Browse content similar to Blackpool Tram. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Many years ago, when I was working down south, me mum said to me
that she had a dream that one day she'd foresee me driving a tram.
I said, "No way. I'll never be driving a tram. Got no foreseeable future in that."
And here I am, driving a tram. Which is quite unusual, really.
Blackpool is still Britain's most popular resort.
17 million people a year indulge in the delights of its Golden Mile, 3 piers and famous tower
monuments to another age.
Blackpool's motto is "Progress".
100 years ago, the town was a pioneer in the leisure industry,
creating dramatic attractions with structural steel and electricity.
By combining these two, Blackpool created an electric tramway, once the talk of the town.
They were very beautiful and exciting to ride in because they were so very comfortable.
They rode like a light railway.
Everybody's got very happy memories of trams, especially older people.
Not one person has a sad memory.
It's things you enjoyed. They met boyfriends or girlfriends on the trams.
One got engaged on a tram.
Everybody's got very, very happy memories.
It's part of our history. It's Blackpool, it's trams.
The main attraction isn't the illuminations, but the trams. Everybody wants to ride on a tram.
Trams are a necessity.
Not a dinosaur. People keep things going which are no good to anybody.
Trams need to be used all the time.
Blackpool still has 75 of them.
As his mother predicted, Steve Cann is one of their regular drivers.
-Go to the Tower.
If you've got a good crew we have two conductors on double-deck trams
it can really make a good day.
If they're fast with the bell, it makes my job a lot easier.
They have a laugh and a joke with the customers.
I have a laugh with them. We all get on great. Really well.
If you have a bad crew, it can make a really bad day, a long day.
If you've got miserable ones. And there's plenty of them around.
We used to have this well-known character called Ronnie Crossley.
On the Fleetwood tram, he had his coffee-pot and shaving equipment.
He had a shave, going to Fleetwood. And his coffee.
We miss people like that. Characters.
There's not many of them left.
You have this... How can I put it? A relationship with trams.
There's character in the trams. On the buses, there's no character.
On here, it's a completely different world.
A world close in spirit to the railway.
A world of traditions, things built to last.
A complex network of rails, poles, wires,
and all the other costly hardware needed to provide the service that only trams can give.
One thing every tourist in Blackpool knows
is that if you stand waiting for a tram, a tram will come along.
Waiting for a bus, you're not sure if you're part of a working system.
With the tramway, you can be sure the vehicles will come along.
On the bus side, it's different.
It's all plastic, metal. There's no wood, there's no teak. There's no character in them at all.
They won't last half the time
as what these old Balloons'll last.
With the old trams, it's the smell, the noise. It's completely different.
The locals call Blackpool's double-deckers "Balloons".
When fully inflated, they carry 100 passengers and keep both conductors busy.
They were designed in 1934.
In 50 years of service, they have outlived six generations of buses.
But immortality has its drawbacks.
What we don't like about trams is, for the driver, they're uncomfortable.
They're difficult to see out of.
Windscreen wipers aren't up to it.
There's no windscreen washers. That makes it even worse.
We get lots of wind and rain and salt off the sea.
Passenger trams date back to the mid-19th century.
Riding on smooth rails, trams were less bumpy than other transport,
but horsepower limited their speed.
The breakthrough came in 1885,
when the first electric tramway opened on Blackpool Promenade.
Open-top trams took power from a rail in a trough between the tracks,
but this quickly filled with sand.
In 1899, an overhead wire system was introduced. It became standard.
The earliest tram I remember was the Dreadnought,
which I rode quite a lot as a child.
My mother had a very cheery mongrel.
A Yorkshire terrier type, I think he was.
He had a habit of jumping on the Dreadnought, riding up to Talbot Square,
having a look round, and coming back on another Dreadnought on his own.
The conductors knew him. They didn't charge him.
Doris Thompson's family started Blackpool's Pleasure Beach in 1890.
My father had been in America. He was interested in amusement parks,
which were then becoming popular.
He decided to come back and start one here.
He had his eyes on Blackpool. It was an up-and-coming place.
Of course, he realised the potential,
with the heavy industry round about, and the mills.
They took their holidays at different times.
And they all came to Blackpool. You had a continuous stream of people.
So he decided this was the place.
And they all came by electric tramcar.
The beauty of the system was its simplicity.
Electric current, picked up from an overhead wire,
passed down through a controller to motors, and out via the rails.
No clutch, gearbox, fuel or exhaust.
Perfect road transport. Soon everybody copied it.
By 1927, there were 14,000 trams in Britain, giving mobility to the masses.
Fares were low. People could afford to ride to work, no longer tied to living near the factory.
Towns grew and spread as suburbs developed along the tram-routes.
Blackpool's system expanded inland to serve the town,
and north to the port of Fleetwood.
It was a marvellous way of getting around.
And I rode them regularly. So did everybody.
We didn't have cars then. We hadn't a car until after the First World War.
But even after the War, motoring was still for the better-off.
With no competition, trams weren't modernised.
Conditions were basic. Open ends were draughty. Springs were hard.
