronts, with white sides and a purple criss-cross pattern on the lower sides. The heritage tramcars mostly use the traditional green and cream livery of BTS in various styles from the 1930s to the 1990s, with some older cars using the older red and cream livery and teak and cream livery. Some trams carry colourful all-over advertisements.
The Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations have seen the fleet divided into three: the 'A' fleet of 16 Flexity 2 trams, fully compliant with the RVAR; the 'B' fleet of 9 converted double-deck trams that have partial exemption through partial conversion to improve accessibility; and the 'C' fleet, the exempt heritage fleet.
The operational fleet from 4 April 2012 is:
As part of the upgrade, 16 Flexity 2 trams were ordered. The worldwide launch of the tram including showing the first new tram occurred on 8 September 2011 at the new Starr Gate depot.
These state-of-the-art trams include many improvements, such as 100% step-free access from platform to tram, dedicated wheelchair spaces, higher seating and standing capacity, faster acceleration and quieter running. They have audio-visual 'next stop' displays.
The trams are accommodated at the new depot built at Starr Gate by VolkerFitzpatrick.
Modified 'Balloon' double-deck cars
Some of the heritage fleet were modified (including widening) so that they are able to operate the modified tramway in a full service as extra capacity cars during peak times and in case of an incident preventing Flexity 2 trams from operating.
Forty-two cars were built between 1923 and 1929 by Blackpool Corporation Transport Department. They are double deck, originally with open balconies and a capacity of 78 passengers, 32 seats on the lower deck and 46 on the upper. The four-window design came from the 1902 Motherwell trams. They were 33 ft 10 in (10.31 m) long, 16 ft 7 in (5.05 m) high and 7 ft 2 in (2.18 m) wide. They had Preston McGuire bogies with 4 ft 1 in (1.24 m) wheelbase and 30 in (760 mm) diameter wheels, BTH B510 motors with hand and rheostatic brakes. All were built as the "open balcony" type, but in later years some were enclosed. Standard 40 became the last double-deck open balcony tram to operate commercially in Great Britain. Until 2000, no Standards survived in public service in Blackpool until Boat 606 was given to the Trolleyville museum in the United States in exchange for Standard car 147, which has been restored to its original 1924 condition and often operates on the Heritage Service and illumination evenings.
Seven Standard cars survive in preservation, including two in the United States. Nos. 49, 147 and 159 have been restored to enclosed condition and all are currently sporting green and cream livery. 147 and 159 remain operational, at Blackpool and the East Anglia Transport Museum respectively, whereas 49 is awaiting a major overhaul at the National Tramway Museum at Crich. The remaining two survivors in the UK (40 and 143) are in their original open balcony form. 40 is in operational condition at Crich whilst 143 is in Blackpool awaiting the completion of its restoration. Both trams are painted in red, teak and cream. Lastly, two Standards are preserved in the United States. No. 144 is at the Seashore Trolley Museum, in Maine, and retains its open-balcony form. No. 48 has been in the collection of the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society since 1964 and has enclosed balconies. It operated on the Willamette Shore Trolley heritage tramway in Portland between 1995 and 2006, and then returned to the Oregon Electric Railway Museum, where it is operational but is currently unused, due to an uneven track bed on the museum's line.
10 cars were built in 1928 by English Electric in Preston. These cars were single-deckers and purchased at a cost of £2,000 (equivalent to £108,675 in 2015), by Blackpool Corporation Tramways. They were designed for interurban use and of American appearance with 48 seats. Originally given the nickname "Pullman" cars due to their more luxurious assets, they were equipped with a pantograph built by Brecknell, Munro & Rogers mounted on a tall tower, which very quickly earned them the longer-lasting nickname "Pantographs". They were subsequently fitted with traditional trolley poles. The first car (167), was delivered on 30 July 1928 and the last, 176, in 1929. They were 40 ft (12 m) long and 7 ft 6 in (2.29 m) wide, had Dick Kerr bogies, BTH B510 motors and air-brakes, with hand and rheostatic brakes.
