Wednesday 23 December 2020

Round Up

Blackpool Transport has announced a route change to service 3 form 3rd January to allow larger buses to operate. The 3 will now run direct along Dickson Road from Gynn to the Town Centre rather than service Claremont and will use Sevenoaks Drive rather than The Spinney in Anchorsholme. It is understood the shorter Enviro 200s from the 3 will now move onto the 74/5 where the larger Enviros have been suffering accident damage on the tighter sections of these routes.

Enviro 459 has received an all-over advert for Heart FM, unusual treatment for the newest double decker. Transdev has returned 525, 531/3 but extended the loan of 526, 529 and 530 to Easter.

New Ticketer ticket machines are due to be rolled out in the new year. Buses have started to be fitted with 'tap on tap off' card readers with the main ticket machines to be rolled out on mass. 


Sunday 29 November 2020

Centro Trainer

Centro 527 has recently been rebranded as a driver trainer and now carries number 977 with sister bus 528 to become 978. 975 has passed to Archway and was MOTd recently and may be for onward sale. It is likely either 973 or 4 or both will be replaced by 978. 

Meanwhile Coastliner buses Versa YJ10MGU returned to use on the 21 on Saturday 21st November after a long period disused following engine failure. 

Monday 2 November 2020

Happy Birthday 77 - 50 years young

Fylde 77 in 1978 after its first overhaul heading onto South Park in Lytham (Brian Turner)

50 years ago on 2nd November three brand new double deckers entered service with Lytham St. Annes Corporation. This was noteworthy for a few reasons. They were the Corporation’s first new double deckers since 1964, and their last before morphing into Fylde Borough in 1974. More significantly they were the first municipal Atlanteans on the Fylde - forerunners of 85 purchased new by Blackpool Lytham and Fylde combined over 14 years. They were quite unlike anything seen locally before - Ribble’s Atlanteans worked into Lytham but were quite different.

Council approval and borrowing powers were confirmed in March 1968 but lead times were long. The chassis were built early in 1970 and are believed to have been stored for a period at Squires Gate Depot before Northern Counties could body them. 

The body was a version of NC’s standard layout at the time with curved domes - however the frontal appearance was most unusual. Often referred to Nottingham style due to an angled destination display over the windscreen - Nottingham didn’t run any quite like these as it preferred to use the same windows on both decks (77's are shallower upstairs), this was really a standard body with some Nottingham frontal features. NC supplied a few similar bodies to Stratford Blue and to A1 and AA in Scotland. 

77 early in preservation shows the original livery applied to this batch (Paul Turner)

Lytham’s trio were 75-77 (ATD279-281J) and entered service on the 11/11A to Blackpool- as did most of their new double deckers. Although driver only operation of double deckers was legalised in 1966 - 75-77 ran with conductors and it was not until 1975 that they started to be used on OMO work. New in Lytham’s classic layer cake blue and white livery, all three were painted into a variant with more white in spring 1974 with FYLDE fleetnames applied in April 1974 after local government reorganisation. 

The trio were withdrawn in October 1977 as their Certificate of fitness expired. This was for a fixed seven year when new and an overhaul was needed before buses could be used again. The MOT process replaced this in the early 1980s. 77s COF was to 20th October 1977. The trio were overhauled over the winter. The rear engine shrouds were removed - this aided mechanical cleaning of the rear. The registration plate was relocated to where the rear number blind was before (this was disused after OMO conversion). More significantly was the removal of the destinations from the angles panel above the windscreen to the panel above - allowing three track numbers and separate ultimate abs intermediate displays to be fitted - aligning the buses to the more recent fleet intake. The Fylde blue, white and mustard band livery was applied and the buses returned to use in the spring.

Fylde purchased Atlanteans piecemeal in the early 1980s and the last of these looked to be replacing the first. December 1983 saw the withdrawal of 75 and 76 with new Atlantean 74 entering service the following year. At 13 years old both were snapped up with 75 spending four years on staff bus work with British Shoe Corporation in Leicester, ironically alongside ex Nottingham examples. 76 went to Prestatyn Coachways and ran until around 1990.

The final new Atlantean was expected to replace 77 but this didn’t happen and threats of its demise in 1985 didn’t materialise. It soldiered on as the last Atlantean to carry the mustard band which has been dropped in 1983. Deregulation in 1986 gave 77 an extended life with several Atlanteans of 1967 to 1972 vintage purchased from Hull meaning it was no longer the oldest. 

77 was treated to a repaint around October 1986 into blue and white with the new Blue Buses fleetnames adopted for deregulation. This was probably its first repaint since 1978.

77 in its 1986 livery working in competition with Blackpool Transport on the 6 from Mereside to Grange Park. It is turning from Langdale Road into Clifton Road, a few yards form its current restoration base

77 tended to be used on school work now, but as competition expanded between Blackpool and Fylde, it began to see use on competing services - usually off peak between schools. Photos exist on service 6 (Grange Park to Mereside), 14 (Blackpool to Fleetwood) and (22 St. Annes to Cleveleys). These wound down in 1989 but a new era was about to begin. 1990 saw the launch of Coastliner - a double deck operated Promenade service using older buses in a branded blue and yellow livery. Some were converted to open top - thankfully 77 was spared but gained Coastliner livery, after a brief period with just a yellow front, in August 1990. Uniquely it had a light blue band on the sides - but this was painted out for the winter.

For the 1991 season 77 became 58 in the new fleet numbering series and made its debut in May in an advertising livery for Wyre Tourism. This lasted until 1993 season. In January 1994 58 was taken into the works for an overhaul with its engine removed for overhaul. The destination display was reinstated in its original position and a full repaint was undertaken into the revised promenade livery of yellow, light blue and orange. It returned to use in May 1994 just as Blackpool Transport completed its takeover of Fylde. 

