Did you see the fabulous Platinum Jubilee Tram Parade on Thursday 2 June 2022? This article and photos is thanks to regular VFC contributor Barrie C. Woods who was there to share the celebration.
Platinum Jubilee Tram Parade
Our previous long-term monarch was Queen Victoria, who reigned for an epic 64 years on the throne. A record only recently overhauled by our current Queen Elizabeth, who now celebrates her 70th year. Queen Victoria was three-quarters of the way through her reign in 1885 when the first electric tram astounded the local populace by trundling along Blackpool promenade. Who could have imagined that 137 years later, trams would still be plying their trade.
In 2010, the writing really was on the wall when the existing tram fleet, some dating to the 1930s, were mothballed in the equally aging Rigby Road Depot. At its zenith it housed well over 100 such vehicles. The new order swept through in early April 2012 with the arrival of 16 Flexity 5-car ultra modern units. They’ve served the Fylde Coast well over the past ten years and two more were added to the fleet in 2018. The tram system continues to grow with the latest extension to Blackpool North Station due to be activated later this year.
However rather than a wholesale scrapping programme (thank goodness) the heritage tram fleet was largely retained. Some examples have never operated since 2012 but many have and more are constantly coming on stream. The Heritage Trams are now part of Blackpool Transport Services. To that end on Thursday 2nd June 2022 an amazing fleet of twelve such trams were in action along the seafront. The marvellous parade between Pleasure Beach and Little Bispham was to celebrate our Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Getting ready for the Platinum Jubilee Tram Parade
The official start time for the parade was 14.30 from Pleasure Beach. However prior to that, many hours had been spent at Rigby Road in readiness for the important day. The first tram, Balloon No. 717 from 1934 departed the depot at 10am. It was closely followed by the stalwart Bolton Standard No. 66, the oldest in the parade dating from 1901. The pair ran a few journeys along the system before returning to the depot.
Later in the day, at 13.00 the first open Boat No. 227 emerged along Hopton Road to head north to Central Pier, then reverse southwards to Pleasure Beach. This was the format for the whole fleet with Boat 600 next and the rest of the operational single deckers following. Brush 631, Railcoach 680, Centenary 648, The western locomotive and carriage, 733 & 734, the LED Festooned Trawler 737 and the impressive Frigate 736. The previously mentioned Bolton No. 66 followed with Balloons 723, 717 and 707 completing the line up. The whole fleet being accommodated on the twin loops at Pleasure Beach.
And they’re off!
At exactly 14.30 the first of the convoy moved off, headed by Boat No.227. By this time the crowds were really out in force. The sunny weather had given way to a cloudy but luckily rain-free afternoon for the Platinum Jubilee Tram Parade. Steady progress was achieved with marshals attending to try to keep the crowds at bay. Outside the tower by the Comedy Carpet the convoy halted to allow the onlookers time to appreciate just what they were seeing. And of course to take the inevitable family photos in front of their favourite tram!
At 15.00 the trams moved on, slowing at North Pier where one or two of the Flexity units arriving from Fleetwood were terminated and reversed over the crossover. Once clear of the public and on dedicated track speeds were increased and rapid progress ensued all the way to Little Bispham. The turning loop there was utilised for all the trams, with several pausing on the loop itself prior being given signals to return south.
The day was a tremendous success and a credit to the Blackpool Tram guys and ladies, many of whom gave up their free time to ensure the success of the venture. A fitting celebration to our amazing Queen.
Footnote: Despite Blackpool’s somewhat dubious reputation over many years, the above celebration encapsulates much of the ethos of the town. Of all the well-known seaside holiday locations across the UK, none offer so many free attractions. The Heritage Trams, which run most weeks throughout the year, are just one example. The Illuminations throughout the Autumn period are another. Then there is the annual Air-show, followed by the World Fireworks display over several weeks. Three Piers to explore and many more events.
Barrie C. Woods 3rd June 2022
Photos from a fabulous day!
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