Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Manxmen ready for the off

Tridents 344-346 (E11-13BTS), the former Bus Vannin 50, 48 and 51, are now taxed and ready for service from tomorrow, March 1. At Blackburn, 347 is visible in the yard, fully pained along with the last three deliveries, Bus Vannin 72 to 74 which await work. It is not yet known for sure which Olympians will be withdrawn as a result, but it is understood that the oldest, 365, should be retained for now.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Final Manx Tridents enter the country

The last three of the ex Bus Vannin Tridents have now arrived with 74 (FMN540E) noted at Blackburn during the week, with 72 (FMN412E) and 73 (FMN158E) noted at Heysham Port this weekend. This completes the delivery programme which started in July with 53 (EMN53Y) which entered service in December as 343 (H1FBT). The second to arrive was 50 (EMN50Y) in November which reached Blackpool in January as 344 (E11BTS) but has yet to enter service. 48/51 (EMN48/51Y) were December's arrivals and are also in Blackpool awaiting their debut as 345 (E12BTS) and 346 (E13BTS) respectively.

49/52 (EMN49/52Y) are understood to have arrived in January and will be the next to be delivered to Blackpool. February has seen all of 71-75 arrive with 71 and 75 delivered to Blackburn first.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

February Scenes

February has been something of a quiet month. So far the ex Bus Vannin Dennis Tridents have failed to make an appearance and the Olympian fleet remains active. The only negative development is the disposal of heavily stripped 406 for scrap today - it had been withdrawn in November with accident damage. It is the third of the ten Trent Olympians to be scrapped and has gone to Parton's the Barnsley breaker. Also in Yorkshire is former Blackpool Solo 266 now running with Centrebus in Huddersfield, still in Holmeswood livery but with its original registration back in place having briefly carried R5HWD with its previous owner. Sister 265 is also there (joining 262/4 purchased last year) while 263 is now B8WER with associated Bower fleet (who also has 261).

Excel 213, one of the last few in Line 7 colours was Friday's single decker on route 2/2C. It is seen here turning from Market Street into Church Street to reach Corporation Street terminus

215 - the last Excel to receive Line 7 colours is back on its former regular home leaving Bank Hey Street for Lytham on Friday

The six Line 3 Solos remain intact for now as Line 5 has been virtually eradicated. 2004 vintage 258 turns onto the Prom at New Bonny Street

Sister bus 259 poses under the imposing Town Hall annex - at the recently relocated terminus of route 17
2008 Solo 296 on route 5 at Bank Hey Street
Ex Blue Triangle Trident 338 swings onto Market Street in Talbot Square which is currently being remodelled.

Trident 317 retains its original pool livery and puts in a duty on Promenade service 1

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Happy 30th Birthday 365

Newly arrived 365 with 367 behind on 2 November 1986. Blackpool blinds have been fitted but the buses have yet to see use. The eclectic selection of vehicles includes a withdrawn Swift (569 or 584), former PW bus 334, also now withdrawn and OMO tram 4.
  February 1982 saw the registration of West Yorkshire PTE 5005 UWW5X - one of a batch of 20 Roe bodied Olympians which entered service in March. 5005 made its debut from the PTE's Bradford Hall Ings depot on 11 March where it operated until October 1986 and a move to Leeds prior to premature withdrawal at deregulation. Yorkshire Rider - the successor to the PTE's bus operations declined to take on some of the more modern vehicles due to the payment conditions associate with them.

5005 along with sisters 5011 and 5015 were quickly snapped up by Blackpool Transport who needed them to replace three Atlanteans destroyed by fire at the beginning of October. They were collected on 31 October and became 365-367. 5005, now 365 entered service in mid November still wearing the PTE's green and cream livery. 365 was the last of the trio to receive the newly introduced green/cream fleet livery style in April 1987. It settled back into regular service across the spectrum of double deck routes including the 2 (Bispham to Poulton), 6 (Grange Park to Mereside), 9 (Blackpool-Cleveleys), 10 (Blackpool-Midgeland Road), 11C (Blackpool-St. Annes), 14 (Blackpool-Fleetwood) and 22/22A (Cleveleys-Lytham).

