Friday 29 March 2024

Full front PD2 346 for repaint

346 in cream undercoat alongside the resplendent Fylde 77 at St Helens (FTT) 

With Fylde Atlantean 77 now back in blue, white and mustard - Fylde Transport Trust has taken PD2 346 to Arriva at St. Helens for repaint. 346 is the solve survivor of fifty rear entrance PD2s purchased between 1957 and 1959. Other than 301-305, these were bodied by Metro Cammell to their standard Orion body with four bays. Less common was the full front with a nearside cab door giving somewhat reduced access to the engine v the later half cab St Helens front buses. Blackpool's engineers were no doubt used to this after two decades of Streamlined full fronted Titans. 

The fifty PD2s arrived in three batches of 10 (1957), 20 (1958) and 20 (1959). 346 was part of the latter, first registered on 25th March 1959. Interestingly records show an order for 20 buses for due in October 1957 and 10 in October 1958 with chassis costing £2,430 each and the bodies at £2,685. Metro Cammell were outbid by Crossley - who offered £25 less, but MC were chosen to match the last five of the 1957 deliveries. Local firm Burlingham was the most expensive at £2,914. In October 1957 the order was increased by a further ten buses - at the same price. March to May 1958 saw the arrival of the first of the new buses (311-330) - somewhat later than the October 1957 date promised. Likewise 331-350 were delayed to 1959 - arriving in the last couple of weeks of March.  

Anecdotally 331-350 were noisier than the previous batch - as picked up by a couple of Gazette letter writers: "They are cold and draughty, and the seating is very utilitarian and uncomfortable. One point in particular is that while we can have a very expensive material on the interior roof, where normally paintwork would suffice, we have to suffer by reason of economy, I suppose, the lack of insulation-no inside panels on some of these machines. With regard to the noise factor, it appears that the exhaust system may differ from the old vehicles. This seems to be the primary fault."

The 50 rear loaders replaced the pre-war Titans giving a fleet of 150 PD2s (100 Burlingham Centre loaders of 1949-51 completed this), 3 1940 open top Titans and just nine single deckers.  As was the norm the new buses entered services on the busiest routes, such as the 11/11A to Lytham, 14 to Fleetwood and 22/22A Cleveleys to Halfway House. Older buses were cascaded to quieter routes. 

346 was first registered on 25th March 1959. Like its sisters it seated 63 v 52/54 of the post war Streamliners and just 48 on the pre-war ones. All 50 were painted cream with a green band above the lower deck windows and green mudguards. In later life many gained the plain cream livery adopted with the 1969 Swifts and applied to PD2s/PD3s from 1972. 346 was never so treated lasting in the original scheme to the end of service life in March 1975 after 16 years. 

Since 1959, 90 longer 71 seat PD3s had entered service. 20 full fronted similar to the PD2s in 1962, 10 more but with St Helens fronts and asymmetrical windscreens in 1964 then sixty half cabs between 1965 and 1968. These replaced the 100 centre entrance PD2s - plus some trams. To replace the PD2s, Blackpool turned to the one man operated AEC Swift single decker, placing 55 into service from 1969 to 1975. 

346 in slightly faded original cream and green livery poses at reversing bay at Thornton Social Club, terminus of the 14A (FTT Collection)

The 50 PD2s had a split future after withdrawal. Some went for scrap, others saw use with new operators while some had an ancilliary role. This included 334 and 337 which were used by the tram track gang as mess buses from 1975 to 1986/7 in a vivid orange livery, while 346 also went bright, painted all-over yellow and was used by the Council's Illuminations department as a mess bus, replacing older 310. It was last so used in 1982, and by 1985 was windowless having suffered a vandal attack at the Illuminations department yard. It was purchased by what became the St Helens Transport Museum and moved to Burtonwood in December 1985, then St Helens itself soon after when the new museum opened in the town's old bus depot. It was reglazed using parts from 334 which was broken for spares.

346 was kept on display in yellow for several years before moving into the museums workshops, but work did not commence. A collection review saw it purchased by the Lancastrian Transport Trust (now Fylde Transport Trust) in August 2005, it returned to Blackpool on 10th December. After some time in store, restoration commenced in 2014 and has progressed in stages. After a recent hiatus work has resumed and the bus was moved to St Helens (this time to the bus depot which replaced the one which became the museum) on 20th March.