Saturday, 30 May 2020

Trident Sales

Archway Travel are dealing with the disposals of Blackpool's Trident fleet, so far nine have found new homes with seven confirmed:
  • 316, 324 and 325 to Black Cat, Lincoln
  • 317 to AC Travel, Gosport joining Volvo 521
  • 322/3 to Sweynes Coaches, Goole
  • 326 to MM Stafffing, Bucks

Other former vehicles now moved on are Solos 289 and 291 which have moved from Go Southern Coaches to Cresta, Four Marks. 291 is now registered DSZ4860. Sister 243 is now with Hulley's of Baslow. Solos 251/260 passed from Newbury and District (now part of Reading Buses) to Hunts of Alford who also have Volvo 522. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Late Turn on the Buses

Around twenty years ago former Blackpool conductor Peter Makinson submitted this article for a book I was drafting that has never seen the light of day. Much of the research has formed posts on this blog and having found the original text, Peter has agreed for me to post it here. This is part three.

I'd like to take you through a typical late turn on the buses in the 1960s, seen through the eyes of a student conductor working as a spare conductor, and filling in on duties that may not have had a regular crew, or to cover someone's day off or sick leave. Seasonal staff were also employed on the buses to cover for winter bus conductors who drove trams in the summer season. During the summer their bus duties would be left open, and they would return to their normal duty at the end of October.

Most late turns began from about 3.00 p.m. onwards. In uniform you had free travel to and from work, so armed with sandwiches, brew can, and supplies of tea and coffee, I would set out from home taking the 1, 14 or 14A into town, and then usually catching the 12 in the bus station. The 12 was extensively by off duty crews travelling to and from work. Alighting at Manchester Square I would walk up Rigby Road towards the depot, turning right into the yard, and entering the depot offices. At this time of the day there would be a lot of activity, with crews booking on, checking duties, conductors paying in at the cash counters, and so on.

When you arrived the first thing you did was "tick off" on the "Sheets". This meant that you put a tick against your staff number (mine was 4070), which appeared on the output sheets against your allocated duty. This told the depot inspector that you were in, and that was one less potential problem for him to deal with.

At this point you might also want to check the sheets for the following day, if they had been posted, to see what your next day's work was to be. Unlike factory or office work, start times on public transport vary according to the duty you are on, so you have to check and recheck all the time. You would look for your staff number posted against a start time and a duty number. With this information, you could then check the rotas for the details of the individual portions of duty, including time on, time off, break times, and "route" number. The "route" number was the number allocated to individual bus workings. You learned what services were operated on the different route numbers by experience, but it didn't take very long to work out what was what, as they were all conveniently grouped together. The same system operated on the trams.

The next task was to collect a ticket machine from the cash office. By 1966, all the old dial TIMs which had been bought in the 1930's had thankfully gone, to be replaced with the lever style machines, which offered a much wider range of fares. You would be handed a metal box containing T.I.M, spare tickets rolls, a pack of emergency tickets, and a waybill. The running totals on the T.I.M. would have been entered on to the waybill, but you were responsible for checking this before you went out.

The waybill was a long card, which was printed on both sides. One side contained details of the duties worked, your staff number, and had spaces to enter readings from the cash totals on the machine. Whenever you changed from one service to another you had to enter the running totals at the end of one portion, and re-open the same figures for the next service. The waybill also served as a clock card, and the time could be printed on the card by slotting the card into the Gledhill Brook time recorders, and pulling a lever inside the lid. There was one in the depot where you clocked on and off at the start and end of the shift. Others were located at various timing points around the system. Manchester Corporation used the very same system, one of a number of cultural similarities between the two operators, which I was to notice in my days at Manchester University.      

The next job was to try and locate your driver. As you were only known by a staff number, it was not always easy to find out who the driver was, unless you had worked with him (always a him in those days) before. The best bet was to try the canteen, across the yard, as many of the staff would gather there for a brew, or a smoke before going on duty.

This time I am lucky, and I recognise my driver sitting with a number of other crew, playing dominoes. Canteen tea is highly recommended, along with speciality Chorley Cakes, so I order some tea and cakes and sit down with the rest of the group. The canteen is a typical mess room with long tables and wooden benches, and no concessions to creature comforts. But it is a homely and friendly place, and I can well imagine that is can be a haven of rest on a cold dark winter's night, when the gales are blowing, and the sea is coming over the promenade.

Our duty today consist of the normal two portions of duty. The first part is on service 12, Bus Station to Squires Gate via Lytham Road, and we are on there until 7.00 p.m. The second portion is on service 16B, North Shore, Marton, and Tower, and we run that until the end of the evening service.

We are due to take over on the 12 running in to the bus station. The relief point is at Manchester Square, and we walk down Rigby Road, with several other crews, some going to work on the trams, and others making their way up to the bus station. At the appointed time we see a PD3 coming into sight along Lytham Road. It is 357, one of the first batch delivered in 1961. I am slightly disappointed, because these buses are only 8 feet wide, and the extra 21/2 inches of the later buses makes all the difference when trying to get round a crowded vehicle. As the bus pulls into the stop the driver and I confirm it is the correct route number, and the relief is done quickly and speedily. The conductor I relieve confirms that all the fares are in. We have taken on some passengers at Manchester Square, so I go round and quickly get the fares in. The traffic is running quite well on the promenade, so we have a good run up to Talbot Square before we turn right up Talbot Road, and then in to the bus station. We have not picked up any more passengers after Manchester Square, so this has given me time to enter the journey details onto the waybill.