77 as 58 in the unusual Roller Coaster Route 1 livery in 1994 complete with impression of the new Big One on the side. (PT collection)

58 gained a new livery (again) in April 1995 - the new standard blue and cream livery, albeit with a yellow front for the Promenade service. 8 May saw it operate a private hire for the Fylde Tramway Society to Birkenhead Tramway - a rare escape from the Fylde. In January 1996 the yellow front was painted into standard livery. The Fylde fleet was absorbed into Blackpool's in July 1996 and the following month 58 became 458 in Blackpool's fleet. This was short livered as in October 1996 it was withdrawn. Its last date is unknown, but it was certainly parked up delicensed on 13 November 1996. It was advertised for sale in March 1997 and the (then) Lancastrian Transport Trust (now Fylde Transport Trust) made an offer. The bus was moved to under cover storage at Rigby Road depot and the sale was completed in September 1997. Missing bits were refitted and a test run took place on 26 October 1997 - around 12 months after its withdrawal. It passed its MOT on 24 January 1998 and was repainted in June/July 1998 into its original style livery. It made its debut at a week long event to celebrate the Centenary of the Fleetwood Tramroad. In August it took part in a long trek to Anglesey for a Viking event (yes really) and was display at Squires Gate Depot on the last day of service 11th April 1999. Its initial time in preservation highlighted the need for further work. 

As is often the case, time passes and it was not until 2015 that work commenced and has progressed gradually since. Work has recently accelerated, with chassis,  platform and staircase repairs and a new front fibreglass mould fitted - modified from a Nottingham template. The destination gear has been moved back to the higher level pending a repaint into its 1978 Fylde Borough livery during 2021 when this now unique bus will return to the road. 

77 on 22nd October with its new front end mould in place, with new dash panels and a reinstated upper destination (Philip Higgs)

Sunday 1 November 2020

Blackpool Transport update

Minor timetable changes took place to the 1 and 20 with the 1 revised to focus on its busy time. From Fleetwood it runs 0800 then 0845 and every 30 mins to 1815. From Starr Gate there are trips at 700 and 730 but then a gap until 0900 then every 30 mins to 1700 then 1745 and 1815. The 20 is reduced to every 90 minutes.

Over the main half term week commencing 26th October, a Saturday service was run on the 2, 2C, 3, 4, 5, 9, 14 and 17. From 1st November most returned to the normal weekday service, except 5, 7 and 9 which will retain their Saturday timetables. This may well change with the introduction of stay at home rules from Thursday.

To update the Trident disposals, 314/5 remained unaccounted for (both still SORN) and Archway have kept 319 after accident repairs and repainted it red. Older disposals, see 349-352 having moved on from Reading Buses to Go Southern Coachlines who have sold 349 and 351 to Vale Travel of Aylesbury while 352 is being kept for operation, and 350 for spares.

Friday 23 October 2020

On Test, On Loan and On the Road

Fylde Transport Trust's Paladin number 7 poses at Manchester Square on a test run (Philip Higgs)

For the first time since 1997 a two tone blue Fylde single decker took to the road with FTT's recently repainted 'Paladin' 7 (TKU469K) on its first test run after mechanical attention. It is graced with its original registration gain having carried UIB3987 with its last operator.

FTT also undertook a depot shunt this week to extract PD2 346 which is moving onto the next stage in its restoration.

PD2 346 being extracted from the rear of the Coastliner Buses workshop. A new floor has recently been fitted (Philip Higgs)

Meanwhile Coastliner Buses has added a further ex Cardiff Dart to its fleet CE02UUY is now in use in fleet livery after purchase in August, joining sister CE02UUP. CE02UUZ remains in store. A second ex London Enviro 400 LX57AXR has gone for repaint in fleet livery. 

Blackpool Transport has temporarily parted with six of its Volvo B7RLEs, 525, 526, 529, 530, 531 and 533 on loan to Transdev Blazefield until December. The first route are in use with Rosso at their Rochdale depot and the other two are with Burnley Bus Company.

Saturday 19 September 2020

Fylde Paladin reborn

Fylde Transport Trust has repainted sole surviving Fylde single deck rebodied Atlantean number 7 into its 1993 two tone blue livery. The splendid result is captured here. (Philip Higgs)

The Leyland Atlantean formed the backbone of the Fylde Borough fleet for most of its existence. When formed from Lytham St. Annes Corporation in 1974, Fylde inherited three Atlanteans and acquired 18 more between 1975 and 1984. Deregulation saw the fleet expand with 41 second hand examples mostly from Kingston-upon-Hull and Greater Manchester between 1985 and 1992. The 1990s saw major refurbishments take place with a modernised external appearance.
Three of the four 'Paladin' rebodied Atlanteans parked at Squires Gate Depot (Brian Turner)

1993 saw the ultimate progression of this realised with the entry into service of four Atlanteans with modern Northern Counties 'Paladin' single deck bodies. The project commenced in January 1992 when four 21 year old long wheel base Alexander bodied Atlanteans were purchased from Hull. New to Bradford Corporation as trolleybus replacements in August 1971, they arrived at Hull around deregulation in 1986, just as Hull was selling some of its own, shorter, Atlanteans to Fylde. The buses were dispatched to AJS, of Carlton where the body was removed and the chassis were delivered to Fylde in January 1992. Here is a flickr link of TKU469K with original body in Hull

Work commenced on the first chassis - TKU462K in March, with virtually all components replaced by new or reconditioned units. In July it was sent to Northern Counties to allow them to ascertain how their Paladin body - designed for more modern chassis could be adapted. Meanwhile the other three (5-7 TKU465/6/9K) were overhauled at Fylde and left for Northern Counties in February 1993.
Number 7 on 24th May 1993 having just arrived at Squires Gate depot from Northern Counties after rebodying. Excuse the slight blur from a hand held shot, but its was worthy to record the first photo. (Paul Turner) 

7 was the first to return to Fylde arriving back on 24 May, it was soon joined by 5 and both entered service on 18 June 1993. 4 and 6 arrived and entered service in June. They allowed the five strong Bristol RE fleet to be retired. Initially they ran on the trunk 11/11A (Cleveleys-Lytham) routes, but their 42 seat capacity was on the low side so from February 1994 they moved onto route 11C (Blackpool to St. Annes) which used 3 buses and 193 (St. Annes to Wesham) which used the fourth, and Tiger 13. The bus of the 193 also worked the evening 15 (Blackpool to Staining), sometimes Paladins also appeared on evening/Sunday 154/8 (Blackpool to Preston). Sundays tended to see 2 Paladins on the 11C and one on 11/11A.
Now in Blackpool green and cream 137 is seen at Pontins on service 1 on 7 July 1998 (Brian Turner)

Later that year Blackpool purchased Fylde and rationalised the network, with the 11C absorbed into a Blackpool route. The single deckers moved onto routes 44A (Cleveleys Park-Mereside), 192 (Blackpool-Kirkham) and 193 (St. Annes to Wesham) but the arrival of new low floor buses in 1996 saw their work dry up. For the next few years they saw use on seasonal services 1 (Blackpool Promenade) or 21 (Blackpool Zoo), schools work and some tendered services. Several short periods of storage punctuated their work, though all four received Blackpool's livery prior to final withdrawal in September 1999.

