Monday, 5 October 2009

Atlantean Afterlife

The sole surviving Atlantean with Blackpool Transport is 364 seen here on Line 2 in August 2009

Blackpool's solitary Atlantean has had something of an Indian summer appearing on various Metro routes including Line 2, 6, 7, 10 and 11 - and even the 4A - Wordsworth Avenue to Tesco. Blackpool bought 64 Atlanteans new and inherited 46 from Fylde in 1996. 3 were destroyed by fire in October 1986 (310, 335 and 342) but otherwise routine withdrawals commenced in 1989. The Fylde takeover saw disposals of the East Lancs examples cease in 1994 and not resume until 2002, since when 54 remained with the last (other than 364) withdrawals taking place in 2008.

This article reviews the disposals and the survivors in batch order.

301-310 BFR301-304R, CBV305-10S new July/August 1977
The first to arrive and the first to leave, 301-307 were withdrawn in March/April 1989 after just 11.5 years service. 308/9 followed in March 1990. 301/4-6 were repainted out of expired route branding (or a Hitachi advert livery for 304) whilst stored, 305 being the only one to run again - operating for a few weeks in October 1989. Sale did not take place until May 1990 when 303 left for Toxteth Community Council, 305-309 for Norfolk's of Nayland. 301/2/4 left in June for Liverline, Liverpool. All had several other homes, 301/2/4 with Sheffield Omnibuses, 302 ending up with First Devon and Cornwall in Exeter. 305-309 went to Hedingham Omnibuses, 305 returned north to ABC of Southport and 307-9 finished with Thorne's Bubwith. 301-308 are believed to have now been scrapped - 308 after being over-turned for an episode of "The Royal" - set several years before it was built! 309 has a valid SORN declaration (to July 2010) so is presumably still in store with Thornes. 310 was one of the 1986 fire victims.

311-320 JFV311-320S new July 1978
These were withdrawn in two batches - 311-314 in May 1991 (at nearly 13 years old) and 315-320 between July and October 1993 (at around 15 years). 311-314 left in August 1991 to North Devon (311/2) or Blue Bus of Horwich (313/4). 315-320 hung on in 'reserve' until February 1994 when they were sold. 315/6 heading to Eastbourne Buses while 317-320 (and newer 321) forming the initial fleet of new operator North Birmingham Busways. 311/2 survived (with 302) until 2001 by which time First had absorbed North Devon. 312 then became a store at their Plymouth depot for local preservationists until it was scrapped in 2008. The Blue Bus pair went in different directions, 313 ending up in Scotland (where it was deroofed and scrapped) while 314 was exported to Saudi Arabia. 315 passed to Philip's Penrhiwceiber then Shamrock, Pontypridd before being scrapped in 2000 while 316 was broken up by Eastbourne. The North Birmingham Busways ones went for scrap, save for 320 which ran for Sutton Trailways (who used 318 for spares) before it too reached the breakers yard. Unless 314 survives, this batch is now extinct.

321 to 330 URN321-330V new September 1979.
This batch had a protracted disposal. 321 was retired in October 1993 and sold to North Birmingham in February 1994. It returned for the 2004 open day but has since been scrapped. 322-330 all went to Fylde after it was taken over in 1994 but later rejoined the fold when the subsidiary was absorbed. 322/3 became driver trainers in 1999, lasting until 2007. 323 was sold for scrap, 322 was sold - possibly for preservation. 324-330 survived until May 2002 (June for 328) accruing over 22 years in service. 325-7, 329/30 went to Liddel's of Auchinleck in Scotland, 324 to Red Kite, St Helens and 328 to GM, Bridgend. 324 ended up with KJB, Lincoln and after a period of SORN has been unlicensed since March 2009. 328 was sold for scrap in 2007. Of the Liddels examples 327/9 moved onto Howell's of Deri in 2007 who disposed of them in April 2009 - 329 certainly being scrapped. 325/6 remain on SORN, whilst 330 has been unlicensed since 2003, though was still at Liddels some time afterwards. Current status of these is unknown.

