Monday, 11 May 2009

PD3 Survivors

Recently restored 501 recreates an evening 11A journey at Fairhaven

Blackpool's PD3s attained near legendary status for their longevity. 90 were bought between 1962 and 1968 and routine withdrawals began in 1976. Prior to that 355 and 378 had been withdrawn in 1973 and 397 in 1975. 378 became a driver trainer, the other two being accident victims - 397 losing its roof under the former low bridge on Rigby Road.

By 1980 the fleet total had dropped to 51 with 30 Atlanteans now in stock. By January 1983 21 PD3s remained and just 13 a year later. At deregulation in October 9 remained in service - 503, 507, 511-513, 515, 518, 538 and 540 with 516, 520 and 532 as driver trainers. Of the latter 520 was soon withdrawn and 532 was later reinstated.

The PD3's future was threatened, not by new buses, but by ex London Routemasters. A second batch of six bought for a summer Promenade service saw the PD3s laid up for the winter of 1988/9 and the arrival of six new Olympians killed them off for sure without further use in summer 1989. Regular service operation of PD3s finished in October/November 1988 but 507 survived in sporadic use until 1995 when it became a permanent driver trainer.

The first batch of PD3s (351-70) were full fronted versions bought to replace the Lytham Road and Marton tram routes in 1962. They ran until 1976-1978. 351 is the only survivor, owned by Lancastrian Transport Trust and presently stored awaiting future restoration. Batch two comprised 10 more full fronted buses but this time with St. Helen's fronts (371-80). Nicknamed 'half-moons' these curious buses lasted until 1980. 379 survived until quite recently in Japan.

The first half cab buses for over 30 years came in 1965 as 381-400. The last of these ran in 1983, including 390 - painted in an experimental green and off-white livery which it retains today in preservation. It only occasionally appears at events and is stored in Cheshire. Sister 394 became a 'burger van' at Alton Towers but is believed to have now gone. More remarkable was the sighting of 386 in France in 2007 - having been 'lost' since export in 1979. More well known in Europe is 398 which is owned by a politician (Govaert) in Wetteren, Belgium

351 at its current storage site

The 1967 batch has most survivors. 501 has recently been restored by its four joint owners and is based at the Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust depot in Bridgeton. Preserved in 1985 it saw little active use and deteriorated prior to passing to its current owners who tell the story here:

501 carries the 1982 green/off-white livery. This was the subject of trails, 390 was first, its livery including extra green lower deck window surrounds, 540 followed in the adopted version while 512 just had a green roof and waistband, though this did not operate as such. 503, one of the last survivors was last seen in Holland in 2001 with a flat roof line to meet height limits. There have been no recent reports.

506 and 507 today reside at the back of Rigby Road depot, pending the possible restoration of the latter. 506 was withdrawn in 1985 but in 1986 was converted to a mess bus for the tramway Permanent Way gang, staying in council ownership after deregulation. Retired in 2000 it has been owned by the M3 group since. 507 - the 1985 Centenary bus - was kept as a keepsake after the disposal of its last sisters and did occasionally see service. In 1995 it became a permanent driver trainer lasting until 1999. It was bought by Mac Tours, Edinburgh the following year but did not see use. After a spell with Ensign (dlr), stored in Stratford it returned north in 2005, privately owned but suffering from vandalism. It was later bought by Blackpool Transport and remains stored.

512 at Midgeland Road
511 - like several others - became a driver trainer in Liverpool, retaining BT livery and passed into preservation with the owner of Maghull Coaches in 2004. LTT purchased 512 in 1998 after a spell with London Country and a number of private owners. It was quickly restored but is currently out of use awaiting engine repairs. Sister 515 was bought by Graham Oliver but was replaced in 2000 by Driver Trainer 516 (withdrawn the previous September). 515 passed to LTT but only as a spares donor. It remains largely intact though.

516 is preserved as a driver trainer (its 1984-1999 status)

513 was exported to Sweden and used to carry cyclists and their bikes (the latter in a trailer) across a bridge to an Island. Its current status is unknown. In the UK 518 is owned by Chepstow Classic Buses.

526-540 formed the last batch in 1968 and 529 is the best known survivor, restored to original livery in 2006-2008 by LTT. 530 also survives as a mobile home and did visit Blackpool in 2004. 532 occasionally appears on EBAY in Cananda, exported there after a brief period of use by Stevensons of Uttoxeter. This retains Eastbourne colours having been swapped by Blackpool for Eastbourne's PD2 open topper DHC784E (incidentally now preserved on the South Coast after use with Mac Tours). 532 was an unusual example of a driver trainer returning to use - albeit only for one year and with 503 was one of just two to carry post deregulation livery. Finally -literally - comes 540 - another of the 1988 withdrawals, preserved after a period as a trainer but in poor condition and now a source of spaces for LTT's collection,

529 poses at the Thornton Social Club turning area

351 - Preserved (LTT), stored, unrestored
386 - derelict France
390 -Privately preserved, stored, restored,
398 - Wetteren, Belgium
501 - Preserved, Glasgow, restored and active
503 - possibly in Holland
506 - Preserved, unrestored, Blackpool
507 - Preserved, unrestored, Blackpool
511 - Preserved, unrestored, Liverpool
512 - Preserved (LTT), restored but stored
515 - LTT for spares
516 - Preserved (Graham Oliver c/o LTT) restored as driver trainer
518 - Chepstow Classic Bus
529 - Preserved (LTT), restored and active
530 - mobile home
532 - probably still in Canada
540 - LTT for spares