Sunday 25 January 2015

News Round Up

Blackpool Transport Excel 215 was withdrawn on Monday 19th January, but sister 221 is expected now to return to service. Withdrawn Solos 281/2 have been sold to a private owner locally with one expected to be preserved. Sister 268 was scrapped on 20 January.

Solos 286 and 340 currently occupy the paint shop.

Catch 22 Bus has placed two more Darts into service. Both were new to Cardiff, T147DAX has had orange relief applied over the cream part of its former Cardiff livery green/cream livery as seen here on Alan Robson's flickr page while X186CTG retains the Cardiff orange and green livery which inspired the Catch 22 scheme.

As a result of the recent intake most of the buses inherited from Classic Bus North West have been returned off lease. This includes Olympians 269 and 325, Volvo B6BLEs 601/11, Mercedes Artics MAL41/53 and Darts 145, 162/3, 512/33 and 652.

This leaves five Darts (143, 147, 186, 356 and 617), Volvo B10M 898 and Volvo B7TL 103 for services 6 and 22 with RML887 as the spare bus.

Sunday 18 January 2015

You Can't Save Them All

7 is the oldest surviving Blackpool Bus - one of three 1937 single deckers bought for preservation, but the only one to survive - it retains its modified condition after withdrawal with the rear end cut back.
Centre Loaders
Three of the 12 1937 Leyland Tigers were purchased by David Ellor in 1964 after use as works vehicles having ended their passenger career. 6 was bought for spares for 7 and 8. 7 survives today having been sold on to Les Burchell in Sussex and was rallied in "Engineering Car" condition from 1999. 8 has was scrapped, but when, why and by whom seems lost to history.

Two of the 100 post war Centre Loader PD2s are preserved, but two more of the 1951 batch stood a chance. 298 was bought by a group for a world tour and preservation in 1970. It was taken through some remarkable territory on a trip to Karachi between 1970 and 1972 but on its return to the UK its preservation attempt ended in scrapping in 1979. Meanwhile in 1984 a surprising report emerged of 287 existing in Hampshire but a rescue attempt failed due to lack of storage.

Rear Loaders
PD2 309 survived thanks to disposal to Lytham St. Annes Corporation and use until 1982 by successor Fylde Borough as a trainer. Here at Tram Sunday 1988 it makes its debut after restoration, but sadly that winter lost its dome on a filling station canopy.  Eventually a replacement was found, but the bus was never fully repaired and eventually went for scrap (Brian Turner)

Today just one of the 50 rear entrance PD2s survives (346) plus full fronted PD3 (351) and eight half cabs  (390, 501, 511, 512, 516, 518, 529 and 540) in the preserved 'fleet'. A further PD2 was preserved. 309 of 1957 was unusually sold to Lytham St. Annes in 1970 and served as a driver trainer from 1975 to 1982 with Fylde Borough. Preserved locally on withdrawal, it was restored and rallied during 1988. Sadly that winter it suffered roof damage with the front dome destroyed. Eventually a replacement dome was fitted from sister 337 but 309 suffered from outside storage and didn't return to its former glories. After changes of owners it ended up with 351 on a farm in Westhoughton. A further new owner took it north to Carlisle but the trail went cold and its believed the bus was scrapped.
PD3 530 comes close to meeting its maker, derelict outside a scrapyard near Bacup in 2009. Converted as a caravan, 530 appeared at Totally Transport 2005 partially painted back into Blackpool colours, perhaps signifying a long term future that did not materialise (Paul Turner)

