Given the headlines from Syria and tragedies being played out on this country and its neighbours it is all the more remarkable to recall the intrepid journey of Blackpool Corporation Transport bus number 298 which made its way across the troubled region of the middle east in the early Seventies.
Number 298 was built by HV Burlingham at their Preston New Road factory in 1951 as one of fifty new buses delivered to Blackpool that year. They followed an earlier tranche of fifty which arrived in 1949 (201 to 250). This wholescale vehicle contract set the seal on a further fifteen years of centre entrance buses being the main feature of Blackpool's bus routes. Centre entrance operation began in 1933 very quickly following the arrival of Walter Luff who was fixated on this type of passenger flow and mandated its style in every bodywork contract for both buses and trams during his reign as General Manager - up to 1954.
A forthcoming title ' Blackpool's Desert Bus' by Robert Elves who was the leading organiser of the overland journey from England - and responsible with some friends for the purchase of 298 from a Yorkshire Dealer - will cover this remarkable story in some detail.
However Number 298 providentially was selected to provide the test vehicle for press coverage of the new Rigby Road Bus Washing equipment introduced by Joe Franklin after he took over from Walter Luff. A pristine bus is posed emerging through the newly installed equipment, with hardly any dirt or distracting dust to disfigure its bodywork. This was its first claim to fame. There were no bus washing systems available in Syria, Iraq or Iran - nor Afghanistan or Pakistan so the Corporation green and cream naturally was far from the level of appearance required by BCT. On the other hand 298 managed to travel to some pretty exotic (and now very dangerous) places on the map of the world - something quite impossible forty odd years on. A long way indeed from its familiar journey into Talbot Road Bus Station from Cleveleys via Bispham on the 9A Service. The 9B covered the same route but traversed All Hallows Road as it passed through Bispham whereas the 9A used Devonshire Road.
Not quite Stanley Park. 298 under the shade of some exotic trees en route through Turkey to Syria. It regained its original green livery under its new Owners before heading east from Dover to Karachi. Photo copyright Robert Elves. One of many images from 'Blackpool's Desert Bus' to be published 2016 by Rigby Road Publications