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