Sunday 14 December 2014

News Round Up

One time Blackpool Transport 401, latterly Oakwood Travel Olympian 701 has been sold for preservation after 18 years in Blackpool (David Umpleby)
Blackpool Transport repaints
After something of a hiatus, Volvo B7RLEs 522, 523 and Optare Solo 290 were repainted during November. 

Boxing Day and New Years Day services
As is common Blackpool Transport will operate a special service on both days with a PVR of 21:

  • 1 Starr Gate to Fleetwood every 30 mins
  • 5 Halfway House to Victoria Hospital every hour
  • 7 Cleveleys to Lytham Square every hour
  • 9 Blackpool to Cleveleys every 30 mins
  • 11 Grange Park to St. Annes Square every hour
  • 14 Fleetwood to Mereside every half hour
Also on Boxing Day Catch 22 bus will run its service 6 and 22 to Saturday timetables with 3 buses on each service. On New years day a Sunday service will operate on the 22 using two buses.

Oakwood renamed
At the start of December Oakwood Travel Ltd was renamed Catch 22 Bus Ltd to reflect its brand name.

Olympian returns home
Catch 22 Bus has sold its Leyland Olympian 701 (XAU701Y) for preservation in Derbyshire. New in 1983 as Trent 701 at Derby - it was one of ten purchased by Blackpool Transport to replace ex Fylde Atlanteans. It arrived in Blackpool on 11 December 1996 - its new home for the next 18 years. Numbered 401 it entered service on 5 February 1997 in its new green and cream livery. It kept this through several repaints until it gained Metro livery pool livery very briefly in January 2002 being quickly modified into Line 11 turquoise. It later moved onto Line 20 (lilac) and finally Line 1 (orange). 

Withdrawal took place on 28 October 2010 as part of the rundown of the Leylands. It was bought for preservation the following year. It was taken on by Classic Bus North West during 2013 and returned to service on 31 July 2013 in an allover advert for Hot Ice Show. After a summer of service on the 12, it was a common performer on service 22 over the winter, but in the spring suffered a gearbox failure at Mereside Tesco and it has not run since. 

Monday 17 November 2014

Oakwood Update

Former London United VA103 (W139EON) has entered service with Oakwood Travel on route 22. This 2000 built double decker was acquired via Ripley, dealer in March (David Umpleby)
Oakwood Travel has placed its Volvo B7TL double decker into service on route 22. Its second ex Stagecoach Alexander bodied Dart has also entered service (617). The open top Metrobuses have been withdrawn for the winter, joining two of the three Olympians (325 and 701) in store.

The Red Rocket Manchester express restarts with a single return trip weekends only from 22/23 November to 27/28 December leaving Blackpool Coach Station at 1030 and Manchester Chorlton Street at 1630.

Oakwood Fleet List November 2014
69F69SYEMCW MetrobusMCWPleasure Beach advertChina Motor Bus ML81 11/88
139W139EONVolvo B7TLAlexanderRed/GreyLondon United 3/00
143T143AUADennis DartAlexanderNew Catch 22Armchair, Hounslow 5/99
145T145AUADennis DartAlexanderRedArmchair, Hounslow 5/99
162V162MVXDennis DartPlaxtonRedStagecoach East London 12/99
163V163MVXDennis DartPlaxtonNew Catch 22Stagecoach East London 12/99
269P269PSXVolvo OlympianAlexanderPleasure Beach advertLothian Buses 269
325N325NHGVolvo OlympianAlexanderGazette advertDublin Bus RA272
326F326UJNMCW MetrobusMCWPleasure Beach advertChina Motor Bus ML77 10/88
356R356LERDennis DartAlexanderNew Catch 22Stagecoach new 10/97
512X512UATDennis DartPlaxtonNew Catch 22London United DP512 11/2000
533X533UATDennis DartPlaxtonRed/GreyLondon United DP513 11/2000
601W601CWXVolvo B6BLEWrightNew Catch 22Harrogate & District 6/2000
611W611CWXVolvo B6BLEWrightHarrogateHarrogate & District 6/2000
617X617JCSDennis DartAlexanderNew Catch 22Stagecoach 2/01
652Y652NLODennis DartPlaxtonRedMetroline, London DLD182 6/2001
701XAU701YLeyland OlympianECWPleasure Beach advertTrent 3/83
898R898XVMVolvo B10MAlexanderRedStagecoach Manchester
MAL41BD52LNUMercedes CitaroMercedesRedGo Ahead London
MAL53BL52ODKMercedes CitaroMercedesRedGo Ahead London
RM1583583CLTAEC RoutemasterPark RoyalRedLondon Transport 
RML887202UXJAEC RoutemasterPark RoyalRedLondon Transport 
69, 325, 326, 611, 701, MAL41 all currently stored

Sunday 9 November 2014

Volvo Olympians at 20

Two contrasting products of Northern Counties - Volvo Olympian 374 of 1994 passes 136 - a 1993 body on a 1971 Atlantean chassis inherited from Fylde
The 1990s was a famine for new double deck buses. Between the 1989 Leyland Olympians and 2002 Dennis Tridents, just one batch of six new Volvo Olympians arrived in 1994. Volvo had taken over Leyland Bus in 1988 and its Olympian chassis was relaunched under the Volvo mark in 1993 and unusually for Volvo still featured the Cummins L10 engine.

374-379 arrived in November 1994, the first non Leyland double deckers since the Guy Arabs of the 1930s. They were also the first, and only, Northern Counties bodied buses bought by Blackpool - perhaps slightly influenced by Fylde's preference - Blackpool having purchased its neighbour earlier in 1994. They were also the only buses delivered in the 1994 "green stripe" livery. 
The interior of 379 - individual moulded seats were fitted, initially in a grey moquette but some were later retrimmed in "black magic" as just visible here on 379. The rear few rows of seats upstairs were replaced by conventional bus seats - with the originals used on Balloon tram 719! 

The sextet allowed Atlanteans 322-327 to be cascaded to Fylde to displace some of its older examples. The Volvos entered service on route 6 (Mereside to Grange Park) on 14 November alongside Atlanteans but soon suffered vandalism, so were quickly moved onto the 22/22A (Cleveleys-Lytham) alonsgide Optare Deltas. Evening and Sunday work included the 14/14A (Fleetwood to St. Annes). 
The Palatine 2 bodywork suited the Line 11 livery well - here 376 crosses Station Road in Lytham at the start of another long run to Cleveleys
The 22/22A ceased with the Metro network in April 2001, so the Volvos moved onto the new Line 14 (Fleetwood to St. Annes). Form here they were displaced onto Line 11 (Cleveleys to Lytham) by the 2002 Tridents. 374 was the first to be repainted out of its by now faded original scheme into the 11's turquoise and yellow scheme entering service on 23 January 2002 - the rest followed during the year (375/6 March, 377 April, 378/9 August). New Tridents would be the scourge of the Volvos. The 2004 batch for Line 11 saw 375 deposed to the pool fleet in June with a part repaint in black. 374/6/7/9 followed suit in 2005 while the 2006 Tridents saw 378 join the pool fleet - the six strong batch were matching once more. This lasted until November 2007 when 379 was returned to Line 11 livery.
Even in pool livery, the Volvos were regulars on Line 11 - this is 374 on Commonside, Ansdell