The sole surviving true member of the class, 167, is preserved at the National Tramway Museum at Crich. It returned to Blackpool for the 100th and 125th Anniversary celebrations in 1985 and 2010, in 1998 for the 100th anniversary of the Fleetwood Tramroad and for a short loan period during Summer 2014. Three ex-Pantograph cars survive as illuminated cars: one is still recognisable as the trailer to the illuminated Western Train (174), which received a £278,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant for restoration and is part of the heritage fleet. Another one formed the basis for the illuminated Frigate (170) which was rebuilt in 2004, altering its appearance when rebuilt in 1965. The other one formed the basis for the illuminated Rocket (168) which was withdrawn from service in 1999 and stood derelict at the Rigby Road Depot until 2012 when it was cosmetically restored and displayed as a static exhibit as part of the Illuminations. It has since returned to Rigby Road Depot for storage and eventual restoration as an operational tram within the heritage fleet.
27 cars were built by English Electric between 1934 and 1935, the first thirteen to an open top design and the last fourteen to an enclosed design. All the open topped cars were enclosed during World War 2, but one has since been restored to an open topped car (706). A number of them have since been rebuilt in various conditions to modernise and improve the usefulness of the cars. A small collection of them have also been retained for use within the heritage fleet.
Open Boat tram No. 600 by Trafalgar Road
|Constructed||English Electrics 1934|
|Capacity||52–56 Passengers (Seated)|
|Width||EE 4 ft (1.2 m) wheelbase|
|Power output||2xEE 327, 40 hp (30 kW)|
|Power supply||2xEE 327, 40 hp (17.5 kW)|
4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)
600, 607: 2xEE DB1|
602, 604, 605: 2xEE Z type
603 (228): 2xEE B18
12 cars were built by English Electric in 1934. These are single deck open-topped trams with central doors and gangway. They were originally numbered 225-236, with eight survivors being renumbered 600–607, and have a passenger capacity of between 52 and 56. They are known as "boats" due to their ship-like streamlined appearance and are one of the most iconic Blackpool trams. All cars are virtually identical except for 600, which has shorter body panels.
The boats were commissioned by Walter Luff in 1933, in accordance with his five-year plan. The prototype arrived in Blackpool during early spring in 1934 along with four other designs. After an initial trial period, company directors approved an order for 11 production cars, which arrived in July and August 1934, numbered 225–236.
Work began on the circular and coastal tours, replacing the original toastrack cars, which were considered dangerous and old-fashioned. They were stationed at both Rigby Road and Marton depots for ease of access and continued there until the war, when they were stored out of service due to the withdrawal of the circular tour and general lack of demand. This continued until 1946, when they returned to work on the promenade service.
They remained in regular service until the closure of the inland routes during 1963. The fleet was reduced to eight and renumbered 600–607, with 229, 231, 232 and 234 being mothballed and scrapped in 1968. In the early 1990s the boats were refurbished and received new liveries, including Routemaster red, blue and yellow and a fictitious wartime livery. Two were converted from trolley pole to pantograph conductors but they were soon converted back as passengers complained at being showered by grease and dirt from the power line when it rained.
In addition to the cars at Blackpool, there are four boats in the United States. Car 226 (601) has been at the Western Railway Museum, Suisun City, California since 1971. Car 228 (603) was loaned to Philadelphia in 1976 for the United States Bicentennial, then returned to Blackpool where it was stored until 1984, when it was given to the San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) where it is still occasionally operated. Car 606 was given to the Trolleyville Museum, Ohio, in September 2000, in return for Standard 147, which has been restored to original condition. Following the closure of the Trolleyville museum, 606 was sold to the National Capital Trolley Museum, in Maryland. Finally, car 233 (605) was delivered to San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) in October 2013 to supplement car 228.
During 2009–2010, 600 underwent a major overhaul and rebuild, the first Boat to undergo such high maintenance. Work included the fitting of modern safety features such as halogen headlights and a rubber bumper and fiberglass skirt on each end.
In 2012, 607 (236) moved to its new home at the National Tramway Museum following restoration in Blackpool and is in regular service, painted in 1950s green and cream livery and renumbered back to its pre-1968 fleet number of 236.
On the late May bank holiday of 2013 the head of Blackpool Transport's Heritage Tram operations announced that Boat 602 will be part of the Heritage Fleet beyond the August bank holiday in a red and cream livery. The tram, renumbered 227 returned to service during August in this livery which is a version of the original Blackpool Corporation red and ivory livery. The tram was out of service during the early part of 2014 due to an electrical problem but returned in time for the August bank holiday.
