Sunday, 22 January 2017

From the Archives: Claremont Park and the Dickson Road Tram Replacements

The destination shows "NORTH SHORE" and the side boards explain the route as Leyland Comet 15 is photographed on the Promenade, probably at its launch when new in 1925

One of the earliest bus services in Blackpool linked the Town Centre with Claremont. At the start of 1924 Blackpool's fleet of seven buses ran on just two routes:
  • Cleveleys to Thornton Station via Victoria Road from July 1921
  • Adelaide Place to Devonshire Road via Church Street and Caunce Street from December 1922
By contrast the Corporation tramways were almost at their maximum extent following the purchase of the Fleetwood Tramroad in 1920. Investment in relaying the Tramroad's route into Blackpool along Dickson Road led to what was probably the first tramway replacement bus service in the town. The service started on 3 January 1924 from Talbot Road Railway Station via Warbreck Road (now known as Dickson Road), Pleasant Street, Egerton Street, Carshalton Road and Warley Road to meet the tramway again at Gynn Square. A 15 minute morning service required one bus with a second entering service at noon to make a 10 minute headway. Trams temporarily terminated at Talbot Square as the 30 seat Tilling Stevens would have insufficient capacity to cater for all but the local intermediate traffic.

The track renewal lasted until April but the bus route was made permanent but terminated at Warley Road/Sherbourne Road junction via Pleasant St Egerton Road and Cheltenham Road with a 12 minute service provided. It initially terminated at Talbot Square, but soon moved to Queen's Square by the Library turning via Queen Street, May Bell Avenue (now Abingdon St) and Springfield Road.

June 1926 saw the service incorporated into a new circular route. Starting at Gynn Square buses ran via Dickson Road, Warley Road, Sherbourne Road, Cheltenham Road, Egerton Road, Pleasant St, Dickson Rd, Springfield Rd, May Bell Avenue,  Abingdon St, Church St, Caunce St, Devonshire Road, Warbreck Hill Road to Gynn Square. Buses ran in both direction and their introduction coincided with the allocation of route numbers, anti-clockwise buses out via Dickson Road showed 1 and buses leaving via Warbreck Hill Road showed 2. Short workings ran at peak times from Gynn to St Johns Church and showed route 3. These were soon revised to replicate the pre June route terminating at Claremont School (in a loop via Sherbourne Road, Warley Road, Westminster Road and Claremont Road) and Queen's Square.

December 1926 saw the 1 and 2 diverted along Dickson Road instead of Claremont and route 3 was upgraded back to a full service operating every 10 minutes with a six minute peak frequency - the circular routes were discontinued in 1927. The reintroduction of the saw the present day Claremont route established with northbound buses running from Pleasant Street along Egerton Road, right into Cheltenham Road and left onto Sherbourne Road, right into Warley Road and Westminster Road, returning via Claremont Road, Sherbourne Road to its end and right into Ashburton Road to Pleasant Street.

This service continued in this form, upgraded to double deck operation in 1933 until 1936 when it was extended across town. May 1936 saw buses extended via Abingdon St, Church Street, Park Road and Newhouse Road terminating two-thirds of the way along at Winton Road.  Number 3A was displayed on short workings from Westminster Road to the Winter Gardens turning via Topping Street and Talbot Road. The 3 ran every 10 minutes with the 3A making a 5 minute peak service.

From October 1937 the 3 and 3A were extended along Warley Road onto Links Road, Holly Road and Devonshire Road to Warbreck Hill Road (back via Links Road). This lasted until 1940 when Westminster Road became the terminus once more. The 3A was suspended in 1939 as early wartime economies were made. It restarted in May 1940 and was extended to follow the 3 to Oxford Square then via Vicarage Lane to Cherry Tree Gardens (opposite the current Asda store) replacing route 12. The 3 was extended further along Newhouse Road to its junction with Cherry Tree Road. Frequency was thinned to each every 13 minutes by the end of the war, but was gradually stepped up to a combined 5 minute peak frequency with a 6 minute service at other times.

