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Blackpool Promenade Tramway (1885), site of
from Talbot Square (south along the Promenade), Blackpool, Lancashire, UK
Blackpool Promenade Tramway (1885), site of
associated engineer
Michael Holroyd Smith
Thomas Parker
date  12 March 1885 - 12 September 1885
era  Victorian  |  category  Tramway/Funicular  |  reference  SD305364
photo  see foot of page
Blackpool's earliest tramway along its Promenade was also Britain's first electric street tramway. It ran for two miles south from Talbot Square by North Pier. Other sections of tramway were built, including the Blackpool to Fleetwood line (1898) but this early section didn't connect to any other until 1925.
Horse trams were introduced into Britain in 1860 (the oldest remaining horse tramway in the world is the 1876 Douglas Bay Tramway on the Isle of Man). Steam trams were introduced in the late 1870s, and Blackpool's electric tramway opened on 12th September 1885.
Engineer Michael Holroyd Smith held the first full-scale trial of his patent underground conduit electric tramway system on a 100 yard track in a field near Manchester. The trial convinced the Blackpool Corporation — who were always on the lookout for new ideas — to adopt the system for the Promenade.
Smith, who was in charge of construction, fixed the first insulator on the Blackpool track on 12th March 1885. The track used Gowan’s girder rails and was laid by the Blackpool Corporation using direct labour. It was single track line provided with 10 pass-byes, though there was one length of double track. The area around the tracks was paved with stone setts, some of which were later replaced with wooden blocks.
Problems were soon encountered with Smith's underground electric conduit system. The slot and the conduit were continually filling up with fine wind-blown sand from the beach. Gangs of men had to be employed to lay greased ropes into the conduits after the power had been turned off late at night, and to remove the ropes before it was turned on again the following morning.
The electrification of the line was changed to overhead supply in the winter of 1897, at the same time time that the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company were working on the part of their line that ran from North Station to Glynn Square via Dickson Road. The electrical plant for this part of Blackpool's tramway was supplied and installed by Elwell-Parker Ltd, headed by Paul Bedford Elwell and Thomas Parker. The latter was the tram company's consulting electrical engineer until 1892.
Blackpool Corporation extended their Promenade tramway north from Talbot Square to Gynn Square in 1900, though it did not join the Blackpool to Fleetwood line at that time.
The Corporation took over the Blackpool to Fleetwood line in 1920. The lines were joined at Gynn Square in 1925. At that point, the section from Gynn Square to Cocker Square was put on a separate reservation made possible by the construction of the Middle Walk Colonnades.
The route used by the tramway today begins at Starr Gate, a little further south than the original Smith line, and runs all the way to Fleetwood, ending at the Ferry Terminal.
Resident enginer: Michael Holroyd Smith
Electrical plant: Thomas Parker, Elwell-Parker Ltd
Track laying: Blackpool Corporation using direct labour
Research: PD
"Seven Golden Miles" by K. Eyre, Dalesman Books, Clapham, 1975
"Last Marton Tram – Illustrated Souvenir" 28th October 1962
"75 Years of Electric Street Tramway Operation" Blackpool Corporation, 1960
"The Conduit Tramways of Blackpool 1885-1899" by D.F. Phillips
Tramway Review, Vol.3, No.21, 1956
i l l u s t r a t i o n
reproduced from booklet "Victorian Blackpool" by G.S. Palmer and B.R. Turner, published by Palmer and Turner, Cleveleys (possibly 1979)
reference sources   CEH North

Blackpool Promenade Tramway (1885), site of