Ive decided to take a trip back through the archives to 2003. 2003 (also known as the 'year of the twin')was a bad year for the tramway with a severe shortage of drivers / conductors, adding to the already chaotic double decker ban to Fleetwood due to the track condition north of Thornton Gate. At times only the basic Starr Gate - Fleetwood service was in operation even this was extended to take a staggering 75 minutes to travel from one end of the line to another.
This year also saw the demise of Balloons 704, 708, 715, 716 and 717 in need of overhauls. 708 however got a reprieve and remained in service until November 2004, whilst 715 also got a reprieve and is still in service today and should hopefully remain so until at least 2012. 717 has been rebuilt and is now back in service.
There was, however a silver lining, there was a large number of colourful repaints during the year.
I spent a week of my Summer Holiday in Blackpool, From Sunday 28th July – Friday 1st August. This period was during the Double deck ban north of Thornton Gate, which resulted in a large number of single deckers and twin cars in service. Time Traveller takes up the situation at 4pm on the Sunday.
Sunday was a good day weather wise it was warm and Sunny. I had arrived in Blackpool at 4 pm, but driving along the prom, I noticed Boat 602, Vanguard 619 and Sheffield 513 were all on their way back to Depot and it was the last time I saw a boat car all week (in fact it was Tram Sunday 2006 before I saw another boat car) and the last time to see Vanguard 619 until September 2008. The specials were all back in depot early leaving just service cars out after 9pm. The last special I saw on this night was 711 heading from Cabin to Depot at 9pm. The Starr Gate – Fleetwood service was operated by 4 twins, 2 centenaries and 2 brush cars.
On this day that there was not many trams out at all. Blackpool also seemed to be quiet with not a lot of visitors and holiday makers out on the prom. There was probably enough cars out. The 5 balloons seemed to be operating on a shadow Cleveleys service. Last special was seen at about 9:00 with 632 heading to Cabin from the Pleasure Beach. The Fleetwood service consisted of 3 twin cars, 3 Centenaries and 2 brush cars
The weather on the Tuesday was rain, rain and more rain, the market was on at Fleetwood and the Cleveleys service didn't operate. All single deckers headed to Fleetwood in the morning. I caught 643 to Starr Gate then to Fleetwood to make sure I got a seat. There were 8 brush cars, 7 centenary, 3 railcoaches and 6 twin cars were out in the morning including 673+683 on its last day in service as a green and cream tram (complete with leaky roof and windows) prior to a mini overhaul and repaint into Line 11 Metro livery. As the morning turned to afternoon, I headed back to Blackpool on 645 (complete with loud howling motors). In Blackpool, some of the single deckers on specials had been swapped for doubles and were operating on the prom and also to Cleveleys. 633 and 513 were also spotted on the prom. Into the evening and the weather had improved. I was off to a show at the North Pier and whilst standing outside the amusment arcade, we were met with the sight of 68 year old balloon 720 towing 18 year old centenary 641 back to depot minus its pantograph. (Oh how I wish I had my camera with me!!!) Tonight there was the rare sight of some Late evening specials including 721 and 722 from Pleasure beach to Cabin and Bispham respectively to clear the queues at the North Pier following the show ending at 10:30.
Wednesday was a scorcher of a day, there seemed to be a lot of traffic for Cleveleys during the day with a healthy number of balloons in service and a healthy number of single deckers in service as well. At night however it was a totally different story, there were hardly any trams about. I had been at the Pleasure beach and when I came out at 10pm there were large queues at Pleasure Beach so I started walking towards Manchester Square where there were also large queues. After waiting for a while Brush 632 and Brush 623 (both with a capacity of 48) both drove past full up and there was next to no chance of getting on any time soon so I walked back to the Hotel. On the way back, to add insult to injury, I saw both 704 and 709 running back into depot empty while the tramway was busy when it would have been better to have them do a couple of Pleasure Beach - Cabin / Bispham runs to clear the queues. When I got back to the hotel, I saw 677+687 on Fleetwood service passing full to capacity and the next one (675+685) 20 minutes later pass the Imperial full.
Yet again the Cleveleys service didn't run and I stood for over 30 minutes waiting for a tram into Blackpool as 631 which was heading to Starr Gate drove past the stop full to capacity and then 720, 722 and 718 all passed one after the other as specials to Cabin and duly arrived one after the other on the way back to Pleasure Beach empty. Later that day, I travelled on 634 to North Pier and then 678 on my way back to the hotel for dinner and found that this was one of the best journeys of the week as 678 gave an excellent ride. It appears that 678 is in a bad state bodily as it appears to be twisted on the outside and has a wave effect with the cab ends drooping, the body in the right place at the bogies and then drooping in the centre too.
* Trams I was on
If you have any memories or reports from a particular time which you would like to share, please email me