Pleasant Street at its junction with Dickson Road, for several years to 1959 buses turned left into Lord Street just behind the bus. Brand new National 2 542 is about to turn into Dickson Road on the later route. (Brian Turner)
 In 1959 it was decided to further penetrate the residential areas of Claremont. Route 3A continued to terminate at Westminster Road, but the 3 would now turn right off Sherbourne Road into Claremont Road and right again into Cromwell Road to terminate, returning via Handsworth Road to Sherbourne Road. Buses also now served Dickson Road in both directions - previously inbound buses on the 3 (and other Dickson Road routes) had run inbound along Lord Street. Marton bounded buses now used Talbot Road not Springfield Road. Summers 1964 to 1966 saw the 3 and 3A replaced by extensions of the 16B and 16 (resp) from their Wordsworth Avenue terminus. 1967 saw both routes adopt a single terminus running via the established route to Westminster Road, then returning via Claremont Road, Cromwell Road and Handsworth Road. The layover point was moved to Cromwell Road in 1973.

In July 1970 the 3 and 3A were linked at Cherry Tree Gardens as circulars. Buses on the 3 continued from Newhouse Road via Cherry Tree Road and then as the former 3A route via Vicarage Lane, Rectory Road, Waterloo Road to Oxford Square and as before. The 3A did the reverse - though did not serve Rectory Road.

Swifts took over the 3 in 1975, here 548 turns into Abingdon Street for Mereside in 1979 (Brian Turner)
 3 March 1975 saw both routes converted to OPO AEC Swift operation and these long buses were accommodated in Claremont by dropping the Cromwell Road/Handsworth Road section. Buses to Claremont now used Talbot Road instead of Springfield Road as outbound buses had since 1959. February 1976 saw the daytime routes extended with the 3 now running from Newhouse Road via Clifton Road, Deepdale Road and Langdale Road to Mereside and the 3A from Welcome Inn via Midgeland Road to its junction with School Road - with school time buses continuing to the Borough Boundary. Evening and Sunday buses continued on the circular route. A combined 15 minute daytime service was provided - well down form the 5 minute service of the 1950s. 5 buses were used, except evenings/Sundays when the shorter routes needed just 4. The daytime extensions replaced service 4 (Town Hall-Mereside) and part of the 6B (Grange Park to Midgeland Road).

1977 saw a reduction in frequency to every 20 minutes, alternately to each terminus but the evening and Sunday services were all operated as service 3 to Mereside on a half hourly headway using three buses.

Tram Replacement Part 2

The 25A used centre entrance PD2s in its early years. 297 climbs Anchorsholme Hill at Easter 1967 (Brian Turner)
 The Dickson Road tramway closed on 27 October 1963 and for the winter trams would only operate between Fleetwood and Cleveleys (where licensing issues prevented a replacement bus service) with buses running in Blackpool. The following day an eight minute frequency bus service ran from Cleveleys with alternate buses terminating at Central Station as 25A or Starr Gate as 25. There was no direct replacement for the North Station trams as the existing bus services 7/7A, 7C and 15 along Dickson Road were deemed appropriate for local traffic and the belief was most Town Centre bound passengers would be content with Talbot Square as a alternative. Some early morning journeys on the 25 were routed via North Station to meet early trains, but it was not until December that the 25A journeys were routed along Dickson Road to act as a permanent replacement as passengers were not satisfied with the previous arrangements.

Sister 299 heads towards South Station on a Saturday afternoon working on the 25A (despite the number blind). The two PD3 on the 23 to the Hospital to the left of 299 shows where terminating 25As would layover at Central Station, turning off by the Woolworths building where a further Titan can just be seen. (Brian Turner)
At Easter the Starr Gate to Fleetwood tram service resumed and the 25 ended, leaving the 25A as a 16 minute frequency Cleveleys to Central Station service via Promenade and Dickson Road using three buses, normally the old centre entrance PD2s. By 1965 the service was reduced to every 20 minutes in the summer and 30 in the winter and in October was diverted to serve Beaufort Road and Norbreck Road between Bispham and Little Bispham. In 1967 the half hourly service was operating year round with an hourly Sunday service, but summer Saturdays 10-4 saw a 25 minute service with buses extended to Blackpool South Station via Lytham Road. 
From the oldest to the newest, Swifts took over in 1969. Ten years later 569 heads along Dickson Road during road remodelling for the one way system which lasted until July 2013 (Brian Turner)
Winter Evening and Sunday services ceased around 1968 and on 8 December 1969 the 25A become one of the first two services to be converted to OPO operation with AEC Swifts. The timetable offered a half hourly service and a hourly summer evenings/Sundays service. The Saturday extensions to South Station having proven short lived.

