Thursday, 31 March 2016

Restoring Luff's Last Double Decker

The centre loaders still looked smart in their latter days, 277 and 293 stand in the depot yard in 1965 (Brian Turner)
Worshiped by tram enthusiasts for the iconic open boat, railcoach and balloon cars that formed the backbone of the Blackpool fleet from the 1930s until the 2012 modernisation, Walter Luff was general manager of Blackpool Corporation Transport from 1933 to 1954. His style included centre entrances and these were specified on otherwise off the shelf buses from 1933. Luff worked with manufacturers to design bespoke streamlined tram and bus designs. Initial bus orders were mainly single deckers but 1936 saw a pre-production streamlined double decker body produced by English Electric on the Leyland Titan TD4 chassis. Numbered 120, EE must have been disappointed to be supplanted by local firm Burlingham for the production buses. 75 (numbers 121-195) arrived in 1936/7 to upgrade the bus fleet and provide replacements for the Central Drive and Layton trams.

A further 12 - numbered 25 to 36 - arrived in 1940, updated in design by featuring a concealed radiator. After the war, 28 became a test bed for an updated design and Blackpool ordered two batches of 50 Burlingham bodied Leyland Titans using the new 8ft wide PD2 chassis. 201-50 were delivered in late 1949 and through to March 1950, while 251-300 arrived from December 1950 to late 1951. 300, the last, was first licensed in March 1952.
In 1967 300 displays the graceful lines of the Centre Entrance PD2 - especially set against the upright profile of the bus infront (Brian Turner)

During the 1950s the streamliners were found across the Blackpool network but with the onset of the rear entrance buses introduced by Luff's successor Joe Franklin, they became restricted to the quieter routes. Withdrawals commenced in 1963 with accident victim 217, followed by 281 in 1964. Routine withdrawals commenced in 1965 with 16 replaced and another 13 left in 1966, 42 in 1967 and 23 in 1968. 1969 dawned with just 291, 294, 295, 298 and 300 in service - and all were withdrawn by the spring.

300 became a driver trainer on withdrawal, renumbered 8 and then joined sister 246 as PW Mess bus numbered 298 in 1973. Withdrawn in 1976 it was purchased by John Hinchliffe of Huddersfield. Initially moved to Marsh near Huddersfield but was later stored at Sandtoft Trolleybus museum and later still Slaithwaite where it suffered damage from falling masonry. In the early 1980s it moved to the railway arches in Huddersfield until moving to the Wakefield area in 2014. 
300 visited Fleetwood for the first tram Sunday in 1985. It is being passed by Dreadnought 59 - withdrawn in Luff's modernisation plan, but hidden away in store until dusted off for restoration in 1960 (Brian Turner)

300 has been rallied having returned to bus livery from its PW green in the 1970s, but after a couple of visits back to the Fylde in the 1980s it was laid up for restoration. This progressed during the 1990s, but other projects occupied the owners time, however work has now recommenced and is progressing well with the aim for external completion next summer - though interior work will still be needed.

Progress can be followed on a new Facebook Page Blackpool 300 linked here