During the Roberts era a solitary batch of Volvo B7RLEs in 2010 was the sole intake of new buses, investment was spread over second hand double deckers to rid the fleet of its remaining step entrance buses - primarily Leyland Olympians - save for the Volvos. 374-379 were increasingly consigned to school services. July 2011 saw 379 repainted out of Line 11 colours into the new fleet livery, followed by 375-378 in October. All five were then fitted with seat belts to work school baths contracts - 374 retained pool livery and still regularly ran on local services. It was repainted to match its sisters in October 2012. Occasionally the belted examples escaped onto local service work - mainly in the school holidays - but 374 kept the flag flying. 
378 in its current livery - which seems to suit the vehicles well. It is working a swimming baths contract from Stanley School
379 selected itself as the first for withdrawal in May 2014 with an electrical fault. Its belted seats were transferred to 374 to maintain fleet strength. It seems likely the Volvos will survive until the end of 2016 when the all buses will need to meet the standards set out in the Disability Discrimination Act. Next year's new buses should replace Optare Excels so further investment will be needed to finally eradicate the Volvos. Hopefully, as Blackpool Transport's last step entrance buses, one will find a place in preservation.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Blackpool Atlantean 362 restored

A resplendent 362 poses on Mereside turning circle on completion of its restoration. It carries the green and cream scheme it received in 1991 and not seen since 1999 (Gary Conn)
Blackpool Atlantean 362 has joined the ranks of active preserved buses following successful MOT pass. Owned by Martin Gurr and Gary Conn whose collection includes Delta 133, PD3 501, Swift 554 362 has been restored under contract by Blackpool Transport (body work and repaint) and Preston Bus (mechanical).

362 was the last of the 62 bus seated Atlanteans arriving in August 1983, having been registered on the first of the month as A362HHG. With eight sisters it replaced the last of the 1965 PD3s and some Swifts. Like the other bus seated Atlanteans in started its life in the off-white livery with green roof, top deck window surrounds, stripe above the lower deck windows and thick band on the lower deck.

362's life was nearly cut short at just three years old when a fire destroyed sisters 310, 335 and 342 on 1 October 1986. It suffered minor damage but had it not been moved in time could well have been destroyed. It is believed this saw the modification of the destination displays from recessed to rubber mounted. February 1987 saw a repaint in original livery - one of the last so treated. 362 then carried two allover adverts - for Mackeson Stout from April 1989 to 1990 when it was replaced by one for Bonanza Family Restaurants which lasted until April 1991. On both, the front retained fleet livery to the new design introduced in 1987 of cream with green roof, window surrounds and skirt. This was applied in full at the April 1991 repaint. A second repaint in this scheme (but with black windows surrounds) took place in September 1994 - again shortly before a new livery was designed. This (green skirt and roof band, black window surrounds on a cream base) was applied at 362's April 1996 and September 1999 repaints.
A brand new 362 outside the depot with the mayor's car - note the two piece doors (rather than usual four piece ones as on 301-354 and the recessed destination glass as featured on 351-364)

Blackpool's early Atlanteans had been withdrawn progressively from 1989 to 1994 leaving 41 still in service. The purchase of Fylde saw much older vehicles join the fleet, so the standard Atlanteans had an extended life. Squadron withdrawals took place from 2002 to 2009. 
Atlanteans were still in regular service in 2001, here 362 works service 20 to Marton Mere on 25 May 2001

By 2006 the fleet was down to penny numbers and the remaining bus seated examples were withdrawn in July 2006. It was decided to reinstate four examples to run alongside coach seated 363/4 on a farewell event over the weekend of 28/29 October. 362 was duly reinstated and ran service 20 on both days:

Saturday: 0900, 1900 and 2000 Marton Mere to Town Centre , 1000, 1130, 1300, 1430, 1600 and 1730 Marton Mere to Zoo and 1045, 1215, 1345, 1515, 1645 and 1815 Zoo to Marton Mere plus 1930 Town Centre to Marton Mere

Sunday 1030, 1200, 1330, 1500, and 1630 Marton Mere to Zoo, returning at 1115, 1245, 1415, 1545 and 1715 and finishing with the 1800 Marton Mere to Zoo - finishing its 23 year service life at 1827 at the Illuminations period temporary stop at Albert Road.
Farewell event - 362 at Marton Mere on 28 October 

Farewell event - 362 at Zoo on 28 October 

While 363, 364 and three other examples had a stay of execution, 362 passed into preservation with the Lancastrian Transport Trust. It featured on one event prior to stripping for restoration that didn't proceed. A collection review saw it pass to Martin and Gary in 2013 and the bus soon moved to Rigby Road for restoration - work which was completed in October with a new MOT after mechanical attention by Preston Bus.
362 meets PD3 501 again. This pair only worked together for two years prior to 501's disposal in 1985. (Gary Conn)

Sunday 2 November 2014

Go to work on a Merc

After four years of famine, Blackpool Transport has placed an order for 10 new single deckers for delivery in March 2015. Following the recent trial of BP14FJZ, BTS have chosen the Mercedes Benz Citaro. These will be Blackpool's first Euro 6 buses and the first to feature E-leather seating and free wifi. It is not known if they will be allocated to a particular service.

Sunday 26 October 2014

Changing Times

Early November sees some changes to the local bus network in and around Blackpool.
Oakwood New Service 6 3 November
Oakwood introduce service 6 from 3 November between Blackpool Clifton Street (0750-1735 M-F, 0835-1735 Sat) and Grange Park Dinmore Hotel (0725-1710 M-F and 0810-1710 Sat) every 15 minutes. The route is:

  • Clifton St, Abingdon St, Talbot Road, Westcliffe Drive, Poulton Road, Chepstow Road, Gateside Drive, Furness Avenue, Chipping Grove, Easington Crescent, Dinmore Road, Gateside Drive, Chepstow Road, Poulton Road, Westcliffe Drive and Talbot Road to Clifton Street

3 Buses are required and will be released from service 12 which ends for the season on the previous day.

Blackpool Transport Network 9 November
Services 2, 2C, 5 and 9 are retimed in the evening, while the 10 has a slightly different timetable on journeys from Blackpool. This is the residual hourly service via Coronation Street. Service 14 gains extra resources for reliability reasons.

More significant changes are:

  • Service 1 reverts to every 20 minutes using 7 buses. 
  • Services 3 and 4 are retimed with buses interworking at Mereside using 13 buses
  • Service 7 and 11 are retimed with 23 vehicles now interworking, rather than the present 22.
  • Service 11 runs direct via Albany Road and Blackpool Road not Commonside in Ansdell.

Saturday 25 October 2014

Worn with Pride

Trident 301 and Volvo B7 have been outshopped in all over adverts for the British Legion poppy appeal. 301 made its debut today on service 1.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Abandoning Ansdell

The vanquished from the victor. Blackpool Excel 226 approaches the junction of Commonside and Woodlands Road as a Stagecoach Trident heads the other way. The stop for Ansdell Library - built 1990 on the site of the Mission Hall which was destroyed by fire around twenty years earlier.

In among a raft of timetable changes from 9 November affecting all but the 16 and 17 is the surprising re-routing of service 11 from the centre of Ansdell. Presently buses from Lytham turn onto Commonside stopping at the library then via Gordon Road onto Central Drive, stopping by the Primary School then Worsley Road (stop at Lytham St. Annes High School) before turning onto Albany Road. From the 9th buses will now continue on Blackpool Road and onto Albany Road. 

Fortunately for Blackpool Transport's customers, Stagecoach will continue to provide a service into the heart of Ansdell on route 68 and Coastal's 78 will continue to serve the shopping area via Woodlands Road. Blackpool's buses have served the route for nearly 80 years - 91 if you include Lytham St. Annes Corporation.

Lytham St. Annes introduced its first bus service in August 1923 between St. Annes and Lytham, largely via the current 11 route. The latter was started by Fylde and Blackpool in 1935 operating direct from Blackpool via Blackpool Road (blocked in 1940 by an expansion to the recently closed Airport). The 1 and 11 continued until 1983 when Blackpool's 22 replaced the daytime 11 service while in 1984 the 1 was replaced by an extension of Ribble's 167. The 11 continued in the evenings and on Sundays but a full service restarted at deregulation. 