7 as Shamrock 201 at Wisley Airfield as part of a bus rally (Paul Turner)

All four went for further service, seeing use with an array of independents. Wactons of Bromyard collected all four on 30 October 1999 - selling 5 and 6 on in its dealer capacity, but retaining 4 and 7 for service under the "Bromyard Omnibus Company" banner. 7 was registered WNT244 and numbered 140. In October 2000 it was sold to Powell's of Rotherham and was re-registered again to UIB3987. It is pictured here in their blue livery. It was now fitted with seatbelts.

From Powells it moved to MacEwan of Amisfield, Dumfries in August 2001 and in December 2002 it joined the fleet of Shamrock of Poole and received their attractive orange and cream livery as fleet number 201. Sister 4 later rejoined it as 200. Both were withdrawn in 2008. 7 was bought for preservation and 4 for spares and both moved back to Blackpool on 13th November 2008 (7) and 19th (4). Sadly 4 had to be dismantled for spares, its engine was badly damaged, but parts were salvaged for 7.

After several years in store, investigative work on the engine problem that caused 7's withdrawal commenced in summer 2020 and its repaint took place w/c 14th September. New rear brakes have been fitted, the engine is being stripped to remedy the head gasket issues and to resolve the pressurisation of the coolant system.

27 years after it was rebodied and 49 years after its chassis was constructed, 7 is approaching a return to the road. It is one of a small number of surviving buses that were rebodied in the 1990s, as operators looked to lower cost solutions to enhance their fleets rather than buying new buses. 

Blackpool Transport Service Changes

With students returning to school and college, like most operators, Blackpool Transport has increased its service levels, closer to 'normal' ones. Several services have duplication, often in the form of dedicated buses for school children only as these can run without capacity restrictions. These have an 'X' prefix. 

As a result four of the stored Citaros (550-552 and 555) have returned to use. Short Enviros have now begun to appear on services 74/75, though longer ones still appear regularly.

1  - every 30 minutes daily, hourly evenings. During illuminations on some days evening service runs Fleetwood to North Station only

2 - every 30 minutes, hourly Eves/Suns. X2 school extra 0755 Blackpool to Baines return 1500

2C every 30 minutes, hourly Eves/Suns. Additional duplicate bus at 0725 from Blackpool and 1510 from Knott End

3 increased to every 20 mins M-F, 30 Sats, 60 Eves/Suns. Existing school trips now X3 at 740 Mereside to Blackpool continuing as X5 to St Marys and 745 Mereside to B&F College Bispham. Return trips run at 1508 College to Blackpool and 1534 Queens St to Mereside.

4 increased to every 20 mins M-F, 30 Sats, 60 Eves/Suns. 

5 increased to every 15 mins M-F, 20 Sats, 30 Eves/Suns. Existing school extras become X5 810 Blackpool - St Marys (through bus from X3 from Mereside) and 1520 return (through to Mereside)

6 every 20 mins M-S, 30 E/Su. Existing school trip 730 Mereside-Aspire Academy and 1504 return becomes X6

7 every 20 mins M-F, 30 Sats, 60 E/Su. X7 school trip 726 Halfway House to Town Centre with 1547 return - these are linked to the X9 to serve Montgomery Academy

9 every 15 mins M-F, 20 Sats, 30 Suns. X9 trips 755 Town Centre to Bispham Village, returns 1520 linked to X7.

11 every 20 M-S, 30 E/Su. X11 trips 735 Blackpool-Saltcotes Road and 1520 Lytham St. Annes High to Blackpool

12 now runs as X12 as a dedicated school bus

14 every 15 M-F, 20 Sats, 30 Suns. Extra trips from Fleetwood 729, 830, 940,1030, 1345, 1500, 1545, 1630 and from Blackpool 730, 840, 930, 1400, 1445, 1530, 1600. Also X14 trips at 1430 Blackpool Sixth to Town Centre and Aspire Academy to Town Centre

17 every 30 M-F, 60 Evenings, Sats and Suns. X17 trips at 725 Blackpool to Saltcotes Road, 1520 Lytham Square to Saltcotes then 1530 to Blackpool

18 and 20 are unchanged, except that the 20 doesn't serve the Zoo main entrance Monday to Friday any more, but still does at weekends. Not previously noted is that this runs via the newer section of Whinney Heys Road between Zoo and Hospital previously used by the 15/16 circulars.

Sunday 23 August 2020

Trident Round Up

Blackpool’s Dennis Tridents are proving as popular with second owned as their Atlanteans did. 

Today marked the 100th anniversary of Lodges Coaches, High Easter in Essex and their low key event saw former 327 outshopped in a retro livery. Alongside it were sisters 328-332 and 347/8 all in Lodges blue and cream livery. With eight this is the largest fleet of Blackpool Tridents with one owner.

The 2002 batch of nine has lost 302 to scrap, but 301 is a mobile screen with One Agency Media and has been part of a drive in Theatre near the Trafford Centre. BT retains 303/4 as trainers while 305-9 run with Coach Travel Solutions of Blackburn alongside DAFs 368-372.

Of batch 2 310/2 have joined Andrews of Tideswell, 311/3 are with Grindles, Cinderford, 316 with Black Cat of Lincoln and 317 with AC, Gosport. 314/5 are as yet unsold by Archway. 318 was lost to fire damage.

The 2004 batch includes 319 - awaiting accident repairs with Archway before sale, 322/3 are with Sweyne Goole, 324/5 Black Cat and 326 with MM of Chelmsford. 327, as noted, is with the entire 2006 batch at Lodges.

The five ex Blackburn examples are split between Morton’s (333/5), Stockdale of Selby (334/7) and Dews of Somersham (336). Similar 342 ex South Lancs is still with Vision of Bolton.

Ex Blue Triangle 338/41 were scrapped, 339 is retained as a trainer and 340 is with 301 at One Agency Media.