But they were cheap, and as mass movers of people they seemed unbeatable.
By the '30s, there was competition.
Motor cars were getting cheaper.
Buses were developing, with pneumatic tyres, enclosed bodies and upholstered seats.
They overtook the trams in popularity.
Buses needed no special track to run on. Soon they were replacing entire tramway systems.
In 1933, Blackpool appointed a new general manager, Walter Luff.
He persuaded Mac Marshall of the English Electric Company to rush through a new design.
The result was the railcoach, a revolutionary machine with all the comforts of a motorcoach.
It was unveiled in Blackpool at a conference of transport managers in 1933.
The transport managers included Alfred Baker of Birmingham.
He said, "Sorry, Mac. It's 20 years too late."
Everywhere, tramways were beginning to be abandoned.
By 1933, 66 systems had been closed.
Plans for closure in Birmingham, London and Manchester were in hand.
But Luff got Blackpool Corporation to order a large fleet
of the new designs, including the Balloon
a double-deck railcoach, in which 100 passengers could ride in comfort.
When the new trams were delivered,
they made an impact on visitors, because nobody had seen a tram like this.
Traditional trams were iron-clad, curved staircase vehicles,
which were not pleasant to ride on.
But when they came on a Blackpool tram, they found it was so luxurious
they were tempted to wipe their feet and remove their hats.
People were so enraptured by the sight of these trams
that they used to let the old cars go past and wait for a new one to come.
Walter Luff had given Blackpool the best fleet of trams in Britain,
but most towns were less fortunate.
Everywhere, the rails were being torn up or buried under tarmac.
Confirmation that trams were really on the way out came in 1952.
'One day, not long ago, London had to say goodbye to her last tram.
'Sometime, some day, it had to come.
'Some were glad to see the back of them. Some of us were sorry.
'We'd be missing a friendly sight,
'though not a silent one.
'One last week to clatter through the streets
'streets that'll never be the same now the tram has gone.'
After this, it was downhill all the way.
By the 1960s, the bus was in almost total control.
Trams were confined to Blackpool and Glasgow. But not for long.
'The rail-bound tram is a great contributor to traffic congestion.'
As more and more cars are used and parked in the streets,
so traffic congestion increases.
'Now we are replacing an increasing number of these tram services
'by large-capacity double-decker buses.
'For passengers, the bus has many advantages over the tram.
'There are advantages for operators, too.'
By 1962, only Blackpool was left.
DORIS THOMPSON: I'm glad we kept ours.
It would have been a great mistake to do away with the ones on the Promenade.
It's nice that they were the pioneers.
They kept them. Others let them go.
We didn't make that mistake.
Even here, there were cutbacks.
The inland routes were abandoned.
They continued the service to Fleetwood.
But most people regarded them as just an amusement.
Wouldn't be Blackpool without trams.
Everybody goes on a tram when they come here.
It's like getting a stick of rock or wearing a "Kiss Me Quick" hat.
If it has a tram on it, people are fanatical over it. Pictures, kits.
Anything to do with a tram, they love. That is what they're after.
Boys come in our shop.
They just can't wait to get a tram kit, or get on the tram.
They tell you which tram they've been on, what it was like,
how it had wooden doors. They love it all.
Not any more. I used to do, when I were young.
Come on, love. Get off.
See you, now. Don't come back(!)
We were the first town in the whole world with electric tramcars,
and we're the last one in England to still have them.
Environmentally, they're very good. They don't pollute the atmosphere.
The reason that we did have tramcars
was it enabled the town to grow so fast.
The tramway system is clearly Blackpool's overground underground.
It moves vast numbers of people.
In fact, six million people travelled by tram last year.
It's a place that devotes itself into making people feel at home,
giving people a good time.
It's a place that was built for fun.
The tramway system has emerged as possibly the greatest fun ride in England.
They're a bit of moving architecture.
The fact that they rattle along and they're old
means that they're not just transport,
they've got romance about them.
Operators should charge extra to go on historic trams.
I'd like more old trams brought back.
When I ran the Civic Trust, we suggested they bought historic trams
from Argentina, Budapest, Moscow.
We'd have a living, working tram museum,
to give people a sense of adventure and fun.
We're not a museum system.
We're a transport operator which happens to use old vehicles.
Our role is in public transport.
There are different markets, some of which conflict with each other.
You've got locals who use the tram all year round and travel each day.
You've got tourists who want to go to a particular place.
And you've got others just going for a ride.
Blackpool is the only open tram-track there is in Britain.
People come here on holiday
and don't realise trams are there.
If they hear a tram, they don't think it's a tram coming towards them.
They tend to get in the way a lot.
So we have to be on our toes.
I think if people realised that driving the trams is very difficult...
They think they can just stop on a sixpence. They can't.
It does take time for a tram to stop, like a train.
One casualty was Coronation Street villain Alan Bradley,
who chased Rita Fairclough to Blackpool.
'Rita was walking along in a semi-trance. She didn't see him.'
Get in the car!
He approached her and bundled her into the car.