Blackpool absorbed Fylde (Lytham St. Annes's successor) in 1996 and combined the 11 and 22 into a new Line 11 in 2001 as part of the Metro network. Under Stagecoach Ribble's 167 grew and evolved into a 15 minute Preston to Blackpool service as service 68. 

Delta 125 is chased by Stagecoach Olympian 16649 in October 2009. This is the end of Commonside - the 11 will now approach from the right of the photo

Mis-matched eras. 1980 built Atlantean outside 1990 Library in 2004. 

Trident 327 heads away from Ansdell Library towards St. Annes and eventually Cleveleys. The parked cars may shed light on the decision to re-route the 11 - though when Fylde Rugby Club play, much greater congestion will be evident on the new route

Wednesday 24 September 2014

The Race to the Last - 30 years ago

Blackpool's B-reg pair 363 and 364 pose in the depot yard in original condition in March 1986
On the face of it the first and last vehicle of a type should be fairly obvious to determine. However 30 years ago home market production of the Leyland Atlantean ceased with a number of candidates vying for the honour of the "last". Such an honour is complicated as Leyland continued to supply Atlanteans for export to Singapore, Indonesia and Kuwait.

Leyland chassis numbering started with the build year and 1984 Atlantean chassis production for the UK comprised 10 for Greater Manchester PTE; 13 for Merseyside PTE, two each for Lancaster and Blackpool and one each for Fylde and Barrow.

The final six chassis built for the UK are shown below. In terms of chassis number, Lancaster 223 was the last - though it entered service in July 1984 - Lancaster clearly not troubled about registering vehicles just before the then 1 August dates for new registrations. Merseyside hung onto 1070 and registered it on 10 September - four months after its previous example, while Blackpool's last pair (intended as A363/4PCK) were registered on 17 September and were certainly in use by the end of that week. This left Fylde who registered 75 on 1 October 1984 giving it the title of the last UK Atlantean to enter service.

Last Atlantean Candidates
8400183B926KWMAlexanderMerseyside PTE107010/9/1984Preserved 201 Group, 
8400199B75URNNorthern CountiesFylde Borough751/10/1984Preserved, Blackpool Transport Omnibus Gp
8400200B363UBVEast LancsBlackpool36317/9/1984Scrapped 2009
8400208B364UBVEast LancsBlackpool36417/9/1984Blackpool Transport
8400270A214MCKEast LancsLancaster21410/7/1984Scrapped 2000
8400271A223MCKEast LancsLancaster22310/7/1984Scrapped 1995

However, even that accolade is open to challenge. Bizarrely two left hand drive Atlanteans then enter the story. A 1980 built Atlantean with Willowbrook body had failed to sell for export. Intended for Baghdad it was reputedly damaged before delivery and eventually in 1987 it was rebuilt to right hand drive and sold to Whippets of Fenstanton, taxed for the first time in October 1987 as D850AAV. If that was not enough on 3 October 1988 a solitary Neoplan bodied Leyland Atlantean was registered as F212JWV. This retained left hand drive configuration and was used by a religious group as an exhibition vehicle - it survives today.

Blackpool 363/364
Blackpool's final pair of Atlanteans, 363/4 differed from the 62 predecessors in featuring coach seats - a new departure for this conservative fleet. They arrived in a bespoke version of the fleet livery, but in December 1988 both gained the standard green and cream of the era. A second identical repaint took place in February 1992 (364) and April (363). 

The purchase of Fylde in 1994 changed the dynamic of the Blackpool operation. Both coach Atlanteans were mooted for a move to Fylde - joining their coach fleet but only 364 moved on 21 October 1994. It was allocated fleet number 47 and was repainted into Seagull Coaches two tone blue (the only ex Blackpool Atlantean to receive two tone blue) in February/March.
363 on service 11 during its Squires Gate phase - 6 June 1998
47 was restricted to coach work, but 363 continued on bus work at Rigby Road. Fylde was fully absorbed in 1996 and its buses renumbered into the Blackpool fleet. 47 became 447. 363 joined it at Squires Gate in February 1997 but it retained the revised green and cream livery it had gained in September 1995. May 1997 saw 447 repainted to match 363 and regain its original number. It returned to bus work alongside 363 - regularly on the 11/11A.
363's appearance was not enhanced by its modified front upper deck windows - fitted as the originals had been damaged. Less apparent in this 2005 view is the installation of bus seats in the rear half of the top deck - releasing spares to 364

Squires Gate closed in April 1999 and 363/4 returned to Rigby Road. Both had been retrimmed earlier in the year using an NBC style moquette as used to retrim some former Blackpool Atlanteans sold to North Birmingham Busways. 363 was repainted in July 1999. The Metro era saw 363/4 allocated to Line 14 initially with small stickers from 2001, but the conversion Trident operation saw them move onto Line 11, schools and seasonal work.

As the Atlantean fleet reduced from 2002 onwards, 363/4 were destined to survive until the end which for a while looked like being 2006. A farewell weekend in October saw 363 run on one day and 364 on both - but both returned to schools use the following day! With two others later reinstated, their operation continued. 363 was stood down in July 2008 but 364 continued - often working a peak journey on minibus service 2C - until it retired on 30 November 2009.
364 makes a rare appearance on Metro Line 6 on 26 October 2009 - just a month before withdrawal
363 was scrapped on 10 June 2009 at Inglemere Metals, but 364 remains with Blackpool Transport. It was rallied during 2010/1 but has been stored since.

Fylde 75 
Fylde adopted coach seating in its last five Atlanteans, purchased in single units from 1981 to 1984. 75 was the last entering service in October 1984. It was one of two to be delivered in the blue and white livery adopted in 1983 (previous ones had a yellow band). In April 1989 it went to GM Buses for a contract repaint into the new two tone blue livery with white band.
Fylde 75 in June 1989 operating service 11C passing the old cottage at the end of Squires Gate Lane - a location now transformed with the Progress Way link road to the M55 constructed a few years after this photo
It was decided to refurbish the newest two Atlanteans to join the Seagull Coaches fleet to provide extra capacity on busy excursions to Fleetwood Market and Granada Studios. 75 was re-registered NJI5505 in December 1990 ahead of its final month in service. Between February and May 1991 it was refurbished by Northern Counties and returned to use as  Seagull 25 in June in light blue with dark blue skirt. Other than school contracts it was restricted to coach work.
In preservation but showing the post 1993 repaint condition. The destination display was modified at refurbishment as were the top deck front windows and the entrance doors.
A second renumber from 25 to 45 in March 1992, preceded a repaint in the same livery, albeit with a dark blue roof band matching the new bus livery in June 1993. With Fylde merged into the Blackpool fleet in summer 1996, 45 became 445 and started to appear on bus work. In April 1997 it received Blackpool green and cream and reverted to bus duties. In February 1999 it moved to Rigby Road depot, ending its life at Squires Gate on Saturday 6 Feb on the 11/11A and starting its new life on Rigby Road worked 14/14A - with conductors - two days later. Squires Gate closed in April 1999 so the 11/11A became its occasional domain again.
445 on Line 11 in 2002 - a repair to the destination display has seen a new smaller glazed aperture fitted.
Investment in new buses saw the Atlanteans demoted to mainly school work and seasonal services 1 and 21. 445 survived to the last month of ex Fylde Atlanteans but was withdrawn mid May 2004 - a couple of weeks before the last of its sisters.

It was sold to the Blackpool Transport Omnibus Group - an informal group of mainly BTS drivers - a few weeks later and was re-registered back to B75URN in early 2005. It debuted on the rally scene in green and cream in March. During 2007/8 it was restored to Seagull Colours debuting at the Atlantean 50 event at Manchester Museum of Transport on 19 October 2008. It has been a regular rally attender but has been out of use recently.