The 11 Manx Tridents are split between Tanat Valley (343/4/6) Abbey of Goole (345), Lodges  (347/8) and Coastliner Buses (353). The other four (349-52) have passed from Reading Buses to Go Southern Coachlines with two advertised for sale recently. 

Saturday 15 August 2020

More New Homes


Solo 243 is one of two to have settled with Hulleys of Baslow in their traditional blue and cream livery. It is seen in Matlock in March (Paul Wigan)
The five ex Anglian Volvo B7RLEs have found new homes. This was 522 and is now with Hunts of Alford (David Bell)

Friday 17 July 2020

Trident 326's new home

M&M's former Blackpool Trident 326 (Mark Hough)

Trident 326 is now with M&M of Chelmsford run by Mark Hough who has shared these photos of its recent repaint. Mark plans to use 326 on rail replacement work - which generally now requires accessible vehicles, rather than the coaches more commonly used. Dekkabus, Poole and AC of Gosport are similarly using ex Blackpool double deckers for this work. AC has 317, now registered Y26ACT and Volvo single deck 521. Dekkabus has recently repainted its final ex Blackpool DAF. 359 is now their 7104 F5HOW and is in grey, black and blue joining 358 as 7101 F5HOR in grey/black/pink and 354 as 7103 F5CBE in grey/black/yellow.

Other recent disposals confirmed are 311/3 with Grindles of Cinderford. The remainder of the Trident fleet (310, 312, 314 and 315) is with Archway as a dealer and awaiting buyers. It is believed most are still at Jacksons. 319 remains at Rigby Road with accident damage sustained last year.

Saturday 11 July 2020

News Round Up

Brand new Enviro 200 turns into Clifton Drive on service 1. (Paul Wigan)

Blackpool Transport
A service change from 12th July sees some frequency improvements as lockdown measures have been eased. The network will be:

1 - Starr Gate to Fleetwood reduced to every 30 minutes daytimes and hourly evenings. For w/c 12th July a 15 minute service will run to Cleveleys pending the reopening of the tramway on 19th July. Currently 20 minute service with 30 minute frequency of short workings to Cleveleys. 

2 runs hourly as present but additional buses added to make 30 minute frequency at peak times. Hourly evening service reinstated

2C returns to normal 30 minute frequency with evening service reinstated

3 and 4 still running reduced 30 minute frequency

5, 6 and 9 still running reduced 20 minute frequency

7 increases to every 20 minutes from 30, but no longer serves Clifton Hospital. Southbound journeys turn into Highbury Road, St David's Road North, The Crescent into St. Annes Square. Northbound buses use Clifton Drive North as normal.

11 increases to every 20 minutes from 30 (and 60 to 30 in the evening)

14 long diversion via Poulton continues despite end of Norcross roundabout work. Increases to 15 minutes (update: From 19th July reverted to normal route Norcross to Castle Gardens)

17 increased from hourly to half hourly with later journeys

18 hours of operation extended

19 replaced by 20

New 20 from Queens Street via Church St, Devonshire Square then regular summer 20 route via Stanley Park and Model Village to Zoo (serves main entrance during opening hours) then Victoria Hospital and Staining. Hourly daily.

This suggest a 66 PVR, plus 7 on the new 74/75 tender.

New Enviro 400s 456 to 459 are now in use, with 459 the first out on Monday 6th. Some new single deckers have emerged with 582 and 583 debuting on service 1 on Thursday 9th. The Centros and Citaros remain out of use presently.
Enviro 456 heads north to Fleetwood on the 1 (Paul Wigan)

Further Tridents have been sold by Archway. 327-330 moved on in June, 327 photographed on the M6 in Warwickshire. 

Coastliner Buses
Beach Bus Service 26 resumed on 7th July. Recently acquired Enviro 400 LK57AXY is regularly used. 
From 14th July service 21 returns to normal 30 minute frequency running Tuesday to Thursday and Saturdays.

Optare Versa YJ10MGU is under preparation for a return to use after about two years out of use following engine failure.

Friday 26 June 2020

LCC Tender update

Blackpool Transport has returned to the LCC bus service market with the award of the new 74 and revised 75 from 19th July. This is part of a significant uplift in tendered buses following additional funding awarded by DFT supplemented by new funding from LCC's own budget. It is understood long wheelbase Enviro 200s are to be used, at least initially as smaller ones would be more suitable for the route and loadings.

The 75 is hourly Preston to Fleetwood and is currently run by Preston Bus. It will be diverted in Kirkham to run via Kirkham Station, Weeton, Staining, Staining Road, Normoss Road, Longhouse Lane to Hardhorn then as the current route to Poulton then onto Fleetwood via Thornton, Cleveleys and Pheasants Wood. A 2 hourly Sunday service will be introduced on the 75.

The 74 replaces Coastal's 77/A between Preston and Great Eccleston and Poulton (albeit with a different route via the Docks and Lea in Preston) then follows the 75 to Thornton (except serving Lambs Road and Sunningdale Drive). It then runs via Lawson Road, Fleetwood Road, Broadwater, Hatfield Road to Fleetwood. Both routes terminate at Asda returning via Albert Square. It is hourly Mon-Sat and two hourly Sundays. 

Seven buses are needed Monday to Saturday. Blackpool's last LCC contract was the 840 and 649 schools which ended in April 2015 - though they did contribute to the Northern Circular 12/13 until April 2016.

Coastal services will change with the 77/77A withdrawn. The 76 will be extended to start at St. Annes and run via St Albans Road, Church Road, St Thomas Road, Clifton Drive to Lytham then as current via Warton, Wrea Green to Kirkham then it would follow the current 75 route via Great Plumpton and Weeton Camp to Singleton then via Catlows Corner, Garstang Road to Poulton then as normal route to Blackpool. The 78 will be extended from Wesham to Great Eccleston to replace that section of the 76.

Saturday 30 May 2020

Trident Sales

Archway Travel are dealing with the disposals of Blackpool's Trident fleet, so far nine have found new homes with seven confirmed:
  • 316, 323 and 324 to Black Cat, Lincoln
  • 317 to AC Travel, Gosport joining Volvo 521
  • 322/5 to Sweynes Coaches, Goole
  • 326 to M&M, Chelmsford

Other former vehicles now moved on are Solos 289 and 291 which have moved from Go Southern Coaches to Cresta, Four Marks. 291 is now registered DSZ4860. Sister 243 is now with Hulley's of Baslow. Solos 251/260 passed from Newbury and District (now part of Reading Buses) to Hunts of Alford who also have Volvo 522. 