Another little ritual, which has to be observed is the recording of mileage details. This was entered on to the waybill from the vehicle odometer in the cab. On the final journey of each portion of duty, the driver would give the conductor the reading, and this would be entered on the waybill. The same figure should also appear on the next conductor's waybill at the start of the new portion, and it was custom and practise to leave the figure on a piece of TIM roll behind one of the glass display cases on the bus.

As we pull in to the bus station we see that the 12 in front of us is still on the stand, loading up. We pull in close behind, and I leave the bus and go up in to the canteen. The driver will follow as soon as he can pull the bus on to the stand properly. There is no need to worry about getting fares in while the bus in on the stand, as the 12 does not carry that many passengers from the bus station. The busiest points on the 12 are between Talbot Square and Waterloo Road. It is coming up to tea time at many of the hotels and boarding houses, so we can expect a busy trip this time. Many of Blackpool's hotels have an evening meal at 5.00 p.m. so that the guests can go out to a show in the evening.

I record the exact departure time on the waybill and we set off from the bus station. There are about 6 people downstairs, and about 12 on top, including more bus and tram crews going on duty. I quickly get round for the fares, and am back on the platform as we arrive at Talbot Square. We take on about another 15 people, but some of these are obviously visitors, and they not be familiar with either the fare or the location. As soon as they are on, I ring off and we turn on to the promenade. The traffic lights are clear at Church Street, and before I have got the bottom deck in, we have landed on the Tower stop. At this stop all bedlam is let loose, as the afternoon performance of the Tower circus is just coming out. Before we know the bottom deck is full, and I'm trying to persuade everyone that the seats on top are going to exactly the same place as the ones downstairs. Eventually we get away, with about 10 seats left on the top deck, and the bottom deck full. But now some of the passengers who got on at the Bus Station want to get off at Central Pier. At Central Pier there is another large crowd waiting, but we squeeze them in. I've got 5 standing on the lower deck and the top deck full, and I've got about a quarter of the fares in. You must remember that Talbot Square, Tower and Central Pier are all separate fare stages, so that everyone who asks for 4 and 2 halves to Bloomfield Road has to be asked where they got on.

We have to stop at Manchester Square because we have staff going to work on the bus. Fortunately one of these staff has volunteered to look after the bells for me while I concentrate on the fares, but after Manchester Square I am on my own. There are people waiting at all the stops down Lytham Road, and of course people getting off as well, so we have to make every stop in turn. By the time we get to Waterloo Road we are about half full, but there is another large queue waiting, coming from the shopping area. Fortunately most of these are locals who ask for and tender the correct fare, and I can get round these very quickly. But we have had a good old pasting on our first trip, and we are now running a couple of minutes late. By the time we get to Squires Gate, the bus in front has already left, and we have barely time to complete the waybill, change the destinations, and get down on to the stand before it's time to leave again.

It's about 4.30 p.m. now, and there's quite a lot of traffic about on Lytham Road.  We make good time down to Waterloo Road, with about half a load, but then we encounter very heavy traffic down to the promenade. Getting fares in is not a problem, as we are moving quite slowly, but the worry now is that a gap will open out in front of us, and the service will start to bunch. At Manchester Square we are about 7 minutes late, and we can see the bus behind us, also stuck in the heavy traffic. We can't make any time up on the promenade, and we are still 7 minutes late at the bus station, which means we are already behind our departure time. There is a queue waiting for us at the bus station, so by the time these are on we leave about 9 minutes late, with the bus behind now sitting on our tail. We now have many of the office workers from the town on the bus, and it's getting very busy again. As we approach Church Street we have to stop for the traffic lights, and Joy oh Joy, a service 5 turns out onto the promenade in front of us. The 5 runs along the same route all the way to Watson Road. We recognise the crew on the 5, and they are good mates, so we know they will give us a good lift. As we follow through, we see the 5 has pulled into the layby at the Tower, and the conductor is guiding the large crowd aboard. No-one seems interested in our 12, so we pull past, and push on to Central Pier. This has given us just the break we needed, and we are coping now. We clear Central Pier and the Foxhall stops, and at the Foxhall the 5 passes us again. We both need to stop at Manchester Square, but the crew of the 5 are being relieved and we can pull round and set off down Lytham Road. We're still about 9 minutes down, but we haven't lost any more time. There isn't much of a queue at Waterloo Road, and the traffic has got a bit lighter. At the terminus we are about 5 minutes down, but some smart work gets us away about 2 minutes late.

It's still hard work back in to town though. With a combination of heavy road traffic and unpredictable passenger traffic, we are still getting a real pasting every trip. By the time we start our last trip we have had three hours of unrelenting pressure, trying to keep time, conscious of a gap being created in front of us, and the bus behind breathing down our necks. We've had full loads on virtually every trip, and when I check my waybill I note that I've sold about 450 tickets on this first portion of duty. By the time we get to Manchester Square we are ready for our break, and my cash bag is weighing heavy with both copper and silver.

