Sunday 27 September 2015

130 Years of Blackpool's Trams

Swift 554 and Delta 133 rest in Rigby Road Yard during their lunch break
This weekend marked the celebrations of 130 years of Blackpool's Trams. This landmark event saw 21 different heritage trams operate the weekend, supported by four preserved buses - the latter are the subject of this report.
501 turns from Hopton Road into Blundell Street 
Four vehicles from the "Best Bus in Town" collection operated on a 15 minute tour of the Lytham Road, Marton and Central Drive tram routes. PD3 501, Swift 554, Atlantean 362 and Delta 133 represented four generations of Blackpool's buses.
Delta 133 awaits departure time at Pleasure Beach

554 arrives at Blundell Street 
Atlantean 362 restored to late 1980s livery at Blundell Street with stored trams on display in the background

Saturday 26 September 2015

New livery?

Trident 304 has joined the training fleet as 974 and been out shopped in a Palladium inspired grey and yellow livery. It is understood sister bus 333 is being painted into these colours as a new fleet livery.  

Sunday 20 September 2015

On Tow

This Diamond T tow wagon served Blackpool for almost 50 years, recovering defective buses. Here it has positioned Swift 571 on the steam cleaning ramp in Rigby Road depot. The ramp itself went in the mid 1980s when the East Shed was built, replaced by a lift. (All Brian Turner)

In November 1947 Blackpool purchased a Diamond T 969 for £550, a Chicago built truck which became popular in Britain during the second world war. Its is not known if it was fitted out as a tow wagon from new. Blackpool Corporation put it to use as a recovery vehicle, rescuing failed vehicles. Prior to this converted former buses had been used.
In 1967, the Diamond T is seen dropping off 368 in the bus yard. 

The Diamond T was remarkably long lived. Originally in green it later gained a yellow livery in 1979. It seems to have been originally numbered 115 - this is just discernible in the above photo above the centre of the windscreen, but a shot taken in 1972 appears to show it just carrying "15" - this would at least fit in to the tramway works series, if not the motor works vehicles series which was generally in the 2xx series then. In the 1970s it was renumbered 405 and a 1978 shot clearly shows this applied in black fleet numbers over the former gold ones. In its yellow era the number 405 was applied on the cab doors. Finally it was renumbered 905 in 1996 as part of the absorption of the Fylde fleet. This was done by replacing the 4 with a 9 in a mismatching font!   

It ran on trade plates 229FR then 001FR until legislation changed to require tow wagons to be licensed and it gained dateless plate Q645GFV in the late 1980s.

After nearly 50 years of service, 905 was withdrawn in September 1996 and was sold for preservation in June 1997. It is believed to still exist, in store in Yorkshire - the most recent published picture is here on flickr in 2012. It was also immortalised in model form by Corgi.
ERF 929 attends to errant Delta 129 on Mereside Turning Circle in April 2000

905 was replaced by 929 (FNO357T) - an ERF purchased from Blackpool Van Transport at the end of August 1996. Quickly repainted into green and cream, 929 made its debut in early 1997. 

The gap between 905's disposal and 929's entry did not mean the undertaking was devoid of a tow wagon, however, as the purchase of Fylde in 1994 bought a second wagon. Fylde had operates three wagons - an AEC Madator from 1975-1977, a 1968 built Ford D-series from 1977 to 1996 and a 1979 Leyland Leopard converted in 1992. This - ULS653T - joined the Blackpool fleet as 959 when Fylde was adbsorbed in 1996. It retained blue livery, slightly modified after accident repairs in 1999 and lasted in service until around 2005. In 2007 it was sold for preservation but is believed to have since been scrapped.
Leopard Tow Wagon 959 on Starr Gate car park during the 2004 Rigby Road Depot open day. This is now the site of the Tram Depot

ERF 929 then soldiered on until 2014 as the sole wagon. Recently it has been restricted to depot use only with Fylde Motor Company now used as contractors to recover defective buses.
One of 929's sadder duties has been to tow buses for scrap during a period when they were disposed of locally. Here the burnt remains of Delta 131 are being towed to Red Scar near Preston.
929 and 959 on standby at Starr Gate during the depot open day

Saturday 19 September 2015

Trial and Error

313 was one of two Atlanteans treated into this livery in 1982 with a green skirt - transforming the otherwise neatly proportioned original livery. Both lasted four years so treated - 313 is seen here looking ready for paint attention in February 1988 (all Brian Turner)
During the first half of the 1970s Blackpool's buses were painted into a plain all-over cream livery with green restricted to just the wheels. With the first order for Leyland Atlanteans it was decided to revise the livery as the plain cream would be unattractive on such large vehicles. Blackpool adopted Southampton's livery style - albeit in green/cream rather than red/white. It was also decided to change the shades with a darker green and the cream replaced by an off-white colour. The first Atlanteans emerged in 1977 but repaints of PD3s and Swifts continued in the previous livery, albeit using the new shade of off-white - which looked very bland compared to the richness of the previous cream.