365 leaves Talbot Road Bus Station on route 25 in October 1987 (Donald MacRae)
 August 1988 saw a full rear end advert applied for Dixons Fiat dealership which lasted until August 1990 when the bus received a full repaint. A further repaint in October 1993 saw the bus receive black window surrounds on the same livery and in March 1996 it receive the new livery of cream with green skirt and roof band.

May 1996 saw 365 and its sisters move to Squires Gate Depot, still for a few more weeks operating under the Fylde identity and they became regulars on the 11/11A services. With Deltas taking over the 11/11A the Olympians dropped down to school duties. Squires Gate closed in April 1999 and 365's last duty from there was on 24 March shortly before the end of school terms. It resumed life from Rigby Road and was treated to another repaint in November 1999 - its last in green and cream.

July 2007 and 365 by now in its second coat of orange and yellow awaits custom on school service 570 from Lytham St. Bedes to St. Annes Spring Gardens
 August 2000 saw 365 placed in store as surplus to requirements following changes to school services, but it returned to use in February 2001 as several Deltas were taken out of use for repaints prior to the Metro launch. The Olympians were now increasingly seen on local services, particularly summer route 1. August 2003 saw 365 gain the orange and yellow Line 1 livery and it settled into summer duties on the 1 and year round school work. The upgrade of the 1 to year round service with some Dennis Tridents, reduced 365's service appearances but it was treated to its final repaint, again in orange/yellow in December 2006 - a nearly even 3 year repaint interval having been treated in 1987, 1990, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2006.

365 and 366 were taken out of use on 28 April 2010 joining earlier withdrawal 367 in store. Both went to Marton, but 365 was to get a last hurrah, returning to service on 8 September 2011 after over 16 months in store. It is likely to be an early casualty of the impending entry into service of the Manx Tridents, but it if doesn't see its 30th birthday on 11 March 2012 in service (it is taxed until 29 Feb), at least it has survived until the anniversary of its licensing.

365 has, so far, accrued 25 years and 4 months service life at Blackpool (although interrupted by storage) and is second only to Atlantean 353 which lasted a further six months.

A surprising number of Blackpool buses have reached the age of 30 with the company - the others are:
  • Routemasters 521-531 and 533 were all over 30 years old when last used - and 534 passed this landmark after withdrawal
  • Open Top Atlantean 451 was withdrawn in late 1996 in its 32nd year
  • Open Top PD2 532 was over 31 when sold in 1999
  • Trainers 907 and 916 had passed their 30th birthday after retirement from passenger service
  • Sister 366 is likely to pass its 30th birthday in store (it was registered on 2 March 1982)
  • Lion 934 was a mere 71 years old when it was sold to LTT and by virtue of a duty on route 21 in August 1996 is the oldest bus (at 59 yrs 10 months) to run in service with Blackpool Transport!

301 into paint and livery update

Blackpool's first Trident 301
301 has become the latest Trident to visit the paint shop, presumably for a fleet liveried repaint. This will be the second of the 12 Tridents treated to repaints into Line 14 livery in 2009/10 to receive the new livery following on from accident victim 310. 301 was last repainted in March 2009 while 312, 313, 315-319 have yet to receive a repaint in their 8 to 9 year lives in Blackpool. Solo 256 left paintshop on Friday 10th.

