Wednesday 27 March 2013

Resort Hopper Solos

Route 20 resumed on Saturday using double deckers but from Easter it is, surprisingly, to utilise some route branded Optare Solos. 259 and 296 have been outshopped in a mainly yellow vinyl based livery advertising the route and are expected to be joined by 260, 294 and 295. 

Saturday 16 March 2013

Solos at Halton

The disposal of Solos 269, 271 and 272 to Halton Transport was reported earlier this year. There are now in Halton livery, ableit in Metro styles and have been numbered 55-57. After a few days in service they were re-registered LIG1621-3 respectively. A few pictures prior to re-registration are on this flickr site

By Stagecoach to Whitehills

Stagecoach 61 will serve Whitehills from tomorrow, with a bus every hour daily (the other bus per hour on weekdays will stay on the A583). The diverted buses simply run from the A583 roundabout via Lytham St. Annes Way to turn at the roundabout at Graceways. Two additional weekday evening trips are now provided on the 61.

The service is provided on behalf of Lancashire County Council for five years using funds paid to Fylde Borough Council by the housing developer under a Section 106 Agreement. 

Summer Services

23 March sees the resumption of Blackpool Transport service 20, extended this year to the Pleasure Beach and increased to every 30 minutes. The service is branded the "Resort Hopper" but it is not known if this will appear on any vehicles.

29 March sees Classic Bus North West resume Seafront 12, this year extended to Cleveleys Bus Station using four buses on a 20 minute headway.

Meanwhile on 2 April Blackpool Transport will extend route 14 to Peel Park Government Offices from Mereside Tesco.

Blackpool's PD3s

A brand new 514 leaves Cleveleys in September 1967 (Peter Makinson)
Blackpool standardised on Leyland Titans for its double deckers from 1932 to 1968. Indeed other than a Tilling Stevens bus in 1922 and two Guy Arabs in 1933 it bought nothing else. 405 were amassed in total with three generations - the first batches in 1932/3 were replaced by the 1949 streamliners (201-250 batch) which were in turn replaced by PD3s between 1965 and 1968.

The PD3 was launched in 1956 as a 30ft long version of the PD2 (27ft). Blackpool stuck with the PD2 for the remainder of the 1950s but bought 20 of the longer model as part of the tram conversion programme for routes 12 and 62. They arrived between June and August 1962 and looked similar to the previous 45 PD2s with full fronted Metro Cammell body work and rear entrance. 
355 shows the challenging access for fitters to the engine on the full fronted design

The second batch were the first to use the "St Helens front" - a moulded fibreglass front which Blackpool unusually married to its full front giving an asymmetrical appearance which crews nicknamed "Half Moons". These were 371-380 which arrived in early 1964. The fleet had now grown to 178 buses - 30 PD3s, 50 rear loader PD2s and 98 centre entrance PD2s from 153 at the start of 1962. This reflected the tram route closures with just a couple of accident damaged PD2s and the last single deckers withdrawn.
The second batch featured this unusual frontal appearance with asymmetrical windscreens. 378 later became a driver trainer and on withdrawal spent a few weeks as a static inspectors cabin at Manchester Square during tram track renewal
To start to replace the 98 centre loaders, more PD3s arrived - this time with the more conventional half cabs - last seen for Blackpool on the 1933 delivery. 381-400 arrived in May and June 1965 with C suffices. A further 25 were ordered for 1967 delivery as 501-25 with E suffices followed by 526-540 in 1968 with F-suffices - though the last three entered service after the 1 August 1968 registration change date. They were simply modified from LFR538-40F to LFR538-40G, by the simple expedient of changing the last character on the plate, quite noticeably with a different font! The last two batches dispensed with the opening windscreen as they featured demisters.
538 at Fleetwood Queens Terrace terminus of route 14. The driver is about to climb into the cab. Note the "G" suffix does not match the rest of the plate - evidence of the last minute change from F to G registrations. 

