Sunday, 28 June 2009

A tale of two Titans

501 and 529 pose together on Mereside turning circle

For the second year running Blackpool PD3 501 visited totallyTransport from its Glasgow base. 501 was new in June 1967 delivered in the livery shown by 529. At its first repaint it lost the green band and later received all-over off white. Blackpool experimented with different liveries on 390, 512 and 540 in 1982 and settled on 540's green/off-white scheme. 501 was one of several treated in 1983, emerging from the paint shop in April 1983 in a coat of paint that was to last it 25 years - though nobody would have predicted that at the time.

Slightly oddly in both 1983 and 1985 Blackpool withdrew recently repainted green/off-white PD3s yet painted further examples from the old livery into the new one. 501 was one and it was withdrawn and sold in February 1985 less than two years after its repaint. It was acquired by an Edinburgh based preservationist and moved to a new life in Scotland. The passage of time was unkind to the vehicle and after a few years of rallying it fell on hard times. By 2006 it was at the Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust's Bridgeton depot and in February 2007 was acquired by Martin Gurr, Gary Conn, Bill Thomson and Ian Short for further preservation. Little time was wasted in starting the restoration, the progress of which can be seen on the Best Bus In Town fotopic site. March 2008 saw the vehicle take power for the first time in many years and in April 2008 a full repaint into the 1983 livery style was undertaken. A successful MOT pass saw 501 return to active use in May and in June it returned to Blackpool for a relaunch by the incumbent local mayor, prior to totallyTransport.

501 on completion of its restoration (Gary Conn)

Meanwhile 529 is a year younger and was licensed on 28 June 1968 to enter service from 1 July. It had a very short life by Blackpool PD3 standards. In the late 1970s delivery of new buses was heavily delayed and some 1965 PD3s received life extension overhauls. In those days buses had 'Certificates of Fitness' for varying periods - 7 for the first, usually 6 for the second and shorter periods thereafter. By 1980 the backlog of Atlanteans had been cleared and it was decided to withdraw several of the 1968 buses as they were due for their second major overhaul to extend their CoF. 529 is believed to have been parked up in August 1980 and on 30 June 1981 it became the first Blackpool PD3 to enter preservation, purchased by Graham Oliver. Soon modified from the plain cream livery to represent the original livery it saw 2-3 years of active use with Graham. It then passed to Mike Brady and was stored locally before moving to Burscough and then St. Helens Transport Museum. In June 2001 Mike sold it back to Graham as its restoration had stalled. It returned to the Fylde in 2003 housed at the LTT Depot. Graham sold it to LTT for a nominal sum and in 2005 restoration began.

529 under repaint

Its repaint was completed in November 2006 but significant mechanical work delayed final completion until 21 October 2008 when the bus was successfully submitted for a Certificate of Initial Fitness exam and MoT, becoming a full PSV again for the first time since 1980. Its debut was at the Trust's October open day and during 2009 it has seen regular use including revenue earning duties on Classic Bus North West's 'Seafront 12' service.

529 at Thornton Social Club on Bus and Coach Preservation photoshoot