331-340 AHG331-40V new June/July 1980
Other than fire victim 335, these survived until May 2002 (331/2), Feb 2003 (333/6) or May 2003 (334, 337-340). 331 was bought by LTT and 334 by Graham Oliver who later passed it onto LTT, allowing 331 to be sold on. This moved to Fargo, Braintree rejoining 339/40 (and 343-5). Fargo gradually withdrew its Atlanteans from 2006 and 331/9/40 have all been scrapped. 332 joined 325-7/9/30 at Liddels and remains on SORN but was seen heavily stripped and partially dismantled on a lorry in June 2009 presumably heading for scrap. 333 was one of a handful sold directly for scrap by BTS, 336 went to Ayrways, Ayr (scrapped 2006) and 337 was privately preserved but broken up in 2008. 338 went to GM, Bridgend with 328 and has also been scrapped. 334 is thus now the sole survivor of this batch.

341-350 GHG341-50W new May/June 1981
2003 saw the withdrawal of 341, 343-349 in May (341) or July (the rest) with 350 surviving until November 2005. 342 was the third fire victim of October 1986. 341 joined 328/31 with GM, Bridgend and has been scrapped. 343-345 went to Fargo Coaches, 343/5 being the only two of their six to be repainted in red/yellow and they passed to Stephenson's of Essex with the Fargo business. 343 was purchased for preservation by Steven Hughes in 2009. 346-349 went to Ayrways joining 336 and all have since been scrapped. 350 was acquired by Blackpool Borough Council and converted to a mess bus for the Streetscene tramway PW gang. It remains in use.

Restored 353 on display in Birkenhead for the Wirral Bus and Tram Show 4 Oct 2009

351-354 UHG351-4Y new August 1982.
This small batch was withdrawn in stages. First to go was 351 in November 2005 and was used for spares by preservationists before being scrapped in 2007. 352 was withdrawn in June 2006 but stayed in store until April 2009 when it finally went for scrap. 354 came off in June 2006 and left in November for Scotbus of Inverness. 353 meanwhile survived its initial withdrawal of June 2006 by returning to use in January 2007 and lasting until a last day on Line 1 on 29 July 2008. In September it was collected by Chesterfield 123 Group who quickly restored it to the post 1994 livery.

362 at Blackpool Zoo on the Farewell to the Atlantean event in October 2006

355-362 A355-362HHG new August 1983.
The final bus seated batch remained intact until June 2006 when all eight were taken out of use. 355/9 were quickly sold for scrap and 356 became a playbus. 358, 360-362 were then reinstated especially for the (premature) last Atlantean event with 361/2 running on Line 20 (with 364) on Saturday 28 October and on Sunday 358/60/2 ran on the 20 and 361 on Line 6 (with 363/4). 362 was then sold to LTT for preservation, while 357 and 361 went to Scotbus, Inverness in November. 360 returned to service in January but lasted just one month, as 358 then replaced it. 360 survived in store until it was scrapped in April 2009 and 358 ran until July 2008 before passing to LTT for spares in April 2009.

363/4 B363/4UBV new Sept 1984
The final pair had coach seats to a lower capacity but in their last years were used interchangeably with the bus examples. 363 was withdrawn in July 2008 and scrapped in July 2009 whilst 364 has survived as something of a company pet, regularly rallied by the Blackpool Transport Omnibus Group. Hopefully it may be restored for 2010.

16 are believed to survive - though 332 is doubtful and they can be summarised as:
Preserved: 322, 334, 343, 353, 362 (5)
On SORN: 309, 325, 326, 332, 358 (5)
Scotbus, Inverness: 354, 357, 361 (3)
Blackpool Council: 350 (1)
Playbus: 356 (1)
Blackpool Transport: 364. (1)
Directly for scrap by BTS 310, 323, 333, 335, 342, 352, 355, 359, 360, 363 (10)