The English Electric streamline fleet also included 45 standard enclosed single deck trams known as railcoaches. None of these remain in their original form, with 10 cars rebuilt as towing cars for the Progress twin cars in the 1950s and 1960s, 13 converted to the One-Man Operated (OMO) class in the 1970s and 2 rebuilt as illuminated cars. The remainder were scrapped. The heavily modified former towing cars 678–680 were converted back to single trams with cabs at both ends. The last of these in the active fleet, 680, was withdrawn in 2008. 678 was preserved by Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust in 2011. 679 was preserved by the Lancastrian Transport Trust until 2013, when it became a part of the retained heritage fleet in Blackpool and will eventually be restored into original condition and regain its original pre-1968 number of 279. 680 was preserved at the Heaton Park Tramway in Manchester in 2011. During December 2013, 680 was transferred to Beamish Museum for an operational loan deal and entered service shortly afterwards. In April 2015, 680 was transferred to its permanent home at Heaton Park Tramway and entered service soon afterwards. In August 2015, 680 was transferred to Blackpool for an initial 2-year loan and was repainted into 1990s green and cream livery with black window surrounds.
Progress Twin cars
Single deck towing and trailer cars 671–680 (towing cars) and 681–690 (trailer cars). The 10 towing cars were rebuilt from English Electric railcoaches between 1958 and 1962. The ends were heavily redesigned to resemble the then contemporary Coronation cars. The 10 trailers, which look almost identical except for the lack of a pantograph tower, were built from scratch. Although originally driven only from the towing end, they were later converted to be driven from either end with cabs in the trailers. They operate in regular pairs, such as 675 and 685, except for 678 to 680, which operated singly when trailer cars 688 to 690 were mothballed and scrapped. Prior to the 1968 tramway fleet renumbering program, the towing cars were originally numbered 281 (671) and 272 to 280 (672 to 680), whilst the trailer cars originally had the fleet numbers T1 to T10. There are currently two operational Twin Car Sets in Blackpool Transport's Heritage Fleet. Reactivated in 2012, 672 & 682 were renumbered 272 & T2 and repainted into original cream livery. In May 2015, Blackpool Transport announced that 675 and 685 would be a part of the operational Heritage Fleet later in the year. In September 2015, 675 and 685 were reactivated and repainted into 1970s green and cream with an orange pantograph tower for 675.
One-Man Operated cars numbered 1–13. Between 1972 and 1976, 13 English Electric railcoaches were rebuilt with extended platforms at each end so passengers could enter at the front and pay the driver. This meant the trams could run with a crew of only one, reducing costs and possibly saving the tramway from closure. They ran the main year-round service until they were replaced by the Centenary class trams in the 1980s, with the last OMO car in service in 1993. Only three have not been scrapped: 5 is in storage at the National Tramway Museum awaiting restoration; 8 carried passengers in 2010 but is currently stored in Blackpool awaiting further overhaul; 7 was rebuilt as a replica of a 1920s Vanguard tram and is located at Heaton Park Tramway.
In the late 1970s, Blackpool Transport, having completed its OMO rebuild programme, was still left with a significant surplus of cash. Using a redundant Balloon (725), BTS set to work on creating an experimental double-deck OMO car. It was completed in 1979; unlike the OMOs it did not have centre doors, and had a much more bus-like appearance. It was thought a success, so a second was built using another redundant Balloon (714), which unlike the first, did have centre doors. They were numbered 761 and 762 respectively. Although a success and a big crowd-mover, no more were built. The pair carried on in service until the modernisation of the tramway in 2011-2012. Both cars are preserved; 761 by the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust, and 762 by the National Tramway Museum in Derbyshire. After a long period of refurbishment, 762 had carried out test runs at the museum and re-entered service in September 2014. 761, meanwhile, was in outside storage until December 2013 when it was moved back in to Blackpool Transport's Rigby Road Depot. Whether it enters the heritage fleet remains to be seen. Both cars carried many colourful advertising liveries throughout their lives, and both still carry one in preservation, 762 in particular wears a very bright scheme advertising an attraction at Blackpool's Pleasure Beach theme park.
