Saturday, 8 January 2011

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

Orange liveried PW buses 434 and 437 are parked on the depot fan while engineering car 754 (far left) sits in their normal home on track 1 of Rigby Road Tram Depot
For over 40 years redundant Blackpool buses have been used by the tramway permanent way gang as mess rooms at track renewal/repair sites. So far nine such vehicles have seen service - usually in pairs, but the reduced duties of the track gangs in the age of the private contractor has seen the fleet reduce to just one.

Two of Blackpool’s famous centre entrance Streamlined PD2s were the first to be set aside for use first PW buses. 246 (DFV146) was taken out of use in October 1967 and painted all-over dark green. It replaced a mess hut towed to track work sites by van. In the 1968 renumbering 246 became 6 in the works series. 300 (LFV300) joined its sister in March 1969 (number 8) also in green.

246 on arrival at the LTT Depot in 2004
The pair lasted until 1975 (by now numbered 296/8) and in early 1976 they were both sold. 246 was acquired by Geoff Lister, a Bolton based dealer, who used it as a site office until 1989. It was then acquired for private preservation and returned briefly to Blackpool. Needing major work it passed in March 1990 to the Lancastrian Transport Trust for eventual restoration. 300 passed to private owners in Huddersfield who rallied it for a while in the 1980s but it is currently undergoing restoration once more.

346 parked on the Cliffs during its spell with the Illuminations Department 
The replacement vehicles were 1959 vintage Metro Cammell bodies PD2s 334/7 (PFR334/7). Withdrawn in early 1975 both were fitted with doors on their rear platforms and painted all-over orange with numbers 434/7. Both vehicles were regularly seen parked on track 1 of the tram depot during the summer and out at the site of major track work in the winter. Sister bus 346 was also taken into ancillary service in 1975 passing to the Illuminations Department as a mess room for the gangs assembling the autumn displays. Sister bus 310 had been used previously.
Withdrawn driver trainer 378 spent a few months shivering at the track side at Manchester Square to house an inspector during single line operation
When 434/7 were unavailable for use temporarily, a service bus substituted. PD3s 391/2/4, 506, 512, 518, 523 and 540 have all been recorded in such use. Withdrawn PD3s were also used as inspectors cabins on a number of occasions during single line working. Former trainer 368 was used at Gynn Square and Tower (winter 80/1) and Manchester Square (spring 82), 376 at Gynn Square (Jan 80) while sister 377 was at the Cabin. Ex Trainer 378 was at Cabin and Manchester Square (winter 80/1).
Looking past its best, 258 (as 437 had become) returns to Rigby Road around 1987.
434 was the first of the pair to be withdrawn in 1986. It was acquired by the North West Transport Museum who had acquired sister bus 346 (PFR346) from the illuminations department in 1985. 434 was intended for spares but was stored in the museum until 1990 when it was dismantled.

PD3 506 became PW bus 257 in 1986 - note the co-ordinated livery detail with the van alongside! PW tram car 259 (ex 624)  poses in the background at the former track yard at Thornton Gate
When Blackpool Transport Services Ltd was formed in 1986 the Permanent Way vehicles were retained in council ownership (initially with the "Mechanical and Electrical Services Dept). 434’s replacement was one of Blackpool’s famous half-cabs. PD3 506 had been withdrawn in February 1985 and stored in the bus yard. In May 1986 it was moved into the body shops for a body overhaul and internal modifications (standard fixtures include a sink!). The original fibre glass grill was replaced by a new metal one though curiously with the correct pattern slats at right angles to the normal design. After a repaint in Sunshine Yellow 506 entered service at the end of the year with new fleet number 257.437 was renumbered 258 in the council series and continued in service. Its last use was recorded in February 1988 and the bus was stored in the council compound opposite the depot. By now the PW buses were kept in Rigby Road bus garage, rather than the tram depot. 258 was kept until December 1989 when it passed to North, Sherburn-in-Emlet a well known bus dealer. No buyer was found and in June 1992 it was scrapped by a Barnsley dealer.

A surprising purchase as replacement for 258 (437) was a 1971 vintage Leyland Atlantean with Northern Counties bodywork. New to Chesterfield Corporation, PNU114K was acquired from Black Prince Coaches, Morley near Leeds in February 1988. Conversion and repaint was done at the Central Transport Works (now BT's 'East Shed' workshops). First use was recorded on May 3rd 1988 with fleet number 268.

During the mid 1990s the buses were moved to the Operational Services Department yard at Layton and were decorated with “Track Services” logos. Their use was now commonly all year round as track work spread into the summer. By 1999 both buses were somewhat rough having survived on basic maintenance for over ten years. Replacements were mooted towards the end of 1999 and the OSD duly acquired to redundant Blackpool Transport Atlanteans. 489 (RIB4089) and 492 (NIW6492) had been new in 1972 as DRH329/7L resp to Kingston-upon-Hull Corporation. Fylde acquired them in 1988 and 1992 resp and they passed to Blackpool on take-over. They were withdrawn in February 1999 and went into store with several sisters at the OSD yard in Layton.

No cosmetic attention was lavished on the two ex Hull Atlanteans, save for the odd bit of vinyl showing Track Services - which must have baffled the guests at the Savoy Hotel outside which the bus sits in this July 2005 shot.
Conversion work was done at the OSD and work commenced on 492 during summer 2000. It made its debut on September 1st 2000 carrying fleet number 262 and replaced 268 - just one year its senior! 489 was then converted appearing on October 30th as 263. This allowed PD3 257 to be retired. In December 2000 it was sold to the M3 Preservation Group for spares and later returned to Rigby Road to potentially provide spares for sister 507 though this is not actively progressing at present. Atlantean 268 returned to Chesterfield, after a short spell at the Selnec Preservation Society and is now under restoration with the Chesterfield 123 Group.   

Both 'new' Atlanteans retained Blackpool Transport green and cream somewhat surprisingly. Large 'Track Services' decals were applied to the sides. During autumn 2001 262 was placed in store as one of the two track gangs was disbanded as winter track work was to be primarily undertaken by contractors. 262 returned to use in March 2002 with 263 then stored. By 2003 it had moved to Blackpool Zoo for further storage and was then sold to a private owner who kept it at Whyndyke Farm for use with a paintball feature. It remained there, engineless, in February 2005 but left soon after.

262 soldiered on alone looking increasing shabby. During August 2006 it suffered a mechanical failure and was towed to the then work site opposite Waterloo Road. It was left there as a static mess room and fenced off, later moving to the Foxhall. Repair work was not warranted as its replacement was already under preparation - ex Blackpool Atlantean 350 (GHG350W). This entered service in December, allowing the vandalised and sea lashed 262 to be towed back to Layton from where it was collected for scrap in April 2007.

Picture Postcard Scene: 262 abandoned to the elements at the Foxhall - proving the need for the recent raising of the sea wall in this area.

Streetscene's 270 shows off the council purple and white livery to effect while parked on the clifftops at Norbreck

350 became 270, resplendent in the council livery of purple and white and lettered for 'Streetscene' - the latest name for the department that includes the 'Trackwork' team. It remains in fairly regular use now, attending the spot repair and maintenance work sites of the track gang. Also in tramway ancillary use is Optare Metrorider 512 (S512LHG) which has been used by the overhead line crews since spring 2010 - though this remains largely configured as a bus save for the arrangement of the seats around tables.