Of the half cabs:
  • 394 of 1965 saw service with Porthcawl Omnibuses and had a brief period of use as a driver trainer than went into preservation in the early 1990s. This was shortlived as it ended up as a static cafe at Alton Towers. It has since been scrapped
  • 505 was purchased by Blackpool and Fylde Sub Aqua group in 1983 and after six years was sold for preservation. Kept at Easyway depot in Blackpool with 309 it was soon sold onto a dealer who converted it to open top and exported it to Japan!
  • 507 of 1967 was retained by BTS on the withdrawal of its last sisters in 1988 as a semi preserved bus. Demoted to training duties from 1995-1999, it was sold onto Mac Tours in 2000. Never used it passed with much of the Mac fleet to Ensign in 2002, but moved back to Blackpool for preservation in 2005. Sadly vandalised in open storage it was taken on by BTS again in 2008 but eventually was sold back to Ensign for spares - it was too far gone to restore
  • 510 was preserved in 1982 and briefly rallied but it suffered damage in a fire which destroyed a nearby bus while stored in Huddersfield. After several years in store it was scrapped in 1998 having donated parts to sister 540. 
  • 515 was used by London & Country as a driver trainer in 1989 then (with 512) saw several different owners until Graham Oliver purchased it in 1998 and moved it back to Blackpool. Sister 516 became available the following year, so 515 donated its seats and passed to LTT in 2000 for spares. In 2012 it was dismantled having donated parts for 512, 529 and 540.
  • 522 and 527 both had brief spells in preservation after use as a Playbuses in Skelmersdale and Ireland respectively. 522 was destroyed by vandals after a few months, but 527 was found to be in a poor condition and eventually was used for spares around 2006.
  • 530 was another playbus which was reportedly preserved in 1992, but was then converted to a caravan. A later owner started to paint it into BTS livery and it appeared unannounced at the 2005 Totally Transport event. By 2010 it was derelict outside a scrapyard between Rawtenstall and Bacup.
Single Deckers
Single deckers have generally been in the minority in the Blackpool fleet. The first post war examples were the Swifts bought from 1969 to 1975. Two are preserved, but a third (589) was secured by Graham Oliver from a nightclub in Dorset in 1997. It changed hands a few years later and was reportedly under restoration, but in the end donated parts to a restored West Midlands example and has now been scrapped.
Lancet 597 was restored before preservation unusually. Enthusiast Graham Oliver purchased it for his Thames Valley Training fleet in London and brought it to Blackpool to receive its original livery. He sold it in 2000 for preservation but sadly it saw little or no active use. In 2004 it was parked outside deteriorating and has not been reported since (Paul Turner)
Four Lancets followed in 1982. Of these 597 was bought by Graham Oliver for his "Thames Valley Training" business in 1995 and repainted into its original Blackpool fleet colours - these were adopted by TVT as a fleet livery. In 2000 it was sold to a North East enthusiast for preservation and was last seen in 2004 in outside storage. It was available for sale but with no interest is assumed scrapped. [Now confirmed thanks to investigations by John Docherty]

Four new and 15 second hand Leyland Nationals were purchased from 1984 to 1987. 542 and 543 were preserved, 542 by LTT and 543 by Kells Museum in Ireland. The latter is believed still extant in store, but 542 has recently been disposed of for scrap having donated parts to other vehicles in view of its parlous condition. One of the ex Strathclyde examples, 156, was bought by a Glasgow based enthusiast but restoration did not take place and the vehicle has now been scrapped.

Delta 101 was purchased for preservation in March 2011 but it believed to have since gone for scrap.

Metrorider 502 was never officially preserved, though when LTT disposed of sister 590 it was expected that 502 would replace it once Classic Bus had no further use for it. Sadly a seized engine put paid to that - here it is being rescued after its last ever journey (David Umpleby)
Both of the City Pacers preserved, 575 in Blackpool and 560 in Reading - survive, but Metroriders seemed to suffered a degree of attrition. LTT acquired 590 with a failed rear axle in 2009 but it was sold for scrap in 2012 as sister bus 502 was expected to replace it after service with Classic Bus North West. Sadly this suffered an engine seizure and it too was scrapped. Private owners have purchased 509 and 510 but both are believed now scrapped. This leaves just 589 preserved, 505 on the Isle of Scilly and 512 as the Council PW Bus.

331 was bought by LTT in 2003, but replaced by sister bus 334 soon after. Sold to a dealer it saw further service with Fargo, Braintree in  who's yard it is seen on Boxing Day 2005 (Paul Turner)
There are four preserved Atlanteans, 334, 353, 362 and 364, but three, possibly four was preserved. 331 was bought by LTT in 2003, but was replaced by 334 the following year. It passed to Fargo of Essex for further service and was later scrapped. 337 was bought for preservation in Kent in 2003, but reappeared in Blackpool in 2005 but was scrapped in 2008. 343 was purchased by an Essex based enthusiast in 2009 and repainted into the late 1980s livery but was sold for scrap in 2011 after a failure. The fourth possibility is 322, reportedly preserved after use as a driver trainer, but without trace ever since.