As we walk back, the driver tells me to go and pay in whilst he gets the brew ready. The cash office is quiet at this time, and I quickly get rid of a lot of weight, which makes the job much easier. Back in the canteen the tea is ready, and we settle down to ham sandwiches and a large chunk of home-made chocolate cake.  We have 50 minutes break, but we have to get back up into town to take over on our next portion on the 16B. The relief point is at the Odeon Cinema in Dickson Road, going towards Marton.
Centre Loader 259 was Peter's steed for his second half on the 16s, - here it is seen on another day laying over at Newton Hall Camp on seasonal service 15C (John Hinchliffe)

The 16B is really two services joined together for the summer season. The winter 3/3A services from North Shore to Marton are linked across Preston New Road with the 16/16B services from the Tower to Wordsworth Avenue via Stanley Park. This is the home of the PD2/5 centre loaders, and it is therefore no surprise to see 259 come into sight along Dickson Road. This will be our home for the rest of the evening.

Moving from the 12 to the 16B is like taking a holiday. All the customers on a summer evening like this are local people. They know where they are going, and they know their fares. The routes serve gentle residential parts of the town, the North Shore end being amongst the oldest housing in the town, whereas much of the rest of the route is interwar owner occupied housing. West Park Drive is one of the better areas. There are few traffic problems, as the route crosses rather than uses all the main arteries of the town. It is not uncommon to meet friends out for the evening travelling on the service, and this makes for a pleasant interlude. The terminus at the Tower is just round the corner of Woolworths, probably one of the windiest corners in all Blackpool.

Before we know it we are due to make the last trip of the night at 10.40 p.m. from the Tower up to Wordsworth Avenue only. Just a few locals using this service, no problems at all, then we run in out of service from Wordsworth Avenue, straight in to garage, where we arrive about 11.20 p.m.

We are one of the first buses in, and I don't have too much money to pay in. If I'm quick I can get paid in and get down to Manchester Square with enough time to catch a 12 which will still be running up to the bus station, and get home on the last 14A which leaves the Bus Station for Thornton at 11.45 p.m. An early night for a change! I won't be able to do this tomorrow night, as I'm on the last 22 to Cleveleys and I won't finish till well after midnight. So it's the staff bus for me tomorrow.

Monday, 27 April 2020

Around the Routes

Around twenty years ago former Blackpool conductor Peter Makinson submitted this article for a book I was drafting that has never seen the light of day. Much of the research has formed posts on this blog and having found the original text, Peter has agreed for me to post it here. This is part two of three.

An extensive network of, mostly, frequent services was operated during the 1960s. This snapshot looks at the operation of the routes in a bit more detail.
Approaching the Bus Station, PD2 334 will next work a 15B to Staining Road End, followed by PD3s on the 12 and 22. (Brian Turner)
Service 1 (Poulton) was run in conjunction with the Newton Drive services 2 (Poulton) and 15 (Staining) and they generally ran on one timecard. During the day the services inter-worked from the bus station end, but in the evening service 1 and 2 occasionally changed over in Poulton. Service 1 ran from Talbot Road Bus Station (TRBS) to Poulton via Carleton and Castle Gardens. As far as Castle Gardens the route duplicated the 14/14A Thornton and Fleetwood services. Unlike the 14/14A there was no minimum fare applied from the bus station in the evening so theoretically local passengers for Layton could be carried, but in practice the intensive services on the 22/23 axis carried all this traffic. Much of the route lay outside the borough boundary, and in the 60's it had a definitely rural feel to it. The same could also be said of the 2 to Poulton via Hardhorn and the 15 Staining services, both via Newton Drive. In spite of the high quality housing along Newton Drive both these services could be very busy, and demanded some quite smart timekeeping at the inner end. The were some short turnbacks on the 15 to Staining Road End as service 15B, and specials ran to Newton Hall Camp on Staining Lane as 15C. It was not until the late 1980s that the Newton Drive services all took the short diversion into Victoria Hospital.

Service 15A ran independently from Victoria Hospital to Bispham Depot, still known as that in 1966 and 1967 although by that time it had closed to trams. The route from Victoria Hospital followed that of the 2 and 15 via Newton Drive, Church Street, Abingdon Street, and Talbot Road to North Station. It then turned left into Dickson Road as far as Gynn Square, before turning inland again all the way up Warbreck Hill Road, then onto Bispham Road as far as Bispham Clinic and finally up Red Bank Road to turn in what was then the former forecourt of Bispham depot. The 15A was noted for its particularly high percentage of elderly and infirm passengers, earning for itself in the process the rather unkind nickname of "Cripple Creek". 

The next group of routes to consider were the Park Road services 3/3A which ran from Westminster Road, North Shore via the town centre to either Newhouse Road or Cherry Tree Gardens in Marton. For three summer seasons in the mid 60s, both services were linked to run in conjunction with the 16/16B Tower to Stanley Park and Marton via Hornby Road and West Park Drive. Both portions of the route were generally regarded as being among the quieter routes on the system, and were normally the home of the centre entrance PD2/5's. The 16 and 16B had been the last resting place of the pre-war TD4s and TD5s in the 1950s.

