Toronto streetcars in Blackpool?

Readers will please observe the question mark at the end of the post title. But this is not merely my imagination at work, I promise.

I was browsing BBC Lancashire’s page tonight when, as happens from time to time, I was rewarded to find a tram-related story: “Row over tram museum plan in former Fleetwood depot.” In short, it seems a difference of opinion has developed between those who would restore the former Copse Road tramway depot as a tram heritage facility and the local authority, Wyre Council, over plans for a £1.5m waste centre adjacent to the tram shed.

I don’t wish to downplay this development, which could signal a major hurdle for the tram backers to overcome. In fact, realising how little I knew of the proposal I started researching the plan, and Friends of Fleetwood Trams. That’s when I stumbled on something remarkable: This 22 October 2011 Blackpool Gazette story about a broader plan to preserve trams not just at Copse Road but “at three centres in the town.” Said article included the following artist’s rendition of one such tram preservation centre, at the Orient Building:

What have we here? Exposed brick. Towering beams. Broad expanses of glass and natural light. In short, classic industrial chic: The ideal setting for a museum dedicated to vintage technology. Oh, and yeah, a couple of Toronto streetcars.

That’s right. They’re facing the wrong direction, mind — for single-ended North American streetcars — but they’re a pair of Canadian Light Rail Vehicles, alright. The bizarre colours don’t hide that fact.

Why are they depicted there? The short answer is that I don’t know yet. I kept surfing to learn more.  The most tantalising possibility came from this 5 October, 2011 article in Fleetwood Today:

The proposed centre – previously described as a museum – is planned to house six vintage vehicles from Blackpool Transport’s stock, with further proposals to bring an additional three or four tramcars to Fleetwood from overseas.

Toronto certainly counts as overseas, though I have no other evidence that Friends of Fleetwood Trams are looking to Canada. As I have recently written about, however, the city’s unique fleet of CLRVs and ALRVs is coming due for replacement — as luck would have it by Bombardier Flexity trams, just as we are seeing in Blackpool.

CLRVs beside the seaside? Intriguing indeed. How these single-ended trams built for left-hand operation would fit into any plans for heritage operation is a little mystifying, but stranger things have happened.

Any information would be most warmly appreciated.

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This entry was posted in Canada: LRT/Streetcars, UK: Heritage, UK: LRT/Trams. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Toronto streetcars in Blackpool?

  1. Andrew Batty says:

    There is also a significant problem with this idea with Toronto’s track gauge being 1495mm and Blackpool’s 1435mm (standard gauge). The reason, according to Wikipedia, is that standard gauge did not exist in North America in 1861 when the first Toronto streetcars were introduced. This gauge was chosen to enable horse drawn carts to run inside the tracks.

    • DuPuis says:

      Andrew,

      Hello, and thanks for your comment. Re-gauging streetcars for use elsewhere has been a common practice over the years. Toronto purchased many PCC cars second-hand from other cities with other gauges. These cars were summarily regauged for use in Toronto. Later, ex-Toronto PCC cars were sold for further service in cities which, again, operated to different gauges — Philadelphia, notably, uses an even wider gauge than Toronto. Thus, some PCC cars built for service in Birmingham and Kansas City would have run on three different gauges (standard, Toronto and Philadelphia) over their service lives. And indeed, in recent years rebuilt Toronto PCCs have gone on to serve at heritage operations and museums across North America, invariably regauged in their new homes.

      So it’s technically possible, but would the Fleetwood group go to the trouble of purchasing single-ended North American cars that would need to be regauged in any event? That seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

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