The fleet was now on a downward trajectory as reduced demand saw frequency drops aided by the higher capacity of PD3s (71) v 63 on the rear entrance PD2s and 52/54 of the centre entrance buses. In the summer of 1969 only 140 buses were operated rear loader PD2s 301-350 and PD3s 351-399, 500-540. Note in 1968 that 400 had been renumbered 500 following the introduction of a computer system which require a unique number for each vehicle and saw the 400 series used by ancillary vehicles.

The PD3s could be seen across the network, though they generally operated the busiest services, leaving the PD2s to the quieter routes. 

The PD3s were all delivered in the standard cream with green waistband and mudguards. The band was split at the rear to leave room for painted adverts, although only the earlier PD2s carried these. From 1970 the green band was dropped leaving a predominately cream livery with just the green wings for relief. A minor change from 1972 was the replacement of gold fleetnumbers with black ones. In 1978 the cream was replaced by an off-white shade which looked somewhat anaemic.
The new livery on 540 raises the appearance of these buses which looked somewhat muted in the off-white. Radiator badges were removed from the filler caps quite early on, and they often flew up like these when in motion. 516 (left) and 518 (right) show evidence of over-heating judging by the stain on the grill.

The Leyland Atlanteans reintroduced green to the livery and a revised scheme was introduced for the Swifts in 1979 and in 1982 livery experiments were undertaken on three PD3s including the oldest and the newest:
  • 390  painted January/February 1982 with green roof, window surrounds (both decks) and waistband
  • 540  painted February 1982 as 390 but with off-white lower deck windows
  • 512  painted April 1982 with green roof and waistband only.

390 kept its experimental livery until withdrawal and into preservation. Here it threads its way along Dawson Road, St. Annes on route 11C
540’s livery won the vote and 512 did not enter service in its scheme, during May it was modified to match 512, but 390 continued in service in its unique livery. Repaints commenced into the new scheme in July 1982 when 399 was treated, followed by 503 in December. 505-507 were repainted in March 1983 but remarkably 505 was sold in June to a local sub-aqua group. 501 and 513 were painted in April 1983. Both 390 and 399 were retired in August 1983 despite their recent repaints. 501 and 506 lasted until 1985. The remainder were repainted in summer 1985 (511, 515, 518 and 538).
507 in Centenary red and white heads through South Park, about four minutes into its 75 minute trip from Lytham Square to Cleveleys Bus Station.

To commemorate the centenary of the tramway in 1985 507 was repainted into the 1920/30s bus livery of lined out red and white with appropriate lettering. It was fitted with a tachograph to allow use on private hires. This “retro” livery was also applied to the Routemaster fleet and when further buses were needed for service 12 in July 1987, 512 was repainted to match. A new fleet livery of cream with green roof, window surrounds and skirt was adopted in early 1987 and 503 was the first PD3 to be so painted in April 1987. It was joined in July 1987 by 532 – though this did not run until January 1988. At the end of PD3 operation 507/12 were red, 503/32 in the new livery and 511/3/5/8, 538 and 540 in the 1980s style.

All-over adverts were applied to some PD3s in the 1970s. Blackpool’s first all-over advert bus was painted was in May 1972 – three years before the first all-over advert tram. The bus in question was 398 and the sponsor was Greenall Whitley brewers. The bus returned to the all-over cream fleet livery in February 1973. April 1973 saw 537 painted for WHS Smith and the following month saw 521 repainted into a colourful livery for Empire Pools. 537’s advert lasted for six months, 521 for twelve months. Finally 1974 saw 507 treated to a painted “wrapround” advert for Dane Wilkinson – covering just the panels between the upper and lower deck windows – again this lasted for about a year. All buses were then once again in full fleet livery with no further all-over adverts appearing on PD3s – indeed it was to be 1982 before the next bus – an Atlantean – was treated.
521 promoting Empire Pools in 1974 on rout 22. Just visible is the translucent strip on the centre of the roof
355 was the first of the 90 PD3s withdrawn at just eleven years of age in August 1973. It seems to have suffered accident damage and was stripped for spares. It was scrapped during 1974. Later in the year 378 was stood down for use as a driver trainer. The youngest PD3 withdrawal was ten year old 397 which lost its roof under Rigby Road bridge in 1975 when returning to depot. It was also used for spares and went for scrap in 1976. Pictures of these are on the buses, trains, traction engines and trams blog here.

