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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Open Top Launch

Blackpool's fascinating history of open top trams is recorded at length in print and online. Less well known are the rubber tyre versions which traversed inland services to Stanley Park - and some of the routes on the Promenade. From the diminutive Shelvoke & Drewry quartet of 1926, and subsequent Freighters for the same service - the Transport Department aspired to streamline designs in the

1930s. The famous 'Gondola' buses of 1935 being the most well remembered (113-118). Twelve Leyland PLSC single deck buses (55-66) received smart new open bodies by Roe in 1938 and even smarter Leyland 'Cheetahs' arrived in 1939 (19-24).

The (first)* open top double deck buses were a trio of 1940 Leyland TD5 (26-28) vehicles treated to a smart conversion for a planned 'Circular Tour' which never eventualised due to legal obstacles barring the Transport Department from running bus tours (but with absolutely no barrier to trams of course). Details of the early open buses and services can be found in newly published 'Blackpool Tramways Motor Buses 1921 - 1932' now available from Rigby Road Publications. *Ironically Blackpool's very first double deck bus was open top Number 3 in 1922.

Following de-regulation and the creation of BTS Ltd. (still owned by Blackpool Council) in 1986 - such restrictions were thrown out of the window. Blackpool's promenade was witness to a diversity of vehicles and some especially weird open top double deck conversions by the former Lytham St Annes operation - now 'Fylde Bus' or 'Blue Bus' until that was finally acquired by BTS. Some of their vehicles were subsumed into the Blackpool Transport Fleet example below - 454).

BTS would get round to running an open top Sightseeing Service with intermittent results during the management years of Steve Burd. 'Metro Coastlines' branding then very much in vogue :

The most recent open top creation was launched this past weekend at 'Tram Sunday' with BTS 857 rebranded from its earlier 2009 'Sightseeing Blackpool' condition. Attractively treated to a traditional green and cream paint scheme complete with the new BTS logo. 857 provides the Festival commentary platform awaiting both crowds to arrive and the sun to shine prior to this year's event. Images courtesy Tony Armitage.

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