Take a look back at Blackpool’s most original illuminated trams over the decades


In 1879 £ 5,000 was set aside by Blackpool Council to experiment with the new concept of electric street lighting.

The “artificial sun” of 140 years ago was considered a novelty because it was not generated by oil lamps and candles.

The concept of “Blackpool Lights” began with just eight arc lamps above 60 foot poles along the waterfront.

In 1897, however, things started to get more elaborate and the first five trams were decorated with illuminated patriotic slogans to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee – with their energy coming from on-board batteries.

READ MORE:Blackpool Concert Hall weathered pandemic thanks to dedicated fans

In 1912, Princess Louise came to open a section of the promenade near the Metropole Hotel, aptly naming it Princess Parade, and 10,000 lights were erected to celebrate Blackpool’s very first visit.

It was such a success that the council wished to do it again the following September, but the outbreak of World War I in 1914 meant “lights out” for the city.

When it was time for them to return, Blackpool celebrated in style with the very first richly illuminated tram, the Gondola, in 1925, and that’s where we start our list.

After realizing that people loved not only to see the lights but also to ride them on one of the oldest electric streetcars in the world, the concept of the illuminated streetcar was born.

Many of these trams are still in the Rigby Road depot awaiting restoration. The future of the current tram shelters depends on the successful restoration of the building and roof, but the Blackpool Heritage team intends to successfully open a Heritage Visitor Center in the current space.

Fylde Transport Trust is a registered charity also for the purpose of restoring buses and trams on the Fylde Coast.

To find out more, visit Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours and Fylde Transport Trust.

The gondola

The elegant gondola tram shown on an old postcard

In 1925, none of the illuminated trams carried passengers, but some special guests could be invited with an orchestra playing as the gondola descended the promenade.

Over the decades, however, the elegant tram began to receive a steady influx of passengers, but since it was not designed for this purpose, its bodywork began to sag.

Its fate was sealed in 1962 when it collided with another streetcar, bending its large bow and causing further damage to structural integrity.

After a quick repair to bring it to the end of the season, it was unfortunately taken off the tracks at the end of 1962.

The lifeboat

Old postcard of the Rescue Tram at Blackpool Illuminations
Old postcard of the Rescue Tram at Blackpool Illuminations

In 1926, The Lifeboat, also known as the “Jubilee”, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of Blackpool as a borough.

Following the success of the Gondola, it was also built on the remains of a four-wheeled Marton Box Car.

At first, guests could only board by invitation, but it was later converted to a passenger tram in 1959 that accepted fares.

It met its fate in the same year as its predecessor and was sadly scrapped in 1962.

Let us know which trams you remember in the comments below.


The elaborate "double decker bus" Progress Tram used to advertise on Blackpool Promenade
The elaborate “double decker” Progress Tram used to advertise on Blackpool Promenade

In 1937, The Progress made its track debut – the result of fundraising and effort during WWII.

It was basically a moving billboard, displaying advertising and playing music as it moved around the ball.

The vehicle was designed to allow frequent modifications to the exterior, as well as the slogans that run along the side, to ensure that it is never the same two seasons.

Changing in design over the years, it featured a large clock, town crier, large reproduction of the tower, and an elaborate wreath in 1953 commemorating the accession of Queen Elizabeth.

His ambition turned out to be his downfall however when overly elaborate design resulted in his withdrawal in 1958.

The Beauty of Blackpool

The Blackpool Belle on an old black and white postcard
The Blackpool Belle on an old black and white postcard

Built in 1959, the Blackpool Belle was built from a Toastrack 163 car in 1959 and modeled on a Mississippi paddle steamer.

It looked like it was a double-decker, but inside there was only one and very low passenger capacity.

The Blackpool Belle first displayed advertisements in 1967 to promote premium bonds.

It was kept for some time in the Oregon Electric Railway Museum when it came off the rails in 1978.

Oddly, it was then sold to a research center to test alternative energy sources before being scrapped.

“Life Without Limits”, battleship HMS Blackpool

“Life Without Limits” traveling near South Pier with Blackpool Pleasure Beach in the background

Originally built as a regular tram in 1928, it was rebuilt to the original Mk1 HMS Blackpool design in 1965.