20 trams were built by Brush in 1937. These are single-deck cars that closely resemble the original English Electric railcoaches. They were originally numbered 284-303, with eighteen survivors being renumbered 621–638 (301 and 303 having been mothballed and scrapped without being renumbered). 633 was rebuilt as the illuminated Trawler and was renumbered 737. One Brush car, No. 631, was retained by Blackpool Transport for their heritage fleet of trams, and has been restored back to its 1950s condition. Although its restoration has not yet been completed and some features of its 1990s rebuild remain, it re-entered service in May 2013. In December 2013, former Permanent Way car 259 (624, originally 287) and 632 returned to Rigby Road Depot from outside storage and await repaints and repairs before they can re-enter service as part of the heritage fleet. All of the remaining Brush cars (except a small number scrapped by Blackpool Transport prior to the modernisation of the system) have been acquired for preservation. 621 is preserved at Beamish museum. 623, painted in 1940s wartime livery, is in operation at Heaton Park Tramway, Manchester. 290 (627) is preserved by Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust. 630 is in operation at the National Tramway Museum, Crich. 630 was rebuilt in the 1990s with modern indicator headlamps, electrical equipment, and bus-type seats. It remains in this condition as a reminder of this often-forgotten period of Blackpool's tramway history. 634 was privately sold and is on static display at the North Eastern Electrical Traction Trust museum painted in 1990s green and cream livery. 298 (635) was preserved by the National Tramway Museum, Crich and remains stored.
Named because they were introduced in Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation Year, 1953, only three out of twenty five remain. They were built by Charles Roberts Ltd at Horbury Junction works, near Wakefield. One was retained for heritage purposes (660). Two were preserved under the private ownership of the Lancastrian Transport Trust (LTT) until 2013, when 304 (later 641) and 663 joined the heritage fleet alongside 660. The sophisticated Variable Automatic Multinotch Braking and Acceleration Control (VAMBAC) control system proved to be their achilles heel as it was unreliable. Thirteen trams had their VAMBAC systems replaced by conventional controllers during the 1960s, prolonging their comparatively short service life to 1975, when they were withdrawn. The unmodified examples were withdrawn from service in 1968.
Coronation 304, the first of the fleet, was bought for preservation and achieved celebrity status in 2002 when it was the subject of the seventh episode of the second series of the Channel 4 television programme Salvage Squad. It was returned to working order by Salvage Squad and LTT members and unveiled to the public on 6 January 2003 when it was filmed carrying out test runs along Blackpool Promenade.
The centenary cars were single deck, one-man operated trams with flat ends and a revised door layout, giving them a more bus-like appearance compared to previous designs. They were numbered 641–648 (648 originally numbered 651) and have a capacity of 52 passengers (of which 16 are standing). The position of the doors means that they can be operated by just a driver, as opposed to a crew of two or three. This was useful during low season and early morning/late night services when there was little demand, as it allowed the network to keep labour costs down.
They were built by East Lancashire Coachbuilders from 1985 to 1988. The first two vehicles (641 and GEC Traction test bed 651, later rebuilt into conventional Centenary 648) were completed for the tramway's centenary year, hence their name. Originally intended to replace the OMO cars which were suffering from metal fatigue, ten were ordered. However, due to cost cutting only seven were built for Blackpool Transport, with GECs 648 later joining the fleet. The cost cutting continued, as although the bodies, chassis and bogies were new the motors and wheelsets were pre-war, refurbished from withdrawn cars. The bogie design continued the theme of the "O.M.O." and L.T. Underground cars, having "Metalastik" rubber/metal bonded springs. With the introduction of the new Bombardier Flexity 2 trams in 2012, all were withdrawn. Most of them were sold with two used on heritage tours: 642 and 648, the latter of which has been restored back to its 1985 appearance. This is not strictly accurate, as 648 was numbered 651 when originally delivered. Also the work was done on a tight budget meaning some of the modern features had to be retained. The preserved Centenaries unfortunately suffer from electrical issues, with 642 failing on the first day of its re-entry to service, although it has operated successfully since. The others are mostly in outside storage facing an uncertain future; indeed 646 was scrapped in October 2012 after it was vandalised. Centenary 641 and 643 are owned by the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust. Centenary 647, the last traditional standard gauge tram built in Great Britain, is owned by the North Eastern Electrical Traction Trust, based at the North East Land, Sea and Air Museum. Its all over advert has been stripped away and is now undergoing a repaint in to a fictional 1920s style red, teak and white livery.