Routine withdrawals commenced with the 1962 batch with 357 and 365-8 retired in Spring 1976. Sister 361 suffered roof damage later in the year. 354 was retired in January 1977 and 352 in October. Winter 1977/8 saw attention divert to the 1965 batch which became due their second overhaul. 381-7, 389, 393 and 395 were retired between December 1977 and May 1978 - the other nine survivors were re-certified. 

The remainder of the 1962 batch (351, 353, 356, 358-360, 362-4, 369/70) were replaced by new Atlanteans in the summer. The 1964 batch started to depart in 1979 with 372/4 retired, followed by the remainder between January and April 1980 - ending the full front era. Half cab 388 had been stood down by the end of 1979 leaving nine of the 1965 half cabs and all 40 of the later batches.

The Certificate of Fitness scheme meant that the 1967/8 batch was due for overhaul in 1980/1 and it was decided to retire some of these favour of retaining older buses. 524/5 were retired in January 1980 followed by 520-522 in the spring. The first of the 1968 batch were retired in August with 526, 529, 533/5/7 retired. OMO conversions had taken several former PD3 strongholds away with route 6 (Blackpool-Mereside) going in 1980 leaving the 5/5A (Grange Park-Halfway House), 11C (Blackpool-St. Annes), 14 (Blackpool to Fleetwood) and 22/22A (Cleveleys to Halfway House), though duties were shared with Atlanteans.

1981's withdrawals were 396, 398, 500, 504, 509, 510, 514, 519, 527, 528, 530, 536 leaving 15 of the 1967 batch, 5 of the 1965 batch and 6 of the final batch still in use at the start of 1982. By the end of the year 391, 392, 531 and 534 had stood down. 
505 was a surprising withdrawal in 1983 just a few weeks after it was repainted. It was used by a local diving club and was kept for some time at St. Annes Station as seen here.

The final three 1965 buses retired in summer 1983 (390, 394 and 399) along with 502, 505, 517, 523 and 539. 1984 saw 508 and 516 stood down, with 501, 506 and 532 retired in 1985.  1983 saw route 22/22A extended to Lytham bringing PD3s back to Lytham - with a lengthy 75 minute journey time. To resource this, the 11C was converted to OMO.

The Final Ten
1986 saw the arrival of six Routemasters bolstering the half cab fleet somewhat. 522 sits with 518 and 538 in the bus yard in 1987. 538 had last worked the sole journey on route 29 - otherwise a 14 working which served Victoria Hospital just before visiting hour started.

After PD3s Blackpool purchased 55 AEC Swift single deckers from 1969 to 1975 and 64 Leyland Atlantean double deckers from 1977 to 1984, plus eight other single deckers in 1982/4. The Swifts were PD2 replacements, the Atlanteans ostensibly PD3 replacements - though Swift withdrawals began in 1980 and only 16 remained in use at deregulation (October 1986). All were gone by the end of February 1988 - the last PD3s outlasting them.

Nine PD3s remained, 503, 507, 511, 512, 513, 518, 538 and 540 while 516, 520 and 532 continued as driver trainers. Eight of the nine survivors carried the green and off-white scheme applied between 1982 and 1985, 507 carried the red/white commemorative livery from 1985. As noted earlier 503, 512 and 532 were repainted during 1987 - 532 being a surprising reinstatement having been withdrawn from driver training and slowly overhauled before finally entering service in January 1988.
515 in its final months in the yard at Rigby Road having operated on service 9 which regained PD3 operation between January 1987 and July 1988.
PD3s continued on route 14 and 22/22A, but the 5/5A ceased at deregulation. Route 12 (Blackpool-Squires Gate) was converted to crew operation from October 1986 but usually with Routemasters; route 9 (Blackpool-Cleveleys) also became crew operated again from January 1987.

