Monday, 10 February 2014

"There's a famous seaside place called Blackpool....."

.....And I decided to go there today as I'd not been for a while, and I fancied a ride on the new tram up to Fleetwood (us old gits can use our bus passes for free tram travel, though there are rumors that this privilege may not last much longer). I traveled courtesy of Northern Rail from Alderley Edge, changing at Stockport and Preston, to Blackpool South.

As ever, please click on any picture for a larger image.

Railways of the Fylde today. 

The Fylde railways originally ran from Preston to Fleetwood (north of Cleveleys, directly across the Wyre estuary from Knott End, shown but not named on the map) with branches to Blackpool and Lytham. Later, a direct line between Kirkham and Blackpool was added, and the line from Lytham was extended round the coast to Blackpool incorporating the formerly isolated Blackpool & Lytham Railway. The southern route and the direct route from Kirkham served Blackpool South and Blackpool Central stations, terminating at the later. The northern route terminated at Blackpool North station.

Before the West Coast Main Line was completed to Scotland, steamers sailed from Fleetwood to the Clyde. These ceased when that line reached Glasgow, and as Fleetwood's fishing industry and ferry services to Ireland and the Isle of Man declined the rail link to the town was closed. Two other victims of the railway closures of the 1960s were Blackpool Central station and the direct rail link from Kirkham to Central. Ironically, the station site and associated extensive carriage sidings became a vast car park, and the track bed to Kirkham was used to build the last few miles of the M55 motorway, the A5230, and Yeadon Way directly into the town. Beeching had actually recommended closure of Blackpool North, and for Central to remain open with the main line into Blackpool being the southern route. However, Blackpool Corporation coveted the site of Central Station and persuaded BR to close that instead. If the site had been developed rather than becoming a massive bleak car park tearing the heart out of the town there might have been some sense in that, despite Central being far more convenient for visitors than is Blackpool North. The line via Lytham also served more towns than that via Poulton.

Today the rail system on the Fylde is as depicted on the map above. The southern route to Blackpool is now a single line branch from Kirkham cut back to terminate Blackpool South, while the northern route, the former Blackpool branch off the axed Fleetwood line, is the 'main line' and is still double track all the way to Blackpool North station.

The Pacer at Blackpool South this morning, having brought me from Preston

The end of the line. The rather shabby Blackpool South station as it is today. The massive and these days empty car parks extending all the way south from the former Central station site can be seen to the left of the picture.

In the last few years Blackpool's 'heritage' trams have been replaced by these new 'Flexity' units. On several days a year Blackpool Transport run 'Heritage Tram' days and a return visit to the resort on such a day is on my 'to do' list,

The famous sea front and Tower, quiet and 'out of season' today

Looking south towards Blackpool Pleasure Beach, also apparently closed out of season

On board the new tram, heading from South Shore up to Fleetwood

Heysham Nuclear Power Station just visible across the bay, seen from Fleetwood Ferry tram stop at the northern extremity of the Blackpool tramway line (the ferry crosses the Wyre estuary to Knott End). At times of the year when the sand is hard and dry, Knott End beach makes a great landing ground for light aircraft.

Some years ago a friend sitting next to me took this picture, overhead the Wyre estuary looking towards Knott End as I positioned Cessna 172 G-ATGO on a left base for a landing on Knott End beach

The Cessna on Knott End beach that day many years ago

Back to today. Having arrived in the resort at Blackpool South station, I decided to return home from Blackpool North station. This looks a lot smarter than the resort's southern rail gateway!

A sight becoming rare on our railways; a traditional signal box and semaphore signalling, off the platform ends at Blackpool North

The rough old Northern Rail DMU that took me from Blackpool as far as Salford Crescent. The train was bound for Manchester Victoria, so I changed to a Trans Pennine Express at The Crescent to take me to Piccadilly from where a 323 Crewe train returned me to Wilmslow.


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