The Mereside estate services 4 and 6 were interworked with service 13 Lindale Gardens, starting in the town centre, and then via Tower, Central Drive, Grasmere Road, the 4 diverging to operate via Penrose Avenue and the the 6 providing the main service to Mereside. The 13 followed the 6 to Spen Corner, before turning down Marton Drive to reach St. Annes Road. A feature of the Mereside services was that the maximum fare was pegged at a sub-standard rate in comparison with the number of stages travelled. Ribble offered a much more direct service along Preston New Road, but this did not penetrate the estate, but it seems that the fare was kept at the low level to be competitive with Ribble. Service 6 could be very busy at times, and required some smart work on the bell to keep time. The ideal bus was a PD2/27 in good condition, as the shorter vehicles seemed better suited to the estate roads. Sticking with Mereside there was also the odd service 19 which ran from South Pier to Mereside, with just one bus allocated. I was quite surprised at the level of business on this run, and a PD3 was normally allocated, often one of the 371-380 batch with St. Helens fronts but full front cabs. These odd looking vehicles were known as ‘Half-Moons’ amongst the staff.

Service 5, Grange Park Estate to Halfway House was another busy service. Grange Park is a council estate located off the Garstang Road, which had been expanded considerably in the 1950s and 1960s. The 5 had been gradually extended through the estate to its final terminus near to Garstang Road at Pilling Crescent. Upon leaving the estate from Chepstow Road, onto Garstang Road, then into Layton then via Layton Road and Caunce Street to the town centre, passing en route my old primary school on the corner of Caunce Street and Devonshire Road. From the town centre it duplicated the Lytham Road tram replacement service 12 as far as Watson Road, then via Watson Road and St. Annes Road to Halfway House. PD2s were used in the 1966 and 1967 season but as new deliveries of PD3s arrived these started to appear on this service as well.       
PD2 298 on the 6A from Midgeland Road to Grange Park about to turn from School Road into Common Edge Road (Peter Makinson)

One of the more obscure services was the 6A operating from Midgeland Road, Marton and replacing the one-person operated service 18, which had been the home of the 3 pre-war TS8 saloons that survived into the 1960's. From the Welcome Inn it duplicated the 6 for much of its route into the town centre then picking up the route of the 5 via Caunce Street to Layton and then as far as Chepstow Road in Grange Park. As one of the lighter used routes, it too was the home of the centre entrance PD2/5s.

The Bispham circulars, 7/7A could be very intense. A complete 8 hour shift on these services involved 16 round trips, as the service needed only 30 minutes to complete a round trip back to the bus station. Short distance riders were a feature of these services, which provided the main local service along Dickson Road once the North Station trams had gone. Beyond Gynn Square the service ran parallel to the Promenade, and tended to be favoured by local people for short journeys, who would then avoid the minimum fare charged on the trams. Service 7C was a variation, which extended northwards to serve Norbreck, Little Bispham and terminated in the middle of nowhere at Anchorsholme Lane East.

The 9, together with the 9A, had once been the trunk route to Cleveleys from Talbot Road Bus Station, but that role had been taken over by the extended 22/22A. The 9 gradually drifted into obscurity, again the preserve of the PD2/5s, and in 1966 and 1967 it was providing a link into the newly developed areas east of Bispham along Ashfield Road. These areas are now served by some of Blackpool's trunk services, but in the 1960's this was a relatively unknown backwater, with a bus perhaps once every half hour.

The Lytham St. Annes services operated on a separate rota involving the more senior crews who rather tended to keep themselves to themselves and usually drove the newest buses. The 11 and 11A ran to a combined ten minute headway and were jointly licensed with Lytham St. Annes Corporation. Their blue buses operated most workings, with Blackpool providing two buses. During the summer Lytham extended a local route through to Blackpool duplicating the existing services to provided extra capacity. Both routes left town via Central Drive, the 11 continuing to the Halfway House, then Squires Gate Lane and Clifton Drive North before following the back route from St. Annes through Ansdell to Lytham. The 11A was the Lytham tram replacement dating from 1937 and ran down Bloomfield Road to Lytham Road joining the 11 at the Airport. 11A workings took the more direct route along Clifton Drive South to Lytham, both terminating at Meadow Lane in the east end of the town.

Service 11C took the back road following the 6 to Hawes Side Lane then Common Edge Road and Queensway. After disappearing down some of estate in the north of St. Annes it terminated at the towns Square. Although jointly licensed with Lytham St. Annes only Blackpool buses operated the service on a twenty minute headway. Until 1958 all joint services buses stopped at the borough boundary and all passengers were re-booked by the conductor to points across the boundary. Through fares were then introduced and conductors split their waybills on the boundary which was a more satisfactory method, operationally at least.

Service 12, Lytham Road, was perhaps the most unpopular service of all with the crews. It was tightly timed, but also subject to congestion along Lytham Road and the Promenade. There was an apocryphal story going around once that the bus station inspectors were having apoplexy when they realised on one occasion that every bus allocated to the 12 was somewhere in the immediate vicinity of the bus station. As well as local traffic, the 12 also carried a considerable volume of visitors, who were unfamiliar with the destinations and fares. This is the same problem as the trams, but on the 12 you had a 71 seater on your own moving at a pace considerably faster than that normal on the trams. The problem was recognised, and at busy times jumper conductors were employed to assist, boarding vehicles at Talbot Square or the Tower and helping the normal conductor as far as Waterloo Road. 
6 July 1968 and brand new PD3 537 is captured on Garstang Road heading to Blackpool from Thornton on a 14A (Peter Makinson)
As with the Lytham runs, the 14/14A ran on a separate rota. The route took some learning for a new conductor, who had to learn the regulations concerning return fares and also the peculiarities of the Ribble fare structure beyond Castle Gardens, it was hard to see the logic behind offering return fares for adults but not making them available for children, and many of the customers were bemused by this as well. A very high proportion of the clientele were regular customers, and the regular conductors got to know many of them by sight if not by name. Even in the space of a short summer seasons you could get something of an insight into the lives of your regulars, where they worked, where they lived, and how they spent their leisure time in what was by today's standards a much simpler age.

