Sunday, 20 September 2015

On Tow

This Diamond T tow wagon served Blackpool for almost 50 years, recovering defective buses. Here it has positioned Swift 571 on the steam cleaning ramp in Rigby Road depot. The ramp itself went in the mid 1980s when the East Shed was built, replaced by a lift. (All Brian Turner)

In November 1947 Blackpool purchased a Diamond T 969 for £550, a Chicago built truck which became popular in Britain during the second world war. Its is not known if it was fitted out as a tow wagon from new. Blackpool Corporation put it to use as a recovery vehicle, rescuing failed vehicles. Prior to this converted former buses had been used.
In 1967, the Diamond T is seen dropping off 368 in the bus yard. 

The Diamond T was remarkably long lived. Originally in green it later gained a yellow livery in 1979. It seems to have been originally numbered 115 - this is just discernible in the above photo above the centre of the windscreen, but a shot taken in 1972 appears to show it just carrying "15" - this would at least fit in to the tramway works series, if not the motor works vehicles series which was generally in the 2xx series then. In the 1970s it was renumbered 405 and a 1978 shot clearly shows this applied in black fleet numbers over the former gold ones. In its yellow era the number 405 was applied on the cab doors. Finally it was renumbered 905 in 1996 as part of the absorption of the Fylde fleet. This was done by replacing the 4 with a 9 in a mismatching font!   

It ran on trade plates 229FR then 001FR until legislation changed to require tow wagons to be licensed and it gained dateless plate Q645GFV in the late 1980s.

After nearly 50 years of service, 905 was withdrawn in September 1996 and was sold for preservation in June 1997. It is believed to still exist, in store in Yorkshire - the most recent published picture is here on flickr in 2012. It was also immortalised in model form by Corgi.
ERF 929 attends to errant Delta 129 on Mereside Turning Circle in April 2000

905 was replaced by 929 (FNO357T) - an ERF purchased from Blackpool Van Transport at the end of August 1996. Quickly repainted into green and cream, 929 made its debut in early 1997. 

The gap between 905's disposal and 929's entry did not mean the undertaking was devoid of a tow wagon, however, as the purchase of Fylde in 1994 bought a second wagon. Fylde had operates three wagons - an AEC Madator from 1975-1977, a 1968 built Ford D-series from 1977 to 1996 and a 1979 Leyland Leopard converted in 1992. This - ULS653T - joined the Blackpool fleet as 959 when Fylde was adbsorbed in 1996. It retained blue livery, slightly modified after accident repairs in 1999 and lasted in service until around 2005. In 2007 it was sold for preservation but is believed to have since been scrapped.
Leopard Tow Wagon 959 on Starr Gate car park during the 2004 Rigby Road Depot open day. This is now the site of the Tram Depot

ERF 929 then soldiered on until 2014 as the sole wagon. Recently it has been restricted to depot use only with Fylde Motor Company now used as contractors to recover defective buses.
One of 929's sadder duties has been to tow buses for scrap during a period when they were disposed of locally. Here the burnt remains of Delta 131 are being towed to Red Scar near Preston.
929 and 959 on standby at Starr Gate during the depot open day