Three of the Atlanteans purchased from Fylde were preserved for a while. New to Salford Open Top 451 ran with Hall's of Kennoway briefly but was bought for preservation in 2001 in Glasgow after a few years in a scrap yard. Sadly restoration did not commence and a proposed sale fell through so the bus was scrapped.
Ex Fylde and Hull open topper 454 was briefly preserved and is seen here at Freckleton.

Ex Hull open topper 454 was briefly preserved in 1999 but was sold to an operator in Hull who then sold it on for scrap. Finally 496 was bought locally for preservation and restored to Fylde livery, later replaced by a fictitious scheme. Sold a few years ago it has now been sold on again for spares and is expected to be scrapped in 2015.

Buses to the Caravan Park

Fylde's "Baby Blues" minibuses were the first services buses to operate into the Marton Mere Park in 1988. Here in 1990 Renault 115 departs for Blackpool (Brian Turner)
In 1988 as part of its expansion in competition with Blackpool Transport, Fylde Transport introduced a number of new minibuses services in Blackpool. In June 1988 it started "Fastlink 1" - a direct service from Blackpool to Mereside via Park Road and Preston New Road.  It ran every 20 minutes with two journeys per hour into Mereside estate and one (service 1A) running to Marton Mere Caravan Park. Prior to this the par was only served by Ribble service 158 which passed by hourly o Mythop Road - though residents could walk up to the Clifton Arms and enjoy the hourly 154 too.

The Fastlink routes changed in August 1988 with new service F4 running from Town Centre to Marton Mere via Whitegate Drive and Great Marton every 30 minutes with an hourly evening service added and Sunday service. With the park closed for the winter the F4 terminus moved to Mereside estate. Seasonal operation resumed from 1989 but under number 44. 

From March 1990 route 33 (the former F1, but now via Newhouse Road not Preston New Road) became the Caravan Park service - now operating every 20 minutes. The evening and Sunday service became the X44 via Whitegate Drive and Preston New Road - every 45 minutes. This lasted just a few months as in May 1990 the 33 was diverted to the new Mereside Tesco and a new daytime X33 via Park Road and Preston New Road serving Marton Mere every 20 minutes. The X44 continued unchanged. If this is hard to follow see "Line 4 Baby Blue to Cadbury Blue"

For 1991 it was the 33 which served Marton Mere and this now became a year round operation. Evening and Sunday saw circulars 333/444 run Gynn Square to Marton Mere every 30 minutes. May 1992 saw the route split into 33A/33B with the latter serving Marton Mere every 30 minutes. March 1993 saw a further recast, the 33A/B combined as 33 and the 44 split as 44A/B! The 44B now became the Marton Mere service again half hourly. It was extended cross town to Cleveleys in February 1994.

A second service was added from August 1996 when evening and Sunday journeys on service 23 (Staining to Tesco) was extended to Marton Mere on an hourly basis giving a link, albeit indirect, to Blackpool Pleasure Beach and South Pier.
The success of the Fylde minibus services was evident when they became the town's first low floor bus route. 8 early production Optare Excels were purchased for the 44A/B in 1996 just as Fylde was absorbed by its new parent Blackpool Transport. They proved troublesome a demonstrators regularly appeared on loan while Optare tried to rectify problems under warranty.  In September 1998, P447SWX departs for Cleveleys (Brian Turner)

A period of stability then ensured, until year round operation ended with the closure of the park for the winter in November 1999. This ended the 23, 44B and 333/444 era.
Route 20, from 2000, solved two problems. Firstly it served the Promenade, improving access to the main tourist destinations, and seconly provided extra capacity. At times, especially on Sunday, the previous routes could struggle with peak loadings. Atlantean 349 leaves the camp in August 2000 (Brian Turner)
April 2000 saw a brand new route introduced with summer only service 20 from Marton Mere via Preston New Road, Waterloo Road, Station Road to South Pier and then Promenade to Blackpool Town Centre. This used two double deckers - usually Atlanteans.  The 20 continued with minor changes each summer until 2006 when it was extended to Blackpool Zoo via Stanley Park and Model Village replacing service 21. 
Despite being a seasonal service, the 20 did not escape the Metro route branding. From 2004 it gained this lilac identity with three ex Trent Olympians painted (401-403). Sister bus 404 joined the roster for the 2006 season following an extension to Blackpool Zoo. City Sightseeing open toppers took over for the 2007 - 2010 seasons (Brian Turner).

