Sunday 24 September 2017

California Dreaming

Former Fylde 53/Blackpool 453 - is now a feature at Spark Social in San Francisco - a food 'truck park' (Spark Social Facebook)
Its intriguing what turns up. A chance search of the California pages of showed WRH294J as moving to San Francisco in 2016. It was sold for export by Ensignbus in 2004, having acquired it from MacTours. It was new in December 1970 to Kingston-upon-Hull Corporation for whom it ran until 1987. It was one of 22 Hull buses bought by Fylde between 1986 and 1988, arriving in late July 1987. It entered service as 125 and was withdrawn in 1989 with several of its sisters. Following the success of the conversion of sister 122 (TKH266H), 125 was selected for conversion to semi open top and returned to use so modified in June 1990 on the newly branded Coastliner Promenade service 1 in a Granada Studios Tours advert livery.

It ran each season on the Promenade service until 1998. It received a new fleet number of 53 for the 1991 season. In 1992 it was converted to single door with the centre exit removed and a new Pleasure Beach advert applied. For 1995 it received a new advert for Seagull Coaches. 1996 saw Fylde absorbed into the Blackpool fleet and 53 became 453 and gained green and cream fleet livery for the 1998 season. After 11 years on the Fylde, 453 last operated on 23 October 1998. It was stored though 1999 and in February 2000 was sold to Mac Tours of Edinburgh where it operated until 2002. Mac's was purchased by Lothian Buses in May 2002 and it briefly became their bus 34, until sale to Ensignbus in July 2002. After a period in store, it moved to Southampton in April 2004 for shipping to USA - with British Bus Sales of San Diego. From there the trail went quiet until 2016, but an on-line sales listing suggest it spent the intervening time with a film studio as a prop.

Photos of it in 2016 and 2017 show it still in Mac livery and still with a Fylde moquette driver's seat! Interior layout has been modified, the roof removed form the rearmost of the three retained bays and the centre exit opened out once more.

Newly acquired from Hull, Fylde 125 turns at Saltcotes Road in 1987 (Brian Turner)

453 on 19 May 1998 turning into Pontins forecourt on service 1 (Brian Turner)

53 with Mac Tours in 2001 - the livery it still carries today.

The Return of 364

Saturday 23 September marked the event debut of Blackpool's 64th and last new Atlantean after restoration by Blackpool Transport. Rather disappointingly the fleet number has been changed to 864 - its internal fleet number - a small point maybe a shame given the otherwise good attention to detail (Paul Turner)
This weekend has seen the annual 'Anniversary Weekend' events hosted by Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours, focusing on the heritage tram fleet but supplemented by a free bus service which this year ran from Blundell Street to the Airport and back. Plans to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Blackpool Atlanteans on the Saturday were hampered by the withdrawal of the two of the five buses, 353 had a fault, while 71 failed on the morning with an air system problem. The morning started with Fylde Atlantean 45 on the 1000, Swift 554 on the 1015 standing in for 71, Atlantean 362 on the 1030 and Olympian 374 on the 1045. After lunch 374 was swapped for Atlantean 364. This was Blackpool's last Atlantean by two measures - its last to arrive in 1984 and last to operate in 2009. After a couple of years of rallying it was set aside in 2011 and more recently has been overhauled and repainted into its original livery. It has now returned to occasional use, starting with a private hire earlier this month.

364's history was told on this blog in 2014 -click here for the post. Sunday saw 45, 362, 374 and 554 work the service.

554 posing at the Airport as a 12 to Talbot Road Bus Station - the former terminus is long since remodelled, but here is a link to a post showing various vehicles at the former terminus (Paul Turner)

554 at South Pier - the former 23A terminus (historic photos) (Paul Turner)

Fylde 75 pipped 364 to the post as the last Atlantean to enter service back in October 1984. It later became 45 and is now preserved as such (Richard Hughes) 
Another last? Well 362 was the last of the conventional bus seated Atlanteans in 1983, before the final coach seated pair (Richard Hughes)

364 again at Blackpool Airport (Richard Hughes)

Olympian 374, back in Blackpool for the weekend (Richard Hughes)

Thursday 21 September 2017

40 Years of Blackpool Atlanteans marked at Anniversary Weekend Event

Newly restored Atlantean 364 will be in use this weekend (Paul Turner)
This weekend sees the now annual Blackpool Heritage Trams Anniversary Event. A 15 minute frequency will run from Blundell Street to Squires Gate Airport on both days. Buses leave every 15 minutes from 1000 to 1645 from Manchester Square with stops at Pleasure Beach and Starr Gate.