Tuesday 5 May 2020

Late Turn on the Buses

Around twenty years ago former Blackpool conductor Peter Makinson submitted this article for a book I was drafting that has never seen the light of day. Much of the research has formed posts on this blog and having found the original text, Peter has agreed for me to post it here. This is part three.

I'd like to take you through a typical late turn on the buses in the 1960s, seen through the eyes of a student conductor working as a spare conductor, and filling in on duties that may not have had a regular crew, or to cover someone's day off or sick leave. Seasonal staff were also employed on the buses to cover for winter bus conductors who drove trams in the summer season. During the summer their bus duties would be left open, and they would return to their normal duty at the end of October.

Most late turns began from about 3.00 p.m. onwards. In uniform you had free travel to and from work, so armed with sandwiches, brew can, and supplies of tea and coffee, I would set out from home taking the 1, 14 or 14A into town, and then usually catching the 12 in the bus station. The 12 was extensively by off duty crews travelling to and from work. Alighting at Manchester Square I would walk up Rigby Road towards the depot, turning right into the yard, and entering the depot offices. At this time of the day there would be a lot of activity, with crews booking on, checking duties, conductors paying in at the cash counters, and so on.

When you arrived the first thing you did was "tick off" on the "Sheets". This meant that you put a tick against your staff number (mine was 4070), which appeared on the output sheets against your allocated duty. This told the depot inspector that you were in, and that was one less potential problem for him to deal with.

At this point you might also want to check the sheets for the following day, if they had been posted, to see what your next day's work was to be. Unlike factory or office work, start times on public transport vary according to the duty you are on, so you have to check and recheck all the time. You would look for your staff number posted against a start time and a duty number. With this information, you could then check the rotas for the details of the individual portions of duty, including time on, time off, break times, and "route" number. The "route" number was the number allocated to individual bus workings. You learned what services were operated on the different route numbers by experience, but it didn't take very long to work out what was what, as they were all conveniently grouped together. The same system operated on the trams.

The next task was to collect a ticket machine from the cash office. By 1966, all the old dial TIMs which had been bought in the 1930's had thankfully gone, to be replaced with the lever style machines, which offered a much wider range of fares. You would be handed a metal box containing T.I.M, spare tickets rolls, a pack of emergency tickets, and a waybill. The running totals on the T.I.M. would have been entered on to the waybill, but you were responsible for checking this before you went out.

The waybill was a long card, which was printed on both sides. One side contained details of the duties worked, your staff number, and had spaces to enter readings from the cash totals on the machine. Whenever you changed from one service to another you had to enter the running totals at the end of one portion, and re-open the same figures for the next service. The waybill also served as a clock card, and the time could be printed on the card by slotting the card into the Gledhill Brook time recorders, and pulling a lever inside the lid. There was one in the depot where you clocked on and off at the start and end of the shift. Others were located at various timing points around the system. Manchester Corporation used the very same system, one of a number of cultural similarities between the two operators, which I was to notice in my days at Manchester University.      

The next job was to try and locate your driver. As you were only known by a staff number, it was not always easy to find out who the driver was, unless you had worked with him (always a him in those days) before. The best bet was to try the canteen, across the yard, as many of the staff would gather there for a brew, or a smoke before going on duty.

This time I am lucky, and I recognise my driver sitting with a number of other crew, playing dominoes. Canteen tea is highly recommended, along with speciality Chorley Cakes, so I order some tea and cakes and sit down with the rest of the group. The canteen is a typical mess room with long tables and wooden benches, and no concessions to creature comforts. But it is a homely and friendly place, and I can well imagine that is can be a haven of rest on a cold dark winter's night, when the gales are blowing, and the sea is coming over the promenade.

Our duty today consist of the normal two portions of duty. The first part is on service 12, Bus Station to Squires Gate via Lytham Road, and we are on there until 7.00 p.m. The second portion is on service 16B, North Shore, Marton, and Tower, and we run that until the end of the evening service.

We are due to take over on the 12 running in to the bus station. The relief point is at Manchester Square, and we walk down Rigby Road, with several other crews, some going to work on the trams, and others making their way up to the bus station. At the appointed time we see a PD3 coming into sight along Lytham Road. It is 357, one of the first batch delivered in 1961. I am slightly disappointed, because these buses are only 8 feet wide, and the extra 21/2 inches of the later buses makes all the difference when trying to get round a crowded vehicle. As the bus pulls into the stop the driver and I confirm it is the correct route number, and the relief is done quickly and speedily. The conductor I relieve confirms that all the fares are in. We have taken on some passengers at Manchester Square, so I go round and quickly get the fares in. The traffic is running quite well on the promenade, so we have a good run up to Talbot Square before we turn right up Talbot Road, and then in to the bus station. We have not picked up any more passengers after Manchester Square, so this has given me time to enter the journey details onto the waybill.

Another little ritual, which has to be observed is the recording of mileage details. This was entered on to the waybill from the vehicle odometer in the cab. On the final journey of each portion of duty, the driver would give the conductor the reading, and this would be entered on the waybill. The same figure should also appear on the next conductor's waybill at the start of the new portion, and it was custom and practise to leave the figure on a piece of TIM roll behind one of the glass display cases on the bus.

As we pull in to the bus station we see that the 12 in front of us is still on the stand, loading up. We pull in close behind, and I leave the bus and go up in to the canteen. The driver will follow as soon as he can pull the bus on to the stand properly. There is no need to worry about getting fares in while the bus in on the stand, as the 12 does not carry that many passengers from the bus station. The busiest points on the 12 are between Talbot Square and Waterloo Road. It is coming up to tea time at many of the hotels and boarding houses, so we can expect a busy trip this time. Many of Blackpool's hotels have an evening meal at 5.00 p.m. so that the guests can go out to a show in the evening.

