Saturday, 25 February 2017

Enviros Illustrated

Enviro SN66WLK is allocated fleet number 500, like most demonstrators, but unusually actually displays this on the front. After a spell on route 9 on Thursday, it has operated on the 1 on Friday and Saturday. (Photo Rob Bray)
Brand new Enviro SN17MGV leaves the Alexander Dennis factory at Larbert, Falkirk on a test run. (Gordon Scott)

Brand new Enviro SN17MGV leaves the Alexander Dennis factory at Larbert, Falkirk on a test run. (Gordon Scott)

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Demonstrator and Changes

Blackpool Transport has ADL Enviro 400 City demonstrator SN66WLK on loan. It arrived on Monday and is operating on service 9 today. It is passing through on a UK tour, having operated at Manchester Airport last week. It features different interior specification to the existing and new buses.

Further details of the service changes from 2 April have been received:

  • 1  route unchanged, continuing every 20 minutes
  • New 2 will run Blackpool to Cleveleys via Hospital, Poulton and Carleton
  • 3, 4 and 5 are unchanged
  • 6 returns to its old Mereside to Grange Park route with a 12 minute service. Peel Park will be served at peak hours using Palladium Buses
  • 7 is increased back to every 15 minutes for the summer
  • 8 is withdrawn
  • 9 remains every 12 minutes but returns to its usual route - no mention of the 9A returning - presumably the 2 will cover the Hospital-Cleveleys link
  • 10 is withdrawn - Blackpool Council has withdrawn the revenue support for this service.
  • 11 unchanged
  • 14 Town Centre to Fleetwood only increased back to every 10 minutes M-F using Palladium buses
  • 15/16 return to every 30 minutes Mon-Sat and hourly Sundays - double deckers are to replace Solos for summer capacity reasons
  • 17 Blackpool to St. Annes only, will run via Common Edge Road not Lindale Gardens. 
  • 20 reintroduced school holidays and weekends only
Town Centre stops changes took place from 20 February with phase 1 lasting until 2 April and phase 2 until 14 May. Market Street stops M1 to M3 are closed to enable an extra stop to be added. The 5, 10, 11 and 17 southbound are serving a temporary stop on the Promenade by West Street. The 6, 11 and Stagecoach 68 are terminating at M4 on Market Street, 10, 14 and 17 northbound are turning from the Promenade right into Church Street to reach Corporation Street, but the evening 17s which start from Blackpool are turning via Market Street and West Street and using stop CO4. There is also a temporary stop on Talbot Road westbound between Topping St and Abingdon St for the 5, 7, 10, 14 and 17.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

News Update

Further new buses have been delivered, with SN17MGV being the highest registered observed on test in Falkirk. SN17MFJ/K/O/P/U/V/X/Y/Z are now live on the DVLA database as registered from start of March.

Trident 329 has gained a new advert for Heart FM replacing 301 which is gaining a fleet livery repaint. Excel 216, the last of the new to Blackpool batch has been sold for scrap. Solo 259 is now withdrawn, the first of the longer batch to be withdrawn.

Monday, 20 February 2017

April Service Changes

Blackpool Transport has registered some service changes from Sunday 2 April, including the withdrawal of services 8 and 10 and the return of service 2. Limited details are available so far, but the effected services are:

1 - revised timetable
New 2 Blackpool Town Centre to Cleveleys via Poulton and Victoria Hospital (Monday to Sunday) returning service 2 to its traditional Poulton route.
2C - revised timetable
6 route and timetable change  
7 - revised timetable
8 - withdrawn
9 - revised route and timetable presumably due to re-opening of Crossley's Bridge
10 - withdrawn
14 - route and timetable change
15/16 - route and timetable change
17 - route and timetable change
New 20 Marton Mere to Blackpool Town Centre via Zoo and Stanley Park from 1 April to 5 November every weekend and daily to 23/4, daily 27 May to 4 June, Daily in August and from 31 October to 5 November.
Schools 12, 400, 401, 403 and 414 are also retimed.

It is expected that the 25 new Enviro 400 City double deckers will enter service on 2 April. It is rumored that the 14, for which they are intended will only run Fleetwood to Blackpool now with the 6 reinstated to Mereside, so presumably a further route will be treated to these impressive new vehicles.

Friday, 17 February 2017

New Buses Roll In

The first delivery of new buses has taken place with four SN17MFJ/K/O/P noted today. Minor differences from the first ten are apparent, most notably three tables upstairs - one on the nearside amidships and two at the rear. 

Saturday, 11 February 2017

White Rose in Red Rose County

West Yorkshire PTE 6299 loads on Market Street operating service 6 to Mereside during its spell on loan during 1985 (Brian Turner)
1985/6 saw a three incursions into Lancashire from the traditional rival county of Yorkshire - West Yorkshire to be precise. 

Back in 1983 West Yorkshire PTE commemorated 100 years of Huddersfield Transport by repainting two buses into commemorative liveries. Both were Roe bodied Leyland Atlanteans. 6299 (PUA299W) carried a red based livery from the Huddersfield Joint Omnibus Committee era, while 6300 (PUA300W) carried Huddersfield Corporation Tramways livery. Both visited the Fylde in August 1983 on the Ribble Enthusiast Club Southport to Blackpool rally.
Tramway liveried sister 6300 heads to Squires Gate on service 12, ironically a tramway replacement service (Brian Turner)

The 1985 Blackpool Tramway Centenary featured a range of activities. Perhaps the most unusual was the exchange of two Atlanteans 351/2 with West Yorkshire 6299 and 6300! 6299 arrived on 9 June, being swapped for 352 at Crich Tramway Museum. 6299 opearated a summer bus service from Huddersfield to Crich, with 352 providing the return working having reached the museum on a excursion! 6300 arrived on 16 June - the date of the Rigby Road Depot Open Day. Both buses saw local service use during June and July as Blackpool 366/7 while 351/2 saw use from the PTE's Huddersfield depot. At the start of August the buses were swapped back. Both 6299 and 6300 returned on a number of occasions for rallies. 
Three of Easyway's six ex West Yorkshire PTE Leopards at Princess Street Depot 247, 245 and 249 (left to right) (Brian Turner)

Next came the arrival of six Leyland Leopards (JWU244-249N) in Autumn 1986 at the premises of Easyway Bus on Princess Street. These were used on three services 9 (Blackpool to Cleveleys), 14 (Blackpool to Fleetwood) and 53 (Airport to Poulton). The 9 and 14 ended in late December and 244-247 returned to West Yorkshire for onward sale early in the new year. 248/9 continued until Easyway ceased in 1989. They then reappered with Town Bus in 1990 and lasted until c1993/4. Sister LUG515P also joined the Town Bus fleet.


Finally Blackpool acquired three youthful Roe bodied Olympians from WYPTE to replace three fire damaged Atlanteans. WYPTE 5005/11/15 (UWW5/11/15X) arrived on 31 October 1986 having been retained by WYPTE on the disposal of its bus operations to the new Yorkshire Rider company. After preparation, they entered service in November as 365-367 retaining WYPTE green and cream livery, pending a repaint into Blackpool's own livery the following spring. They had long lives in Blackpool with 366/7 lasting until 2010 and 365 through to 2012.
Olympians 5005 and 5015 - now Blackpool's 365/7 parked in Rigby Road yard on 2 November 1986 having arrived a couple of days earlier. Like Easyway, with its Leopards Blackpool ran these in WYPTE livery which could well have been confusing where the operators competed. The trio were finally repainted in March/April 1987 (Brian Turner)

Further Yorkshire influxes included 29 ex Hull Atlanteans purchased by Fylde (including 2 for spares) between 1986 and 1992, plus four new to Bradford Atlanteans also purchased from Hull in chassis form to be rebodied as single deckers. A South Yorkshire visitor to Blackpool Transport was Dominator 2361 (B361HDT) for a week in September 1988, swapped for Olympian 367, to evaluate the split step design favoured by SYT and for a period commonly adopted as a way of improving accessibility. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Preston Bus Changes

Following Coastal Coaches cancellation of the Wesham to Poulton section of route 78 after service on 18 February, LCC have made some changes to Preston Bus's tendered services:


  • 74 revised to run Blackpool to Poulton only every hour.
  • 75 - rerouted in Fleetwood to serve Windward Avenue (the new housing estate on the Docklands using developer funding) but not via Tennyson Avenue or Marsh Road in Thorton 
  • New 75A every 2 hours to replace the 74 between Fleetwood and Poulton, following the same route as the 75 above, then via the 78 route through Great Eccleston, Elswick, and Kirkham then via the current 75 route to Preston
  • The 75/75A make a combined hourly service as does the 75A and 80 between Great Eccleston and Preston, albeit via different intermediate routes. 
  • The 80 is revised in Preston to serve Maudland Bank
  • Five buses are required (74 x1, 75/A x 3, 80 x1) compared to 4 on the present contract.
Catch 22 Bus service 23 will be re-routed via Tennyson Avenue and Marsh Road to replace the 74/75 - it will also run direct via Fleetwood Road from Castle Gardens to Four Lane Ends rather than via Bispham Road and Norcross Lane.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

New Buses and Rail Replacement

The first of Blackpool Transport's 25 new Enviro 400 City double deckers have been outshopped at Alexander Dennis in Falkirk. SN17MFJ, SN17MFK and SN17MFX have been reported so far. Thanks to those who have shared this information via the contact form or through Facebook. Such reports are always welcome and helpful. This batch will be the largest single batch of buses since the 1974/5 batch of Swifts (566-595) - a batch of 30 ordered together which entered service in groups of 24 in April/May 1974 and 6 in Spring 1975. Prior to that it was the 25 1967 PD3s (501-525).