Saturday will be popular with Atlantean lovers as no less than five are expected to be in use on the day, 40 years after the first Blackpool Atlantean arrived.

  • Blackpool 353 UHG353Y of 1982 (sadly now withdrawn due to defect)
  • Blackpool 362 A362HHG of 1983
  • Blackpool 364 B364UBV of 1984 - making its public debut following restoration - though it has done at least one private hire
  • Fylde 71 (OJI4371), of 1977 - celebrating its own 40th birthday
  • Fylde 45 (B75URN) of 1984
Blackpool Volvo Olympian 374 will also be in service in the morning, replaced by 364 in the afternoon. 

Sunday will see four buses in use with Atlanteans 45 and 362; Olympian 374 and AEC Swift 554. 

Tuesday 12 September 2017

County Council Christmas Present

Lancashire County Council is proposing an expansion of its tendered service budget by £1mn to reinstate some links lost during economies made by the previous regime. The new services, subject to approval by cabinet and suitable tenders for operation will be introduced on 10th December. Those affecting the Fylde Coast are:

  • 75 - re-routed between Thornton and Fleetwood to service Pheasants Wood and Cleveleys - increased to hourly
  • 75A - withdrawn (covered by 75 and 76)
  • 76 - reinstated operating every 2 hours from Lytham to Blackpool via Wrea Green, Kirkham, Elswick and Great Eccleston
  • 80 - replaced by 77/77A increased to hourly between Preston and Great Eccleston via Inskip and Elswick - then 77 every 2 hours to Blackpool (making a combined hourly service with 76) and 77 every 2 hours to Myrescough
  • 89 Knott End to Lancaster - minor timing changes

Sunday 10 September 2017

Happy Birthday Blackpool Transport - 125 Years - the oldest municipal

2016 bus, 1985 tram - just two of the many eras of Blackpool Transport (Brian Turner)
On 10th September 1892 Blackpool Council commenced operation of the Blackpool Tramway having purchased it from the private company that had operated it since 1885. Today therefore marks 125 years of continuous municipal transport operation in Blackpool. Municipal operation of local transport commenced in Huddersfield in 1883. Prior to this councils were able to construct but not operate tramways, but Huddersfield couldn't find an operator so were granted permission for in house operation. More authorities followed suit by taking over the companies which developed local transport. 

Since the 1960s most local authority operations have been privatised or reorganised out of existence, Huddersfield for example becoming part of West Yorkshire PTE in 1974 and today there are ten survivors Great Britain, but non have been operation as long as Blackpool. We believe Blackpool may well even be the world's oldest municipal tramway operator as we cannot identify any others at least in Europe or America. Do you know better?

In 1892 Blackpool Council had ten tramcars on a single route. The network and fleet grew to around 200 cars in the 1930s when Walter Luff introduced his modernisation plan. The first buses joined the fleet in 1921 and the bus fleet had grown to 158 in the 1930s, helped by the closure of two tram route sections. The remaining town routes closed in 1961-1963, so the tram fleet dropped to 119 in 1965 with 178 buses making 297 vehicles. Contraction saw the fleet size dwindle to 108 buses and 81 trams when deregulation occurred in 1986. A new company - Blackpool Transport Services Ltd - was formed to take over the transport department, but remains 100% owned by Blackpool Council.

Neighbour Fylde Transport was bought in May 1994. Originally a private tramway opened in 1896, it was bought by St. Annes Council in 1920 which became Lytham St. Annes Corporation in 1922 and Fylde Borough Council in 1974. It was privatised by sale to its management in December 1993 but was quickly bought by BTS thus reverting to municipal ownership. This brought the bus fleet to its peak of 214 buses when the two operations merged in July 1996. Since then as much rationalisation of services; withdrawal from most school work and closure of Seagull Coaches the fleet is now 132. The tramway was completely modernised from 2009 to 2012 and now has a fleet of 16 low floor trams, supported by 9 little used 'B fleet' Balloons and a heritage fleet of over 40 trams.

The bus fleet is now under going a major modernisation with a plan to replace the entire fleet by 2020 and no doubt will continue for many years. Happy birthday!