1974 saw the Hounds Hill terminus (the former Central Station site) move to Market Street and again in October 1975 to Talbot Square. 1977 saw the service extend along the Promenade to the Coliseum Coach Station at Manchester Square with a third bus required, though before 10am the service still terminated at Talbot Square.


1980 saw the 3 extended over the 25A to Cleveleys. Lancet 599 contrasts with the earlier shot of 297 on Anchorsholme Hill. (Brian Turner)
7 January 1980 saw the logical merger of the 3/3A. The latter were extended from Sherbourne Road via Warley Road onto Dickson Road to Gynn Square then over the 25A route along the Promenade to Bispham, Red Bank Road, Beaufort Road, Norcliffe Road, Norbreck Road, Shore Road, Queens Promenade, Fleetwood Road, Bispham Road, Victoria Road West, Princess Road to Cleveleys Bus Station. A half hourly service was provided using four buses. Evening journeys all ran as route 3 from Mereside to Gynn Square, but Sunday buses terminated at Westminster Road. After a few weeks route 3 was diverted from Newhouse Road onto Penrose Avenue due to problems with parked cars - Penrose Avenue had last been regularly served by the 4 in 1976.

The 3/3A turns onto the Promenade at Bispham. 587 heads for Midgeland Road as a 3A
In 1982 Sunday services were later cut back to run from the Bus Station to Mereside (the only time the 3 used the Bus Station) and were reduced to hourly but were co-ordianted with the 16B which also served Park Road and Mereside but also Great Marton.
At deregulation the 3A was withdrawn and the 3 increased to half hourly but from Gynn Square was re-routed via Warbreck Drive and Red Bank Road to terminate at Bispham Library. The evening service (Gynn to Mereside every 30 minutes) and the hourly Bus Station to Mereside Sunday service was taken over by Fylde on contract to LCC.

Competition in 1988 as National 174 approaches Mereside terminus on the 3 as Fylde minibus 119 awaits departure for Blackpool on competing service F1 (later 33) (Brian Turner)
Blackpool diverted alternate buses as service 3A via Great Marton from April 1988 and Fylde introduced a minibus service in competition via Park Road and Preston New Road from June 1988. This was later diverted via Newhouse Road, expanded and extended and prompted Blackpool to withdraw the 3 and 3A completely in April 1990. Park Road continued to be served by Fylde's 33 minibus, while Blackpool used the 7 and 7A to replace the 3/3A in Claremont. The Cleveleys to Bispham section had been replaced by new route 33 (Cleveleys to Marton) at deregulation, it was later replaced by commercial Fylde minibus service 5A/5B (later 55A/B and 44A/B which forms today's route 4).

Blackpool returned to Park Road on 1 September with a new route 4 using three Deltas to provide a 15 minute frequency from Corporation St via Park Road, Vicarage Lane to terminate at Tesco. In January 1993 it was replaced by routes 3 and 4 using two minibuses on a combined 20 minute service with alternate buses running via Vicarage Lane to Welcome Inn and back via Penrose Avenue or the opposite. This was equally short lived and ended in April 1993.

The combined Blackpool/Fylde network of November 1994 saw the 33 provide a half hourly Mereside to Blackpool (and onto Cleveleys) service along Park Road, with the 2/2A/2B serving Claremont every 7/8 minutes and the 44A/B serving Little Bispham every 15 minutes.