Livery Update:
75x New fleet livery (7x Excels 210/1/4, 221/2/4/6; 18x Solos 250-7, 284-293; 29x Tridents 301, 310, 322-348; 7x Olympians 368/9, 375-9 14x Volvo B7 520-533)
23 x Metro Black/Yellow (4x Excels 218-220, 223; 11x Solos 273-283; 3x Tridents 317-9; 5x Olympians 370-374)
14 x Line 1 Orange/Yellow (Olympians 365, 402/3, 405, 407/8, 410-417)
10x Line 2 green/yellow (Solos 240-247, 249, 294)
6x Line 3 blue/yellow (Solos 258-260, 295-297)
5x Line 4 Cadbury blue/yellow (Solos 267-269, 271/2)
1x Line 5 Red/yellow (Solo 248)
6x Line 7 Purple/yellow (Excels 212/3, 215-217, 225)
14x Line 14 Green/Yellow (Tridents 302-309, 311-316)

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Manx Trident Update

Two further Tridents have been observed at Blackburn, still in IOM livery. These are 71 (MAN93F) and 75 (GMN324F). In addition to 344-346 which await entry into service at Rigby Road, another two are understood to be nearing completion as 347/8. These are expected to be 49 EMN49Y and 52 EMN52Y but not necessarily in that order. This leaves 72-74 FMN158/412/540E, still on the Island.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Service Changes 4 March

Service 7 will run via Mythop Road once more from 4 March. Here Excel 214 heads to Saltcotes Road along Mythop Road on 7 March 2005

Sunday 4th March sees some minor service changes. The objective appears to be to achieve further efficiencies and a two bus saving has been deduced from the timetables. More interesting is the apparent interworking of services, especially in the evening.

According to the timetables and maps on Traveline, three route changes take place:
  • Service 7 will now run via Station Road and Mythop Road between Lytham Square and Saltcotes Road
  • Service 11 will continue from East Beach terminus via Preston Road to Saltcotes Road and return from there to Lytham Hospital and as now via Warton Street to Lytham Square
  • Service 14 will serve Langdale Road in both directions in Mereside.
It is understood that the 7 and 11 were interwork at Saltcotes Road with a roster of 21 vehicles, saving one on the current allocation. This will bring back memories of Fylde's complex network to Saltcotes Road in the 1970s when buses either ran out via Mythop Road an in via the Hospital or vice versa but usually changed route number at Saltcotes Road. This ended in 1982 when the installation of a mini roundabout allowed buses to turn round in the mouth of Saltcotes Road/Mythop Road junction and Mythop Road itself was no longer served. This was addressed in 1985 with local route 4, and from deregulation by service 165 (Lytham to Preston) which later became the 167 and today's 68. The 7 served Mythop Road from November 2004 until February 2010 when the 68 replaced it.

With the 7, 11 and 68 all serving Saltcotes Road every 15 minutes, this will provide 12 buses per hour from there to Lytham Square.

Also changing are the times on route 1, which is accelerated between Starr Gate and North Pier and will now require seven buses. Unfortunately the evening departures from Fleetwood continue to be exactly the same as those of route 14. The 14 itself has minor timing changes.

Route 9 is also retimed with the Sunday service reduced to every 30 minutes and this appears to interwork with route 7 at Cleveleys Bus Station.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Caution - Driver Under Instruction

PD3 516 (later 916) was the longest served driver trainer operating from 1984 to 1999
 Driver Training has always been an obviously critical part of a bus operator's activities. Blackpool's first dedicated driver trainer was 1940 built centre entrance Leyland Titan 25 on its retirement from passenger service in August 1956. It continued to be so deployed until withdrawal in December 1962. Its replacement was sister bus 27 - one of three converted to open toppers in 1959 - open top driver trainers being quite uncommon. This lasted until May 1964. It was not replaced with any spare centre entrance PD2 used until the end of 1968 when PD2 270 became a dedicated training bus as number 7 in the service vehicle fleet series. Sister bus 298 joined it in April 1969 as number 9. Both lasted until March 1970.

Centre Entrance bus 222 has a stint as a driver trainer with a "L CAUTION DRIVER UNDER INSTRUCTION" slipboard which featured on permanent driver trainers until 2007
 1957 Metro Cammell PD2 307 became the next dedicated training bus in April 1970 but only until the autumn. Sister bus 309 was sold to Lytham St. Annes Corporation for further service but would later serve as its dedicated driver trainer from 1975 to 1982. 307 was replaced by the slightly newer 314 which ran until the end of December 1973. It was replaced by nine year old PD3 378 which was helped out on a part time basis by 330. One of the pioneer PD3 batch 368 joined 378 in March 1976 making two dedicated trainers, both adorned with black and yellow wasp stripes around the destination boxes, redolent of British Rail diesel shunters.