The early part of 2017 has seen closure of the Preston to Blackpool railway lines at weekends as part of the preparation for electrification of the Blackpool North line and also to allow the new Crossley's Bridge to be installed. Also some late night, early morning weekday services are replaced by buses. The weekend rail replacements has mainly been provided by the usual coaches, but Blackpool Transport has provided Mercedes Citaros from the Palladium fleet on most occasions. 554 was noted at Blackpool North on Saturday 21 January and in both Preston and Lytham on Saturday 4th February, 553 was also observed on the 4th.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

From the Archives: The Marton Route


Swift 588 awaits departure on a summers evening from South Pier to Talbot Square following the former Marton tram route (Brian Turner)
Bus route 26 was the Marton tram route replacement. The tram route opened in May 1901 and ran from Talbot Square via Clifton St, Church St, Whitegate Drive and Waterloo Road and Central Drive to Central Station. In 1902 it was also linked to the Lytham Road route at Royal Oak and onto Station Road for Victoria (now South) Pier. By the 1930s the Marton route comprised three tram services from Talbot Square to Central Station; Talbot Square to Royal Oak/South Pier and Central Station to Royal Oak/South Pier with the timetables co-ordinated on the common section. The Central Drive route closed in 1936 (as did the Talbot Square to Layton service) and the replacement bus services maintained the links running from Layton to Talbot Square then to Central Station and along Central Drive to Waterloo Road. Route 22 turned left to Marton Tram Depot, route 23 turned right to South Pier. This left the Marton tram route as running Talbot Square to Royal Oak or South Pier only at frequencies of every 3 or 4 minutes, with peak extras.

Although the route had been upgraded with modern trams after World War II, it was decided to close the line as the second of three closures between 1961 and 1963. With much fanfare the last trams ran on Sunday 28 October 1962. The previous winter service had dropped to a five minute frequency with a four minute summer frequency.

Bus service 26 started on Monday 29 October 1962 with a six minute service using 8 buses with two extras in the afternoon peak to make a 5 minute service. Evenings and Sundays saw a 9 minute frequency using 5 buses. In the Summer the service ran every 5 minutes except before 8am, after 7pm and all day Sunday. Unlike trams, buses needed turning facilities so the Talbot Square terminus was moved to Corporation Street outside the Town Hall, and all buses now ran to South Pier via Waterloo Road and back via Station Road rather than terminating at Royal Oak.

The regular buses were the Corporations first 30ft long buses - PD3s 351-370 which arrived during the summer and also saw use on service 12. The pioneer PD3s were later supplanted by further new deliveries of the type. Over time the service frequency was thinned - by 1971 the service ran every 8 minutes in the day and 15 in the evening - with extra Summer evening buses.

OMO operation with AEC Swift commenced on Sundays in 1973 and weekdays from 3 March 1975. Extra running time meant that the 8 minute service needed 7 Swifts with four used for the 12 minute evening service. In September the terminus moved to Clifton Street outside Yates Wine Lodge with buses running via Abingdon St and Talbot Road to reach the terminus. October 1976 saw buses from Town diverted via Caunce Street and Grosvenor Street as part of the town's new one way system.

Summer 1982 and 576 displays a slipboard for the promotional Sunday only maximum fare of 25p (Brian Turner)
Frequency reductions continued - by 1977 the daytime service ran every 10 minutes; by 1979 the evening service every 15 and by 1982 the daytime service had dropped to every 12 minutes. 
Double Deckers were commonly allocated to the 26 after deregulation. Most were Atlanteans though the three ex West Yorkshire Olympians including 365 did make appearances (Brian Turner)
Deregulation in October saw the 26 continue as before but on a 15 minute daytime service (4 buses) and 20 minute evening/Sunday service (3 buses). Fylde introduced a competitive off peak service in August 1987 running every 30 minutes and Blackpool hit back with a tripling of the service to every 5 minutes using brand new Optare City Pacer minibuses with ten required. The evening/Sunday service was increased to every 15 minutes. Fylde soon retreated, but later made a more sustained attack on the Oxford Square to Blackpool section with its Fastlink 4 route. 
The City Pacer era started in September 1987 and lasted until 1996. Here 550 and 563 layover outside Yates Wine Lodge on Clifton Street (Brian Turner)
15 City Pacers were ordered for the new service but, amazingly, only one had been delivered before the conversion date! Five other City Pacers were in stock for the St. Annes Handybus services, two demonstrators were duly purchased and a third hired, while Blackpool borrowed a handful of Ford Transits from Midland Red North. 5 September 1987 was day one of the new service. The nine duties comprised brand new City Pacer 549, existing 560/2-4 the demonstrators (acquired 565/6 and D81NWW) and Ford Transit C41WBF.

In August 1988 the evening service was diverted via the Ice Drome on Watson Road on journeys to South Pier. This lasted until March 1992 when the daytime service frequency was reduced to every 6 minutes. The evening service was re-routed in Blackpool Town Centre to terminate at Cookson Street in May 1994 and in November 1994 was increased to every 12 minutes.

The 26 was briefly associated with the Optare Delta from 1996 to 1998. Here 128 and a sister stand at South Pier in May 1998 (Brian Turner)
Surprisingly in August 1996 the 26 was converted back to 'big bus' operation with 7 Optare Deltas allocated with a seven minute daytime and 15 minute evening service. November saw the terminus move back to Corporation Street after 21 years on Clifton Street.


Metrorider 512 at South Pier terminus (James Millington)
April 1998 saw the daytime frequency drop to every 10 minutes but in December 1998 a batch of new Metroriders converted the service back to high frequency minibus operation. 8 were required to provide a six minute service which proved too ambitious a schedule so in January a 7 minute frequency was adopted. The first day was Monday 7th December and 505 was the first of the 14 new Metroriders to enter service on working 261 the 0624 from South Pier. It was joined by 506, 509, 511, 513, 514 and existing 589 and 592 on the eight duties.

Metrorider 515 in Line 26 green and yellow livery which was adopted by Line 2 in 2002. The livery debuted on 511 in September 2011 and by November all of 511-516 had been treated. (Brian Turner)
September 1999 saw the 26 terminus move to North Railway Station - the first time BT service buses had used the forecourt. Metro in April 2001 saw the 26 continue but with a slight frequency reduction to every 8 minutes. This lasted until 7 April 2002 when the 26 operated for the last time after nearly 40 years. The following day extended route 2 took-over on a ten minute service (as in 1998 but with minibuses not Deltas). In 2009 frequency fell to every 15 minutes. 

July 2010 saw the 2 split, with routes 4 and 16 providing replacements along Whitegate Drive with the 4 to Mereside and the 16 following the established Marton route to Royal Oak and then via a convoluted route to Cleveleys. The 4 ran every 20 minutes (hourly eves/Suns) and the 16 half hourly (hourly Saturdays and Sundays) without an evening service. This seemed a drastic reduction given that the evening service had been every 30 minutes previously and every 20 minutes as recently as summer 2009.

The 16 was completely recast as Southern Circular 15/16 in June 2015. As far as the 'Marton route' was concerned this saw their diversion via Mere Road, West Park Drive and Knowsley Avenue - leaving Whitegate Drive to service 4. In April 2016, the 15/16 were revised to take in Staining and once again ran direct via Whitegate Drive from Devonshire Square to the Saddle. In November 2016, the frequency was reduced to hourly for much of the day, though the half hourly frequency was maintained at busy times.

So over 115 years after the Marton tramway opened and 54 since it closed, the replacement service is down to a basic hourly service, half hourly at times. A further 20 minute service runs as far as the Oxford (service 4) and this perhaps reflects the change in travel patterns in the area. 

Road Test

SN56AWW - an Enviro 400 bodied Dennis Trident loads in Lytham Square on regular demonstrator haunt of the Metro era - Line 11 (Brian Turner)
Bus manufactures tended to supply bus operators with short term demonstration vehicles to tempt them into placing orders - often with little success it seems given the high number of types tried by Blackpool. Various makers buses were inspected in 1921 prior to the introduction of bus services by Blackpool Corporation. Sometimes new innovations were evaluated with diesel engined buses tested in 1933 and an underfloor engined single decker was tried in 1950.

In 1967 Leeds Corporation GUM451D an AEC Swift was inspected prior to the orders for 55 examples which arrived between 1969 and 1975. Attention turned to double deckers and in August 1975 HUP441N - an ECW bodied Bristol VR of Northern General and KBU911P - a GMPTE Leyland Atlantean were tested - the latter at least on route 22. Use of demonstrators really took off in the 1980s as several established models were replaced or upgraded.

Double Deckers
Scania EMJ560Y contrasts with Atlantean 310 in Talbot Road Bus Station in March 1983 (Brian Turner)
As the Atlantean came to the end of its life this prompted new models which operates evaluated. Blackpool tried Scania BR112DH MUT265W  owned by Leicester City Transport but used initially as a Scania demonstrator. It ran from 16 to 27 March 1981 on routes 22/22A and featured an East Lancs body and featured a blue livery with yellow, orange and red stripes. A second Scania - EMJ560Y - arrived in March 1983 operated on route 12 between Blackpool and Airport. An early digital destination display featured - as it had on the Fishwicks Nationals. They contrasted with ECW bodied Leyland Olympian A33MRN (owned by Preston Corporation) which ran on route 12 in May 1984 before a period with Fylde. A third Scania came on 21 January 1988 when A1 Service of Ardrossan E200WHS arrived for use on routes 22/22A until 3rd February.