Saturday 9 September 2017

Solo Sales

Solo 258 departed on Tuesday for Tappins of Didcot, sister 260 and three others are expected to follow. Earlier disposal, 253, has been confirmed with Swanbrook of Cheltenham as shown here.

Wednesday 6 September 2017

BTS Fleet Plan

Blackpool Council has approved further borrowing by its subsidairy Blackpool Transport to upgrade its fleet. Recent upgrades have seen 35 new Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 Cities join 10x 2015 Mercdedes Citaros. The plan is to acquire 72 further buses:

  • 20 buses in October 2017 - these will be more double deckers for the winter rail replacement at a cost of £4,659k (£233k/bus)
  • 4 buses in March 2018 at £934k (£233.5k/bus)
  • 18 buses in October 2018 at £2,997k (£166.5k/bus) suggesting midibuses to replace the 22 Solos
  • 15 buses in March 2019 at £3,558k  (£237k/bus)
  • 15 buses in March 2020 at £3.635k (£242k/bus)
The resulting fleet would comprise:
  • 89 Double Deckers from 2016-2020
  • 18 Midibuses from 2018
  • 10 Single Decker Citaros from 2015
  • 9 refurbished Single Decker Volvos from 2010
The fleet total would be 126 compared to the current service fleet of 132 reflecting improved efficiency from a new standardised fleet and would adequately cover the current 107 peak vehicle requirement. In addition to the 22 Solos; 32 Tridents, 19 DAFs and 5 Volvo B7RLEs are to leave the fleet.

Tuesday 5 September 2017

On This Day in 1987 - 26 becomes Handy

A common sight for the late 1980s and early 1990s was one or a pair of City Pacers waiting time at Clifton Street on the high frequency 26 service (Brian Turner)
Blackpool introduced the Handybus brand on a batch of five minibuses in May 1987, occupying them from June on a new service in St. Annes. A second batch was ordered and these were to convert service 26. This seemed to be a response to Fylde introducing a half hourly service 26 overlaying Blackpool's 15 minute service in late August. A week later Blackpool's 26 rose to every 5 minutes needing 9 minibuses.

Handybus Route 26 from 5 September 1987 on which City Pacers ran until August 1996
13 new City Pacers were ordered, but perhaps at short notice as only two were in stock at the start of September! To make up the numbers, a batch of Ford Transits was borrowed from Midland Red North and mainly ran on the St. Annes route to release the City Pacers for the 26. 

Day one saw new City Pacer 549; existing ones 560, 562, 563, 564, Optare Demonstrators D854MUA and D898NUA which now joined the fleet as 565/566 and sister D81NWW, plus Transit 381 (C41WBF). The remaining new City Pacers, 550-559, 567 and 568 arrived and entered service over the next two months

The Ford Transit was a common choice for early minibuses, but were not the easiest to board - Midland Red North C40WBF is covering on service 26 (Brian Turner)

With the Transits dispatched back to the Midlands, the 26 settled down to regular City Pacer operation. 9 buses provided the daytime service with three in the evening and on Sundays. The route remain unchanged, save for an unusual evening diversion via Watson Road to serve the Ice Drome which ran from August 1988 to March 1992. The latter date also saw the frequency eased to every 6 minutes (8 minibuses). November 1994 saw the evening service terminus move to Cookson Street. 

After nine years, routine City Pacer operation ended on 5 August 1996 the route was converted to single deck operation. Minibuses - mainly Metroriders resumed on 7 December 1998 and lasted until the end of the 26 on 7 April 2002.

A 5 minute daytime and 15 minute evening/Sunday service was provided - note the promotional maximum fare for the first weekend

The evening Ice Drome extension took service buses through the Watson Road underpass  for the first and only time

566 - one of two demonstrators purchased in August and after a brief period in use in plain white received Handybus colours. Here 566 is about to turn into Clifton Street from Talbot Road passing much earlier generation PD3 507 (Brian Turner)

Transit C40WBF once again - this time at South Pier (Brian Turner)

Sunday 3 September 2017

Round Up

'Customer Shuttle' is the unusual destination display on Solo 247 on 1st September. This was providing the link between New Bonny Street and Talbot Road while the 5. 6 and 7 were split due to the Illuminations Switch On events (Shaun C)
Blackpool Transport 366 suffered a fire at the rear of the vehicle on 30 August when running back to depot from Lytham. No word on its future yet.

A further ex Cardiff Dart has joined the catch 22 fleet - Y378GAX - and it is understood that the three Versas are no longer in service.