Saturday, 19 September 2020

Fylde Paladin reborn

Fylde Transport Trust has repainted sole surviving Fylde single deck rebodied Atlantean number 7 into its 1993 two tone blue livery. The splendid result is captured here. (Philip Higgs)

The Leyland Atlantean formed the backbone of the Fylde Borough fleet for most of its existence. When formed from Lytham St. Annes Corporation in 1974, Fylde inherited three Atlanteans and acquired 18 more between 1975 and 1984. Deregulation saw the fleet expand with 41 second hand examples mostly from Kingston-upon-Hull and Greater Manchester between 1985 and 1992. The 1990s saw major refurbishments take place with a modernised external appearance.
Three of the four 'Paladin' rebodied Atlanteans parked at Squires Gate Depot (Brian Turner)

1993 saw the ultimate progression of this realised with the entry into service of four Atlanteans with modern Northern Counties 'Paladin' single deck bodies. The project commenced in January 1992 when four 21 year old long wheel base Alexander bodied Atlanteans were purchased from Hull. New to Bradford Corporation as trolleybus replacements in August 1971, they arrived at Hull around deregulation in 1986, just as Hull was selling some of its own, shorter, Atlanteans to Fylde. The buses were dispatched to AJS, of Carlton where the body was removed and the chassis were delivered to Fylde in January 1992. Here is a flickr link of TKU469K with original body in Hull

Work commenced on the first chassis - TKU462K in March, with virtually all components replaced by new or reconditioned units. In July it was sent to Northern Counties to allow them to ascertain how their Paladin body - designed for more modern chassis could be adapted. Meanwhile the other three (5-7 TKU465/6/9K) were overhauled at Fylde and left for Northern Counties in February 1993.
Number 7 on 24th May 1993 having just arrived at Squires Gate depot from Northern Counties after rebodying. Excuse the slight blur from a hand held shot, but its was worthy to record the first photo. (Paul Turner) 

7 was the first to return to Fylde arriving back on 24 May, it was soon joined by 5 and both entered service on 18 June 1993. 4 and 6 arrived and entered service in June. They allowed the five strong Bristol RE fleet to be retired. Initially they ran on the trunk 11/11A (Cleveleys-Lytham) routes, but their 42 seat capacity was on the low side so from February 1994 they moved onto route 11C (Blackpool to St. Annes) which used 3 buses and 193 (St. Annes to Wesham) which used the fourth, and Tiger 13. The bus of the 193 also worked the evening 15 (Blackpool to Staining), sometimes Paladins also appeared on evening/Sunday 154/8 (Blackpool to Preston). Sundays tended to see 2 Paladins on the 11C and one on 11/11A.
Now in Blackpool green and cream 137 is seen at Pontins on service 1 on 7 July 1998 (Brian Turner)

Later that year Blackpool purchased Fylde and rationalised the network, with the 11C absorbed into a Blackpool route. The single deckers moved onto routes 44A (Cleveleys Park-Mereside), 192 (Blackpool-Kirkham) and 193 (St. Annes to Wesham) but the arrival of new low floor buses in 1996 saw their work dry up. For the next few years they saw use on seasonal services 1 (Blackpool Promenade) or 21 (Blackpool Zoo), schools work and some tendered services. Several short periods of storage punctuated their work, though all four received Blackpool's livery prior to final withdrawal in September 1999.

7 as Shamrock 201 at Wisley Airfield as part of a bus rally (Paul Turner)

All four went for further service, seeing use with an array of independents. Wactons of Bromyard collected all four on 30 October 1999 - selling 5 and 6 on in its dealer capacity, but retaining 4 and 7 for service under the "Bromyard Omnibus Company" banner. 7 was registered WNT244 and numbered 140. In October 2000 it was sold to Powell's of Rotherham and was re-registered again to UIB3987. It is pictured here in their blue livery. It was now fitted with seatbelts.

From Powells it moved to MacEwan of Amisfield, Dumfries in August 2001 and in December 2002 it joined the fleet of Shamrock of Poole and received their attractive orange and cream livery as fleet number 201. Sister 4 later rejoined it as 200. Both were withdrawn in 2008. 7 was bought for preservation and 4 for spares and both moved back to Blackpool on 13th November 2008 (7) and 19th (4). Sadly 4 had to be dismantled for spares, its engine was badly damaged, but parts were salvaged for 7.

After several years in store, investigative work on the engine problem that caused 7's withdrawal commenced in summer 2020 and its repaint took place w/c 14th September. New rear brakes have been fitted, the engine is being stripped to remedy the head gasket issues and to resolve the pressurisation of the coolant system.

27 years after it was rebodied and 49 years after its chassis was constructed, 7 is approaching a return to the road. It is one of a small number of surviving buses that were rebodied in the 1990s, as operators looked to lower cost solutions to enhance their fleets rather than buying new buses.