A33MRN is seen with Fylde operating route 11A (despite the blind) having previously run on Blackpool's 12. Although used by Leyland as a demonstrator it was part of the Preston fleet and is now preserved (Brian Turner)

Perhaps the most unusual demonstrator was Routemaster RM1583 which arrived in January 1986 to evaluate the type and became the first of six purchased in the spring. (Brian Turner)
A handful of other double deckers visited on loan over the years. East Staffs Dennis Dominator FBF129T visited in August 1979 while Bus and Coach Council events saw proportionally liveried West Midlands Metrobus POG515Y and Greater Manchester Olympian B36PJA in use in September 1982 and September 1984 respectively - the latter saw two weeks service on crew routes 14 and 22. Then in September 1988 South Yorkshire Transport B361HDT - another Dennis Dominator - visited for a week to demonstrate their split step entrance layout, SYT enjoyed the delights of Blackpool Olympian 367 (UWW15X) in exchange.

Double decker demonstrators didn't bear fruit for many years with just a solitary batch of Leyland Olympians purchased in 1989 after the last Atlanteans arrived in 1984. 1994 was to see a further small batch of Olympians arrive but not before two demonstrators visited in 1993. March saw the visit of K170FYG an Optare Spectra on a DAF chassis - something of a double deck Delta - while L8YCL was an Alexander Royale bodied Volvo Olympian from Yorkshire Coastliner which stayed for a fortnight in December.

In the low floor era there have been five double deck demonstrators. January 2000 saw V929FMS - an Alexander bodied Dennis Trident evaluated, followed by X645RDA, an East Lancs bodied Volvo B7. Both influenced the eventual order as the 2002-2006 delivery featured East Lancs bodies on Dennis Trident chassis. Since then Alexander Dennis has supplied two Enviro 400 bodied Trident demonstrators - SN56AWW in June 2007 and SN59AWX in August 2010. The former normally ran on route 11, the latter on the 14. It was five years before the next double decker was operated - October 2015 saw a Wrightbus Streetdeck integral SL15ZGP  on service 1. At least one ADL Enviro 400 was inspected prior to the order for the 2016 double deckers.

Single Deckers
National GCK430W was one of five Mark 2s evaluated between 1980 and 1988 (Brian Turner)
Leyland's National was a joint venture with the National Bus Company and didn't live up to ambitious targets set by Leyland. Its makers were persistent in attempting to capture new markets. Blackpool tried demonstrator RRM128M for a few days in June 1975. No orders were forthcoming, partly because Blackpool chose to focus on double deckers for future orders having stocked up on AEC Swifts.

The new Mark 2 National made its first appearance with Blackpool in October 1980 when the first of no less than five arrived on loan - prompting an order for four in 1984 just prior to the end of production - providing that persistence is sometimes worthwhile. Leyland had an arrangement with Fishwick to use new Nationals intended for its operation as demonstrators and WRN413V spent a couple of weeks mainly on route 26 in October 1980, followed by GCK430W in March/April 1981 which primarily ran on the 2/2A. 1983 saw visits from two National 2s from the Halton Transport fleet - EWM630Y in April and CKC929X in May - the former normally operating on the 2/2A but the latter was not used. The final demonstrator (South Wales Transport KEP829X) visited in February 1988 to demonstrate its kneeling suspension which had been retrofitted by its owner to reduce step heights. It spent a few days on route 3. Quite surprising was the demonstration of GMB387T - a 1979 built mark1 National refitted with Gardner engine by Crosville. This was to test the suitability of the repower package for Blackpool who duly acquired four similarly modified buses from the Crosville fleet. Eventually 19 Nationals were owned - 15 purchased second hand - which is poor return from no less than seven demonstrators!
Ipswich Falcon YDX100Y poses alongside typical Blackpool bus stop infrastructure on Newton Drive while operating route 2. (Brian Turner)
The National 2s were measured against other single decker market offerings. Dennis arranged for two of its Gardner engine Falcons to visit Blackpool with Ipswich YDX100Y arriving in June 1983, followed by TWJ341Y from Chesterfield in July. Prior to this a Duple bodied Leyland Tiger KUS244Y was borrowed from Hutchinson of Overtown, Scotland in May. All three ran on routes 2/2A to Poulton.

Post Deregulation Single Deckers
Delta G785PWL was one of two tested in 1989 prior to the order for eight buses for 1990 delivery (Brian Turner)
Leyland's successor to the National - the Lynx was first seen in April 1987 when D573LSJ of AA Motor Services but it failed after a few days. Leyland's Lynx demonstrator D634BBV paid a visit in August 1987 but the desire to replace the second hand Nationals led to a beauty parade of single deckers in 1989 operating mainly on routes 3/3A (Bispham-Mereside) with evening duties on the 12 to Squires Gate. Optare's stylish Delta was first  with F792DWT visting in July 1989 and alternative spec G785PWL in August and November. Leyland Lynx F74DCW which carried West Midlands Travel colours (but was not their's) arrived in September and similar F210YHG of Preston Bus in November. The final contender was Duple bodied Dennis Dart G541JBV which visited at the start of November. The result was an order for eight Deltas for 1990 delivery.

August 1990 saw the inspection of H220TCP - an Ikarus bodied DAF SB220 (the same chassis as the Delta) while a third Delta demonstrator arrived in February 1991 as G837LWR which covered for new Delta 116 which was representing Optare at the launch event for their new Vecta single decker. The Vecta (a shorter single decker on the MAN chassis) was tried in the form of H846UUA in May 1991 and M957VMY in August 1995.

Low Floor Single Deckers
Excel P447SWX was one of several provided by Optare while it repaired faults on the pre-production batch 201-208 (Brian Turner)
 Blackpool was an early conversion to the low floor bus, buying the first Excels in 1996. It didn't precede this with demonstrators - and judging by the performance of the first Excels it might have regretted this. Several Excel demonstrators later appeared, mainly to cover rectification work for the Blackpool batch. N330EUG arrived in February 1998 and lasted until May sustaining accident damage towards the end of its stay.
R98HUA visited briefly in July 1998 while P446SWX accompanied N330EUG in February 1998. P447SWX spent July to September 1998 on hire. In February 2001, damaged Excel 210 was deputised for with T790KNW which gave Blackpool example of the Mercedes engined variant. Finally in May 2003 Mark 2 Excel YA02YRP operated alongside the native examples on Line 5. With six demonstrators, the Excel gave the National a run for its money.
Route 26 saw several demonstrators including minibuses and big buses over the years. This is R739TMO a Super Pointer Dart. (Brian Turner)
Other low floor demonstrators included P10LPG, a gas powered DAF SB220 with Plaxton Prestige bodywork which ran on route 26 in October/November 1997. The same service saw R739TMO - a Dennis Dart SLF with Plaxton bodywork in August 1998.
The short lived East Lancs Esteem body on the Scania was evaluated in December 2006 -YN06TGE (Brian Turner)
In addition to the Excel 2, 2003 saw BX03BKU - a Wright bodied Volvo B7 used on Line 11 in August. From 2005 to 2009 a procession of potential Delta replacements visited Blackpool for evaluation - without luck as Blackpool eventually settled for the Plaxton bodied Volvo B7 in 2010 because of a favourable deal. December 2005 saw the Enviro 300 SN54HXG evaluated on Line 7. June 2006 saw the first of two Optare Tempos YJ55BLX operate on Line 11 which now became the test ground for single deck demonstrators. Sister YJ06FZK replaced its sister at the end of the month and stayed into July.

Tempo YJ55BLX operating Line 11 in Bispham (Brian Turner)
Mercedes Citaro BX05UVX visited in early November 2006, followed by MCV Evolution bodied MAN AE06OPG later in the month, YN06TGE - an East Lancs bodied Scania 230UB in December. January 207 saw SN56AYB a Alexander Dennis Enviro 200 completed the quintet in January 2007. August 2007 saw Wright bodied Volvo B7 BX07AXJ tested some time before five similar buses were purchased from Anglian Buses in 2010. A second Citaro (BN09FWS) was tested in September 2009 also on Line 11. A third example was tried in February 2014 (BG63VVE) - this time to Euro VI standards.

July 2013 saw a visit from a Volvo B7RLE with MCV bodywork BF12KWT - it unsually operated on service 20 during its stay.
B7RLE demonstator BF12KWT operates on service 20 in 2014 (James Millington)
Feb 2016 Alexander Dennis Enviro 200MMC YX65RLO was used on service 5 with sister YX65RKK used in May. Also in May BP14FJZ, a Mercedes Citaro was used to contrast its specification with the batch of 10 acquired the previous year.



The MCV Evolution AE06OPG in Lytham Square in November 2006 (Brian Turner)
Minibuses
D898NUA on arrival in August 1987 in demonstrator guise before purchase when it became Handybus liveried 566 (Brian Turner)
Blackpool did not road test the market prior to adopting the Optare City Pacer but did make use of a few demonstrators later. Its second batch of City Pacers were delayed so demonstrators D854MUA and D898NUA were supplied by Optare in August 1987 and later purchased as 565/6. When service 26 started at the beginning of September, sister D81NWW was also on short term hire. A further City Pacer demonstrator arrived in July 1988 as E749CWT while January 1989 saw F934AWW on loan. The latter returned in December 1989 having been purchased as 583.