It operated until 2001 before undergoing a full strip down to its chassis and being rebuilt into the current Mk2 HMS Blackpool / Frigate design.

It was then returned to service in the fall of 2004.

Rocket tram

People demand the return of the Burnley Building Society "rocket tram" from the 80s and 90s
People call for the return of the Burnley Building Society ’80s and 90s’ rocket tram’

The Space Race has arrived in Blackpool in the form of the much-loved Rocket Tram.

Also used for advertising, the vehicle was known for its famous Burnley Building Society advertisement underneath.

The tram offered a unique experience to thousands of passengers from the years 1980 to 1999, since it traveled at an altitude of almost 30 degrees.

Two redundant wax works from the former Louis Tussauds museum – King Pierre of Yugoslavia and General Neguib of Egypt – were dressed as astronauts to “pilot” the cockpit.

The sloping floor combined with a high passenger load meant there were concerns about its safe operation. It served until 1999 and became a static item on the Glynn Rounabout for a few years in 2012.

Despite its health and safety concerns, the public wants the rocket to return.

The tram is no longer owned by Blackpool Transport / Blackpool Heritage Trams, but is owned by the Fylde Transport Trust and is stored awaiting restoration in the Rigby Road depot.

Fylde Transport Trust is a registered charity with the aim of restoring buses and trams on the Fylde Coast.


The Hovertram is another vehicle that returned to the Rigby Road depot after its debut in 1963.

It was the only two-story built in the 1960s and was based on the design of a hovercraft that saw “engines” included on the roof.

It remained operational until 2001 and needed maintenance before it could be put back into service.

Unfortunately there weren’t enough funds to do so and it was sold leading to it being placed in Beith, Scotland in 2007 where it was on display until 2014.

In 2016 it was brought back to Blackpool again after being purchased by Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours for future restoration.

The vintage vehicle is surprisingly in good condition.

The western train

Blackpool’s famous illuminated tram, The Western Train

Modeled after a train from a Western movie, it carried passengers until 1999 when it was under threat of being scrapped.

Thanks to the Lottery Heritage Fund, between 2007 and 2009 this national icon was completely rebuilt and completely restored to its authentic 1962 condition.

However, the vehicle needs service every 10 years and it was undergoing a full external rewiring, body overhaul and repaint when the UK government announced the first nationwide lockdown in March of the year. last.

During the Coronavirus pandemic, the future of one of the track’s most famous illuminated trams was in danger after it was stuck in the workshop on Rigby Road.

Staff and engineers had to be put on leave while badly needed parts for the tram were unavailable due to Covid restrictions disrupting the supply chain.

A Go Fund Me page has been set up with a goal of £ 2,500 to purchase the outstanding electrical wires and accessories.

Hundreds of local people supported the restoration project with donations reaching triple digits and the page hit the target within a month – proving the popularity of the 5,583-bulb lighting.

The West Train returned on September 10, 2021 and will last the entire season until January 3, 2022.

Fisherman’s Friend Trawler Tram

Fisherman's Friend Trawler Tram
Fisherman’s Friend Tram Trawler

A complete refurbishment of the Fisherman’s Friend Trawler Tram got it back on track in 2016.

It was created from the chassis of a 1937 Brush Railcoach in 2001 and named after Fisherman’s Friend tycoon Doreen Lofthouse.

The businesswoman sadly passed away this year (2021) and the vehicle is a lasting legacy for the family who created the world famous diamond not far from Fleetwood.

The tram was designed for regular use before being adapted with a bow and stern to resemble a fishing boat.

It can travel both ways as it has a cabin on each side.

In 2014, the popular tram was retired but returned following a renovation in which its lamps were replaced with 24,500 LEDs.

The trawler was unveiled at a special ceremony in Fleetwood.

Battleship HMS Blackpool, Fisherman’s Friend Trawler and lottery-funded Great Western Train will feature in an illuminated tram parade this month to celebrate Blackpool’s rich heritage and unique tram history.

For more information, please visit Visit Blackpool here.

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