The traffic levels on the 14 justified 4 buses an hour, but to integrate the timetable with Ribble's service 162 between Fleetwood and Castle Gardens, the 14 actually ran half hourly, but duplicated with two buses running theoretically 2 minutes apart. The 14A was a short working variant as far as Thornton Social Club, which operated in the alternate half hour slot between the through Fleetwood service. Like the Lytham services the 14 was always regarded as one of the premier services and in those days would be allocated the newest buses. The usual combination would be a PD3 as service bus with a PD2/27 as duplicate, providing a capacity of 130 seats with a crew of 4. If you were very unlucky you might end up with a PD2/5 as duplicate, but this was becoming a rarity by this time. The wheel has come full circle with the 14 now being the last bastion of conductor operation. The PD3s stayed on the service until the end of their lives, but now the service seems to be home to some of the older vehicles in the fleet. 

The 22/22A services were the mainline services. The origin goes back to the replacement of the Layton and Central Drive trams in 1936, though the circular service then operated bears only superficial resemblance to what developed in the postwar years. The services always operated in conjunction with the 23/23A between Layton and Waterloo Road, providing an intensive service between those two points via the town centre. In the 1950s the 22 had operated to the Hospital via Grange Road and the 23 ran to Bispham Clinic. However these two were swapped around and the 22 then operated through to Cleveleys via Devonshire Road and the 22A ran via Bispham Village, replacing the 9A and 9B. By the 1960's the 22/22A were allocated PD3s as trunk routes, and they carried intensive traffic.

By contrast the 23/23A was much quieter, although these workings provided part of the combined service along the old tram routes. The relatively short stretch from the Hospital to Layton generated some local and through traffic to town, then you were into the thick of the battle until Waterloo Road, where you turned right and ran down to South Pier to terminate as service 23A. As a 23 you then began what was in effect a completely different service from South Pier to Midgeland Road. PD2/5s were common on this route to the end of their days.

I mentioned earlier that much of the local traffic on Dickson Road which had once been carried on the North Station trams was by then being carried on the 7/7A circulars. The trams finished at the end of the 1963 season and during that winter no trams operated at all south of Cleveleys. In their place service 25 operated from Cleveleys to Starr Gate with short workings to the Tower showing 25A. When the trams resumed at Easter the 25A survived having been diverted down Dickson Road to provide a replacement link to Cleveleys for former tram passengers. By 1966 the 25A diverted at Norbreck to turn inland serving the estates there. It never carried the traffic levels of the old tram service, and it seems that visitors who might have used the North Station trams changed their travel patterns, and locals found alternative services such as the 7/7A/7C operating away from the promenade.

The remarks made about service 12 apply in equal part to service 26, the direct replacement of the Marton tram route. Marton had without doubt enjoyed a Rolls Royce service with the trams, with 48 comfortable seats in a single deck vehicle operating every three minutes. Those 48 seats were replaced by 71 seat double deck buses operating less frequently. The problem with the 26 was the very high proportion of short stage riders, and the relative age and infirmity of many of the regular clients. In reality the top deck of the bus was of marginal utility, and you would spend much of every trip in a battle of wills trying to persuade people travelling two or three stops to use the top deck, rather than crush in to the bottom, making it impossible to get round and collect fares.  The result of this was that the 26 also suffered from late running, and the constant battles and heavy loads made it very unpopular. 

As well as the main services described above there were of course a whole variety of extra services, including some which always came out as overtime working. Some of these ran in conjunction with works or offices, and these were known colloquially amongst the staff as "factories". Much of the work to Norcross came into this category, but some of the "factories"  were simple extra trips to provide some additional capacity at peak hours. There were extra workings between the town centre and Bispham operating as service 24. Some route numbers would be used for journeys in service to depot, such as 5A. 14X appeared on some blinds, and on at least one occasion was used for an extra working, Manchester style, on the 14.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

On the Platform

Around twenty years ago former Blackpool conductor Peter Makinson submitted this article for a book I was drafting that has never seen the light of day. Much of the research has formed posts on this blog and having found the original text, Peter has agreed for me to post it here. It comes in three parts.
PD3 514 early in its journey from Cleveleys to Halfway House on the 22 on 25th September 1967 (Peter Makinson)
Blackpool Corporation made extensive use of student employees during the 1960s. Working on the trams was most popular though there was a small band who also worked on the buses. Mostly they were local lads, with a good knowledge of the geography of the town, whereas most of the visiting students, many from Dublin or Belfast, stayed on the trams. 