This left nine in service and all survived deregulation. 532 was reinstated from the driver training fleet in January 1988 but it and its nine sisters were stored for the winter in November, replaced by Routemasters surplus from the Promenade service. Sadly the arrival of six Olympians in 1989 meant the PD3s were not reinstated, the conversion of route 9 to minibuses and a reduction in requirement for crew buses on the 12 contributed to the sealing of their fate.

Trainer 520 had been withdrawn at the end of 1986 and with 532's return to use, 516 survived as the sole driver trainer. BTS decided to keep 507 once the decision to dispose of the others had been taken. It was occasionally rallied and saw a brief period of service use in between 5 July and 11 August 1990 and again during summer 1991, but from 1995 it became a permanent driver trainer. 507 and 516 were both stood down in 1999 ending 37 years of PD3 and 67 years of Titan operation. 

Driver Trainers
Driver Trainer 520 heads across Moss Side level crossing showing the since demolished signal box in 1983
Blackpool Transport used several PD3s as driver trainers:

  • 378 from 1973 to 1980
  • 368 from 1976 to 1980
  • 520 from 1980 to 1986
  • 516 from 1984 to 1999
  • 532 from 1985 to 1987
  • 507 sporadically then permanently 1995 to 1999.
Several were also used for training with later owners including 351, 394, 399, 511, 512, 515, 531, 534, 538 and 540.

New Lives
Blackpool’s PD3s had mixed fortunes after leaving the town. The “YFR” series were sold early enough to attract second owners and 354/66/7 ran for Park’s Hamilton and 365 for Harkins, Glasgow and later Bingorama, Bellshill. 351 became a playbus and later a driver trainer – the rest were scrapped.

Nine of ten with asymmetrical fronts were sold directly for scrap – 379 was exported to Japan and spent many years sat outside a restaurant. Of the C-reg half cabs, 381 was used as a staff bus by a manufacturing firm in Westhoughton, 383/6/7/9/98 were exported while 394 ran in service for Porthcawl Omnibus, in South Wales. 399 was used as a driver trainer in London, 392 became a playbus in Ireland and 393 was intended to perform a similar role in Blackpool – but didn’t and it was sold for scrap. 395 was used by a Juvenile Jazz Band in Redcar by way of a contrast.

By the 1980s there was little demand for half cabs for further service. The early withdrawals saw 531 and 534 go for use as driver trainers with Reeds School of Motoring, 539 ran for the Ford Capri owners group and 505 with the Blackpool & Fylde Sub Aqua Group. The latter hit the headlines by falling to a ditch in deepest Scotland but survived to return to the Fylde. After a brief attempt at preservation, it was exported to Japan as an open topper. Another pre-deregulation withdrawal was 506 which was retained by Blackpool Council for use as a mobile mess room for the tramway track gang. This survived in use until autumn 2000 – in council ownership as opposed to Blackpool Transport. On a (slightly) more upmarket theme 523 was used as a “dining bus” in the unlikely location of Dagenham – a venture with lasted less than a year. 527 and 530 both became playbuses in Ireland and Huddersfield respectively – 530 later running in Salisbury and Salford.
Back in Blackpool - former 511 was used with 538 as a driver trainer in Liverpool and visited Blackpool for maintenance. Looking shabby in its 1985 applied livery, it is seen on New South Promenade in 1994