Retired and waiting for their fate, 378 (left) and 368 (right) stand in Blundell Street tram depot
 Autumn 1980 saw 368 and 378 stood down and both spent the next winter as static cabins for inspectors at the ends of sections of single line operation on the tramway. After a long period in store they were sold for scrap in 1983. 378 was replaced by later PD3 520 in November 1980 which featured black and yellow wasp stripes on the entire rear end! 521 took over 368's duties but was withdrawn in a shunting accident the following year. 532 became its eventual replacement in January 1983.

520 crosses the South Fylde Line at Moss Side. Note that this had painted Training Vehicle lettering on the destination glass - previous buses had it painted onto the blinds
 December 1984 saw 516 taken out of use and converted to a driver trainer, like 520 featuring an enclosed rear platform with door and instructors brake valve. The internal bulkhead window was removed and the space widened to allow communication between instructor and driver. 520 was retired in December 1986 and 532 followed soon after - unusually returning to passenger service after an overhaul. This left 516 as the sole trainer.

After deregulation many new drivers were trained initially on minibuses and received a restricted license which could later be upgraded to a full license. This allowed PD3 516 to pass on loan to Cumberland in Carlisle from July to October 1989 and it was treated to a full repaint in all-over cream by the end of the year. Winter 1990/1 saw a period of further loan this time to London Borough of Kingston

507 had been kept as a keepsake after the withdrawal of the PD3s in 1988 and saw limited use. In March 1990 it went on loan to Merseybus for driver training and saw training use in Blackpool in winter 1991 (to cover for 516 with open topper 532 helping out too) and again from July 1993 for a short period. March 1995 saw it converted to a permanent driver trainer with instructors brake valve and platform doors fitted. That winter saw 916 suffer an engine failure so it received a modified O.680 engine from an Atlantean in place of its usual O.600. In August 1996 507 and 516 were renumbered 907/916 in the new service vehicle fleet series and 907 saw periodic use as a second trainer to support 916 when two schools were required. 907 It was officially withdrawn in August, though had seen little use in recent months and 916 saw its last training duties that month.

Atlantean 322 as 922, still with slipboard but also now promoting recruitment
 September 1999 saw Atlanteans 322 and 323 debut as driver trainers renumbered 922/3. Both retained fleet livery, but 923 was later repainted all cream in January 2001. They were later stripped of upper deck glass as spares for other buses which resulted in an unusual appearance. 923 was withdrawn in December 2006 with 922 following in February 2007. Two further Atlanteans had been converted to driver trainers in December 1995 to train locally recruited staff for London General who would then be relocated to the capital to address a driver shortage. This lasted until September 1996 for 332 and January 1997 for 333.

Showing how Atlanteans might have looked in the original PD3 livery, 923 on familiarisation duty on a car park next to Blackpool South Station.
 With a requirement for ABS braking, the Atlanteans were replaced by two specially adapted Deltas 129/30 as 969/70 from February 2007. Sister bus 128 was later similarly modified for Preston Bus to whom it was sold.

Two weeks in the School
In January 1999 I followed in the footstep of countless other Blackpool Transport trainer drivers by spending two weeks learning to driver a PD3. After a spell as a conductor on the trams during the summer and route 14/14A in the winter (when I also sat my theory test), my two weeks in the bus school started in early January. A half day of class room training was followed by familiarisation with gears and vehicle size on the car parks next to Blackpool Football Club and we then hit the road. Two trainees formed each school and split wheel time. Exercises include up and down gear change sequences, including mastering crash on 1st and 2nd gears. Hill starts and a slalom like reversing exercise completed the training programme. On the Friday of week one we headed to Southport for the day - our instructor perhaps board of the various roadside cafes that we stopped at on our jollies around the Fylde. Officially we went to get out of the way of the previous school who were taking their tests on 907. Alas as the first driver left to return to depot, the engine failed spectacularly and we were summoned back to the depot asap, resulting in a direct and enjoyable run back from Southport. 907 soon joined us on the back of a tow truck with the trainee driver steering! We spent the rest of the afternoon learning how to work electronic ticket machines while our bus was otherwise engaged.