I record the exact departure time on the waybill and we set off from the bus station. There are about 6 people downstairs, and about 12 on top, including more bus and tram crews going on duty. I quickly get round for the fares, and am back on the platform as we arrive at Talbot Square. We take on about another 15 people, but some of these are obviously visitors, and they not be familiar with either the fare or the location. As soon as they are on, I ring off and we turn on to the promenade. The traffic lights are clear at Church Street, and before I have got the bottom deck in, we have landed on the Tower stop. At this stop all bedlam is let loose, as the afternoon performance of the Tower circus is just coming out. Before we know the bottom deck is full, and I'm trying to persuade everyone that the seats on top are going to exactly the same place as the ones downstairs. Eventually we get away, with about 10 seats left on the top deck, and the bottom deck full. But now some of the passengers who got on at the Bus Station want to get off at Central Pier. At Central Pier there is another large crowd waiting, but we squeeze them in. I've got 5 standing on the lower deck and the top deck full, and I've got about a quarter of the fares in. You must remember that Talbot Square, Tower and Central Pier are all separate fare stages, so that everyone who asks for 4 and 2 halves to Bloomfield Road has to be asked where they got on.

We have to stop at Manchester Square because we have staff going to work on the bus. Fortunately one of these staff has volunteered to look after the bells for me while I concentrate on the fares, but after Manchester Square I am on my own. There are people waiting at all the stops down Lytham Road, and of course people getting off as well, so we have to make every stop in turn. By the time we get to Waterloo Road we are about half full, but there is another large queue waiting, coming from the shopping area. Fortunately most of these are locals who ask for and tender the correct fare, and I can get round these very quickly. But we have had a good old pasting on our first trip, and we are now running a couple of minutes late. By the time we get to Squires Gate, the bus in front has already left, and we have barely time to complete the waybill, change the destinations, and get down on to the stand before it's time to leave again.

It's about 4.30 p.m. now, and there's quite a lot of traffic about on Lytham Road.  We make good time down to Waterloo Road, with about half a load, but then we encounter very heavy traffic down to the promenade. Getting fares in is not a problem, as we are moving quite slowly, but the worry now is that a gap will open out in front of us, and the service will start to bunch. At Manchester Square we are about 7 minutes late, and we can see the bus behind us, also stuck in the heavy traffic. We can't make any time up on the promenade, and we are still 7 minutes late at the bus station, which means we are already behind our departure time. There is a queue waiting for us at the bus station, so by the time these are on we leave about 9 minutes late, with the bus behind now sitting on our tail. We now have many of the office workers from the town on the bus, and it's getting very busy again. As we approach Church Street we have to stop for the traffic lights, and Joy oh Joy, a service 5 turns out onto the promenade in front of us. The 5 runs along the same route all the way to Watson Road. We recognise the crew on the 5, and they are good mates, so we know they will give us a good lift. As we follow through, we see the 5 has pulled into the layby at the Tower, and the conductor is guiding the large crowd aboard. No-one seems interested in our 12, so we pull past, and push on to Central Pier. This has given us just the break we needed, and we are coping now. We clear Central Pier and the Foxhall stops, and at the Foxhall the 5 passes us again. We both need to stop at Manchester Square, but the crew of the 5 are being relieved and we can pull round and set off down Lytham Road. We're still about 9 minutes down, but we haven't lost any more time. There isn't much of a queue at Waterloo Road, and the traffic has got a bit lighter. At the terminus we are about 5 minutes down, but some smart work gets us away about 2 minutes late.

It's still hard work back in to town though. With a combination of heavy road traffic and unpredictable passenger traffic, we are still getting a real pasting every trip. By the time we start our last trip we have had three hours of unrelenting pressure, trying to keep time, conscious of a gap being created in front of us, and the bus behind breathing down our necks. We've had full loads on virtually every trip, and when I check my waybill I note that I've sold about 450 tickets on this first portion of duty. By the time we get to Manchester Square we are ready for our break, and my cash bag is weighing heavy with both copper and silver.

As we walk back, the driver tells me to go and pay in whilst he gets the brew ready. The cash office is quiet at this time, and I quickly get rid of a lot of weight, which makes the job much easier. Back in the canteen the tea is ready, and we settle down to ham sandwiches and a large chunk of home-made chocolate cake.  We have 50 minutes break, but we have to get back up into town to take over on our next portion on the 16B. The relief point is at the Odeon Cinema in Dickson Road, going towards Marton.
Centre Loader 259 was Peter's steed for his second half on the 16s, - here it is seen on another day laying over at Newton Hall Camp on seasonal service 15C (John Hinchliffe)

The 16B is really two services joined together for the summer season. The winter 3/3A services from North Shore to Marton are linked across Preston New Road with the 16/16B services from the Tower to Wordsworth Avenue via Stanley Park. This is the home of the PD2/5 centre loaders, and it is therefore no surprise to see 259 come into sight along Dickson Road. This will be our home for the rest of the evening.

Moving from the 12 to the 16B is like taking a holiday. All the customers on a summer evening like this are local people. They know where they are going, and they know their fares. The routes serve gentle residential parts of the town, the North Shore end being amongst the oldest housing in the town, whereas much of the rest of the route is interwar owner occupied housing. West Park Drive is one of the better areas. There are few traffic problems, as the route crosses rather than uses all the main arteries of the town. It is not uncommon to meet friends out for the evening travelling on the service, and this makes for a pleasant interlude. The terminus at the Tower is just round the corner of Woolworths, probably one of the windiest corners in all Blackpool.

Before we know it we are due to make the last trip of the night at 10.40 p.m. from the Tower up to Wordsworth Avenue only. Just a few locals using this service, no problems at all, then we run in out of service from Wordsworth Avenue, straight in to garage, where we arrive about 11.20 p.m.

We are one of the first buses in, and I don't have too much money to pay in. If I'm quick I can get paid in and get down to Manchester Square with enough time to catch a 12 which will still be running up to the bus station, and get home on the last 14A which leaves the Bus Station for Thornton at 11.45 p.m. An early night for a change! I won't be able to do this tomorrow night, as I'm on the last 22 to Cleveleys and I won't finish till well after midnight. So it's the staff bus for me tomorrow.

Monday 27 April 2020

Around the Routes

Around twenty years ago former Blackpool conductor Peter Makinson submitted this article for a book I was drafting that has never seen the light of day. Much of the research has formed posts on this blog and having found the original text, Peter has agreed for me to post it here. This is part two of three.

