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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

2 JULY 1921 Blackpool Corporation Tramways Motor Bus Service Begins

One hundred years ago Blackpool's Tramways Department began operating motor buses for the first time. The initial fleet consisted of two diminutive Tilling Stevens petrol electric single deck vehicles needed to provide a shuttle service connecting the railway station at Thornton with the tramroad station at Cleveleys. The route was a condition of the terms agreed to purchase the Blackpool & Fleetwood Tramroad Company at the end of its twenty one year lease franchise. Blackpool's Mayor personally wrote the cheque buying the company and its assets - then turning over the entire entity to Corporation ownership for the same purchase amount in 1920.

Blackpool's Council was deadset against opening further tram routes and grudgingly agreed to the purchase of two buses to provide the legal obligation of a connecting bus service from Thornton to Cleveleys and the tram service to Blackpool (and Fleetwood). On these grounds Blackpool's entry into bus services began - lasting until the present day; still in Council/Corporation ownership - one of a small number of publicly controlled urban transport operations in the UK.

1933 One of Blackpool's new centre entrance double deck buses bodied by English Electric in Preston and see here in the new dark green and cream livery introduced that year. Image : John Woodman Archive

The tram dominated system of the 1920s morphed into a fast expanding bus network during the 1930s. This was fuelled further from 1933 after retirement of Charles Furness from the position of Transport Manager after twenty two years. In his place came a whirlwind of change and initiatives under the direction of his successor, Walter Luff to took charge on January 1st that. Presenting a Five Year Strategy Plan to an amazed Council Luff proceeded to get almost carte blanche in a wholesale makeover of the Transport Department. This was most visibly evident in the annual shoals of streamline new trams and buses, all in the equally radical green and cream branding which replaced the staid red and white colours of the existing bus and tram fleets.

Luff coordinated the new look of the Transport Department from smart offices built at Rigby Road. Over one hundred and 140 new trams would arrive during his years in charge, while the bus fleet was transformed from an eclectic collection of dated designs of the 1920s to a cohesive centre entrance family designed by the local coachbuilder, HV Burlingham, on Preston New Road. A pre-war delivery saw two street tram routes (to Layton and on Central Drive) converted to bus operation - using tranches of Leyland Titan models. Summer services with single deck open buses similarly were given a makeover with early types sold off to be replaced by three different styles - all with centre entrances. The postwar years involved a further contract bringing one hundred more centre entrance double deck buses in two batches (1949 and 1951). These transformed the department's image in the postwar era with some lasting to the late 1960s. And so the story continues in a further Blog.

Above an amazing open summer season bus service to Stanley Park in a 'Gondola' type new bus of 1935 - bodied by HV Burlingham. Below : The postwar scene with two of the streamline deliveries parked next to Rigby Road Workshops. Both : John Woodman Archives

Below : 1933 and 1940 Blackpool Corporation Transport foldout Guides.


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