E749CWT spent time on hire in July 1988 (Brian Turner)
 Other makers included Iveco with Carlyle bodied E485ONX in December 1987, followed by an unidentified Star Rider Optare's Mercedes Benz based longer minibus later in the month. A further Star Rider E216UWT visited in July 1988. PMT Ami bodied Merecedes G495FFA was reported on hire on routes 9 and 26 in July 1990 and also visited in November when it ran on the 26. Optare's Metrorider H844UUA was used on the 26 in May 1991 before a period with Fylde.

September 1993 saw London Buses Dennis Dart K112SRH evaluated on route 26. Optare's Metrorider had been the preferred choice for replacing City Pacers and ex Fylde Renaults after the success of seed vehicle 584 (M924TYG) in summer 1995. A long wheelbase demonstrator P507NWU operated on routes 2/2A/2B in January 1997 but the next order was for more short wheelbase examples. In March 1999 Optare's new low floor Solo minibus S794XUG spent a few weeks on route 26 and this lead to orders for 57 examples between 2000 and 2009. A second demonstrator YJ56APY ran on the 2C in January 2007.

Other visitors have been SN03LGA - a Mini Pointer Dart which ran on Line 5 in November 2003 and MX60GXB a Wright Streetlite which spent some time in March 2011 operating service 10 (see here)

Very few of these loans have generated orders, but they continue to generate interest amongst enthusiasts.

16 November 2006 saw the first Citaro demonstrator (BX05UVZ) (Brian Turner)

BX07AZJ - a Wright bodied Volvo leaving Starr Gate on Line 11 in August 2007 (Brian Turner)

Enviro 300 SN54HXG operating Line 7 in St. Annes on 21 December 2005 (Brian Turner)

From the Archives: Claremont Park and the Dickson Road Tram Replacements

The destination shows "NORTH SHORE" and the side boards explain the route as Leyland Comet 15 is photographed on the Promenade, probably at its launch when new in 1925

One of the earliest bus services in Blackpool linked the Town Centre with Claremont. At the start of 1924 Blackpool's fleet of seven buses ran on just two routes:
  • Cleveleys to Thornton Station via Victoria Road from July 1921
  • Adelaide Place to Devonshire Road via Church Street and Caunce Street from December 1922
By contrast the Corporation tramways were almost at their maximum extent following the purchase of the Fleetwood Tramroad in 1920. Investment in relaying the Tramroad's route into Blackpool along Dickson Road led to what was probably the first tramway replacement bus service in the town. The service started on 3 January 1924 from Talbot Road Railway Station via Warbreck Road (now known as Dickson Road), Pleasant Street, Egerton Street, Carshalton Road and Warley Road to meet the tramway again at Gynn Square. A 15 minute morning service required one bus with a second entering service at noon to make a 10 minute headway. Trams temporarily terminated at Talbot Square as the 30 seat Tilling Stevens would have insufficient capacity to cater for all but the local intermediate traffic.

The track renewal lasted until April but the bus route was made permanent but terminated at Warley Road/Sherbourne Road junction via Pleasant St Egerton Road and Cheltenham Road with a 12 minute service provided. It initially terminated at Talbot Square, but soon moved to Queen's Square by the Library turning via Queen Street, May Bell Avenue (now Abingdon St) and Springfield Road.

June 1926 saw the service incorporated into a new circular route. Starting at Gynn Square buses ran via Dickson Road, Warley Road, Sherbourne Road, Cheltenham Road, Egerton Road, Pleasant St, Dickson Rd, Springfield Rd, May Bell Avenue,  Abingdon St, Church St, Caunce St, Devonshire Road, Warbreck Hill Road to Gynn Square. Buses ran in both direction and their introduction coincided with the allocation of route numbers, anti-clockwise buses out via Dickson Road showed 1 and buses leaving via Warbreck Hill Road showed 2. Short workings ran at peak times from Gynn to St Johns Church and showed route 3. These were soon revised to replicate the pre June route terminating at Claremont School (in a loop via Sherbourne Road, Warley Road, Westminster Road and Claremont Road) and Queen's Square.

December 1926 saw the 1 and 2 diverted along Dickson Road instead of Claremont and route 3 was upgraded back to a full service operating every 10 minutes with a six minute peak frequency - the circular routes were discontinued in 1927. The reintroduction of the saw the present day Claremont route established with northbound buses running from Pleasant Street along Egerton Road, right into Cheltenham Road and left onto Sherbourne Road, right into Warley Road and Westminster Road, returning via Claremont Road, Sherbourne Road to its end and right into Ashburton Road to Pleasant Street.

This service continued in this form, upgraded to double deck operation in 1933 until 1936 when it was extended across town. May 1936 saw buses extended via Abingdon St, Church Street, Park Road and Newhouse Road terminating two-thirds of the way along at Winton Road.  Number 3A was displayed on short workings from Westminster Road to the Winter Gardens turning via Topping Street and Talbot Road. The 3 ran every 10 minutes with the 3A making a 5 minute peak service.

From October 1937 the 3 and 3A were extended along Warley Road onto Links Road, Holly Road and Devonshire Road to Warbreck Hill Road (back via Links Road). This lasted until 1940 when Westminster Road became the terminus once more. The 3A was suspended in 1939 as early wartime economies were made. It restarted in May 1940 and was extended to follow the 3 to Oxford Square then via Vicarage Lane to Cherry Tree Gardens (opposite the current Asda store) replacing route 12. The 3 was extended further along Newhouse Road to its junction with Cherry Tree Road. Frequency was thinned to each every 13 minutes by the end of the war, but was gradually stepped up to a combined 5 minute peak frequency with a 6 minute service at other times.

Pleasant Street at its junction with Dickson Road, for several years to 1959 buses turned left into Lord Street just behind the bus. Brand new National 2 542 is about to turn into Dickson Road on the later route. (Brian Turner)
 In 1959 it was decided to further penetrate the residential areas of Claremont. Route 3A continued to terminate at Westminster Road, but the 3 would now turn right off Sherbourne Road into Claremont Road and right again into Cromwell Road to terminate, returning via Handsworth Road to Sherbourne Road. Buses also now served Dickson Road in both directions - previously inbound buses on the 3 (and other Dickson Road routes) had run inbound along Lord Street. Marton bounded buses now used Talbot Road not Springfield Road. Summers 1964 to 1966 saw the 3 and 3A replaced by extensions of the 16B and 16 (resp) from their Wordsworth Avenue terminus. 1967 saw both routes adopt a single terminus running via the established route to Westminster Road, then returning via Claremont Road, Cromwell Road and Handsworth Road. The layover point was moved to Cromwell Road in 1973.

In July 1970 the 3 and 3A were linked at Cherry Tree Gardens as circulars. Buses on the 3 continued from Newhouse Road via Cherry Tree Road and then as the former 3A route via Vicarage Lane, Rectory Road, Waterloo Road to Oxford Square and as before. The 3A did the reverse - though did not serve Rectory Road.


Swifts took over the 3 in 1975, here 548 turns into Abingdon Street for Mereside in 1979 (Brian Turner)
 3 March 1975 saw both routes converted to OPO AEC Swift operation and these long buses were accommodated in Claremont by dropping the Cromwell Road/Handsworth Road section. Buses to Claremont now used Talbot Road instead of Springfield Road as outbound buses had since 1959. February 1976 saw the daytime routes extended with the 3 now running from Newhouse Road via Clifton Road, Deepdale Road and Langdale Road to Mereside and the 3A from Welcome Inn via Midgeland Road to its junction with School Road - with school time buses continuing to the Borough Boundary. Evening and Sunday buses continued on the circular route. A combined 15 minute daytime service was provided - well down form the 5 minute service of the 1950s. 5 buses were used, except evenings/Sundays when the shorter routes needed just 4. The daytime extensions replaced service 4 (Town Hall-Mereside) and part of the 6B (Grange Park to Midgeland Road).

1977 saw a reduction in frequency to every 20 minutes, alternately to each terminus but the evening and Sunday services were all operated as service 3 to Mereside on a half hourly headway using three buses.

Tram Replacement Part 2

The 25A used centre entrance PD2s in its early years. 297 climbs Anchorsholme Hill at Easter 1967 (Brian Turner)
 The Dickson Road tramway closed on 27 October 1963 and for the winter trams would only operate between Fleetwood and Cleveleys (where licensing issues prevented a replacement bus service) with buses running in Blackpool. The following day an eight minute frequency bus service ran from Cleveleys with alternate buses terminating at Central Station as 25A or Starr Gate as 25. There was no direct replacement for the North Station trams as the existing bus services 7/7A, 7C and 15 along Dickson Road were deemed appropriate for local traffic and the belief was most Town Centre bound passengers would be content with Talbot Square as a alternative. Some early morning journeys on the 25 were routed via North Station to meet early trains, but it was not until December that the 25A journeys were routed along Dickson Road to act as a permanent replacement as passengers were not satisfied with the previous arrangements.

Sister 299 heads towards South Station on a Saturday afternoon working on the 25A (despite the number blind). The two PD3 on the 23 to the Hospital to the left of 299 shows where terminating 25As would layover at Central Station, turning off by the Woolworths building where a further Titan can just be seen. (Brian Turner)
At Easter the Starr Gate to Fleetwood tram service resumed and the 25 ended, leaving the 25A as a 16 minute frequency Cleveleys to Central Station service via Promenade and Dickson Road using three buses, normally the old centre entrance PD2s. By 1965 the service was reduced to every 20 minutes in the summer and 30 in the winter and in October was diverted to serve Beaufort Road and Norbreck Road between Bispham and Little Bispham. In 1967 the half hourly service was operating year round with an hourly Sunday service, but summer Saturdays 10-4 saw a 25 minute service with buses extended to Blackpool South Station via Lytham Road. 
From the oldest to the newest, Swifts took over in 1969. Ten years later 569 heads along Dickson Road during road remodelling for the one way system which lasted until July 2013 (Brian Turner)
Winter Evening and Sunday services ceased around 1968 and on 8 December 1969 the 25A become one of the first two services to be converted to OPO operation with AEC Swifts. The timetable offered a half hourly service and a hourly summer evenings/Sundays service. The Saturday extensions to South Station having proven short lived.