Swift 581 with a green roof added to the off-white livery, seen on service 15 on Cookson Street. Note the new superstore being built in the background
In 1979 it was decided to address this on the Swifts and 581/2 were selected for a repaint into an experimental livery which added a green roof to the base off-white. This clearly didn't impress as the next repaint (585) featured a green waistband too and this was adopted for subsequent repaints - though several of the early Swifts were withdrawn before they could be treated. 581/2 were modified to match in March 1981.
At nearly 17 years old veteran PD3 390 was an odd choice for an experiment - it is seen here in its unique livery on service 11C on Dawson Road in St. Annes on 8 April 1983. By the end of July the 11C had been converted to OPO operation and 390 was withdrawn for preservation.

Next to be considered was the fleet of venerable PD3s in 1982. Surprisingly the oldest in the fleet was treated as the experimental bus, 390 of 1965 was repainted with a green roof, window surrounds on both decks and band above the lower deck windows. It emerged from the paint shop on 12 February 1982. It was followed by the youngest - 540 - which was painted during February into a second variation with off-white lower deck windows. Then 512 followed during March with just a green roof and waistband - on both decks the window surrounds were off-white.
512 in its experimental livery - unique in the 70s/80s experiments in that it didn't enter service so treated. It is seen here in the Paint Shop

The completion of 512 led to a decision being taken to adopt 540's livery and 512 was quickly put back into the works to gain green upper deck windows. 390, however, retained its unique livery and was sold for preservation after withdrawal in July 1983. Over the next 30 or so years, 390 has appeared sporadically at events showing off its experimental coat.
308 was the first of the two 'green skirt' Atlanteans treated in 1984
The Atlantean livery that kicked this all off had a particular weakness - the light skirt panels attracted dirt, so in April 1984 308 was admitted to the paint shop and emerged with a green skirt - and new signwritten fleetnames (previously just crests had been displayed). Sister 313 followed into the same livery style in September 1984 but the next repaint (315) reverted to the off-white skirt. Green skirts appeared on five more Atlanteans (302/3, 316/7, 321) which gained a promotional livery for service 6 similar to 308/313 but with orange and yellow stripes) in December/January 1985. 308 and 313 retained their special liveries until next routine repaints in 1988.

Friday 18 September 2015

Preserved Buses to Help Celebrate 130 Years of Blackpool Trams

Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th will see four preserved Blackpool buses take part in events to mark 130 years of Blackpool Trams. A free 15 minute service will operate from Blundell Street covering former routes and also stopping at Starr Gate and Pleasure Beach (adjacent to Watson Road) to connect with heritage trams, adjacent to the tram depot where examples of the stored tram fleet will be on display.

First departure from Blundell Street will be 1000 and the last 1645. Buses leave Starr Gate from 1010 to 1655 and Pleasure Beach from 1015 to 1700. Timetable here (Facebook link)

Subject to availability the four vehicles used will be:
Blackpool PD3 501 of 1967 painted in the 1980s livery (PT)
Blackpool Corporation AEC Swift 554 of 1970 - recently freshly repainted in original cream (Gary Conn)

Blackpool Transport 362 - the last bus seated Atlantean of 1983 - recently restored to 1990s condition (Gary Conn)
Blackpool Transport Optare Delta 133 New to Fylde Borough as 3 in 1991 and restored to 2000 condition and livery (PT)

Monday 14 September 2015

Coastal Coaches Renews

Coastal Coaches of Freckleton has taken a second batch of new Optare Solo SRs with five 65 plate examples joining the 3 15 plate examples acquires earlier this year. The five 11 reg Solos have passed to Yeoman of Hereford. YJ65ETE/F/K/L/O have been reported. 