An extensive network of, mostly, frequent services was operated during the 1960s. This snapshot looks at the operation of the routes in a bit more detail.
Approaching the Bus Station, PD2 334 will next work a 15B to Staining Road End, followed by PD3s on the 12 and 22. (Brian Turner)
Service 1 (Poulton) was run in conjunction with the Newton Drive services 2 (Poulton) and 15 (Staining) and they generally ran on one timecard. During the day the services inter-worked from the bus station end, but in the evening service 1 and 2 occasionally changed over in Poulton. Service 1 ran from Talbot Road Bus Station (TRBS) to Poulton via Carleton and Castle Gardens. As far as Castle Gardens the route duplicated the 14/14A Thornton and Fleetwood services. Unlike the 14/14A there was no minimum fare applied from the bus station in the evening so theoretically local passengers for Layton could be carried, but in practice the intensive services on the 22/23 axis carried all this traffic. Much of the route lay outside the borough boundary, and in the 60's it had a definitely rural feel to it. The same could also be said of the 2 to Poulton via Hardhorn and the 15 Staining services, both via Newton Drive. In spite of the high quality housing along Newton Drive both these services could be very busy, and demanded some quite smart timekeeping at the inner end. The were some short turnbacks on the 15 to Staining Road End as service 15B, and specials ran to Newton Hall Camp on Staining Lane as 15C. It was not until the late 1980s that the Newton Drive services all took the short diversion into Victoria Hospital.

Service 15A ran independently from Victoria Hospital to Bispham Depot, still known as that in 1966 and 1967 although by that time it had closed to trams. The route from Victoria Hospital followed that of the 2 and 15 via Newton Drive, Church Street, Abingdon Street, and Talbot Road to North Station. It then turned left into Dickson Road as far as Gynn Square, before turning inland again all the way up Warbreck Hill Road, then onto Bispham Road as far as Bispham Clinic and finally up Red Bank Road to turn in what was then the former forecourt of Bispham depot. The 15A was noted for its particularly high percentage of elderly and infirm passengers, earning for itself in the process the rather unkind nickname of "Cripple Creek". 

The next group of routes to consider were the Park Road services 3/3A which ran from Westminster Road, North Shore via the town centre to either Newhouse Road or Cherry Tree Gardens in Marton. For three summer seasons in the mid 60s, both services were linked to run in conjunction with the 16/16B Tower to Stanley Park and Marton via Hornby Road and West Park Drive. Both portions of the route were generally regarded as being among the quieter routes on the system, and were normally the home of the centre entrance PD2/5's. The 16 and 16B had been the last resting place of the pre-war TD4s and TD5s in the 1950s.

The Mereside estate services 4 and 6 were interworked with service 13 Lindale Gardens, starting in the town centre, and then via Tower, Central Drive, Grasmere Road, the 4 diverging to operate via Penrose Avenue and the the 6 providing the main service to Mereside. The 13 followed the 6 to Spen Corner, before turning down Marton Drive to reach St. Annes Road. A feature of the Mereside services was that the maximum fare was pegged at a sub-standard rate in comparison with the number of stages travelled. Ribble offered a much more direct service along Preston New Road, but this did not penetrate the estate, but it seems that the fare was kept at the low level to be competitive with Ribble. Service 6 could be very busy at times, and required some smart work on the bell to keep time. The ideal bus was a PD2/27 in good condition, as the shorter vehicles seemed better suited to the estate roads. Sticking with Mereside there was also the odd service 19 which ran from South Pier to Mereside, with just one bus allocated. I was quite surprised at the level of business on this run, and a PD3 was normally allocated, often one of the 371-380 batch with St. Helens fronts but full front cabs. These odd looking vehicles were known as ‘Half-Moons’ amongst the staff.

Service 5, Grange Park Estate to Halfway House was another busy service. Grange Park is a council estate located off the Garstang Road, which had been expanded considerably in the 1950s and 1960s. The 5 had been gradually extended through the estate to its final terminus near to Garstang Road at Pilling Crescent. Upon leaving the estate from Chepstow Road, onto Garstang Road, then into Layton then via Layton Road and Caunce Street to the town centre, passing en route my old primary school on the corner of Caunce Street and Devonshire Road. From the town centre it duplicated the Lytham Road tram replacement service 12 as far as Watson Road, then via Watson Road and St. Annes Road to Halfway House. PD2s were used in the 1966 and 1967 season but as new deliveries of PD3s arrived these started to appear on this service as well.       
PD2 298 on the 6A from Midgeland Road to Grange Park about to turn from School Road into Common Edge Road (Peter Makinson)

One of the more obscure services was the 6A operating from Midgeland Road, Marton and replacing the one-person operated service 18, which had been the home of the 3 pre-war TS8 saloons that survived into the 1960's. From the Welcome Inn it duplicated the 6 for much of its route into the town centre then picking up the route of the 5 via Caunce Street to Layton and then as far as Chepstow Road in Grange Park. As one of the lighter used routes, it too was the home of the centre entrance PD2/5s.

The Bispham circulars, 7/7A could be very intense. A complete 8 hour shift on these services involved 16 round trips, as the service needed only 30 minutes to complete a round trip back to the bus station. Short distance riders were a feature of these services, which provided the main local service along Dickson Road once the North Station trams had gone. Beyond Gynn Square the service ran parallel to the Promenade, and tended to be favoured by local people for short journeys, who would then avoid the minimum fare charged on the trams. Service 7C was a variation, which extended northwards to serve Norbreck, Little Bispham and terminated in the middle of nowhere at Anchorsholme Lane East.

The 9, together with the 9A, had once been the trunk route to Cleveleys from Talbot Road Bus Station, but that role had been taken over by the extended 22/22A. The 9 gradually drifted into obscurity, again the preserve of the PD2/5s, and in 1966 and 1967 it was providing a link into the newly developed areas east of Bispham along Ashfield Road. These areas are now served by some of Blackpool's trunk services, but in the 1960's this was a relatively unknown backwater, with a bus perhaps once every half hour.