I worked four seasons at Blackpool, starting in 1964.  The first two were almost exclusively on the trams, but in 1966 and 1967 I worked as a bus conductor, with only occasional forays back onto the trams, mostly for overtime purposes. One thing quickly learned was that working on the buses could be much harder work than the trams. Noisy many of the trams may be, but the ride is much more certain than a bus, and you needed to know how to cope with the unpredictable motion of life on the back.

When I see the variety of services now being operated, I have to admit that we were quite limited in what we did in the 1960's. In the days before deregulation, we knew our place, so to speak. With the exception of Fleetwood and Lytham St. Annes, we kept to our own manor. Most of the services were quite short, and many were based on Talbot Road Bus Station.

Moving on to the buses meant I had to learn some new tricks pretty rapidly. The fare structure was basically the same as on the trams, and on north to south routes I worked out the equivalent fare stages to the ones I knew on the trams. The big difference on the buses was that for the most part you were carrying local people who knew their fares, and would be only too keen to pick you up if you made a mistake. If your face was unfamiliar, many would ask for an obscure destination, perhaps in the hope of getting a penny or two knocked off if the conductor got it wrong.

The bus duties were grouped together in rotas of about 30 duties. Because of the seasonal nature of transport in Blackpool some of the rotas were summer only. It was no surprise to me to find that service 12 and 26, the most unpopular services with the staff, would be on these summer only rotas, as seasonal staff would go onto these. The rest of the town services were spread throughout the rotas, with the exception of 11, 11A and 11C, which were on a separate Lytham rota, and service 14/14A, which were on a Fleetwood rota. To go on either of these you were supposed to undergo special probation, because of the complex fare structures involving other bus operators. I managed to get myself onto the Fleetwood rota in 1966, and worked as a spare conductor on the same duties in 1967. I had a special interest in the route as I lived on it, and had used it for many years to and from school. Longer routes such as Fleetwood and Lytham were preferred by the staff, as you knew you had 4 trips to do for a shift, and that was your day's work. Short services like the 7 and 7A seemed to make the shift seem very long. On these you were back in the bus station every half hour, and if you weren't careful, you would suffer from an excess of tea drinking. Most crews in those days would leave the bus on the stand to load up and spend the entire layover time in the canteen, only emerging at departure time. With a conductor on board, you could still leave on time and pick up your fares along the road. Most of the experienced conductors on the 14/14A would go out before departure, especially in the evening peak, as the buses were always full, and it could be quite difficult to get all the fares in before the first passengers started alighting. One person operation has changed all these time honoured customs and practices, and it is not uncommon now to see a driver stay with the vehicle during layover time.

Shift patterns then were early turn then late turn weeks about. In the 1960's evening bus services operated much more intensively than now, so that you always knew you would be late turn every other week. If you worked spare, this would be your shift pattern for the entire season, and you rarely got to know anyone working on the opposite shift. Most duties in the rota covered an entire week so that you worked the same services for complete week, apart from your day off. Once you were on the rota, you would have what was known as a changeover week, where you swapped from one shift to another, usually by doing several different duties covering the days off of other staff.
Iconic but well past their best, a group of Centre Entrance PD2s huddle in the bus garage in 1967 (Brian Turner)
Working on the inside meant that you got to know some of the special workings, and in particular how the bus fleet was utilised. In the 1960's, the centre entrance PD2/5's were already on the decline, and were mostly relegated to the less intensive services, such as 1, 2, 6A, 7/7A, 9, 15, 15A, 16/16B and 23/23A. They were not ideal buses to work, as you always seemed to be in the way of passenger flow, wherever you tried to stand. They also rattled very badly, and the bodies were not in the best of condition. The other problem was that from the top deck you had no view of the platform unless you were by the stairhead. If you were collecting fares at the front or back of the top deck, you couldn't see if anyone was on the platform wanting to alight. They either had to ring the bell for themselves (largely frowned upon in Blackpool) or call up the stairs, otherwise they would get taken past their stop.

The rear entrance PD2/21 and PD2/27s, plus the PD3s were the backbone of operations, with the PD3s used on the key trunk services such as 11/11A/11C, 12, 14, 22 and 26, and the PD2s used on the rest. The Burlingham bodied PD2/21's were always regarded as odd men out. You didn't get to work on them very often, so that when you did get them, you found that the bells were all in the wrong place. This is always the problem with non-standard vehicles in a large fleet, as I found much later in my career when I worked at West Midlands P.T.E.

The earlier PD3s seemed to be kept to services 12 and 26, for which they had been initially purchased as tram replacements. The half cab PD3s were always seen as rather superior. For some reason best known to the engineering department the 371-380 batch of full front PD3s always seemed rather sluggish in comparison to the rest of the fleet.

There was a degree of interworking in the 1960's, a process with which I was to become very familiar when I worked as a part-time driver at W.M.P.T.E. Dudley in the 1980's. Services 1, 2 and 15  (Poulton/Staining) were interworked, usually changing over at the bus station but occasionally changing in Poulton Square. Services 4, 6 and 13 (Mereside/Squires Gate Lane via Marton Drive) were also interworked, with the changeover taking place outside British Home Stores.

Blackpool had a relatively small number of peak hour extra workings, but those that did operate were interesting. There was an unadvertised service 6D, which duplicated an evening peak working on the 11C to the borough boundary. It was not uncommon to find a Burlingham PD2/21 on this working. Another odd working was a journey on service 2, which started at Staining in the morning peak and went direct to Poulton. This was balanced by a return working from Poulton to Staining in the evening peak. A whole fleet of vehicles operated in the morning and evening peaks to the Government Offices at Norcross.