Former Blackpool 309 with Fylde as "T74" as a new driver tackles the reversing manoeuvre in their depot yard.
 Week 2 saw us practise the usual training route, with the proviso that our examiner need not follow it! Come the Friday I was second to take my test and the Chief Inspector introduced himself as 'David for the day, back to Chief tomorrow'. We started with the reverse into the coned area in the depot yard, before setting off along the Promenade including a down gear exercise dropping into first just outside the thankfully deserted Pleasure Beach. We carried on to Starr Gate and along Clifton Drive and turned right coming to a halt on Harrowside bridge for the hill start and 'snatch' gear change. The test route was duly followed up Highfield Road, onto Midgeland Road and School Road, but rather than turning right onto the A583, I was instructed to turn left. We headed for the M55 where 916 ran at a steady 50mph (as it was required to do as a training bus at that time) to junction 3. When then headed back via Wrea Green and the winding country roads back to Depot via A583 and Yeadon Way before parking up in the yard to receive the verdict - thankfully a pass. An hour or so with a Metrorider on familiarisation completed the training period. Monday and Tuesday saw route training on minibus routes and Wednesday saw me let loose alone on Blackpool's public.

Delta 970 ex 130 is one of the two current training vehicles painted in reverse Metro style livery with extensive recruitment lettering, but no warning slipboard!

Retirement as Trainers
Several Blackpool buses passed into later ownership as driver trainers. First was PD2 332 which served with Bolton & Salford District Transport Training 1975-1981. Several PD3s followed with 399 sold to Wallace of London in 1983, lasting until 1991. 531/4 went to Reeds School of Motoring of Hyde and Leeds in November 1982 with 531 lasting until 1987 and 534 in 1991.

The withdrawal of the last PD3s in 1988 coincided with changes in legislation that required driver trainers to be at least 9m long and capable of 50mph and Blackpool's PD3s were snapped up, sometimes replacing shorter vehicles. 511/538 went to Toxteth Community Council (later Liverpool Young Drivers in September 1989 lasting until 2000 and 1998 resp, 512/5 went to London & Country at the same time, lasting until December 1991, while 540 went to a driver training school in Middlesex, where it ran until 1993.

Two previously sold PD3s spent brief spells as driver trainers in Liverpool from 1990, 351 with Town & Country Training and 394 with Merseybus.  Atlanteans 303 and 475, National 156 and Lancet 597 also saw spells as driver trainers with private schools.

PD3 516 in preservation as a driver trainer.
 Several vintage buses owe their survival into preservation to a spell as a driver trainer, including some Blackpool PD3s. 516 is preserved in its driver training condition as a tribute to their after life.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

345 and 346 arrive

The third and fourth ex Isle of Man Tridents have now arrived from Bus and Coach World as 345/6. Their respective identities have not yet been confirmed though one is EMN48Y and the other EMN51Y.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Another Solo Repaint

The eight 2004 Solo to receive its maiden repaint almost eight years since it arrived is 256 which is now in the paint shop. This is the last of the nine delivered for Line 5 in 2004 to lose red/yellow and leaves just 248 of 2008 so attired.

Trident 344 has yet to be registered and should soon be joined by 345/6 which are both nearly ready. One will be former Bus Vannin 48 and the other 51 - though which is which is not yet clear.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

And the there were three

The third ex Bus Vannin Dennis Trident has been outshopped from Bus and Coach World - 345 was noted fully liveried in their yard on Monday. 343 is back in service after recent attention while 344 is still under preparation.

Meanwhile Solo 257 was observed on route 4 this evening following its repaint into fleet livery.