Blackpool Redux

Wednesday 20th July to Tuesday 26th July 2022

Old meets new at North Pier, Blackpool – 13/07/2022


As we mentioned in our last blog entry, Yoshi and I spent a few days in the North West a couple of weeks ago when we took the opportunity to take a trip on a heritage Blackpool Tram. The Blackpool Tramway runs from Blackpool to Fleetwood, originally opening in 1885 and is one of the oldest electric tramways in the world. It is operated by Blackpool Transport (BT) and runs for approximately 11 miles. The last time I visited Blackpool was probably in 2007 when David Tennant, who was at the time playing the Tenth Doctor in BBC TV’s “Doctor Who”, switched on the illuminations. This was just prior to the announcement that the UK Government had agreed to the joint BT and Blackpool Council bid for funding towards the upgrade of the tram track network, with £60.3m coming from Government coffers. The remainder of the £85.3m cost came from Blackpool Council and Lancashire County Council which contributed @ £12.5m each. The Government’s funding allowed the entire tramway to be upgraded with 16 modern and accessible Bombardier Flexity 2 trams being introduced in 2012 replacing the traditional fleet of ageing cars.

A number of the old trams which I was familiar with on my previous visits have been retained with some having been lovingly restored to form a Heritage Fleet and modified, widened Balloon trams as part of the main fleet. The depot at Starr Gate houses the Flexity 2 trams with Rigby Road Depot, near Manchester Square, housing the traditional trams. A great deal of effort has been made to ensure that the traditional trams have a future in Blackpool and I was pleased to see one on a run out as we arrived in Fleetwood for our stay at the North Euston Hotel. Thinking perhaps these only ran at weekends, I asked a driver of one of the modern trams about the heritage fleet and was directed to a website dedicated to Blackpool Heritage Trams. From here, Yoshi and I booked a one hour promenade tour which picked up from North Pier on its way to Bispham before heading back all the way to the Pleasure Beach in the south of Blackpool before turning once more and returning via the Golden Mile, dropping us off where we started. I was delighted to see that the tram car operating our trip was one of the recognisable and iconic Balloon cars, so named because of their rounded streamlined appearance, in traditional Blackpool 1940s “Wartime” green and cream livery.

Yoshi waits to board the tram for his Blackpool promenade tour – 13/07/2022

The Balloon trams were originally called “Luxury Dreadnought” cars and had been commissioned in 1933 by Walter Luff, the controller of the Blackpool network, in a bid to modernise the tramway’s fleet which had been working the tracks since the early years. 27 trams were constructed by English Electric between 1934 and 1935, the first being delivered on 10th December 1934. They were built with central doors and stairs, with a maximum capacity of 94 passengers. Half-drop windows provided ventilation with Art Deco curved glass electric lighting providing illumination. The initial thirteen were open-topped and the remaining fourteen were enclosed, these having sliding roof windows and thermostatically-controlled radiators.

Yoshi after enjoying a snooze on Balloon tram No. 700 – 13/07/2022

Between 2009 and 2012, Balloon car No. 700, which was to provide transportation for our journey, along with sisters 711, 713, 719 and 720 were modernised so that they could continue to operate in service following the refurbishment of the whole tramway to light rail standards. New widened doorways were fitted to allow more accessibility, with driver operated doors which fit to the new platforms built at tram stops for the modern Bombardier trams. Fixed seats and new passenger information displays were also fitted to match the new trams. Speedometers were also retrofitted to the driving consoles, which seems like a very good idea to me!