1974 saw the Hounds Hill terminus (the former Central Station site) move to Market Street and again in October 1975 to Talbot Square. 1977 saw the service extend along the Promenade to the Coliseum Coach Station at Manchester Square with a third bus required, though before 10am the service still terminated at Talbot Square.

Combination

1980 saw the 3 extended over the 25A to Cleveleys. Lancet 599 contrasts with the earlier shot of 297 on Anchorsholme Hill. (Brian Turner)
7 January 1980 saw the logical merger of the 3/3A. The latter were extended from Sherbourne Road via Warley Road onto Dickson Road to Gynn Square then over the 25A route along the Promenade to Bispham, Red Bank Road, Beaufort Road, Norcliffe Road, Norbreck Road, Shore Road, Queens Promenade, Fleetwood Road, Bispham Road, Victoria Road West, Princess Road to Cleveleys Bus Station. A half hourly service was provided using four buses. Evening journeys all ran as route 3 from Mereside to Gynn Square, but Sunday buses terminated at Westminster Road. After a few weeks route 3 was diverted from Newhouse Road onto Penrose Avenue due to problems with parked cars - Penrose Avenue had last been regularly served by the 4 in 1976.

The 3/3A turns onto the Promenade at Bispham. 587 heads for Midgeland Road as a 3A
In 1982 Sunday services were later cut back to run from the Bus Station to Mereside (the only time the 3 used the Bus Station) and were reduced to hourly but were co-ordianted with the 16B which also served Park Road and Mereside but also Great Marton.
At deregulation the 3A was withdrawn and the 3 increased to half hourly but from Gynn Square was re-routed via Warbreck Drive and Red Bank Road to terminate at Bispham Library. The evening service (Gynn to Mereside every 30 minutes) and the hourly Bus Station to Mereside Sunday service was taken over by Fylde on contract to LCC.

Competition in 1988 as National 174 approaches Mereside terminus on the 3 as Fylde minibus 119 awaits departure for Blackpool on competing service F1 (later 33) (Brian Turner)
Blackpool diverted alternate buses as service 3A via Great Marton from April 1988 and Fylde introduced a minibus service in competition via Park Road and Preston New Road from June 1988. This was later diverted via Newhouse Road, expanded and extended and prompted Blackpool to withdraw the 3 and 3A completely in April 1990. Park Road continued to be served by Fylde's 33 minibus, while Blackpool used the 7 and 7A to replace the 3/3A in Claremont. The Cleveleys to Bispham section had been replaced by new route 33 (Cleveleys to Marton) at deregulation, it was later replaced by commercial Fylde minibus service 5A/5B (later 55A/B and 44A/B which forms today's route 4).

Blackpool returned to Park Road on 1 September with a new route 4 using three Deltas to provide a 15 minute frequency from Corporation St via Park Road, Vicarage Lane to terminate at Tesco. In January 1993 it was replaced by routes 3 and 4 using two minibuses on a combined 20 minute service with alternate buses running via Vicarage Lane to Welcome Inn and back via Penrose Avenue or the opposite. This was equally short lived and ended in April 1993.

The combined Blackpool/Fylde network of November 1994 saw the 33 provide a half hourly Mereside to Blackpool (and onto Cleveleys) service along Park Road, with the 2/2A/2B serving Claremont every 7/8 minutes and the 44A/B serving Little Bispham every 15 minutes.

Solo 258 in Line 3 blue on Penrose Avenue. Line 3 colours were applied to 261-266 in 2002. New longer 258-260 replaced 265/6 (and provided an extra bus) in March 2004 and sisters 294-297 replaced 261-4 in 2008 (Brian Turner)
Metro in 2001 saw the 3 return. The new routes, replacing much of the 33 but also parts of the 2/2A/2B started at Mereside and ran via Newhouse Road, Park Road, Town Centre, Claremont, Gynn Square, Warbreck Drive, Bispham, Kincraig Avenue, College, Sevenoakes to Cleveleys. It ran every 20 minutes daytime and 60 in the evenings/Sundays using Optare Solos. Line 4 provided a combined 10 minute service between Bispham and Blackpool (but via Dickson Road not Claremont). Otherwise it ran from Mereside to Cleveleys Park via Great Marton, Stanley Park, Blackpool, Bispham and Little Bispham.
Revisions saw the 3 re-routed via Penrose Avenue instead of Newhouse Road in November 2001 (21 years since its predecessor was changed likewise). From 2003 to 2009 it was extended from Cleveleys to Thornton but otherwise continues unchanged. The 4 was diverted via Claremont but via Carshalton Road and Sherbourne Road from Dickson Road to Pleasant St in January 2003 but in May 2007 adopted the Line 3 route, which was basically that operated since 1928.

Claremont's bus service started thanks to tramway regeneration in 1924 and became Blackpool's third bus route (later legitimised in its number). Although substituted by the 7/7A from 1990 to 1994 and the 2/2A/2B until 2001, it has regained its traditional number once more.

Other Services
Claremont has seen some other comparatively short lived services. Warley Road was served by Tuesdays/Fridays only service 16 run by Fylde from Blackpool to Bispham via Dickson Road, Warley Road, Low Moor and Kincraig Road from April 1987 to 1990.

Fylde ran competing commercial services 8A (Cleveleys to Airport) every hour form June 1987, replaced it with service 8 (Cleveleys to Lytham every 30 minutes) in December. June 1988 saw the 11 take-over but this became a circular to Bispham and back via Devonshire Road with the 11A/B in reverse from November 1988. The following January saw the 11A/B run from Devonshire Road via Claremont Road and as the 11 to the Town Centre (and back via Warley Road). The 11A/B ended in October 1989 but their route was adopted in April 1990 by Blackpool's 7/7A. The 11 continued to serve Claremont until April 1990 when it was diverted via Dickson Road.

Fylde also ran their 55B through Claremont from March to November 1990. October 1989 saw Fylde's contracted 3 replaced by routes 333/444 which followed the same route (including Claremont) from Gynn Square to Oxford Square then via Penrose Avenue or Great Marton to Mereside. This lasted until the Metro era when it was incorporated into Lines 3 and 4.

In 1979 Blackpool operated a short lived service 8 which replaced the remnants of service 6B. It ran from Grange Park (Fulwood Square) to the Tower via Argosy Avenue, Mansfield Road, Claremont Road, Ashburton Road/Egerton Road, Dickson Road, Talbot Road and Promenade. It ran off peak 1100-1500 every hour. It followed the route of a very short lived experimental minibus route of 1977 (which started at Castle Gardens and ended at Manchester Square). Another 8 returned in November 2001 starting unusually at Egerton Square (Pleasant St/Egerton Road) and via Warley Rd/Claremont Road, Plymouth Road, St.Walburgas Road, Victoria Hospital, East Park Drive, Preston New Road, Mereside Tesco, Mereside Estate, Welcome Inn, Highfield Road, Acre Gate and Lytham Road to Manchester Square every hour Monday to Saturdays with 2 minibuses (evening/Sunday buses running Tesco to Manchester Square only. It lasted until April 2002.

Catch 22 Bus service 22 (originally Mereside-Cleveleys and now Blackpool to Fleetwood) has run through Claremont since January 2013. It runs to Fleetwood via Pleasant Street, Egerton Road, Cheltenham Road, Sherbourne Road, Warley Road and returns via Claremont Road, Sherbourne Road, Ashburton Road, Egerton Road and Pleasant Street.

From the Archives: Blackpool and the Atlantean

305 - one of the first batch of Atlanteans showing off the original livery at Borough Boundary with a characteristic, but corroded home made shelter. (Brian Turner)
Blackpool’s affair with the Leyland Atlantean began in 1975. Two examples were demonstrated in August 1975 HUP441N - an ECW bodied Bristol VR of Northern General and KBU911P - a GMPTE Leyland Atlantean were tested - the latter at least on route 22. As a result orders were placed for two batches of twelve East Lancs bodied buses. This was later modified to three batches of ten each but it was not until July 1977 that the first arrived with 301-304 licensed on 5 July (as BFR301-4R) followed by 305-310 as CBV305-10S, licensed at the beginning of August. Unusually they were long wheelbase examples at 33ft (3ft longer than a PD3 but shorter than a Swift) and seated 86 with 50 accommodated upstairs.

Manager Derek Hyde told the Gazette in November 1976 that the all-over cream livery would be “too much of a good thing” on the double deckers and was planning a new livery based on green and cream. The eventual scheme of cream with green roof, top deck windows, narrow band above the lower windows and a broad band on the lower panels was influenced by Southampton Corporation.

The initial batch were deployed in OPO format on routes 7/7A (Bispham Circular) and crew form alongside PD3s on their varied duties including the 5/5A, 6, 11/11A, 11C, 14 and 22/22A.