Amongst the Fleetwood 14/14A duties was a morning peak hour service from Cleveleys direct to the Premium Bond Centre in St. Annes. After completing this journey, you went to St. Annes Square and ran back to Blackpool as Service 11, then back to garage. I learned later in life that vehicles allocated to this service would most likely be those required for some sort of attention later in the day.

My only involvement with the Lytham services was my one week when this peak hour 11 was included in the Fleetwood rota. I felt very much like a fish out of water down there. I was obviously a new face, and it still rankles me to remember the behaviour of the clientele. Starting out at St. Annes Square you would very quickly pick up a good load. You were duplicating a Lytham blue bus, the driver of which seemed to have a fatal fascination with the tail lights of your vehicle. Now those passengers must have used that bus every day of the week, every month of the year, year in year out, but upon seeing a new face they would ask for all kinds of obscure destinations, protesting that they had no idea what the fare was. By the time we got to Starr Gate I was supposed to have all the fares in, and make up the waybill for accounting purposes, but most mornings I would be only half way through. What was happening of course was that a good number of these worthy folk would eventually alight around Waterloo Road before I had got round to them, and in the process they got a free ride. At this stage the Lytham blue bus driver got a sudden urge to join a formula 1 team, and you would be overtaken, and never see that bus again for the cloud of dust raised. Apart from this one working all the Lytham services together with the 11C were run as a separate rota, involving the more senior crews who rather tended to keep themselves to themselves.

The normal timetable services could be supplemented by extra workings according to traffic demands, and the availability of vehicles and crews. Most days would see specials operating between the Tower and Stanley Park Gates. Less well known were occasional workings as service 15C to Newton Hall Camp, half way between Staining Road End and Staining.
346 is the last surviving rear entrance Blackpool PD2 and is under restoration by FTT. Here it is seen in the 1960s at the reversing area at Thornton Social Club on a 14A working form Talbot Road Bus Station.

I mentioned earlier the different fare structures on some routes. On the Fleetwood 14/14A routes there were two complications. Between Castle Gardens and Fleetwood the route was regarded as lying within the territory of Ribble Motor Services. On this part of the route, the Ribble fare structure operated, quite unlike the Blackpool structure and considerably more expensive. An added complexity was that between Castle Gardens and Broadwater the rural tariff operated, and this was different to the urban fares charged within Fleetwood itself. The second complication concerned the timetable. Again between Castle Gardens and Fleetwood the route duplicated Ribble Service 162 from Preston. Ribble offered a half-hour headway over this part of the route, and Blackpool were only allowed to offer the same. The level of traffic justified a quarter hour headway, but to get round this, the service had to be duplicated to provide the capacity required, with two buses operating together every half hour. This always mystified the customers, and it was very difficult to explain the reason for this arrangement.

When I look back, it is amazing to think how much has changed over the years. In the 1960's we had one basic service to Cleveleys (22/22A), an intensive service on the Bispham circulars (7/7A) and an incredibly tortuous summer service on the 16/16B which ran from Claremont Park, via the town centre, Park Road, the Oxford, Cherry Tree Gardens to Marton, and back via Wordsworth Avenue, Stanley Park, and Hornby Road to terminate outside Woolworths. Service 9 ran from the bus station into the new developments at Bispham, terminating at Fairfax Avenue, long before the new Technical College was built. As some of the new services developed, destination boards were used, slotted into brackets on the front grille. One oddity was service 19 from South Pier to Mereside. One bus, normally a PD3 was allocated, which meant that the headway was a very unclockface 40 minutes. It was all done with full size buses, manual gearboxes and conductors, not a Handybus nor a low-floor Excel in sight.

Thirteen years after completing my last shift at Blackpool as a conductor, I was back on the road again, this time as a driver at W.M.P.T.E. in Dudley. Many of the skills learned at Blackpool came back into use, but that, as they say, is another story.   


Monday, 13 April 2020

Meanwhile in Sweden


513 was exported to Sweden in 1989 and has proven resistant to tracing. One report had it as a bike bus to an Island, and an owner was seeking parts for it some years ago. More recently it seems to have been a cafe in Varberg - with a Trip Advisor review page! Most recent sighting seems to be 2018.
https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g189892-d10517970-Reviews-Le_Bistro_Roulant-Varberg_Varberg_Municipality_Halland_County_West_Coast.html

Facebook page

Turning Japanese


Thanks to a recent post on Facebook, former Blackpool Atlantean 350 has been traced - to Japan! Since at least 2017 it has been parked by the side of the Nishi bypass in Okayama City. Some photos can be found here.

350 (GHG350W) was the last of the fifth batch of Atlanteans which entered service in May/June 1981. It lead a relatively simple life - suffering some fire damage in 1989. By 2003 it was the last of the first 50 left (with 351-64 also still in use), it was finally withdrawn in December 2005. It was then sold to Blackpool Council for use as a mobile mess room for the tramway track gang - following in the tyre prints of several older buses since the 1960s. It entered service in its new role in December 2006 with fleet number 270 and lasted until November 2012 when it was sold to a dealer in Warrington - and sometime between then and 2017 it left for Japan. DVLA reports a log book was issued in Jan 2014.