Yoshi considers driving off in Car No. 700 – 13/07/2022

We really enjoyed our trip on the heritage tram, and thoroughly recommend the experience should you find yourself in Blackpool. You can join us on our tour of Blackpool promenade as well as view some of the Flexity 2 trams in our video below:

Yoshi takes time to check out Flexity 2 tram No. 010 at Fleetwood Ferry – 11/07/2022

For a reminder of what it used to be like, here’s a video of Blackpool Trams from October 1999, featuring a brief glimpse of some of the famous illuminated trams:

Dorset Coast Express

Thursday 21st July saw another steam excursion to Weymouth subjected to alterations, this time because of the dry weather and subsequent risk of line side fires, the planned steam motive power was replaced by two Class 47 diesel locomotives. Fingers crossed all goes to plan for the next scheduled The Railway Touring Company Dorset Coast Express in August!

Class 47 No. 47772 ‘Carnforth TMD’ leads 1Z82 0845 London Victoria to Weymouth past Poole carriage sidings – 21/07/2022
Class 47 No. 47813 with the return working of the Dorset Coast Express racing through Hamworthy – 21/07/2022

Around Taunton

Video screen grab of Class 47 No.’s D1935 / 47805 ‘Roger Hosking MA 1925-2013’ and D1944 / 47501 ‘Craftsman’ power the “Cornish Riviera Statesman” rail tour up Whiteball bank – 23/07/2022

Saturday saw Yoshi and I in the Taunton area as we went to see a couple of rail tours and hoped to catch celebrity High Speed Train power car No. 43384 which has been outshopped in a retro livery by CrossCountry Trains. First on our radar was Statesman Rail’s “Cornish Riviera Statesman” working Derby to Penzance and double headed by Brush Type 4 Class 47 No.’s D1935 / 47805 ‘Roger Hosking MA 1925-2013’ and D1944 / 47501 ‘Craftsman’, both resplendent in British Rail two-tone green livery. I just had time to set up for a video capture when the train passed by several minutes ahead of schedule, meaning my camera was still asleep in its bag. Also running ahead of schedule was The Railway Touring Company operated “The West Somerset Express”, which like their tour to Weymouth a couple of days previously had been advertised as being steam hauled, but were deputised with West Coat Railways Class 47 No.’s 47813 and 47772 ‘Carnforth TMD’ again in top and tail formation. This tour originated from London Paddington and was destined for Minehead on the West Somerset Railway (WSR) – the longest heritage railway in the UK. On arrival at Bishops Lydeard, the first WSR station after leaving the main line, the Class 47’s were replaced with a pair of steam locomotives to take the train forward. We saw Great Western Railway (GWR) Inspired 2-6-0 9351 Class WSR Mogul No. 9351 and GWR 7800 Class Manor No. 7822 ‘Foxcote Manor’ hauling the train nearing Crowcombe Heathfield producing some fine acoustics. You can follow our day in the video below, which also includes some CrossCountry Trains and GWR Castle Class HST’s:

CrossCountry Trains (XC) recently outshopped Class 43/3 No. 43384 from Plymouth Laira Depot in a revised High Speed Train livery, known as Intercity Executive, first carried back in the 1980’s. At the time the Intercity yellow and grey livery replaced the original blue and yellow colour scheme that had been used since the introduction of the fleet. CrossCountry has confirmed that the repaint comes as part of marking the 40th anniversary of the introduction of the InterCity 125 by British Rail on to the North East to South West route. Other celebrations include a special Railway Benefit Fund charitable XC HST rail tour on the 27th September 2022 travelling from Leeds to the Severn Valley Railway including a run along the heritage railway itself. An HST power car will be named at Kidderminster to mark the anniversary.

Class 43/3 No. 43384 is seen leading on 1V52 0658 Edinburgh Waverley to Plymouth as it nears Creech St. Michael – 23/07/2022

Eastleigh Grid

Class 56 No. 56081 approaches Shawford working 5O07 1049 Leicester L.I.P. to Eastleigh East Yard hauling Arlington Fleet barrier vehicle’s No. 64664 ‘Liwet’ (Ex Class 508 DMSO from unit 508207) and 64707
‘Labezerin’ (Ex Class 508 DMSO from unit 508116) ex EMU Barrier coach set T7 – 24/07/2022

Yoshi and I were busy with our chores on Sunday morning when we discovered GBRf Class 56 No. 56081 was on its way from Leicester to Eastleigh with barrier vehicles in order to collect Network Rail’s European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS) lab train No. 313121 – this was too good an opportunity to miss and we put down the duster and polish and jumped in the car and set off for Shawford. This is more than likely our final opportunity to see this particular Class 56 in its current form as it has been earmarked for conversion as part of the Class 69 programme.