The Lytham St. Annes services operated on a separate rota involving the more senior crews who rather tended to keep themselves to themselves and usually drove the newest buses. The 11 and 11A ran to a combined ten minute headway and were jointly licensed with Lytham St. Annes Corporation. Their blue buses operated most workings, with Blackpool providing two buses. During the summer Lytham extended a local route through to Blackpool duplicating the existing services to provided extra capacity. Both routes left town via Central Drive, the 11 continuing to the Halfway House, then Squires Gate Lane and Clifton Drive North before following the back route from St. Annes through Ansdell to Lytham. The 11A was the Lytham tram replacement dating from 1937 and ran down Bloomfield Road to Lytham Road joining the 11 at the Airport. 11A workings took the more direct route along Clifton Drive South to Lytham, both terminating at Meadow Lane in the east end of the town.

Service 11C took the back road following the 6 to Hawes Side Lane then Common Edge Road and Queensway. After disappearing down some of estate in the north of St. Annes it terminated at the towns Square. Although jointly licensed with Lytham St. Annes only Blackpool buses operated the service on a twenty minute headway. Until 1958 all joint services buses stopped at the borough boundary and all passengers were re-booked by the conductor to points across the boundary. Through fares were then introduced and conductors split their waybills on the boundary which was a more satisfactory method, operationally at least.

Service 12, Lytham Road, was perhaps the most unpopular service of all with the crews. It was tightly timed, but also subject to congestion along Lytham Road and the Promenade. There was an apocryphal story going around once that the bus station inspectors were having apoplexy when they realised on one occasion that every bus allocated to the 12 was somewhere in the immediate vicinity of the bus station. As well as local traffic, the 12 also carried a considerable volume of visitors, who were unfamiliar with the destinations and fares. This is the same problem as the trams, but on the 12 you had a 71 seater on your own moving at a pace considerably faster than that normal on the trams. The problem was recognised, and at busy times jumper conductors were employed to assist, boarding vehicles at Talbot Square or the Tower and helping the normal conductor as far as Waterloo Road. 
6 July 1968 and brand new PD3 537 is captured on Garstang Road heading to Blackpool from Thornton on a 14A (Peter Makinson)
As with the Lytham runs, the 14/14A ran on a separate rota. The route took some learning for a new conductor, who had to learn the regulations concerning return fares and also the peculiarities of the Ribble fare structure beyond Castle Gardens, it was hard to see the logic behind offering return fares for adults but not making them available for children, and many of the customers were bemused by this as well. A very high proportion of the clientele were regular customers, and the regular conductors got to know many of them by sight if not by name. Even in the space of a short summer seasons you could get something of an insight into the lives of your regulars, where they worked, where they lived, and how they spent their leisure time in what was by today's standards a much simpler age.

The traffic levels on the 14 justified 4 buses an hour, but to integrate the timetable with Ribble's service 162 between Fleetwood and Castle Gardens, the 14 actually ran half hourly, but duplicated with two buses running theoretically 2 minutes apart. The 14A was a short working variant as far as Thornton Social Club, which operated in the alternate half hour slot between the through Fleetwood service. Like the Lytham services the 14 was always regarded as one of the premier services and in those days would be allocated the newest buses. The usual combination would be a PD3 as service bus with a PD2/27 as duplicate, providing a capacity of 130 seats with a crew of 4. If you were very unlucky you might end up with a PD2/5 as duplicate, but this was becoming a rarity by this time. The wheel has come full circle with the 14 now being the last bastion of conductor operation. The PD3s stayed on the service until the end of their lives, but now the service seems to be home to some of the older vehicles in the fleet. 

The 22/22A services were the mainline services. The origin goes back to the replacement of the Layton and Central Drive trams in 1936, though the circular service then operated bears only superficial resemblance to what developed in the postwar years. The services always operated in conjunction with the 23/23A between Layton and Waterloo Road, providing an intensive service between those two points via the town centre. In the 1950s the 22 had operated to the Hospital via Grange Road and the 23 ran to Bispham Clinic. However these two were swapped around and the 22 then operated through to Cleveleys via Devonshire Road and the 22A ran via Bispham Village, replacing the 9A and 9B. By the 1960's the 22/22A were allocated PD3s as trunk routes, and they carried intensive traffic.

By contrast the 23/23A was much quieter, although these workings provided part of the combined service along the old tram routes. The relatively short stretch from the Hospital to Layton generated some local and through traffic to town, then you were into the thick of the battle until Waterloo Road, where you turned right and ran down to South Pier to terminate as service 23A. As a 23 you then began what was in effect a completely different service from South Pier to Midgeland Road. PD2/5s were common on this route to the end of their days.

I mentioned earlier that much of the local traffic on Dickson Road which had once been carried on the North Station trams was by then being carried on the 7/7A circulars. The trams finished at the end of the 1963 season and during that winter no trams operated at all south of Cleveleys. In their place service 25 operated from Cleveleys to Starr Gate with short workings to the Tower showing 25A. When the trams resumed at Easter the 25A survived having been diverted down Dickson Road to provide a replacement link to Cleveleys for former tram passengers. By 1966 the 25A diverted at Norbreck to turn inland serving the estates there. It never carried the traffic levels of the old tram service, and it seems that visitors who might have used the North Station trams changed their travel patterns, and locals found alternative services such as the 7/7A/7C operating away from the promenade.

The remarks made about service 12 apply in equal part to service 26, the direct replacement of the Marton tram route. Marton had without doubt enjoyed a Rolls Royce service with the trams, with 48 comfortable seats in a single deck vehicle operating every three minutes. Those 48 seats were replaced by 71 seat double deck buses operating less frequently. The problem with the 26 was the very high proportion of short stage riders, and the relative age and infirmity of many of the regular clients. In reality the top deck of the bus was of marginal utility, and you would spend much of every trip in a battle of wills trying to persuade people travelling two or three stops to use the top deck, rather than crush in to the bottom, making it impossible to get round and collect fares.  The result of this was that the 26 also suffered from late running, and the constant battles and heavy loads made it very unpopular. 

As well as the main services described above there were of course a whole variety of extra services, including some which always came out as overtime working. Some of these ran in conjunction with works or offices, and these were known colloquially amongst the staff as "factories". Much of the work to Norcross came into this category, but some of the "factories"  were simple extra trips to provide some additional capacity at peak hours. There were extra workings between the town centre and Bispham operating as service 24. Some route numbers would be used for journeys in service to depot, such as 5A. 14X appeared on some blinds, and on at least one occasion was used for an extra working, Manchester style, on the 14.