Monday 15 September 2014

Fairhaven Lake Running Day

Lytham's final PD2 70 of 1964 contrasts with PD1 19 one of the first post war Titans from 1946 at Fairhaven Lake. The pair were posed at the end of the day, with 19 ready to work the last trip to St. Annes before following 70 back to depot (PT)
The Lancastrian Transport Trust arranged a vintage bus shuttle service on Sunday from St. Annes Pier to/from the Blackpool Vehicle Preservation Group's car rally at Fairhaven Lake. Lytham Titans 19 and 70 were used all day, with Blackpool PD3 529 joining in to provide meal break cover. 19 was driven by yours truly with Oakwood Travel operations manager Dave Hughes ably in control of 70 and Howard Parkinson on 529. Volunteer conductors included Richard Clarke, David Clark, Keith Naylor and Eric Berry.

"Ansdell and Fairhaven Lake" - 19 displayed destinations for service 11B. Introduced as a wartime short of the 11A (Blackpool to Lytham) on the St. Annes to Fairhaven section, it was later expanded into a full service. In 1951 it was merged with route 3 which now ran Spring Gardens to Lytham. The 11B number continued to be used for unadvertised shorts on the 11A - generally to Fairhaven Lake. 19 stands on the Lytham bound stop with the 1923 built Fairhaven tram and later bus shelter in the background. Terminating 11Bs would turn behind the shelter and park outside the nearby pub, before picking up service again (PT)

Friday 12 September 2014

News Round Up

Blackpool Transport
Volvo B7/Plaxtons 527 and 530 have been repainted in fleet livery ahead of the Bus Driver of the Year Contest this weekend. The Centros are now approaching four years old but remain the newest vehicles for now. It is understood BTS will be purchasing some new single deckers next year - ending the longest new bus famine since the 1950s. Optare Excels will be replaced by the new buses - some withdrawals have already taken place with 211 stood down on 13 August joining 210/12/13 in store.

Oakwood Travel
Former China Motor Bus/Big Bus Tours Metrobus F326UJN has entered service on Seafront 12 from 5 September in an allover advert for Pleasure Beach Nickelodeon land. It joins F69SYE which entered service last year. (See Blackpool Tram Blog for pictures)

The Catch 22 service has been operating at a reduced half hourly Mon-Fri service with an hourly weekend service (supplemented to every 30 minutes Blackpool to Cleveleys on Saturdays) since July. This is understood to be a temporary timetable until the end of the summer season in November. Oakwood has also registered a service 6 from Blackpool Clifton Street to Grange Park from 3 November.

Stagecoach Preston depot has recently taken delivery of four Enviro 300 single deckers (27113-6), 3 Enviro 200 Darts (37127-9) and two Solos (47922/3) which are intended for Preston area service but at least one Dart has already appeared in Blackpool on the 68

Preston Bus
Additional contract work has seen Preston Bus take over most services to/from Myrescough College (between St Michaels and Bilsborrow). This includes service 400 from Fleetwood via Cleveleys and Promenade to Blackpool then as former 851 via Poulton and A586 to St Michaels and Myrescough and service 853 from St. Annes via Lytham, Warton, Freckleton, Kirkham, A585, A586 to St Michaels and Myrescough. A Solo provides a shuttle service from Myrescough to Barton Grange during the day to connect with Stagecoach services 40/41.

Poulton Teanlowe
From Monday 25 August bus stops at Poulton Teanlowe Centre were relocated to the main road form the bus embayment to allow demolition work on the centre which is being rebuilt as a Booths shopping centre. A new permanent bus facility closer to the road will be constructed.

Monday 1 September 2014

Lytham Hall Running Day

1948 built Lytham PD2 10 operated on the Town Tour as part of the Lytham Hall Event. Here it stands at the Assembly Rooms - the former Lytham Baths - awaiting departure back to the Hall
Sunday 31 August saw the first Ribble Vehicle Preservation Trust rally and running day at Lytham Hall. Two passenger services ran, Ribble PD3 1775 and Olympian 2101 operated a Park and Ride shuttle service from the Hall Gates to the Hall itself. Lytham PD2 10, Ribble TD5 2057 and Fishwicks PD2 5 provided a town tour every 20 minutes from the Hall. The event was very popular with some busy loads experienced.
Two veterans of Ribble's former Blackpool operation - Bristol RE 338 and Leyland National 2 831

Three recently restored pre-war Leylands were lined up outside the hall, Lytham Lion 24, Ribble Lion 1161 and Ribble Cheetah 1568. Also on display were Leopards 811, 1036, 1052, Leyland Tiger Cub 452, Bristol RE 338 and Leyland National 2 831. 

A trio of Leopards 1036 - is a 1961 Harrington body, 811 at 1965 Weymann bodied version (Fylde running similar 808, 810 and 816 in 1980-2) and 1052 at 1974 Duple Dominant

Lytham Lion 24 (TJ6760)
Lytham St. Annes Lion 24 is admired from afar by two more modern - but classic in the own right - single deckers

TJ6760 is a Leyland bodied Leyland Lion demonstrator new in October 1934. After a period of demonstration it joined the Lytham St. Annes fleet in June 1935 to provide the bus required for the new Lytham to Blackpool service 11. It was soon overtaken by the fleet of Gearless Lions and Titans acquired between 1935 and 1937 but still managed a long service life. Withdrawn in 1957 on the purchase of three Leyland Tiger Cubs, it passed to a dealer in 1958 and entered preservation with Warwick Jenkins in the London area. 
The interior, unusually for Lytham, has red moquette reflecting its use as a demonstrator

Quickly restored it was rallied during the 1960s including one event in September 1960 when it was under repaint. David Ellor of Blackpool took an interest in it and it returned North in the mid 1960s, but soon moved south again and was last reported at in May 1967 at the Brighton Rally. In 1969 it was quietly exported to Canada by Mr Jenkins, but was discovered by ex pat enthusiasts in derelict condition in Ontario in September 1974. It moved around Ontario, in the hands of Derrick Arnold and later Jack Innes ending up at Port Perry by 1996 after some time out of the public eye. Neither was able to progress the vehicle's restoration and it was featured in the first issue of Bus and Coach Preservation - where its fate was noted by Derek Calrow

In 1998 24 was rescued from its lingering fate by Derek who purchased it from Jack Innes. It was brought back to the UK on a low laoder via leaving Canada via Halifax Docks and landing in the UK at Seaforth, Liverpool. Initial work involved shotblasting the body and repairing the engine and gearbox. By 2002 the bus was stored at the Ribble Vehicle Preservation Trust, Freckleton premises prior to departing to a firm in South Wales for the body to be rebuilt. 
Contrasts as Ribble 1161 - newly restored after a retirement as living accommodation - shows its earlier body style - its original Leyland body dating from 1931 though it has been completely rebuilt in preservation

24 returned to Freckelton in 2007 and was displayed at the Fishwick's Centenary event at Leyland but was still in need of finishing. Some further contract work was required and the bus moved to Uttoxeter in April 2012, returning to Freckleton during August 2014. Now fully fit, but with some seat work outstanding it was tested with its first trip to Blackpool since the 1960s on 16 August. 

The Lytham Hall event was 24's first public appearance in its former home town and once the finishing touches are complete it will become a regular event attender.
The stunning 1939 Leyland Titan TD5 with 1949 Alexander body, 2057 heads through the gates on a Town Tour as PD3 1775 waits to head to the hall on the Park and Ride

Tuesday 15 July 2014

News Update

Blackpool Transport Trident 311 is the latest to visit the paint shop and is receiving a side and rear advert for the new Sainsbury's Supermarket on Talbot Road.