On our way back home, we had a quick look in at Eastleigh Works and saw the remaining four cars of Wessex Electric Class 442 EMU No. 442412 had been shunted around and were now visible adjacent to the road. Based on the British Rail Mark 3 carriage as used in HST sets, the 442’s were introduced as part of the Bournemouth to Weymouth electrification programme in the late 1980’s and, in my view at least, were the best EMU to have run in the UK.

GBRf Class 73 No. 73141 ‘Charlotte’ at Eastleigh Works – 24/07/2022
The remaining four coaches of Class 442 No. 442412 in faded “Express” livery at Eastleigh Works – 24/07/2022

701 On Test

Class 701 No. 701017 passes the site of the former Boscombe railway station working 5Q52 1724 Staines Up Loop to Eastleigh TRSMD via Bournemouth – 25/07/2022

Another week passes by and Class 701’s are still running test trains to Bournemouth and Poole prior to their introduction into revenue earning service. This week we went to take a look at the site of the former railway station at Boscombe which was located between Bournemouth Central and Pokesdown. The station opened in 1897 and served The Royal Victoria Hospital and the shopping area around the Royal Arcade. Boscombe had a goods yard which received traffic for despatch from a large area of Bournemouth along with a coal depot and sidings. The substantial brick built buildings were demolished a few years after closure in 1965. The site now houses business units and threatening signs about unofficial parking. The road bridge which goes over the railway at this point has had footbridges added to each side and these have very high fencing installed for safety reasons.

Access Point Information, Station Approach, Boscombe – July 2022
Station Approach, Boscombe – July 2022
Station Approach, Boscombe – July 2022
Class 701 No. 701017 was this weeks unit on test as seen in this video – 25/07/2022

Hamworthy Branch

More activity on the mothballed Hamworthy Branch this week as temporary traffic lights were put in place at the crossing on Ashmore Avenue on Tuesday 26th July. Road / rail vehicles were also in evidence along the branch moving ballast. Sleepers and sections of track have also been marked up, possibly for replacement. Network Rail have successfully applied for a road closure permit on Lake Road, presumably to enable work to be carried out on the railway bridge which is located there.

Pressure washing Ashmore Avenue crossing on the Hamworthy Branch – 26/07/2022
We arrived just too late for a decent shot of a road / rail vehicle working on the Hamworthy Branch at Hamworthy station, but we thought we’d share this anyway! 26/07/2022

Weymouth Railway Heritage Trail

In the past week or so, new signage has popped up around Weymouth on the route of the former Weymouth Harbour Tramway which last saw use in 1999 and was dug up by the local council in an act of vandalism in 2020/21 with most of the track being removed at this time. With no sense of irony Weymouth Town Council, Dorset Council and South Western Railway have installed information boards celebrating Weymouth’s unique railway history.

The remodelled station forecourt at Weymouth – July 2022
Weymouth Railway Heritage Trail information board ‘The Station’ – July 2022
Weymouth Railway Heritage Trail information board ‘The Track’ – July 2022
Weymouth Railway Heritage Trail information board ‘The Loop’ – July 2022
Weymouth Railway Heritage Trail information board ‘The Quay’ – July 2022

This weeks “The Railway Dog” was mostly written to the sounds of Faeland, Hollow Coves, The Teardrop Explodes and Sibelius Symphony No. 5. Thanks for visiting. Comments and corrections are, as ever, always welcome and we really appreciate it when you point out typos or grammatical errors. We’ll be back next week, we hope you’ll join us.

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