Solo 258 in Line 3 blue on Penrose Avenue. Line 3 colours were applied to 261-266 in 2002. New longer 258-260 replaced 265/6 (and provided an extra bus) in March 2004 and sisters 294-297 replaced 261-4 in 2008 (Brian Turner)
Metro in 2001 saw the 3 return. The new routes, replacing much of the 33 but also parts of the 2/2A/2B started at Mereside and ran via Newhouse Road, Park Road, Town Centre, Claremont, Gynn Square, Warbreck Drive, Bispham, Kincraig Avenue, College, Sevenoakes to Cleveleys. It ran every 20 minutes daytime and 60 in the evenings/Sundays using Optare Solos. Line 4 provided a combined 10 minute service between Bispham and Blackpool (but via Dickson Road not Claremont). Otherwise it ran from Mereside to Cleveleys Park via Great Marton, Stanley Park, Blackpool, Bispham and Little Bispham.
Revisions saw the 3 re-routed via Penrose Avenue instead of Newhouse Road in November 2001 (21 years since its predecessor was changed likewise). From 2003 to 2009 it was extended from Cleveleys to Thornton but otherwise continues unchanged. The 4 was diverted via Claremont but via Carshalton Road and Sherbourne Road from Dickson Road to Pleasant St in January 2003 but in May 2007 adopted the Line 3 route, which was basically that operated since 1928.

Claremont's bus service started thanks to tramway regeneration in 1924 and became Blackpool's third bus route (later legitimised in its number). Although substituted by the 7/7A from 1990 to 1994 and the 2/2A/2B until 2001, it has regained its traditional number once more.

Other Services
Claremont has seen some other comparatively short lived services. Warley Road was served by Tuesdays/Fridays only service 16 run by Fylde from Blackpool to Bispham via Dickson Road, Warley Road, Low Moor and Kincraig Road from April 1987 to 1990.

Fylde ran competing commercial services 8A (Cleveleys to Airport) every hour form June 1987, replaced it with service 8 (Cleveleys to Lytham every 30 minutes) in December. June 1988 saw the 11 take-over but this became a circular to Bispham and back via Devonshire Road with the 11A/B in reverse from November 1988. The following January saw the 11A/B run from Devonshire Road via Claremont Road and as the 11 to the Town Centre (and back via Warley Road). The 11A/B ended in October 1989 but their route was adopted in April 1990 by Blackpool's 7/7A. The 11 continued to serve Claremont until April 1990 when it was diverted via Dickson Road.

Fylde also ran their 55B through Claremont from March to November 1990. October 1989 saw Fylde's contracted 3 replaced by routes 333/444 which followed the same route (including Claremont) from Gynn Square to Oxford Square then via Penrose Avenue or Great Marton to Mereside. This lasted until the Metro era when it was incorporated into Lines 3 and 4.

In 1979 Blackpool operated a short lived service 8 which replaced the remnants of service 6B. It ran from Grange Park (Fulwood Square) to the Tower via Argosy Avenue, Mansfield Road, Claremont Road, Ashburton Road/Egerton Road, Dickson Road, Talbot Road and Promenade. It ran off peak 1100-1500 every hour. It followed the route of a very short lived experimental minibus route of 1977 (which started at Castle Gardens and ended at Manchester Square). Another 8 returned in November 2001 starting unusually at Egerton Square (Pleasant St/Egerton Road) and via Warley Rd/Claremont Road, Plymouth Road, St.Walburgas Road, Victoria Hospital, East Park Drive, Preston New Road, Mereside Tesco, Mereside Estate, Welcome Inn, Highfield Road, Acre Gate and Lytham Road to Manchester Square every hour Monday to Saturdays with 2 minibuses (evening/Sunday buses running Tesco to Manchester Square only. It lasted until April 2002.

Catch 22 Bus service 22 (originally Mereside-Cleveleys and now Blackpool to Fleetwood) has run through Claremont since January 2013. It runs to Fleetwood via Pleasant Street, Egerton Road, Cheltenham Road, Sherbourne Road, Warley Road and returns via Claremont Road, Sherbourne Road, Ashburton Road, Egerton Road and Pleasant Street.