The surviving former City Sightseeing Olympian 857 (D257FYM) has been treated to a repaint in green and cream in the late 1980s style as recently applied to preserved Atlantean 362.

Compensating for the withdrawal of staff bus services 34, 34A, 34B and 34C, Blackpool Transport has recently introduced extra early morning journeys on main network services from 23 June:

  • 9 0546 Cleveleys to Town Centre
  • 11 0615 Grange Park to St. Annes
  • 11 0610 St. Annes Square to Grange Park
  • 14 0555 Mereside to Town Centre as extension of 0626 to Fleetwood
  • 17 0550 St. Annes to Blackpool

From 27 June Lytham Road bridge reopened and services 5, 10, 11 and 68 reverted to using it. The 68 had been refined from 9 June. The terminus and layover point moved from Adelaide Street to Market Street but the route remains unchanged running via Promenade, Adelaide Street, Bank Hey Street, Central Drive and Chapel Street to the Promenade.

Oakwood Travel has repaired Dart 512 (X512UAT) and this is back in service in place of sister 533 (X533UAT). Recently purchased X617JCS has also been repainted but is not yet in use. Sister R356LER entered service on 4 June. Olympian 701 XAU701Y has been out of use with gearbox problems for some time.

Preserved Blackpool PD3 501 has passed its MOT test, while sister 512 was taken to. Fleetwood on 22 June for photographs alongside Pantograph tram 167. Atlantean 362 has moved to Preston Bus for pre MOT work after repaint at Blackpool Transport.

It seems locally preserved Delta 101 and Metrorider 510 have been sold for scrap. Delta survivors appear to be down to four 128-130 and 133. Sister 109 has been delicensed by Kanes Foods in Evesham and is presumed scrapped.

Saturday 12 July 2014

Life on the Buses

With this post the Fylde Bus Blog has reached its 500th. I started the blog in April 2009 with 74 posts that year, 85 in 2010, 124 in 2011 and 136 in 2012. Rate of posting then tailed off as change of job, family commitments combined with a reduction in activity in the local bus market and a natural shortage of articles - there is only so much material! So with just 54 posts last year and 26 so far this year, post 500 has come somewhat later than intended. Stuck for a suitable topic, I thought I'd indulge and post about myself. Or more specifically the year and a half I spent working at Blackpool Transport.
1998 and the two routes I would conduct. Atlantean 356 heads to St. Annes on the 14 having given way to Balloon 718 on its way to Fleetwood at Broadwater. (Brian Turner)
Having a life long interest in transport, I had two spells of working experience at Fylde Transport but started my working life at Booths Supermarkets. In May 1998 I decided to indulge my hobby and applied to become a seasonal conductor at Blackpool Transport. My interview was 1500, but having arrived by 1450 I was duly given the briefest of grillings and told to report for the final tram school on 8 June and was on my way home before the interview should have started.

Guard's school was a five day experience. Monday was class room based other than a short trip to the Uniform stores to collect our equipment and clothing - much to the disgust of the stores manager who was faced with a queue of 20 staff. That said we were equipped with what was to hand often I'll fitting and our own cash bag and Almex strap. Tuesday saw ticket machine training including a run to Bispham and back on Balloon 717 to get used to working on a moving vehicle and to try changing points. Prior to this we all tried turning the trolley of Boat 606 on Hopton Road.

Wednesday and Thursday saw duties as a Probationer Guard whereby you worked with the rostered guard to learn the ropes. At the time Guards worked bus service 14/14A (Fleetwood to St.Annes) as well as the trams. The 14/14A ran every 15 minutes using 12 buses - the A suffix denoted buses via St David's Road North in St. Annes, 14s ran via Headroomgate Road. 12 Atlanteans were used until teatime when OPO buses took over. Sunday services were OPO with a mix of full sized and minibuses.

Wednesday 10th saw my bus probation. Sign on 0630 leave depot at 0635 on Atlantean 355 working 'route' 147 empty to Borough Boundary - one of two journeys to start there in the morning. We worked the 0645 to Fleetwood Ferry from where we left as a 14A to St. Annes at 0750 after just one minute layover. We then worked the 0915 14 back as far as the Bus Station for 0953 and our break. This was a longer than normal break of 75 minutes and we took over 358 on route 141 at 1108 for a trip to Fleetwood Freeport and back for 1244. As this was a rare three part duty (two was more common) we did another trip to Freeport and back on 361 at 1323 before finishing at 1459. After paying in it was back to Depot as a passenger on an 11, 11A, 12 or 12A to sign off at 1514.

The following day saw a three part late turn on the trams. This was the final week of single deckers on crew service duties with 2 on Fleetwood (plus five Centenaries) and four on Cleveleys. The following week saw the Cleveleys to Pleasure Beach service extend to Starr Gate with Balloons on the five 'routes', plus the two Fleetwood workings. Single deckers worked on Sundays for a few more weeks. Sign on was 1536 with five mins to prepare then two to walk to Manchester Square. We took over 621 at 1543 to Cleveleys - straight into the thick of it with fares to collect, doors to open and close and bells to ring. Cleveleys was reached in no time but with nine minutes layover there was time to do the blinds, turn the seats and grab a moment to relax. Only one round trip made up part one - just as well as the compressor failed so we finished the trip on handbrake only and the next crew had a change over. We left the poorly 621 at Manchester Square at 1703 and hung around for 636 on route 10 as the weather was fine and there was not much point in walking back to depot. We took this over bound for Pleasure Beach at 1727 - a more leisurely journey as few boarded southbound after Central Pier, but we only had two minutes to turn round so after unloading, setting the points it was a quick run round the loop and straight onto the stop. Off to Cleveleys and back to Manchester Square for 1847 and off for tea. The first of many visits to the Aquarius chippy.

Part three was more leisurely as weekday evening traffic was much lighter in June. 678 was our steed from 1947 southbound then three round trips and finish with Pleasure Beach to Tower and back to depot.

Friday was more classroom training - a customer care course, I recall - and then we had the weekend off. Many drivers worked to a roster - others worked as 'spare' - duties were allocated the previous lunchtime. Conductors were all spare, unless you paired with a driver and worked to their roster. I remained spare. My first week 'proper' was early turn with days off on Thursday and Sunday. I phoned in to find out my duty and had been allocated tram specials with a fellow guard from my school. Balloon 720 was allocated and we spent the day working mainly between Pleasure Beach and Cabin but did work to Fleetwood - my first time beyond Cleveleys. 

The rest of the week saw me on 711 on Tuesday, Trailer car 687 on both Wednesday and Friday and finishing on Saturday with Cleveleys service workings using 703 and 711, reaching Starr Gate for the first time. The Summer season saw me work mainly on double deckers on specials and service, plus Twin cars at times. I often did overtime after work (aka grab) which was often single deckers. Oddly one crew duty worked OPO route 6 - presumably to balance the duties. I did this quite often and conducted on several of the Centenaries. Double deck duties had a bottom deck and top deck guard so on route 6, the top guard sat on standby and the bottom guard went out. To complicate matters not all crew drivers could drive the OPO cars but they were not usually allocated this duty. On two occasions my driver wasn't trained so on one I conducted a depot reserve driver, on others we went out in a railcoach to cover the service!
Your blogger hard at work marshaling passengers onto HMS Blackpool at North Pier. Hard work is perhaps an overstatement - a full load of fares was collected within a few minutes then other than changing the points at Little Bispham and Pleasure Beach it was a relaxing round trip. (Brian Turner)

Bus duties were few and far between - partly because 'crew' drivers could take a bus only, tram only or bus and tram roster - and many on the bus roster had regular guards. I worked buses 2-3 times per month. Overtime started to become available as the summer went on - usually working rest day at 1.5x normal rate (2.25x at weekends when a normal rostered duty was 'time and a half). 'Grab' after hours was sometimes available too. The ultimate weekend for me was a morning 'grab' on boat 606, followed by an Illuminations Saturday duty on Jubilee 761 (on this and 762 the driver collected fares alongside you as a solitary conductor) with the duty extended to duplicate the last tram to Fleetwood arriving back at 0100. The following day the same driver and I took 762 out for our morning duty (shifts switched early to late on Sundays) and then took over 605 for the evening finally finishing at 2100! - A hectic day with over £1000 in takings on both days.