The post deregulation withdrawals all found new homes. Many became driver trainers following a change in legislation which required longer vehicles and saw many PD2s withdrawn from training duties. Disposals were as follows:
503 – exported to Holland
507 – retained until 1999 then to Mac Tours, Edinburgh – but not used and later to Ensignbus (dealer), later sold to preservationist in Blackpool but vandalised. Bought by Blackpool Transport for possible restoration but not progressed and sold to Ensignbus for spares.
511 – Toxteth Community Council (Driver trainer) and later Liverpool Young Drivers. Still owned 2001 in as withdrawn Blackpool livery, later to preservation
512 – London & Country (Driver trainer) then various owners from 1991 until preserved 1998
513 – exported to Sweden, still there 2012.
515 – London & Country (Driver trainer) then various owners from 1991 until preserved 1998 but since used for spares
518 – preserved
532 – Eastbourne Buses until 1993 then to Stevenson’s Uttoxeter and exported to Canada 1994.
538 – Toxteth Community Council (Driver trainer) and later Liverpool Young Drivers. Scrapped 1998
540 – Baines Driving School, Middlesex – preserved from 1993.

351 (YFR351) is the sole survivor of the original batch, having spent its second life as a playbus in Essex. It was preserved in 1992 after a brief period as a driver trainer and was owned by LTT from 1998 until it passed to a supporter for further preservation in 2013. 390 (CFR590C) is the only example of the 1965 batch preserved, it retains its 1982 livery and sees occasional use. 386 was recently found in derelict condition in France, while 398 is used by a politician in Belgium.
351, the surviving full fronted PD3 seen in 2007
The 1967 batch is most numerous. 501 is preserved and was restored to a high standard in 1980s livery. It is kept with the Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust collection but occasionally visits Blackpool. 506 was broken up in 2012 after several years as a spares donor; 507 is with Ensign having donated its mechanical units to other projects. 510 was preserved, but broken up in the 1990s - spares benefiting other projects. 511 is privately preserved but not yet restored; while 512 has recently moved from LTT to a private owner as part of their fleet rationalisation. It is hoped to have it back in use, still in 1970s cream in 2013. Sister bus 515 has also been scrapped after a period as a spares donor.
512 after restoration by LTT in 1998
513 survives in Sweden, it was used for some years to transport cycles and cyclists across a bridge to the Island of Oland. Its current situation is unknown, but is owner was seeing parts recently. 516 is preserved in Blackpool as a driver trainer; 518 is owned by Chepstow Classic Buses and sees occasional use. 

Of the second batch 529 is preserved and restored by LTT, 540 is awaiting restoration with a private owner. 
501, 529 and 390 in preservation at the Blackpool Transport open day September 2010
10 therefore survive in the UK, at least three more overseas. Others believed to have fallen by the wayside are 394 - for several years disguised as "Nemeis Nosh" - a snack bar at Alton Towers and 530 - a mobile caravan which appeared at Totally Transport a few years ago but was last seen in Rawtenstall. 

Friday 15 March 2013

Uniformity Approaches

Further to last week's post Solos 240 and 246 have been repainted recently, leaving just 245 and 294 in Line 2 colours. Focus has now turned to eradicating Line 3 livery with 258, 259 and 296 currently receiving repaints leaving just 295 in service. Trident repaints are also continuing with 311 in paint. Excel 218 is also receiving body attention prior to a repaint - just its second repaint in its 13 year service life having gained Metro pool livery in 2004.

These repaints will leave 8 buses in pool livery and 8 in Line liveries. Other than all-over adverts and the open toppers the fleet will soon all carry the same fleet livery. It was back in 1977 that all buses carried the same livery (all cream). Since 1986 Blackpool Transport has eschewed a single livery, with the introduction of red/white for the Routemasters and then black/yellow for the minibuses. The latter ended in 2001 when the multiple Metro liveries were applied.  

The 18th Manx DAF has been outshopped at Bus and Coach World, as 371. This is believed to be ex Bus Vannin 57.