Fairhaven Lake Event

Sunday saw a trio of LTT Buses operate a frequent shuttle service from St. Annes Pier to Fairhaven Lake where the Blackpool Vehicle Preservation Group's annual classic car show took place. 1805 working on the service, passes 70 on its lunch break on Clifton Drive South, St. Annes (David Hughes)
Lytham 19 completed the trio - seen here through the window of the 1923 tram/bus shelter at Fairhaven Hotel

19 arrives at Fairhaven Lake while 1805 rests between duties

Meanwhile Lytham Lion 34 is under restoration in the Catch 22 Bus depot

Friday 11 September 2015

Blackpool Buses Enthusiasts Handbook

Excuse the plug....

You wanted a Blackpool bus book - well here it is!

Traditionally painted in green and cream, not much had changed on the Blackpool bus scene since deregulation in 1986. A new era dawned in April 2001 with the introduction of the colourful branded Metro Coastlines network. This remained until a return to fleet livery was introduced by new MD Trevor Roberts and the new black and yellow colour scheme was applied across the fleet. As soon as this was finished, yet another MD arrived, Jane Cole, and soon new silver-liveried Mercedes Citaros were introduced and the whole network was revised once again.

This book - the first for many years solely based on the Blackpool bus network - shows how the routes around the town have evolved over the years into what we have today. Starting off with a history including many never before seen images, it looks at the fleet, type by type before an in-depth detailed review of each route today. Other operators are featured including Catch22 Bus, Stagecoach plus some of the smaller outfits such as Kirby Lonsdale Coach Hire. It's all in here!

•  80 pages
•  High-quality images
•  Written by life-long Fylde based enthusiast Paul Turner 
•  A5 size
•  Glossy paper
•  Perfect bound
•  Written By Paul Turner
•  Edited by David Umpleby
•  Price: £9.95 (including postage)
•  Released - October 2015

Monday 7 September 2015

St John's Square - terminus for the Illuminations

Blackpool Transport will be using the specially opened St John's Square on Saturday nights in the Illuminations. A revised set of timetables, plus the usual Promenade avoiding diversions take place every Saturday from 5 September to 7 November. Unusually this includes a reduced daytime frequency and extended evening running times. As a result routes 3 and 4 are reduced from 20 to 30 minutes, routes 5, 7, 9, 11 and 14 from every 10 to 12 minutes.

Diversions start at 1800 and include the closure of the normal Clifton Street and Market Street stops - though oddly the specially produced timetables continue to use these locations at timing points in the evening! 

Town Centre Diversions comprise:

  • 2C, 12/13, 15/16 inbound to Town Centre from Church St direct to St John Square. Outbound via Abingdon St, Talbot Road and as normal
  • 3 and 4 northbound - direct from Topping Street to Dickson Road (recently opened for northbound vehicles between Deangate and Talbot Road) Southbound - turns left Dickson Road onto Talbot Road omitting Abingdon St.
  • 5, 7, 14 NB - from Central Drive via Albert Road, Regent Road, Church St, St Johns Square, Abingdon St, Talbot Road and as usual. SB to Talbot Road, Dickson Road, Springfield Road, High Street, Talbot Road, George St, Grosvenor Street, Park Road, Reads Avenue and Central Drive.
  • 9 to Talbot Road then right into High St, Springfield Road, Dickson Road to terminate outside Wilkinsons on Talbot Road.
  • 10 from Lytham Road via Tyldesley Road, Rigby Road, Central Drive, Albert Road, Regent Road, Church St, St Johns Square terminus. Return via Talbot Road, Cookson St, George St, Grosvenor Street, Park Road, Reads Avenue, Central Drive, Rigby Road, Tyldesley Road, Lytham Road.
  • 11 from Lytham Road as 10 to St Johns Square, Abingdon St, Talbot Road and normal route to Grange Park. Returns as normal to Talbot Road (Wilkinsons), then Dickson Road, Springfield Road, High Street, Talbot Road, George St, Grosvenor Street, Park Road, Reads Avenue, Central Drive, Rigby Road, Tyldesley Road, Lytham Road.
  • 17 from Central Drive as 10 diversion to St. Johns Square, returns as 10 diversion to Central Drive then as normal
Other diversions comprise:

  • 1 suspended after 1630 south of Cleveleys and last bus from Fleetwood-Cleveleys 1724
  • 3 Northbound from Warbreck Drive via Cavendish Road, Devonshire Road to Bispham Village. Southbound via Devonshire Road, Northgate, Cavendish Road, Warbreck Drive (diversion also on Fridays and school holidays)
  • 4 as 3 but also from Bispham Village via Red Bank Road and Norcliffe Road then as normal (and vice versa southbound).
  • 15/16 won't serve Promenade between Harrowside and Bond Street.