Saturday 11th July saw my most unusual duty of the summer. There was one 'late late' on 14s - which finished at 0159. This involved working the 1810 Bus Station to Fleetwood and back to St. Annes then empty to depot for 2018. You sat spare from 2103 to 0159, but were called to operate the two night staff buses (one north,one south) - so the duty usually had two drivers, one acting as guard. Clearly I was just a guard, so couldn't drive the staff bus - my driver had to cover both! There was little purpose being spare at that time of the night - perhaps covering for drivers taken ill mid-shift. However work was found and at 2225 we left the tram depot in 703 (top deck closed!) with instructions to run to North Pier and Pleasure Beach. Much to the surprise of the Pleasure Beach inspector who had little choice but to send us back to North Pier and depot so my driver could be ready for the staff bus at midnight. 703 was back on shed after just 55 minutes! At least it relieved my boredom.

During October I applied to be a trainee minibus driver and was accepted to 'stay on' at the end of the season. My final tram duty of the season was to work Coronation 660 on a Fylde Tramway Society tour. My second vintage car after Box 40 earlier in the year. 

Monday 9 November saw me on 14s for the winter though I was soon to do my theory test. I worked various duties - all earlies, or middles on my late week as I never did the solitary late late again. Some duties had standby and one day I conducted a 22 to Lytham and back with 362! This somewhat confused the passengers who had not seen conductors since 1994. Conducting 14s was quite straight forward once you were familiar with the route and the multitude of fares - far more than the simpler structure in place today. The biggest challenge was mass boarding of school kids who made fare collecting far harder than it ought to be. Guards had various tricks - I used to start upstairs for variety to surprise those who regularly evaded. Others took a pay as you enter approach, much to the disgust of the driver who saw the timetable ebb away. Busy loads at other times were easily manageable though. One particular duty ended in Blackpool at 1615. Your outward trip collected school children from Fleetwood High towards Fleetwood; Cardinal Allen towards Blackpool; then Sixth Form College at Highfurlong and just one stop before the Bus Station, a gaggle of pensioners boarded outside Mecca Bingo - making you work right to the limit.

The Bus Station could cause confusion as the 14 ran through in both directions. Stand C to St. Annes; Stand H to Fleetwood. A regular occurrence was luggage laden passengers boarding at Stand C hoping to get to Cala Gran Caravan Park on the outskirts of Fleetwood. They had to be dropped off on Market Street to catch a bus back north from Corporation St. Tourists in Fleetwood would not believe the 14 didn't serve the Promenade, especially at the common bus/tram stop by the lighthouse. One day someone was insistent that we would stop at the Pleasure Beach and boarded with Travelcards. After worried looks as we navigated the back roads through Thornton, smugness took over as the bus reached the Promenade from Church Street, before turning off again after the Tower. They eventually accepted the inevitable at St. Annes Square and caught the number 1. 
Driver Trainer 516, a 1967 Leyland Titan PD3 was the first bus I drove, passing my test in it on 15 January 1999 (Brian Turner)

I was scheduled for my bus test in early January. Myself and a new driver employed at Squires Gate Depot reported for the bus school on Monday 4 January and spent the morning on class room exercises before being taken onto the car park near Blackpool FC to get used to driving the trainer - venerable PD3 516 of 1967 - a trainer since 1984. I then drove the bus on my first stint taking it out to Broughton near Preston! Training continued over the next two weeks with our test on Friday 15th. I went second and went out mid morning. One of the Chief Inspectors was the examiner and we did the reversing exercise in the depot yard. We had practised the test route many times but were warned it could change at the examiner's discretion. With reversing done, we set off down Rigby Road and onto the Prom doing gear change exercises down to 1st and back to 4th outside the Pleasure Beach. At Starr Gate I turned onto Clifton Drive then Harrowside for a hill start with 'snatch' from 1st to 2nd. On Midgeland Road I did the emergency stop then headed to School Lane. At Peel corner I was told to turn left - we would do the next section in the opposite direction and did the obligatory 50mph running on the M55, before running past Kirkham and into Wrea Green. Exercises over it was back to depot via A583 and Yeadon Way. A successful pass. After a canteen lunch I then drove a Metrorider for familiarisation. My colleague went back to Squires Gate.

The following week started with two days of route probation - another new driver needed probation too so we took out 513 on Monday and 568 on Tuesday. Previously you simply took another driver's turn and he guided you round the route - but our approach involved running extra journeys untimetabled. Minibus routes at the time comprised:

2/2A/2B Poulton to Bispham circulars every 15 minutes day, 30 minutes evenings and Sundays - 9 buses, usually Metroriders but sometimes City Pacers
12A Bus Station to Lindale Gardens every 10 minutes, no evening/Sunday service 5 buses - Metroriders
23/24/25 Staining (23), Hospital (all)-South Shore (all)-Mereside (all via 3 routes) each every 30 mins daytimes combined 10 minute service. Eves/Suns 23/23A hourly. 12 buses usually City Pacers (Metroriders Sundays)
26 Corporation St to South Pier every 7 minutes 8 buses (15 eves/Suns)
Plus Sunday daytime extras on service 14 Fleetwood to Rigby Road.
Metrorider 503 on service 2A, the first service I drove as a fully fledged driver. A Delta overtakes on the 26 during the brief interlude of single deck operation on this long term minibus route (Brian Turner)
My first week as a driver was late turn. You started as spare then moved to minibus roster, then crew spare; crew roster; opo spare, opo roster. I expected a late finish, but surprisingly my first duty was the earliest late. Late turn meant anything finishing after 1730 and duty 802 finished at 1807. I signed on, collected by "ACE" - the drivers module for the Almex Eurofare and caught the bus to the Bus Station. I was due to work the "route 28" 0946 2A from Bus Station to Poulton, then the 1020 Poulton to Bispham and Bus Station for 1116. I then waited ten minutes and took over the bus behind for another 90 minutes round trip before my break. As I walked out to the bus, the incoming driver had seen me prior to my test in the canteen and cheerily announced - "you passed then" as I walked past the waiting passengers. Fortunately they still boarded despite their novice driver. 502 was my steed and I activated the Eurofare with driver number, pass code, service number, journey number and start stage and loaded up. Off we went and life as a bus driver began. 501 was the bus for the following round trip. Much like my first guarding duty, I enjoyed a long break before waking down to Corporation Street for 1413 to relief the incoming driver on bus 509 on route 268 on service 26. At this point it is worth explaining that "routes" were the bus workings - route 268 is the eight bus on service 26. Due to depart at 1418, my final part involved four round trips to South Pier and back before running empty to depot from the Town Centre.
City Pacer 581 heads away from the stop at C&A working a 24 from Hospital to Mereside (Brian Turner)
The following day saw my first duty on the 23-25 group. City Pacer 571 was on route 240 and I started at 1556 at the Bus Station as a 24 to Hospital, then 1612 24 to Mereside; 1704 25 to Hospital, 1752 25 to Mereside and 1840 25 Mereside to Royal Oak and Depot. Another three parter saw me work on the 2A/2B with 593 and 26 with 517. It was not until my second week that I worked the 12A - a fast 50 minute round trip from Bus Station to Lindale Gardens - five round trips was the most you could do and it flew by unlike the 26s which I always felt to drag.

