Remembering man who saved trams

The tram which has been named after former Blackpool Transport manager Walter Luff.
The tram which has been named after former Blackpool Transport manager Walter Luff.
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He was a man of vision whose forward thinking helped 
ensure the very survival of Blackpool’s tramway.

For when other towns started phasing out their trams in the 1930s, Walter Luff railed against the norm – and championed investment instead.

Mr Luff was general manager of Blackpool Corporation Transport from 1933 to 1954 and between 1933 and 1939, he oversaw the purchase of 116 new tramcars as well as investment in a new depot and workshop.

Now his legacy to the resort has been formally recognised with the naming of a heritage tram in his memory.

His daughter Daphne unveiled a plaque on the restored Balloon tram car 254 (717) to mark the 80th anniversary of the streamlined fleet of trams introduced by Mr Luff.

This tram was restored to near original condition in 2008 thanks to a bequest from the late Philip R. Thorpe and is one of Blackpool’s heritage fleet which operates on bank holidays and during the Illuminations.

Bryan Lindop, archivist at Blackpool Transport, said: “At the time when Mr Luff was general manager in Blackpool, everyone else around the country was getting rid of their trams and phasing them out.

“But he went the opposite way and went for investment instead.

“If it wasn’t for all that he did, we wouldn’t have the tramway now.

“We had been looking for a way to honour him and we thought naming a double decker balloon car after him would be a fitting tribute as they are the ones that are the quintessential Blackpool tram.”

When he arrived in Blackpool, Mr Luff set out a five-year plan to upgrade the tramway which saw the town embrace modern technology which had been developed overseas.

In his own words, in 1952, he stated: “Here in Blackpool there is no talk at all about abandoning tramways”.

Trams were phased out by most towns in the 1930s to be replaced by buses.

However, trams have enjoyed a revival with new systems introduced in cities including Manchester and Edinburgh.

Blackpool’s tramway has undergone a £100m upgrade with the launch of 16 new 
Flexity trams in 2012.

Mr Lindop added: “The Walter Luff named tram is part of our heritage fleet and people visit Blackpool from all over the world to ride on them.”