Manx DAF Status

NoRegIOM NoIOM RegChassis NoBody NoArrivedService
355 L100BTS95FMN622J0092663830917/7/125/9/12
356L200BTS 93FMN621J 0092613830427/7/125/9/12
357L300BTS 94FMN620J0092643830727/7/125/9/12
358L400BTS 96FMN623J0092623830530/7/126/9/12
359L500BTS 98FMN836J0092653830831/7/124/10/12
360L600BTS 89FMN299J0092593830230/7/123/10/12

Sunday 10 March 2013

Rail Replacement

Blackpool Transport Dennis Tridents and DAFs have been spending weekends working Rail Replacement services for First Rail Support due to the closure of the Preston to Blackpool line for engineering work. Here new to Isle of Man DAF 362 and new to Blackburn Trident 335 await further work at Preston Station.
With suitably programmed destination, 319 - one of four new to Blackpool Tridents yet to receive their first repaints awaits its next trip at Preston

Numerically the last of the 30 Tridents bought new, 332 awaits custom

Livery Update

Trident 308 and Solos 240/6 are now in service in the standard fleet livery, and Solos 275/6 have now been withdrawn. This means 120 vehicles out of the 145 active year round buses are now in the standard fleet livery. Of the other 25 buses, just 9 remain in the Metro pool livery - Excels 218-220, Tridents 317-319 and Solos 279, 282/3. Four buses (312-315) carry all-over adverts with the front in fleet livery. Six Tridents (303-306, 311 and 316) retain Line 14 green and yellow, Solos 258/9 and 295/6 carry the Line 3 blue and 245 and 294 carry Line 2 green.

updated and corrected 15 March

Saturday 9 March 2013

17 via Midgeland Road

The second stage of the road works affecting route 17 saw southbound buses diverted via Midgeland Road. Excel 212 reaches the end of Midgeland Road...

...and heads down School Road to rejoin the normal route at Common Edge Road

Sister 215 also follows the diversion along Midgeland Road

Friday 1 March 2013

Spring Gardens - a Terminus Again for a week

Common Edge Road has been closed between School Road and Borough Boundary from 24 Feb to 2 March. As a result the 17 has had a lengthy diversion, running via Squires Gate Lane and Clifton Drive North to St. Annes Square. To maintain a service to North St. Annes, a 17A shuttle has run from Spring Gardens to St. Annes Square to connect with the 17 to Blackpool. Buses leave Spring Gardens every 30 minutes from 0733 to 1903 and return from St. Annes at 0620 and every 30 minutes to 1820. 1 bus is required - Solo 253 yesterday. Here it nears the end of its outward journey on Blackpool Road. Pity the poor passenger who is faced with a trip to St. Annes before reaching Blackpool.

Having continued via Kilnhouse Lane and Derwent Road, 253 has turned into Hoyle Avenue and approaches the bus stop at Spring Gardens. From the mid 1950s to 1978 Lytham's service 3 terminated here. It became the joint Fylde/Ribble 193 to Wesham in 1978, but from 1989 it was largely cut back to St. Annes - with route 11C, later 14/A and finally the 17 now serving Spring Gardens on the way to/from Blackpool. A few other services have terminated here, including St. Annes Roamer routes and the short lived St. Annes Handybus service in 1987. Some school services also end here. 

253 then continued along Hoyle Avenue turning left onto Bowness Avenue where it is seen before turning back onto Blackpool Road

At the end of Blackpool Road, 253 took a sharp left turn onto Leach Lane - the Airport is in the background. Route 11 once took the road in the distance to the Halfway House - though this was subsumed into the Airport in 1940, with Queensway opened in 1954 as an eventual replacement.

Leach Lane becomes Headroomgate Road, and 253 turns onto Heeley Road to head into St. Annes

Meanwhile Excel 215 works at diverted 17 at Starr Gate. The loss of Blackpool Road to the airfield is still felt today when either Clifton Drive or Queensway is disrupted as traffic congestion occurs on the sole alternative route. Next week the roadworks move to the section of Common Edge Road between School Road and Squires Gate Lane, so the 17 is diverted via Midgeland Road southbound only without need for a shuttle service.