Closer to home and a recent post by James Liddell shows former 330 (URN330V) as part of a collection of stored vehicles from the Liddell fleet. This was only briefly used by Liddells and has been stored since around 2003! It was one of six purchased in August 2002 (325-327, 329 and 332 the others). 



Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Service Reductions

Enviro 425 is one of six buses parked up by the cenotaph on Saturday 28th (Philip Higgs)
Blackpool Transport reduced services further as part of their response to the Covid19 pandemic. 37 buses are now required, with most services either every 30 or 60 minutes daily, some with no evening service. It had clearly been struggling for staff availability with services cancelled during the previous weeks.

  • 1 Starr Gate to Fleetwood Affinity Outlet every 30 mins (5 buses) finishes 2200
  • 2 Blackpool to Poulton 60 mins 1 bus - finishes 1800
  • 2C Blackpool to Knott End 90 mins 2 buses - finishes 1800
  • 3 Mereside to Cleveleys Park 60 mins 5 buses with 4 - finishes around 2100
  • 4 Mereside to Cleveleys 60 mins - finishes around 2100
  • 5 Hospital to Halfway House 30 mins 3 buses finishes 2300
  • 6 Grange Park to Mereside 30 mins 4 buses finishes 2300
  • 7 Cleveleys to Clifton Hospital 60 mins 3 buses finishes 2200
  • 9 Cleveleys to Blackpool 30 mins 3 buses finishes 1800 with one trip at 2220 from Blackpool, 2305 from Cleveleys
  • 11 Lytham to Blackpool 30 mins 4 buses finishes 1900
  • 14 Fleetwood to Blackpool 30 mins 4 buses finishes 2200
  • 17 Lytham to Blackpool 60 mins 2 buses finishes 2100
  • 18 Mereside to Blackpool 60 mins 2 buses 1000-1600 only
  • 19 Staining to Blackpool 60 mins 1 bus 955 to 1755

Catch 22 has reduced its services from 30th March with the 21 operating hourly Tues, Wed, Thurs and Sat, while the 24 is operating hourly with 2 buses to it Saturday timetable. The Sunday service is suspended. 3 buses are required with 2 Versa and 2 Darts in the operating pool. A new addition collected today is ex Stagecoach North West SP09DRO - an Alexander Dennis Enivro 300 bodied MAN.

Stagecoach is running its 61 hourly daily, 68 half hourly Mon-Sat, hourly Sundays. The 42 from Lancaster is running every 2 hours daily. Preston Bus 75 is continuing to run hourly but to Saturday times, as its Coastal 76 and 77, while their commercial 78 is unchanged. 

Friday, 27 March 2020

Farewell Tridents

Yesterday 328 returned to depot as the final Trident to operate in service for Blackpool Transport after almost 18 years of use of the type with 30 bought new and 21 second hand. 310-317, 322-330 were the last to operate. Several have moved to Jacksons at Marton for storage today. Services today are in the hands of Palladium liveried buses. A reduced service will run next week due to the current situation. 

The 1 continues every 30 minutes as the tramway is closing; the 2 reduces to hourly off peak, still half hourly at other times. 3 and 4 will each by 1/2 hourly, 5 every 20 mins; 6, 9 and 11 reduced to 20 mins, 7 normal timetable and 14 every 15 mins. 17, 18 and 19 will run as normal. 

The new buses have now all arrived, the last (586) arriving yesterday. Identities are:
572 YX20OFA
573 YX20OFB
574 YX20OFC
575 YX20OFD
576 YX20OFE
577 YX20OFG
578 YX20OFH
579 YX20OFJ
580 YX20OFK
581 YX20OFL
582 YX20OFM
583 YX20OFN
584 YX20OFO
585 YX20OFP
586 YX20OFR
456 SK20AUK
457 SK20AUO
458 SK20AUP
459 SK20AUT

Sunday, 1 March 2020

New Buses and other news

The latest order from Alexander Dennis for Blackpool is nearly ready for delivery. One of the four E400s has been noticed on test at Falkirk. It is registered SK20AUT. The first of the 15 Enviro 200 single deckers is registered YK20OFA. 

These are expected to replace the last Tridents - of which 18 remain. The 8 remaining Plaxton Centro bodied Volvos are now expected to be retained as a live reserve fleet to provide extra fleet capacity for rail replacement work. In practise these are likely to run on service work with newer buses working the rail replacement.

The most recent rail replacement saw services from Preston to Accrington and Blackburn to Hebden Bridge during the recent 'blockade' between Blackburn and Accrington in February half term. The Accrington buses ran all week using E400s, the Hebden Bridge work was mainly weekends and tended to use Citaros due to a low bridge en route.

Another Volvo B7 has reached its new owner with 521 now in service in Salisbury with AC Travel. Also not previously reported is that Solo 243 has emerged with Hulley's of Baslow in their smart blue and cream livery. 522 has emerged at Hunts, Alford and 523 with Paul Winson, Loughborough.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Eclipse disposals

Two of the four remaining Wright Eclipse bodied Volvo B7RLE were sold to Archway, Fleetwood in December. 520/3 were collected on 30th December. At least one has been sold on as 520, was observed at Carnforth station today with South Lakes Travel, Barrow. It is understood 521/3 have also been acquired by Archway.