A variety of rebuilt single-deck cars of different designs rebuilt as illuminated theme trams. They run along the illuminated part of the promenade, from Starr Gate to Bispham, during the Illuminations. There was originally no numbering series until 1968 when the remaining trams in the fleet were numbered 731-736. With the introduction of the Flexity 2 trams in 2012, the Western Train (733+734), the Frigate (736) and the Trawler (737) were retained as part of the heritage fleet. In 2014, the Rocket (732) joined the heritage fleet.
A campaign by the local newspaper, the Blackpool Gazette in 2006 to get one of the illuminated trams, Western Train, back on track, resulted in a £278,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant to restore the tramcar which first ran in 1962. It had been withdrawn in 1999 and stood derelict at Rigby Road depot. The tramcar returned during the 2009 Illuminations Switch-On. In January 2008 it was revealed that another iconic illuminated tram, the Rocket tram, which had been in service between 1961 and 1999 but which had since then stood idle, was also due to be restored for the Illuminations in 2012 at a cost of about £150,000 and with the help of a newly created Friends of the Illuminations group. The full restoration did not occur but it was cosmetically restored in 2012 and used as a static display as part of the Illuminations for 2012 and 2013. The Frigate was rebuilt in 2004 and the Trawler was created from Brush car 633 in 2001.
The Blackpool Belle (731) was preserved in the United States whilst the Hovertram (735) is preserved by the North Eastern Electrical Traction Trust.
Tickets are purchased from the conductor on board each tram. Single fares range from £1.00 to £2.50 for adults, with daily, weekly and monthly passes also available. Heritage tram tickets are £6.00 for a child and £10.00 for an adult, family tickets can also be purchased for £20.00 (1x Adult 4x Children / 2x Adult 3x Children). Passes are usable on both Blackpool Transport trams (excluding heritage trams) and buses.
National Rail tickets to Blackpool North or Blackpool South with a Plusbus add-on are also valid on Blackpool trams between Cleveleys (Thornton Gate) and Starr Gate.
Incidents and accidents
There have been several accidents where pedestrians have been hit. Most recently a pedestrian, Maureen Foxwell age 70, was killed by a speeding driver at a designated crossing on 5 August 2009. The driver, who was travelling at over three times the speed limit near tram stops of 4 mph, was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Only two very serious collisions between vehicles have occurred since operation began in 1885. These are:
- 6 July 1980 – Balloon trams 705 and 706 collided head-on on the turning loop at the Pleasure Beach. 705 was bound for Starr Gate whilst 706 was stationary on the loop. 705 was on the wrong line due to the points being incorrectly set and ran into 706, about to depart for Fleetwood. Both trams were severely damaged; 705 was scrapped, the only Balloon to meet this fate until 2009 when 722 was scrapped due to collision damage. 706 was rebuilt as an open-topped Balloon. A County Court judgement in 1982 found that Blackpool Corporation were 80% to blame for the collision.
- 13 March 2004 – Centenary tram 644 derailed and collided with a wall on the promenade near Gynn Square. One of the poles from the Illuminations had been deliberately placed in the groove of the left-hand rail of the northbound line. 644 narrowly missed a pedestrian walking along the promenade and went through the wall, knocking debris onto the walkway below. The tram was balancing on the wall, but did not fall off.
- 24 January 2007 – Citytram prototype 611, while undergoing a trial run, caught fire near Foxhall, causing severe damage to one end of the cab. No-one was injured, but it did not return to Blackpool when repaired.
- Est 2009 - Twin car derailed at tower due to points.
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Headstone from Bispham depot now at Crich
A pre-upgrade tram-stop located on the Promenade
Rigby Road Depot (engineering part)
Centenary class tram (Promenade)
Double-decker Jubilee class tram (Promenade)
Illuminated tram No 736 "HMS Blackpool", at Fleetwood
Balloon tram passing the Norbreck Castle Hotel
Flexity 2 type tram No. 011 at Burlington Road West tram stop
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