Scottish Tram Gets New Lease Of Life In Blackpool

Paisley Tram

The Blackpool Tramway might be shiny and new at the moment and many are looking forward to its extension to meet trains at Blackpool North railway station, but the resort’s tram heritage has not been forgotten. A dedicated heritage fleet team has been formed and is going from strength to strength in securing these historic vehicles’ future and complementing the sixteen state of the art ‘Flexity 2’ trams plying between Starr Gate and Fleetwood.

At one stage it looked as though Government would dismiss Blackpool’s tramway as a working museum; now the resort has a modern system and the heritage trams to continue to wow the visitors and tram enthusiasts alike. Links with other working museums such as Beamish and the National Tramway Museum at Crich are already in place.

From this position the heritage fleet team can take a long-term perspective on the fleet’s future needs, tracking what kind of vehicles will best serve the Blackpool market. It can also engage in some extended restoration projects, fitting these in with maintenance and refurbishment as opportunity arises. Already it’s clear that open top vehicles are in demand during the good weather; a vehicle with an open top deck and an enclosed downstairs saloon has to be extremely useful.

The recent acquisition of former Paisley tram 16 is a case in point. Following the vehicle being initially restored by being stripped into its component parts, it has been stored in the Glasgow bus museum at Bridgeton, in the ownership of the Scottish International Tramway Association (SITA). This tram is a very rare survivor from the early part of the 20th century (built 1904) and on completion will balance the preponderance of 1930s vehicles in the Blackpool fleet. Having been taken into the Glasgow fleet in 1923 as number 1016, it was cut down to a single-deck format so that it could fit under a low bridge, which means an interesting restoration project if it’s going to be turned back into a double-decker.

Thanks go to SITA for making 16/1016 available for restoration and use in Blackpool. Thanks also go to the late Brian Longworth’s foresight in saving this tram. It was withdrawn in 1949 when few would have valued it, so the fact that any vehicles from that time have survived is a miracle really.

There’s a lot of beauty in these older vehicles and while maybe not as ergonomic as the modern trams, they are practical and well designed for the conditions of their day. Trams led to some quite radical changes in the urban landscape as people could live further from work. It’s understood that the heritage trams are effectively coach built and are therefore all unique. It might be stretching it to say that each is a work of art, but they are not far off. Given the future process to restore 16/1016, I’m saying that on completion it will be a work of art and one that’s going to be out there working for all to enjoy, rather than stuck in a gallery.

This vehicle is so rare that an artist’s impression of what it might look like has had to be prepared. A colour version will be done when the team’s decided whether the tram will be finished in Glasgow green or Paisley tawny.

After 16/1016’s arrival on 3 December 2016, the plan so far is to schedule work over two years, providing the opportunity to follow its progress back to the rails. Dedicated colleagues at the Glasgow end had prepared the parts for transit, so big thanks to them. Once in the depot the parts were given the once over to determine the best way forward. Here’s looking forward to an excellent launch party for what is going to be an iconic vehicle. Blackpool will be calling all west coast Scottish visitors in particular to come for a ride on ‘their’ tram. Watch this space for updates!

If you would like to contribute to this tram’s restoration think about visiting the heritage tram team’s website for full details of how you can donate.

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    I have worked in the housing and transport professions for several local authorities, specialising in policy, strategy preparation and bid writing. Having always had an interest in film, the visual arts in general, theatre, music and lterature, I thought it would be good to combine the writing experience with these interests to contribute to altBlackpool. In addition to writing, my hobbies include watercolour and pastel painting, photography, woodwork, cycling and vegetable gardening.

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