Cosy crimes and gritty sagas by Corrie Blog editor Glenda, published by Headline. Click pic below!

Saturday 30 October 2021

Weatherfield's tram network

7th January 2002. Not much happened in the real world (I checked), but we can always rely on the residents of Weatherfield to bring us a bit of entertainment.

For a start, we get to see Les Battersby looking uncharacteristically smart in his best funeral attire, despite not bothering to brush his hair. Meanwhile, Dev and Deirdre have a conversation about their, well… transgression – something I’ve tried erasing from my memory, but which still haunts me to this day.

Fortunately for us, that’s not what this post is about. Instead, let’s rewind to the start of the episode – specifically, the opening titles. They’re new, shiny and widescreen. Not only that, but it’s the first time we see a tram running over the viaduct on Viaduct Street.

You can tell they were chuffed with it, as the tram features again less than ten minutes in!

Now call me na├»ve, but I truly believed that this was a real tram on a real track. Even though my excuse is that I was a child at the time, it’s actually really well done and way ahead of its time (EastEnders followed suit eight years later!).

As an inquisitive kid, it did make me wonder where the tram went. I remember thinking that one day, I’d figure it out and take a ride over Coronation Street. If I was lucky, maybe I’d even get to see them filming.

This stayed in my mind for the years to come, and in 2011, I found myself living in Manchester where I soon remembered my childhood dream. So, with my camera at the ready for some snaps out of the tram window, I headed towards the studios to figure out exactly where the Metrolink runs past the set.

Only, there was no line… not even a viaduct. I’d been conned.

The ‘viaduct’ from behind (photo of the set being demolished in April 2018). If you look closely, you can see where they removed the wall for the placement of the mock tram that was built for the tram crash scenes.

Over the past decade, I’ve eventually come to terms with the fact that I’d been well and truly Lewis Archer’d by CGI. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of my heartbreaking discovery, I’m now trying to make sense of Weatherfield’s illusive tram network, known as ‘Politanlink’.

If you’re into this sort of thing, do also have a read of Scott Willison’s write-up that does an excellent job of explaining the whole Politanlink/Metrolink/‘City Tram’ saga.

Let’s start with what we know. Weatherfield North tram station is on Victoria Street – sandwiched between Tattoo'll Do Nicely and the new EE shop. If you look closely at the picture in this press release, you’ll notice that the sign tells us that trams from here go to ‘Manchester’ and Weatherfield South:

That gives us a grand total of two, maybe three, stops – plus Manchester East which we catch a very brief glimpse of in 2011 when Izzy is mugged. Unfortunately, the destination board isn’t readable in the episode, but I stumbled across a high-resolution publicity photo from the same scene where you can make out the stop names!

On top of this, I managed to dig out a photo I’d taken at some point of a Transport for Greater Manchester map in the bus shelter on Rosamund Street. The pieces of the puzzle were there; now all that was left to do was put them together, so I popped on my geek goggles and did just that:

There are of course a few disclaimers attached to this map. Firstly, every stop shown has been acknowledged by the programme in some way at some point, except for Bentham Parkway (thanks Corriepedia) which I’ve included based on the fact that characters occasionally take the tram to visit prisoners (how novel). I added a curve here as a couple of semi-official old and new maps show the viaduct bending to the west, along with HMP Highfield shown in the general vicinity.

Obviously I’ve had to use a bit of artistic licence. For example, I have absolutely no evidence to support that Weatherfield Quays has a water taxi (although the real-life Salford Quays briefly did) – I just liked the idea of it.

The placement of some of the other stops, like Hill Bank for example, is an educated guess at best. That said, there is some method to my madness with the junction at this point, as we can see from the 2010 part-CGI shots that the track does verge off at Nuttall's Brewery:

Speaking of verges, I threw in Manchester Verge as it was the only remaining fictional one from the 2011 sign that I figured made sense. The others I left off as I felt it would have been too much of a stretch to try and logically fit them in.

As for Manchester East, this one did throw me off a bit. People only ever went there to shop, party, gamble, lapdance or have affairs with a sleazy car salesman. So why would they travel from Weatherfield, which we know is to the west of Manchester, to the east? They’d be bypassing Manchester city centre and therefore missing out on what would surely be a more diverse and fulfilling shopping/partying/gambling/lapdancing/affair experience – right?

Anyway, I plonked it by Liverpool Road (also not a real tram stop, although it is actually the world’s oldest surviving passenger railway station) because it’s pretty close to where the Manchester East aka ‘Viaduct Shopping Centre’/‘Precinct’(?) set was once located at the back of Granada.

Incidentally, the arches that formed this set also formed the very first outdoor Coronation Street set:

Behind the original set (c.1970s) – one arch in background

April 2014; shortly after ITV vacated the site

I could go on, but I won’t. If you made it this far, you should hit up Roy for a brew and a chat about my findings. Then again, I don’t know if trams are even his thing but I’m sure he’d appreciate a Politanlink map all the same.

All original work on Coronation Street Blog is covered by a Creative Commons License


Grant said...

Fantastic post! I've always been intrigued about this. Even more confused when they extended Victoria Street and added another viaduct!! But your brilliant map at least makes some sense of it!
Now all you need to explain is the phantom viaduct on Rosamund Street...

Ben said...

Thanks Grant, really appreciate it! Apparently the Rosamund Street viaduct is just a long-abandoned railway bridge. I like to pretend it was always there and we just didn't really notice it until the year 2000. Blame the Millennium Bug I guess...


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