Brand new 329 in Rigby Road Depot in September 1979. Behind is a Preston Corporation Panther on loan due to vehicle shortages (Brian Turner)
The second batch – 311-320 (JFV311-20S) entered service in July 1978 with batch three 321-330 (URN321-30V) following in September 1979. Further batches were ordered with 331-340 (AHG331-40V) entering service in June 1980 and 341-350 (GHG341-50W) arriving between 8 May (344/8) and w/e 20 June (341/2) all entering service between 25 May and 22 June. 
362 - the last bus seated Atlantean competes for attention with the mayoral car when still nearly new in December 1983 (Brian Turner)
The delivery first 50 Atlanteans coincided with a reduction of the overall fleet from 143 in 1976 to 117 in 1981. They mainly replaced PD3s with 61 leaving the fleet but the period also saw disposal of the first Swifts. Another 14 Atlanteans joined the fleet in 1982-1984. 351-354 (UHG351-4Y) arrived in July 1982 and entered service in early August. They seated 85 with a single seat omitted behind the staircase. 355-362 (A355-62HHG) arrived in mid August 1983 and entered service soon after. They also seated 85 but featured two leaf rather than four leaf doors.

Finally 363/4 (B363/4UBV) arrived and entered service week ending 22nd September 1984 – only Fylde 75 (B75URN) entered service later than this pair on 1st October as one of only four B-reg Atlanteans (Merseyside 1070 being the other). The story of the last Altanteans is told here. Unusually for the Blackpool fleet they featured high back semi coach seats which reduced the number of seats which could be accommodated. The total capacity was 74, with 45 upstairs and 29 downstairs as the rear facing seats over the rear wheelarches were omitted in favour of luggage pens. The body design featured a single piece upper deck front window and dropped leading edge to the first side window. The livery was modified with cream with green roof and skirt with two lime green bands as illustrated.

The two coach seated Atlanteans 363/4 arrived in this unusual livery. Note the revised front. When not used on private hires they were often used on route 12 (Brian Turner)
With all 64 in service out of a fleet of 109, the Atlantean accounted for over half the fleet with just 11 PD3s, 26 Swifts, 4 Lancets and 4 National 2s making up the numbers. The Atlanteans were widely used. Prior to deregulation they were commonly found on routes 5/5A, 6, 7/7A, 9/9A, 10, 11/A, 11C, 12, 14, 21, 22/22A and 26 with buses used in crew form on the 5/A, 14 and 22/22A, plus the 6 to 1980 and 11C to 1983. Additionally they ran on school services and special work such as a free bus to Blackpool Pleasure Beach which occupied 302 with promotional lettering during June/July 1982. Occasional mishaps beset the buses – most notably 303 which was driven under Rigby Road bridge on February 21 1981 and lost its roof. This low bridge next to the depot was out of bounds to double deckers, but all buses were then banned until the bridge was raised in 1985.

An unusual exchange in 1985 saw 351 and 352 operate with West Yorkshire PTE for a few weeks in exchange for their 6299/300 (PUA299/300W). This was part of the Tramway Centenary events as they carried commemorative liveries for Huddersfield Transport buses and trams respectively. Blackpool numbered them 366/7 and 352 was swapped for 366 at an event at Crich on 9 June and returned on 1st August. 351 and 367 were exchanged between 16 June and 31 July. [Flickr link: 352 in Huddersfield


Withdrawals and Disposals Part 1

Three Atlanteans were destined for a short life with Blackpool for on 1st October 1986 a fire started in the depot yard on 310 and spread to 335 and 342 with sisters 340 and 362 receiving minor damage as they were shunted out of the way before the fire spread. The disfigured remains were kept in store until they were removed for scrap in June 1987.

Fire damaged Atlanteans 342, 310 and 335 (left to right) stored in the depot prior to disposal (Paul Turner)
Routine withdrawals commenced in April/May 1989 when 301-307 were laid up replaced by new Olympians. Only 305 saw further use – standing in for fire damaged 350 between November 1989 and March 1990. 308/9, 311/2/4 were also withdrawn in March 1990 following the introduction of Deltas to the 23-25. 305-309 were the first to leave – to Norfolk’s Nayland in May 1990. 301/2/4 then went to Liverline, Liverpool in June with 303 going to Toxteth Community Council joining PD3s 511/38.

Also 314 was reinstated, 311/2 did not run for Blackpool again but lasted in store until sale in August 1991 to North Devon Red Bus. 313 was withdrawn in October 1990 with 314 again in May 1991 – both passing to Blue Bus, Horwich in August 1991.

315-317 came off in October 1991 but were reinstated in December to release Routemasters from route 12. February 1993 saw 315-323/5/6 withdrawn but they were reinstated in June 1993 for a few weeks. Several also ran in April for a shuttle bus contract for a Rotary International conference. 316, 317, 321-323, 325 and 326 returned to use in September while advertising liveried 324 was withdrawn. All but 326 were withdrawn once again in November. 315/6 went to Eastbourne Buses in January while 317-321 were sold to North Birmingham Busways a month later. 323/4 later returned to use but by November 1994 322-327 had moved to Fylde, joined by 328-330 in March 1995. [Flickr link 316 at Eastbourne]

The Fylde Inheritance
Fylde was purchased by Blackpool in May 1994 and at the time operated 52 Atlanteans including four rebodied as single deckers. 18 were Northern Counties example new to Fylde between 1975 and 1984 plus the sole survivor of three new to Lytham in 1970; 18 were Roe bodied dating from 1970-1973 and acquired by Fylde from Kingston-upon-Hull City Transport between 1986 and 1993; 9 were 1976/7 vintage Northern Counties bodied buses new to Greater Manchester and the last two were a 1965 built Metro Cammell open topper new to Salford and a 1978 built Northern Counties bus new to AA of Ayr. By this time Blackpool had sold 23 of its 64 buses, but attention now turned to replacing the Fylde examples as only six of Fylde’s were younger than Blackpool’s oldest.
With Fylde taken over, Blackpool adopted the Fylde livery layout but with a cream base relived by green for Blackpool buses and cream for Fylde buses. Here is former Fylde 69 in February 1997 in the Fylde version, but after Blackpool had fully absorbed its subsidiary, hence the Blackpool series fleet number 469.
Blackpool transferred 322-327 and 364 to Fylde in November 1994 which replaced four of the ex Manchester and two of the ex Hull buses. Also transferred in were 328-330 in March 1995 and 331/4 in April 1996 to cover additional contract work. Blackpool absorbed Fylde in July 1996 and inherited the 46 surviving Atlanteans – and reclaimed the 12 transferred in. The new fleet comprised:
  • Single deckers 134-137 (TKU462/5/6/9K)
  • Northern Counties coach seated 441-445 (HIL5341/2/5943, NJI5504/5) Northern Counties bus seated 450 (HRN100N), 458 (ATD281J), 465-9 (ONF660/9/73R, SRJ756/7R), 470 (TSD571S), 471-4 (OJI4371-4), 475 (SIB8405), 478/9/81-3 (HRN98/9,101-3N), 495 (RHG95T), 496 (XHG96V) – 465-9 being the new to Manchester buses, 470 was new to AA and 458 to Lytham
  • Roe bodied closed toppers 449 (ARH314K), 456 (WRH291J), 459 (ARH301K), 486-493 (MIW8186-8, RIB4089/6590, IIL4291, NIW6492, ARH306K)
  • Roe bodied open toppers 452-454/7 (TKH266H, WRH294J, ARH304K, WRH295J) plus open rear balcony 455 (ARH304K)
  • Metro Cammell bodied open topper 451 (DBA227C).
  • 449, 451-459, 486, 490/1/3 were type PDR1A/1 (451 PDR1/1) rather than the later AN68 type.
The buses retained Fylde numbers initially – those above being the Blackpool numbers (with 130 added to the single deckers and 400 to the double deckers). As an aside 322-331/4 kept Blackpool numbers with Fylde but 364 was renumbered 47 and surprisingly became 447 after the merger, though it regained 364 after repaint back into green and cream in May 1997. Also renumbered was 450 which became 480 in July to group it with its sisters 478-483.

Fylde had adopted a blue and cream version of the BTS livery in 1994 but repaints had not been completed by the time the fleet was absorbed with the inherited fleet carrying:

  • Blue and Cream: 442, 449, 451, 454-456, 458/9, 465/9/70, 473/8/9, 481-3, 486, 488-493
  • Two tone blue: 134-137, 443-445, 447, 466/8 and 474
  • All-over adverts: 441, 450, 452/3/7, 471/2/5, 495/6 with either blue and cream or green and cream fronts
  • BTS Green and Cream: 467 (applied prior to the absorption)


Graph showing the number of Atlantens in the fleet at the start of each year from 1978 to 2009. The fleet had dropped to 41 in 1994, before being more than doubled to 87 by the Fylde take-over. 

Withdrawals and Disposals Part 2

331-337 were stored from April 1995, but were back in use by June 1995 as the priority was to replace former Fylde buses. Between October 1996 and April 1997 veterans 449, 451, 456-459, 486/8, 490/1/3 were withdrawn - 488 was the youngest at 25 years old, 451 the oldest at over 31 years. Open toppers 452-4 and the unusual open balcony 455 were retired at the end of the 1998 Promenade Service season. 453 was the last open topper to run on 23 October, though 455 lasted until 26th. Closed topper 487 was also laid up after receiving some internal damage on a school, service. It last ran on 23 October 1998.

February 1999 saw 465-470, 481, 489 and 492 withdrawn but 466/9 were later reinstated. 489 and 492 were the last two ex Hull buses to run, 489 being the last of all, working a PM school contract 840 from Preesall to Fleetwood.

