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.