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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Blackpool's classic buses

There was a time when the bus side of Blackpool Corporation Transport was just as distinctive and unique (in the UK) as the trams. The advent of Walter Luff from the West Riding job in 1933 brought a fixation for centre entrance vehicles - this was translated into a wholesale fleet renewal and expansion programme through the rest of that decade and into the early 1950s. Not only was centre entrance passenger flow mandatory for new tram and bus purchases but the bodywork styling had also to fit in with a particular preference and conforming livery detail.

The tram side is well known and still in evidence today through the not inconsiderable number of preserved tramcars from the Walter Luff era. The buses have however been more or less ignored, with the consequence that only one single decker is still preserved from the pre-war period out of over one hundred centre entrance units, most of which were double deck vehicles. A further hundred double deck buses (all built in Blackpool) followed in the postwar period out of which two examples have fortunately survived. These followed the same pre-war design.

The model built at Rigby Road Works by Apprentices in 1946 of a then standard Blackpool Corporation bus with full internal detail. Still preserved at the BTS offices. Of the postwar delivery (201 - 300) again all built by local coachbuilder HV Burlingham, two examples still survive fortunately.

Number 246 was acquired from a Bolton scrap dealer by the Lancastrian Transport Trust. It resides under cover in the garage of Catch22Bus Ltd - awaiting a serious initiative to tackle its restoration. Number 300 was acquired after withdrawal in its later years as one of two Permanent Way vehicles assigned to transport the track 'gang' to points along the tramroad requiring attention. