Published: 30th June 2014
There are two major ‘family’ open days for transport enthusiasts in the northwest on the same weekend. First up is the Direct Rail Services (DRS) Crewe Depot Charity Open Day on July 19 at their Gresty Bridge depot in Crewe.
This is the annual Charity Open Day and admission costs £5 on the door which will be donated to a DRS charity. The event is always popular with diesel fans and this year the event will be the first time for many enthusiasts that they will be able to get close to a new Class 68 locomotive which will be on display. There will also be Class 20, 37,47 and 57 locomotives present from the DRS fleet.
This is a rare chance to look round a modern working railway depot, all of which are normally under tight security. Please note Gresty Road Depot is a short walk away from Crewe station. Pathfinder Railtours is operating a charter train to the event from Eastleigh, Salisbury and Bath.
The following day it is the Fleetwood Festival of Transport on July 20 which usually attracts over 200 transport exhibits drawing an estimated 60,000 transport fans annually.
The exhibits range from steam road vehicles and fire engines alongside vintage cars and bicycles. The added bonus is that Fleetwood is on the northern end of the Blackpool tram system which enables vintage trams to take part in the festival.
Fleetwood’s roads are closed to traffic for the event which is staged entirely on hard-standing areas. There are several display classes, Special Interest Vehicles, Buses, Coaches and Commercials and Cars, Motor Cycles and Bicycles. Vehicles will be on display from 10am.
There will be a pair of vintage trams on static display which should be the Brush built "Railcoach" No. 631, a green and cream single-decker tram. Blackpool Corporation Transport modernised its fleet in the mid 1930s creating one of the most modern streamlined tram fleets anywhere in the world and No. 631 was one of these built in 1937. This tramcar was restored recently and was returned to something like its original condition as part of the overhaul.
The second tram scheduled for display is Princess Alice built in 1934 as car number 706 also carrying a green and cream livery. This tram has an open top deck which offers great views of the coast as it travels along the Blackpool system but leaves passengers open to rain and overhanging foliage! This example was built by English Electric at Preston and in the war years, some of the fleet received roofs.
Princess Alice was involved in a collision in 1980 at the Pleasure Beach and for many years was stored while a decision was made concerning its fate. But when plans were being made to celebrate the centenary of the Blackpool tram system five years later, it was suggested that the car be repaired and at the same time reconvert it back to its 1934 appearance.
When the project was completed in 1985, Princess Alice, The Duchess of Gloucester was asked to lend her name to the vehicle and the nameplate is still carried today.
As with many trams, Princess Alice has a neat seating arrangement so that whatever direction it is travelling in, the seats always face forward if required. This is achieved by swinging the seat backs across the seat base, simple! These are known as swingover seats.
A vintage tram service will be in operation between Fisherman's Walk and Thornton Gate using English Electric built ‘Open Boat’ cars No. 600 and 230 which are single decker open top tramcars. These were built by English Electric in Preston in 1934 and five have survived with Blackpool Transport although not all are operational, the intention is that they will all eventually be restored and operated at some stage.
If it rains, then more suitable trams be used, with roofs! Most of Blackpools tram services are run by modern Bombardier built so-called ‘Flexibility’ trams, but some 1930s stock is still used at busy times on regular services. These have been modified for disabled access making them DDA travel compliant.
Blackpool North Pier tram stop is a few minutes walk from Blackpool North station served by Northern Rail and Transpennine Express services. This station is worth a look at before it is electrified and still has many old fashioned semaphore signals – grab some photos there before they all pass into history.