East Lancs 322/3 also became driver trainers 922/923 that summer. These were not the first to be so used as 332/3 were used to train drivers for London General between December 1995 and September 1996 with 333 continuing to be so used until January 1997. Blackpool Transport was one of a number of provincial firms to train new local recruits for London operators who couldn’t obtain enough drivers in London.
Former Fylde 75 in its later guise as Blackpool 475 heads along the Promenade to work a school service in Lytham St. Annes in March 2004 a few months before withdrawal. It was hardly looking its best - its last repaint was October 1996, the Creme Egg advert is virtually removed - with quantities of cream paint taken too. Interior the moquette was quite mismatched  (Brian Turner)
Withdrawals of ex Fylde buses continued in 2000 with 466, 478, 482 and 496 all withdrawn during 2000 and 469, 479/80/3 in January 2002 - these last had started 2001 in store, but 479/83 were reinstated to release Deltas for repaint into new Metro liveries in March and then all four returned to provide extra services for the Open Golf in July. 

May 2002 saw the first new double deckers since 1994 with nine new low floor Dennis Tridents arrived to replace Fylde 441 and 495 plus East Lancs bodied 324-7/9-332, with 328/38 following in July. It was decided to retain the younger refurbished Fylde Atlanteans (443-5, 471-5) at the expense of older East Lancs. 324-330 were withdrawn nine years after the first of the batch (321).

The 2003 Tridents saw off 333/4, 336/7, 339-341, 343-9 and 442, while the 2004 batch replaced the last ex Fylde Atlanteans 443-445, 471-5 leaving Blackpool with just 15 Atlanteans (350-364). 
136 is one of four Atlanteans which Fylde had rebodied with Northern Counties Paladin single deck bodywork in 1993. They struggled to find a purpose with Blackpool Transport and were sold in 1999. 1998 saw a period of use on Promenade service 1 on which 136 is seen departing Pontins. (Brian Turner)
The single deckers (134-137) were parked up at the end of October 1997 still in Fylde livery but were reinstated in December 1997. 134/6 went back into use but 135/7 were painted green and cream before use – 134/6 soon following. Despite this, they were withdrawn again at the end of March 1998, but returned to use at the start of May to release double deckers from summer services 1 (Promenade) and 21 (Zoo). December 1998 saw the quartet return to store but they emerged again in June for the summer services lasting until the end of August when they were withdrawn, departing on 30 October 1999 collected by Wacton – a Bromyard based dealer and operator.

Of the double deckers, disposals were varied with most of the East Lancs buses seeing further service, while the Northern Counties ones usually went for non psv work. Typically the older Roe bodied examples were scrapped while in May 2003, 333 became the first routine withdrawal of the East Lancs examples to be sent for scrap. Other than 333 and the fire victims all others of 301-349 saw further use.

Of the last 15, 350/1 spent several months in store in early 2005 but were not withdrawn until December 2005. More Tridents saw off 352/4-6/9 in June 2006 and 353, 357, 360-2 followed by August. A farewell event on 28/29 October saw 358, 360-2 return to use for the weekend, alongside 363/4. The latter pair remained in service while the others returned to store. Surprisingly 353 and 360 returned to use in January 2007 (though 358 soon replaced 360 in February). Final withdrawal for 353, 358 and 363 came in July 2008 with 364 soldiering on alone until final withdrawal on 30 November 2009. Since then it has remained in the fleet as a heritage bus for events only but hasn't seen use since 2011. Trainers 922/3 (ex 322/3) lasted until February 2007 and December 2006 respectively.

Repaints
Routine repaints commenced in July 1980 and all of 301-362 received a full repaint in the original livery except for 304 and 358 which received all-over adverts as their first repaint. The vehicles were treated:
• 301-310 between July 1980 and March 1981
• 311-320 between July 1981 and March 1982
• 321-330 between August 1982 and March 1983
• 331-340 between June and November 1983
• 341-350 between August 1985 and c Jan 1986
• 351-362 between May 1986 and February 1987
• 301-320 were treated again between November 1983 and August 1985
308 shows off the experimental version of fleet livery with green rather than cream skirt in 1984 which it retained until its next repaint July 1988 (Brian Turner)
The standard livery was varied twice. Firstly 308 was outshopped with a green skirt, rather than cream in May 1984, followed by 313 in September – though this was not adopted routinely. Five more (302/3, 316/7, 321) received green skirts, but also orange and yellow stripes to promote ‘Shuttle 6’ a marketing initiative on route 6 at the end of 1984. Several buses received all-over adverts

  • 304: Hounds Hill May 1982; Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde Health Authority November 1985; Hitachi April 1987 and to new fleet livery August 1989 (as a withdrawn bus)
  • 312: Fylde Coast Rover April 1984; Louis Tussauds April 1986 and to new livery August 1988
  • 314: Red Rose Rambler July 1982; Lancashire Bus Pass July 1984 to original fleet livery December 1986
  • 326: Y-Fronts March 1984; back to original livery August 1985
  • 358: Allied Carpets September 1985; Travelcard December 1986; Mackeson Stout May 1989 and back to fleet livery


324 newly outshopped in the new fleet livery in October 1987 using the earlier shades of green and cream, rather than off-white as used on the earlier Atlantean livery and the passing Swift. (Donald MacRae see his Victory Guy photo albums for more from his collection)
A new livery of deep cream with green roof, window surrounds and skirt was adopted in 1987 – launched on Olympians 365-367 but soon rolled out onto Atlanteans. The first repaint was 316 in March 1987 quickly followed by 302/3/17/21 by June – eradicating the Shuttle 6 livery. 304 received an advertising livery in April. 301/5/6 received the new Super 6 livery in September and by the end of the year 18 Atlanteans had been treated to the new livery: 302, 303, 307, 315, 316, 317, 321, 322, 323, 324, 327, 329, 330, 332, 333, 337, 339, 340.

1988 saw attention focus on completing the second repaints of 321-340 with 325/6/8 outshopped between April and September, 331/4/6/8 between March and July. The third repaints of 301-320 progressed with 308/9, 311-314, 318-320 all treated by September. March saw 347/9 become the first of batch five to be repainted into the new livery and the nine survivors had been treated by November. 351-4 were painted between October and December 1988 while 363/4 lost their coach livery in favour of the new bus livery in December.

The 1983 batch was treated between November 1988 and April 1989. The last three (360-362, plus Travelcard livery 358 and already painted 321) were all outshopped in all-over adverts for Mackeson Stout in April 1989. This completed the programme, but surprisingly in August/September 301-307 were all repainted despite being stored in reserve – 301/4-6 received the new livery for the first time, but only 305 would wear it in service as this was reinstated for winter 1989/90 before disposal in May. Also repainted in autumn 1989 were 315-317, 322-324.

Repaints took place again from September 1990, though the Stout buses lost their advertising liveries (362 for Bonanza Family restaurant, the rest for fleet livery). 327-333, 337-340 and 354 all received routine repaints before the end of the year. This continued with 325/6, 334/6/9, 341/3/5-8, 350, 352-355 treated in 1991 and 356/7/9, 363/4 by April 1992. 324 gained Shoemarket livery but the next fleet liveried repaint – 329 again – in October 1992 saw it emerge with black window surrounds as introduced on the Optare Deltas. Over the next two years 25 Atlanteans were treated to this revised version: 316, 324, 327-334, 336-40, 344/6/9, 350/2, 356/8, 360-2 – 346 was the last treated in October 1994.

Atlantean 351 puts in a turn on seasonal service 20 in 2004. When new 351-364 had recessed destination glasses, but these tended to let in water and many later received rubber mounted ones as shown here. 353, 361 and 364 retained their original apertures until withdrawal. (Brian Turner)
The takeover of Fylde saw a revised livery using their style but in green and cream for Blackpool and blue and cream for Fylde adopted. Initial repaints in October saw 351 and 353 receive fronts in the new scheme with Zone Card adverts on the rear. 345 was the first full green and cream repaint in November. 322-327 went to Fylde and 322/5-7 had their livery modified to the blue and cream variant (over-painting green with blue or cream as appropriate. 323/4 were painted white with blue/cream fronts, 323 later gaining full livery but 324 received an advert. 328-330 were similarly partly repainted into blue and cream in March/April 1995 on transfer. 364 received a full repaint in Fylde two tone blue which was retained for Seagull Coaches operations and it joined that sub fleet as number 47.

The transfers left 331-334, 336-341, 343-362 in the Blackpool fleet. Routine repaints into the new livery commenced in January 1995 with 348. 334/6/9/40, 343/4/7/50, 354/5/7/8 361/3 were also treated by the end of the year – plus 331 and 341 as all-over adverts for North West Lancashire Health Authority and Travelcard respectively. Spring 1996 saw 352 and 362 completed, but then attention turned to repaints out of Fylde colours. Ex Fylde buses 441/4 466-8 475 487 496 were treated in 1996, along with 326/8/9 and the sold repaint out of the old green and cream livery was 360. 1997 saw 443/5, 471/2 and 492 repainted before April 1997 before the livery was modified on these buses to feature a more shallow skirt. 442 453-5, 465/9, 470/3/4, 478/9, 481-3, 487/9 were so treated between June 1997 and January 1998. East Lancs 322/3/5/7, 330 also lost blue and cream in the same period while 332, 346, 351/3/8 received routine repaints – some treated for the second time.

