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.