The 2 group was an enjoyable route. Starting at Poulton you either went via Hardhorn (2) or Highcross Road (2A/2B) then via a common route past Victoria Hospital and Devonshire Square to the Town Centre serving the Winter Gardens, Abingdon St and the old Odeon on Dickson Road. That took 26 minutes day in day out - evening and Sunday running times were the same which led to much hanging around. A 30 minute circuit to Bispham followed via Claremont with the 2 and 2B via Warley Road, Devonshire Road, Red Bank Road, Warbreck Drive and back to Claremont and the Bus Station. The 2A did the reverse but via Claremont Road not Warley Road. From the Bus Station it was 27 minutes to Poulton where you had seven minutes layover. Metroriders were booked vehicles and you felt cheated if a City Pacer turned up. It regularly did on route 29 which was the last minibus working from depot and tended to get whatever was left.

23-25 routes was the hardest. A basic ten minute service was operated between Royal Oak and Hospital. Buses extended over three routes to Mereside. The 24 was simplest, up Watson Road, Daggers Hall Lane to Welcome Inn where all three routes rejoined via Clifton Road, Deepdale Road and Langale Road to Tesco. It was well timed, but you often stood at Welcome Inn on the way to Tesco. At Tesco the 24 turned into a 25 for the next trip. From Royal Oak to Welcome Inn a 25 went via Lytham Road and Highfield Road diverting via Acre Gate and Lennox Gate. Six minutes was allowed from Royal Oak to Highfield Road/Lytham Road - 9mph speed - so you sat for 2/3 mins to keep to time. Trouble is you needed to do 19mph on average to get to Welcome Inn in the 6 minutes allowed! So you were normally now late and with just one minute layover at Tesco you invariably started your 23 late. From Welcome Inn this went the longest way via Midgeland Road, School Road, Lindale Gardens, Lostock Gardens, Highfield Road, Clifton Drive and Bond St. At the Hospital you served the Maternity Unit before the main stop and carried on to the almost rural terminus at Staining. 12 minutes layover here and more generous running time helped you regain your delays and catch your breath.

I kept my hand in guarding on 14s for "grab" overtime and did the odd tram grab during the summer - but preferred minibus driving for day off work. Rigby Road had Metroriders 501-518 and 591 to 596, plus City Pacers 568-583. The remaining Metroriders (584-590) and City Pacers 559 and 567 were at Squires Gate. This depot closed in April 1999 and all work, buses and drivers moved to Rigby Road. While the fleet was integrated, the drivers and routes were not. It took some time to negotiate a common wage deal and this reduced the overtime pay considerably. A new progression was introduced with drivers starting as 'tendered roster' then 'tendered spare' - this was a school service roster plus the evening contracted services to Preston (154/8). You then moved to minibus roster then minibus spare, low floor roster then spare (for the Excels on the 44A/B), then crew roster then spare and finally OPO. As a result all drivers would now start on big buses. Previously progression involved a period back in the bus school to retrain on double deckers - a legacy from the time when minibus drivers had a restricted license. All existing minibus drivers were given a quick 'upgrade' which involve me and three others spending two days with an instructor getting used to Atlantean trainer 322 (which had just replaced 516) on 11/12 of September.

The new combined roster commenced on 20 September. Additional minibus routes comprised:
33 Mereside to Cleveleys Park every 30 minutes, 5 buses (Metroriders) no evening/Sunday work
77 St. Annes Roamer - 1 bus every hour daytimes (Metroriders)
193 St. Annes to Wesham - every 30/60 minutes (Stagecoach provided 1 bus to make a half hourly service) using two Metroriders.

I was initially expected to be on tendered work, but so many drivers left that I moved back up to minibus roster. I was slightly disappointed as although I would have lots of schools, I would drive some of the older Atlanteans in the fleet! 

It was business as usual on the 20th with a duty on 23/24/25, 26s and 12As. I was asked to do standby for overtime as some former Squires Gate drivers had automatic only licenses and could be rostered to drive manual City Pacers. This problem would last until January 2000 when the final City Pacers were withdrawn. I thus drove a round trip on 23s to cover! This also lead to Atlanteans working on the 193 to release extra Metroriders to reduce the daily output of manual buses. Sometimes your Metrorider on the 2 or 12A was hastily pinched by an inspector in the Bus Station and you gained someone else's City Pacer! 

With big bus enticement, overtime became more interesting, helped by a shortage of drivers which led to more schools being available to cover by volunteers. My first was on 21 September when after my minibus duty I took Olympian 408 to Baines School to work the 1525 541 to Preesall St Aidans and then service 545 back at 1558 to the Bus Station and back to depot. My training on Atlanteans was little help on Olympians but the empty run to school allowed me to find my feet. 
Atlantean 442 works service 14 during 2000 - I had the pleasure of driving this for a round trip in December 1999 - it was new as Fylde 98 (PCW98X) in 1982. (James Millington - to whom I am grateful for convincing me to take the job!)
I had another school on Thursday morning, working route 639 from Mereside to St Mary School with Atlantean 348. This was a very oddly timed route you had just 25 minutes from Mereside to St. Marys, involving a double run to Stanley School, then via Penrose Avenue, Whitegate Drive and Newton Drive - a 6.2 mile route. Needless to say with 80 odd children to board I was horribly late and with the full length of St Walburgas Road to negotiate so as to enter the school grounds, I was clearly not going to be back in depot in time to get back to the Bus Station for my 0906 departure on the 2. I had little choice but to park 348 in the Bus Station and pick up my service duty. As my second half started at the depot, I could take the Atlantean back at lunch time! The afternoon work was my first 77. This had been a regular driver duty with a lunch break at Squires Gate but was now split into three duties on a 12 week roster with many familiar drivers. I was fortunately familiar with the circuitous route from my childhood. I took the bus from depot at 1302 and empty to St. Annes Square to restart the 77. Two round trips then led to an unusual minibus school working - the 595 from Lytham St Annes RC Primary to Spring Gardens before a final round trip on the 77 and back to depot just after 1700. 

Saturday saw day off overtime and happily I was allocated to drive 14s as as crew driver for the first time. I had worked the route as a guard of course and driven it a few times with Metroriders on Sundays. I had Atlantean 332 from depot at 0620 in service from Bus Station to Fleetwood Ferry, St. Annes, Fleetwood Freeport and off at Bus station at 1044. Part two was 349 for a full round trip finishing at 1429 at Bus Station. Back to depot I then conducted Boat 605 on specials until an unexpected rain storm at Pleasure Beach saw us soaked on a run to Tower and back to depot to collect Brush 625 for the rest of the evening! 

My first 33 was just a trip to Mereside and back to town then depot, but I worked this on several occasions. On duties involving the full route, on arrival at Cleveleys, you worked to Cleveleys Park, back to Cleveleys to Cleveleys Park again (but the opposite way round the loop) then back through Cleveleys to Mereside! One Saturday I spent so much time stuck in traffic that I missed an entire trip to Cleveleys Park (15 minutes). This odd arrangement replaced the 44A/44B which had been cut back to Cleveleys from the September change but was soon reversed in January leaving the 33 to terminate at Cleveleys Centre again.

My first 193 was a minibus working just before the double deck conversion. You took over in St. Annes Square and this working (route 932, but 585) involved one and half trips before working the first evening trip on service 11A (which replaced the 193 at these times) from Wesham at 1719 to Bus Station and back to depot. This was the only minibus duty on this otherwise big bus route. The 193 was a pleasant route - only suffering delays at peak times which were easily regained. I remembered the route from childhood so it was a pleasure to drive. Personally though that first day saw ex Fylde Atlantean 442 work the other board, so I was disappointed to have the Metrorider!

