Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Starr Gate

Having given Blackpool's new trams a year to get established, I made it to the town yesterday, on the last day of my Rail Rover adventures. What a beautiful day it was too. Blackpool at its best!

This photo is of 008 and 001 at Starr Gate where a new depot has been constructed. The tram on the right was the first to be delivered from Germany. There are sixteen of the trams in service. They are Flexity2 trams, built by Bombadier at its light rail manufacturing base in Bautzen. They came overland through Europe, shipped to Hull and brought to Blackpool by low loader. You can see how they were offloaded onto the tracks in this video, here.

Blackpool was the first customer for the Flexity2 trams, and so was where the 'world launch' of the product took place on September 8, 2011, see here. The new trams began working on April 4, 2012, with the 05.00 service to Fleetwood. Apparently the weather was appalling, and the driver had to stop frequently to remove debris from the tracks. Packed with enthusiasts and the press, the tram derailed on windblown sand on a sharp curve in Fleetwood. It was not the most auspicious start for the new trams, but things have been better since. I was certainly much impressed yesterday.

My previous visit to see the old trams is here. Heritage trams can run on the new system and can be seen on holidays and special days. One enthusiast's video record from May this year is here.

010 changing lines at Fisherman's Walk, Fleetwood. Each tram is in five sections, with flexible connections. The capacity of each tram is 222 - with 74 seated and 148 standing! Each tram operates with a driver and two (!) conductors. Stops have raised platforms and wheelchairs and buggies can wheel straight on to the trams.

014 at Fleetwood Ferry, the north end of the line.

There's always the one problem with tramways, that is, if there's an accident or a failure, the service grinds to a halt with the following vehicles unable to progress. This actually happened yesterday morning with an ambulance called to attend a passenger on one of the trams. This had a knock-on effect effect for some hours but enabled me to see the trams at their most crowded!

Away from the trams, there was time yesterday for a bit of culture, and a walk along the prom! This is one of the contemporary sculpture works on the Great Promenade Show, a collection of public art that was commissioned when the South Promenade's seawall and flood defences were rebuilt. It is called Glam Rocks. Peter Freeman is the artist. "Inspired by Las Vegas and the Blackpool Illuminations, three large pebble-like modelled shapes glitter after dark, as hundreds of fibre optic light points on their surface slowly change colour and sparkle."

The large glitter ball in the background is called They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and is by Michael Trainor and The Art Department. This rotating ball is 6m in diameter, covered in some 47,000 mirrors. The name comes from the 1969 film about a ballroom marathon, and of course reflects Blackpool's association with dance.

Photos © Skip Cottage

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