She fought him and escaped.
Come back, you stupid bitch!
'She ran across the Promenade.
'A tram just missed her...
'and unfortunately hit Alan as he crossed in front of it.'
It goes to show that you should be aware of trams. They are dangerous.
At first, we weren't pleased, because of safety.
But Granada said they'd make it "a nice death".
People wrote in saying, "Can we ride on the Alan Bradley death tram?"
I don't know if that's healthy.
Healthy for business, perhaps, but hardly fair to trams.
In fact, Alan was eight times more likely to have been hit by a car.
The Blackpool Transport workshop keeps trams going.
Britain may have invented the tram,
but tram engineering is an almost forgotten art in this country.
So Blackpool must do all the work.
Even rebuilding the trucks that contain the body and motors.
When the trucks enter the workshop, they are absolutely filthy.
We have them steam-cleaned.
They're brought in, stripped right down.
All the nuts, bolts, bushes, pins are taken off and discarded
if they're too bad to be re-used.
The motor is taken across to the electricians to be checked over.
And tyres... The old tyres will be burnt off and new tyres refitted.
Steel tyres can last 150,000 miles.
Each tram has eight of them to be replaced.
It's not like a car factory,
where every day you put a wheel onto the same position.
Here, you know more or less what you'll be doing, but it's varied.
We've got to improvise a lot.
We've got to save a lot of parts that we take from other trams that we are renovating.
Sometimes we have to rob Peter to pay Paul.
Most spares are out of stock. When 50-year-old parts break,
the skills of the blacksmith are in demand.
The blacksmiths... Many years ago,
we used to have five. We're down to one now.
They are very hard to obtain.
He's very versatile. He's knocking bushes out of a set of bogey trucks,
he's bending steel tubing to make new pantographs with,
he's assembling the pantographs.
He's very, very versatile.
I think, in the '30s, this really was a revolutionary design.
A streamlined look, typical of the '30s, comes across in the vehicles.
The livery changes. Sometimes it accentuates the streamlining.
Sometimes it plays it down. Ideas about the look of vehicles change.
Although you bring in adaptations and improvements as you go along,
you're still working with something that's getting older.
Purists may say that we're altering the basic character.
The average man won't notice that character.
The person travelling on our trams
is looking for transport from where he is to where he wants to go.
For local people on Tuesdays that means Fleetwood market.
This is not just a fun ride, it's a link between town centres,
going through Bispham and Cleveleys before reaching its destination.
It defies the laws of town planning and the lessons of history
by taking to the streets, as trams and traffic battle it out for road space.
Now the rules of engagement are changing.
The love affair with the car may be waning.
Traffic jams, pollution and fuel costs are tarnishing its image.
The once despised tram may yet win.
For it can escape from the streets to be more like a railway train.
Unhindered by traffic and taking priority at road crossings,
it still demonstrates its ability to beat the bus and the car.
We're on the edge of an important revolution in public transport,
and not just in light rail.
It's a revolution which needs commitment from politicians and the public.
We need a culture which says,
"I'll go by car when I have to, but I'll go by bus or tram when I can."
Light rail's going to be a very important part of that change.
The way that traffic congestion is developing,
we can't carry on building roads.
We need new ways of doing it.
Transport planners are looking at trams.
They call them metro, light rail, light rapid transit.
It's the same idea. One city did more than look.
40 years after scrapping its trams, Manchester is bringing them back.
Metrolink is the first of Britain's new generation of tramways.
When trams obstructed the traffic, we threw them off the streets.
Now streets are closed to cars,
while modern supertrams avenge the ghosts of their ancestors.
More than 40 towns are rediscovering the tram. Blackpool is ahead of the field.
We are stewards of a business passed on from people
who were deciding in the '30s
about the design of a tram network.
Many people have questioned it.
Every ten years, somebody says, "Did we do the right thing?
"Did Walter Luff make the right choices?"
But many of the decisions he made have been proved to be right.
It's very interesting that here we are in the '90s now,
and these 60-year-old vehicles are still operating today,
long after vehicles which were set to replace them
have gone to the scrap-yard.
The Town Council has had this long love affair with electricity,
ever since the first street-lighting system, the first tramway system.
The town's motto is "Progress".
And this affection for electricity
has led to a tremendous growth in Blackpool.
We've hit problems recently.
When you are one of the first people to be inventive
and bring out electricity,
you have an ageing infrastructure.
The Council is now faced with a bill of £6 million
to relay cabling for the tramway and illumination systems.
The original cabling was laid almost 100 years ago. It's pretty shot at.
What do we do? Do we go in for a diesel tram or an electric tram?
I'm happy to say that the Council has said,
"Look, we're going to have electricity or nothing at all."
Everybody looked upon Blackpool as a joke because we still had trams.
Now it seems to be all coming back.
People used to look upon us as the only tramway in Britain.
Now we're not very happy about it
because Manchester and Sheffield's are getting theirs.
But we're ahead of everyone.
We was there first and we're still there. That's the main thing.
Subtitles by John Macdonald BBC Scotland 1992