The September agreement meant that any driver could work any service regardless of status for overtime. I was thus allocated to Promenade service 1 as my first opo duty on 28 September. With the 1 starting after 9am, it involved late turns taking buses from depot. I had Olympian 401 from depot at 0920 empty to St. Annes Square where I left at 0930 taking on an near full load at Pontins which made me late, but there was enough slack to get back to time at Cleveleys for the 1005 departure. After two round trips I was relieved at 1210 at Manchester Square. Part two was 405 on route 102. I took this over at 1320 at Manchester Square and worked to Cleveleys and back to St. Annes for 1510 - as it was school term the next round trip was dropped and I hurried for Lytham St. Annes High School to work the 1515 597 school service to Spring Gardens. I drove to St. Annes Promenade to park up out of the way by around 1545 to wait my next trip at 1640. It seemed odd to drop  a 90 minute round trip from the schedule to work a 15 minute school service. I worked the bus back to Manchester Square for my relief at 1655. I then finished the duty with a St. Annes and back trip with 408 finishing at 1745.

Over the next few weeks I worked some unusual duties. On 30 September I had 579 on the 12A - the five Metroriders usually allocated had been replaced by City Pacers 572, 575 and 579 plus Olympians 367 and 372!). I drove my first former Fylde Bus - Altantean 445 (NJI5505) on 14s for a round trip on 8 October. On 9 October after a routine minibus duty finishing at 1546 I was on overtime spare from 1700 which involved my only Private Hire. I took Atlantean 360 to York House Hotel at 1900 to take a party to Mecca Bingo. I left the bus in the Bus Station until the return hire. The bus station was littered with buses in the evening as the September duty changed meant drivers were not paid to travel back to depot so if they didn't need to (as their didn't have a car for example), they would park up in the Bus Station and go home! The inspector on duty asked me to take Olympian 372 back to depot - I agreed as I had never driven one and was otherwise sitting in the canteen. After a bite to eat I returned to the Bus Station about 30 minutes before the return journey to find - well nothing - 360 had been taken as a changeover bus! I had to quickly head back to depot on the next service bus to pick up 352 and just got to Mecca Bingo in time to take the party back! 

Overtime continued and one day after a minibus duty I guarded a round trip on 14s and then was asked to do a trip to Preston and back on the 154/8. Being an Illumination Saturday I thought the five minutes allowance to run dead to the Bus Station was tight, so left at 1920 but was still a few minutes late for the 1930 154. I had Atlantean 327 - which was overkill for the two passengers -but managed to achieve the 50mph speed limit on the open sections either side of Kirkham and despite further delays in town I reached Preston on time. The 2030 return 158 was straightforward, but on arrival at Oxford Square where I followed the 26 route, two of the three buses headed South at the same time, I was clearly the first bus north for some time - and could answer the question "where on earth have you been" with the honest "Preston". 

There was one unusual overtime turn on the 14s. Route 141 involved an empty run to Thornton Social Club where you left at 0800 for Bus Station, five minutes in front of the scheduled bus. On arrival at the Bus Station you let your bus on stand H at 0823 as the bus would start its regular work with the 0825 for Fleetwood. You then waited at Stand C and took over the 0829 to St. Annes  the bus you had just run in front of! A Friday afternoon output from the scheduler perhaps. 

The 14 was great to drive. On Sundays minibus drivers worked short workings from Fleetwood to Rigby Road every 30 minutes which caused the regulars some confusion as the yellow/black Handybuses were not common in Fleetwood. As a crew driver it was wonderful, with a long 83 minute run from end to end, well timed with rarely more than a minute needed at timing points to regulate service. Carleton Crossing could cause delays if you found the barriers down - but there was time built in for this. There were times when Blackpool suffered traffic problems, usually illuminations weekends or Christmas shopping. Once when driving 14s we crawled through the Town Centre. As we turned onto Topping Street, still in a queue, my guard hopped off to make us a brew in the Bus Station canteen and said he would meet me on the stand. After about 15 minutes I had inched along Deansgate and into the gloom of the Bus Station to be handed a cold coffee from my guard who had enjoyed his extended break!  It was one of those days when we kept going ever later just like everyone. We eventually arrived back in St. Annes from Fleetwood very late but just after the previous bus had gone, so we ran empty to Spen Corner and resumed service on time. We were late again when we got to Fleetwood faced with the optimistic dead time allowance of 20 minutes back to depot. 
Former Fylde 479 - one of five I drove (442, 445, 479, 482 and 496) at Grange Park on service 6 (Paul Turner)
During November I worked two 1975 Fylde Atlanteans (479 and 482) on school service 194 from Wesham to St Bedes School via Freckleton. 

5 November saw my duty on 12A in the morning then Atlantean 351 on the 193 finishing at 1349 at St. Annes. A quick run back to depot in my car to pay in, home to change and at 1600 I was at a job interview with TAS Consultancy in Preston. I was offered a job from January 2000 thus beginning my career in transport planning which lasted over 12 years before joining First in 2012. 

I continued to work as normal of course, even receiving driver familiarisation on Solo 262 on 19 November before I handed in my notice! It entered service on the day I joined TAS. In December I worked Olympian 367 on the 194 - my only experience of the West Yorkshire Trio and ex Fylde Atlantean 496 a few days later on the 173 from Kirkham to St Bedes via Wrea Green. Curiously on arrival the school was closed due to a heating failure and I had to take everyone back again! I then worked my minibus duty on 26s and 23s. Finishing again at the Bus Station, I drove one of the stacked buses back - choosing Delta 110 as I had never driven this type. This proved to be prophetic as I was asked to cover a driver who had an accident on route 6. After my required break I was taken in a van to Market Street and took over 103 for a round trip to Mereside Tesco then Grange Park (Collegiate School) and back to Market Street A near 14 hour day of some variety.

With my departure now known and Christmas affecting the duties, work became rather varied. On 15 December I worked my final City Pacer - 577 on the 23/24/25 and also my last 26 with 517. The following day saw my last 77 and the 22nd was my last minibus duty with 502 on the 2 and 589 on the 12A.

On 23rd December I worked the 14s with ex Fylde 442 for a round trip and 359 for a trip and a half. Christmas eve saw many duties end early as service levels reduced after 8pm. I had quite an early finish as a minibus duty, but a colleague had been rostered on a later finish as a crew driver despite expecting an early minibus finish. I happily swapped! 356 and 360 occupied me from 1059 to 1923. 

27 December was an extra day off  using one of my bank holiday lieu days before I left - rosters were suspended due to non standard timetables. The following day I was spare and gave route probation on the 26 and 6 routes. On the 29th I was supposed to be day off but worked overtime which undid the saving of my lieu day. I worked 345 on route 149 from 1023 Bus Station to Fleetwood, St. Annes and back to Bus Station. Part two was 350 on the 146 from Bus Station to St. Annes, Fleetwood, St. Annes to Bus Station and then garage. I then supplemented this with grab working the 158/154 working at 1930 from Bus Station. Slightly disappointingly this was Olympian 371. I took one passenger from Blackpool on a Stagecoach ticket (we accepted these as part of the contract) and two people from Preston to Ashton at a total revenue of £1.50. Having been a crew driver, this was my sole revenue for the day - a far cry from the £1,000 days during the Illuminations. A compulsory day off on the 30th preceded by last day and to my surprise when I phoned in I had been given a lieu day - ending my 571 days on a bit of an anti-climax. 371 on the 2030 158 from Preston Bus Station on 29th had been my last trip as a bus driver. 

It was an entertaining and mostly enjoyable year and a half, which gave me good experience of driving (and a license!). I drove several buses - mainly Atlanteans - that I had grown up with and most types in the fleet at least once.