Blackpool was the first town in the world to boast an electric street tramway, in 1885. What’s more, it has had trams running through its streets ever since, even though most other cities have abandoned them in favour of buses. Indeed, between 1962 and 1992 Blackpool had the only urban tramway in the UK. The town is justifiably proud of its trams, which still form a highly distinctive part of Blackpool’s character, and the latest fleet of brand new trams carry over 6 million passengers every year, over 12 miles of track, running from Starr Gate, through the neighbouring resort of Cleveleys to Fleetwood. The Blackpool heritage trams still operate from Ridley Road depot and there are regular tours of the depot throughout the summer.
The trams initially took their power from a slot in the ground, known as a conduit. However, the trams’ close proximity to the sea along the promenade meant that this was often subject to flooding, meaning the trams had to be pulled by horses! This problem was eventually overcome in 1898, with the installation of overhead lines. The trams were also moved off the main road and onto the promenade in 1905, which is probably what ensured that the Blackpool tramway stayed open whilst all the others in the UK were closed.
Blackpool’s trams have long given the town a dash of colour and eccentricity, and tram-spotters and transport enthusiasts will find a lot to entertain them, with trams of all shapes and sizes, from many different eras, rumbling their way up and down the beachfront. The most distinctive are probably the handsome balloon cars, commissioned in 1933 and still going strong, with their art deco lighting and green and cream livery. They are among the only double-decker trams in the world, the only others being in Hong Kong (China) and Alexandria (Egypt).
There are also the elegant boat cars, also dating from the 1930’s, and resembling streamlined longboats as they glide along the streets. They are one of the most iconic and unique sights of Blackpool, and the subject of countless tourist photographs!
But the most popular trams of all are the illuminated cars – a collection of tram cars that have been rebuilt as illuminated theme trains, designed to show visitors the best possible view of the world-famous Blackpool illuminations, and to give them the opportunity actually to be part of the light-show! Popular novelty trams, such as the Wild West Train and the Rocket have actually been brought out of retirement, thanks to general demand, public support and donations from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and this most famous of Blackpool attractions continues to delight spectators as much as they did 40 years ago.
Public support has also contributed to the Blackpool Tramcar Preservation Fund, which aims to establish a ‘museum’ tram fleet in Blackpool, to showcase the evolution of the Blackpool tram for the benefit of future visitors. The fund has restored several of Blackpool’s best-loved trams, and looks forward to safeguarding these unique bits of Lancashire’s heritage, so that they can be enjoyed as much by future generations as they are today.
You can pay on-board using either cash or contactless card. The conductor will walk along the carriages and collect fares.
The Blackpool Tram line stretches from Starr Gate in the south (close to Blackpool Airport) to Fleetwood Ferry in the north.
Blackpool Trams operate every day throughout the year. The first tram of the day is generally around 5am and the service ends at around 11.15pm
The journey time on the tram between Blackpool Central Pier to Fleetwood is around 45 minutes.
The Blackpool Tram only goes as far south as Starr Gate although local buses continue to Lytham St Annes at regular intervals from this point.