The old livery was last observed in 1998 with 349 painted out in February, 356 in June and finally 358 in July. Several vehicles received second repaints into green/cream from then until 327 emerged in January 2001 – the last full Atlantean repaint and unusually omitting the black window surrounds. Prior to this two further ex Fylde buses received fleet livery ex all-over adverts – 495 in August 1998 and 480 in November 1999. Internally buses were rarely modified, though some had non standard seat coverings fitted sporadically. Early vehicles had leatherette trim edging to the yellow, brown and black moquette. Coach seated 363/4 were treated to full seat retrims in 1999 using an NBC style orange pattern.

Disposals
Only a handful of new to Blackpool Atlanteans went directly for scrap. Other than 310/35/42 in 1987 seven East Lancs examples went for scrap: 333 in July 2003, 355/9 in July 2006 323 (ex training duties) in July 2007, 352/60 in April 2009 and 363 in July 2009. 

Of the Fylde examples 441, 456/7/9, 469, 473, 480, 483, 486-488, 490/1/3 all went directly for scrap. A handful of examples were sold for preservation – 331, 334, 337, 353, 362, 445, 454, 458, 471, 479 and 496 though 331, 337 and 454 have since been scrapped.

306 with Hedingham Omnibuses Nayland base in June 1991 still in Blackpool livery which it retained with Norfolks who acquired 305-309 in May 1990 prior to takeover by Hedingham the following year (Brian Turner)
The 1990 to 1994 disposals were shared between Liverline Liverpool (301/2/4), Toxteth Community Council (303), Norfolks of Nayland (305-309), North Devon (311/2), Blue Bus, Horwich (313/4), Eastbourne Buses (315/6) and North Birmingham Buses (317-321). The Liverline buses moved to Sheffield Omnibuses in 1992 and the Norfolks buses were absorbed by Hedingham Omnibuses in April 1991. Their later histories are
  • 301 Cedrics, Wivenhoe (5/94); Boardabus, Essex (9/94), Stuarts of Carluke (by 8/98) and disposed probably for scrap 2/99
  • 302 Partridge, Hadleigh (?/94) and North Devon Red Bus (8/95), later became First Western National, w/d 5/01 for scrap
  • 303 Maghull Coaches (2/92); Pilkington, Accrington (4/03) and c7/05 to A&P of Barway for spares/scrap [flickr 303 Barway]
  • 304 Supreme, Hadleigh (c9/94); withdrawn by 1/99 presumed for scrap
  • 305 ABC, Southport (8/96); Aintree Coachline/Helms of Eastham (10/00) sold for spares/scrap 1/01
  • 306 Brentwood Coaches (8/96); Dons, Dunmow (9/99) c2004flickr link 306]w/d 2006 and for scrap
  • 307-309 Thornes, Bubwith (8/96) w/d c2004 (307/8), c2007 (309) all scrapped
  • 311/312 w/d by First Western National (ex Red Bus) 7/01 (311), 10/00 (312). 312 used as a store by Western National Preservation group but scrapped 3/08. 311 scrapped 2001 [flickr: 312 with Red Bus]
  • 313 Wilson, Carnwath (4/96) and scrapped after low bridge accident 3/97
  • 314 exported to Saudi Arabia 7/93
  • 315 Philips, Penrhiwceiber 3/97, Shamrock, Pontypridd 9/97, scrapped 4/00
  • 316 stripped for spares by Eastbourne Buses 12/96
  • 317/9/21 scrap from North Birmingham 11/04 (317), 2/04 (319) and 2006 (321)
  • 318/20 to Trailways, Sutton Coldfield (3/05 and 8/03 resp), 318 for spares, 320 for service. Both scrapped in 2007 [Flickr: 320 with Trailways]
317-321 were the inaugural fleet of North Birmingham Busways and all but 319 returned to Blackpool for refurbishment with retrimmed seating and new doors in 1997. 321 came back again in August 2000 for accident repairs and September 2004 for a depot open day
Of the later withdrawals:

  • trainer 322 went to a private owner in Yorkshire in December 2008 but the trail then went cold and it is presumed scrapped. 
  • 324 went to Red Kite, St Helens (6/02), Tees Valley, Redcar (10/05), KJB, Lincoln (c2/07) and was scrapped in 2009. 
  • 325-327, 329, 330 and 332 all went to Liddells of Cumnock in August 2002 but were all withdrawn by 2007. Most were scrapped, but 327/9 saw further use with Howells of Deri but have since also been scrapped. 330 only ran briefly with Liddells but then became a store at the depot and still survived at least in 2011. [Flickr: 330 as a store with Liddell]
  • 331 was briefly owned by LTT (until replaced by sister 334) and it was sold onto Fargo Coaches of Rayne who also purchased 339/40, 343-345 in August 2003 - these all went for scrap though 343 had a brief period in preservation. 
  • 328, 338 and 341 went to GM of Bridgend for further service lasting until 2006/7, though 338 later ran with Movereturn of Pontcymmer briefly in 2007.
  • 336, 346-349 went to Ayrways of Ayr in August 2003 and went for scrap after a few years on school services. 
  • 337 was preserved initially in Kent and later in Blackpool but was broken up in 2008. Sister 334 is the sole survivor of this batch with LTT.

350 as Streetscene Permanent Way Bus (Brian Turner)
 The ‘final 15’ had a more varied afterlife:
  • 350 became a ‘PW Bus’ with Blackpool Council Streetscene converted at BTS in 2006 and entering service in December 2006 - it lasted until November 2012 when it was replaced by a Metrorider. It was later advertised with a dealer near Warrington and is still shown as SORN
  • 351 was used for spares by local preservationists and was later scrapped
  • 352/60/3 were broken up at Inglemere Metals in Blackpool, 355/9 went to Partons of Barnsley
  • 353 was preserved by Chesterfield 123 Group and is restored in the final livery
  • 354/7/61 went to Scotbus, Inverness in November 2006 for school services, 354 was withdrawn late 2011, 357 in 2012 and 361 in 2013.
  • 356 became a playbus initially in the South West and is currently in the Ascot area branded as Wendy Bus.
  • 358 was bought by LTT for spares, 
  • 362 passed to LTT for preservation and is now owned by Martin Gurr and Gary Conn, restored to its 1990s livery
  • 364 is still with BTS and has recently been restored to its original livery.

Ex Fylde 453 in its later guise with Mac Tours in Edinburgh during 2001 (James Millington)
Of the Fylde examples:

  • 442 went to Pilkingtons, Accrington for spares
  • 443 as a mobile display unit in Cambridgeshire – both have been scrapped. 
  • 444 is now preserved after use by two dance troupes from 2004 to 2015
  • 445 is preserved and restored to Seagull Coaches livery. 
  • 451 (DBA227C) briefly ran with Halls of Kennoway and was rescued from scrap by a preservationist but eventually again succumbed to the scrapman eventually. 
  • 452 was exported to France but has not been seen recently. 
  • 453/5 went to Mac Tours – the former ending up in USA and the latter went for scrap without use despite a repaint. 
  • 458 is preserved by LTT and was rallied in 1998/9, it is currently under restoration as Lytham 77.
  • 471, 479 and 496 are in private preservation
  • 465 ran with Archway of Poulton from 1999 but was scrapped in 2004 
  • 466 with Maghull Coaches from 2001 until 2008 
  • 467 has been a static playbus on Anglesey since 1999 
467 in its long term home at Pilot Boat Inn, Dulais, Anglesea (James Millington), it has since been repainted red as seen here in 2014

  • 468 survives on Jersey as a commentary unit after a period with Royal British Legion - it was sold to Jersey Showjumping Association in January 2008 from Munden (dlr) Bristol. (Flickr photo 2015)
  • 470 became a playbus in the Salford area in early 2000 but was scrapped a few years later
  • 472 appeared as a non psv in Atherton in September 2006 but hasn't been taxed or tested since 2007
  • 474 was converted at S&T Coachbuilders for use as a mobile catering unit at the Rocket Centre near Blackburn- it was later moved to storage nearby and it appeared in a yard near BAE Salmesbury in 2012 but has not been seen since (though it remains on SORN)
  • 475 became a driver trainer in Dundee, lasting until 2006
  • 478 became a playbus, initially in Yorkshire - but it spent many years at Haynes Motor Museum, Sparkford in Dorset. It was sold in 2015, reportedly for further use in the Bournemouth area, but it hasn't been traced since. [flickr: 478 at Haynes]

482 spent several years in Bolton with A-Jay's Dance Troupe (Paul Turner)

  • 482 ran with A Jays Dance troupe from 2000 to 2006, 
  • 489/92 were used as PW Buses from 2000 to 2002 (489) or 2006 (492)the former spending some time at Whyndyke Farms in Blackpool before scrapping. 
  • 495 went to EST, South Wales for spares and 
  • 496 was preserved locally from 2001-2010 and after a spell at Whyndyke Farm as a non PSV is now at Keighley Bus Museum

Current survivors are thus:
330 (possible): Liddell's Cumnock (long term store)
334 Lancastrian Transport Trust (used by Catch 22 bus 2015/6)
350 (possible): with dealer
353 Chesterfield 123 Group
356 Playbus 
362 Preserved, Blackpool
364 Blackpool Transport
444 Preserved
445 Preserved, Blackpool
458 Preserved (LTT)
467 Playbus (Pilot Boat Inn on Anglesea)
468 Jersey (commentary box)
471 Preserved, Blackpool
474 (possible) unknown
478 unknown location 
479 Preserved, Blackpool
496 Preserved, Keighley

In so many ways, 'the last' 364 towards the end of its long career in April 2008. (Brian Turner)