This lasted one season, a complete revision took place from 2007. Buses now ran from Marton Mere along Preston New Road but then served the Model Village, Zoo, Stanley Park and Blackpool Town Centre then via the Promenade right through to Pontins Holiday Camp. The service became the City Sightseeing operation using Leyland Olympian open toppers - and this continued until the end of the 2010 season.

2011 and 2012 saw the 20 operate Marton Mere to Town Centre only, in 2013 it once again continued along the Promenade though only to Pleasure Beach, but this was dropped for 2014 again. For 2013 five Optare Solos received a dedicated livery promoting the 20 as the "Resort Hopper Bus" reflecting a new resort wide tourism pass, however they proved to be hopelessly inadequate capacity wise and after a brief use, the standard Tridents or DAFs resumed. 

Change here for Tesco: Town Centre redevelopment work caused disruption to most serves between February and August 2009. This included Line 15 (Poulton to Tesco) which passed Marton Mere on Mythop Road  and for the duration it turned short at Marton Mere to give more running time so as to cope with the Town Centre diversions. Service 4 was terminated in Great Marton so a shuttle service numbered 4A ran from Stanley School to Tesco via Marton Mere. Here Solo 264 on the shuttle overtakes 513 on the access road to Marton Mere (Brian Turner)

The East Lancs Olympians occasionally operated the 20. Here is 369 newly painted into Metro pool black and yellow. The dark appearance on this soon prompted some additional yellow and red stripes on the front.  (Brian Turner)

2004 saw an Indian Summer (well Spring) for the remaining ex Fylde Atlanteans which were normally used on school services. Here 27 year old 471 loads on the 20 on 8 May 2004 - three weeks before it was withdrawn. (Paul Turner)

A somewhat scruffy 471 turns onto Mythop Road, note the direction sign for services 33 and 444 on the lamppost - a legacy of the Fylde services of the 1990s. (Paul Turner)
The seven Olympians bought from Lancashire United with their Blackpool school operation in 2007 were sought after buses by enthusiasts as they rarely worked local routes. The six Lothian buses began to appear on the 20 in 2010/1, but new to London 411 seemed to be very elusive - this appearance on 25 July 2011 was quite rare
Having failed to locate a photo of an open topper at Marton Mere - here is 818 at Town Hall awaiting departure on an early season working to Marton Mere in May 2008 (Brian Turner)

This is new to Lothian Buses 414 departing from Marton Mere in July 2011 (Brian Turner)

Wednesday 14 January 2015

January Round Up

Blackpool Transport

Excel 221 is the first second hand examples to be withdrawn
Not previously reported was the formal withdrawal of Solo 283 on 26 November after several weeks out of use. This leaves just 277-279 and 284 of the 2002/3 Lifestyle Line buses in service. It has been joined by Optare Excel 221 which was withdrawn on 9 January. 

Routine repaints are continuing slowly with Solos 289 and 340 completed during January. 520 has also been repainted recently, noted with new logos on 11 January.

Catch 22 Bus
This is the new name for Oakwood Travel (since 1 December). Two further Dennis Darts have been purchased, both new to Cardiff Bus. T147DAX was purchased from Aimee's Travel of Leek in December and X186TSG direct from Cardiff Bus in January. Olympian N325NHG is now withdrawn.

Lancashire County Council
December saw a flurry of press activity following reports that local bus service contracts were again under threat as part of a budget review, however this was dropped from plans and tendered service such as the 74, 75, 76, 80, 87 and parts of the 2C and 16 will remain for the foreseeable future.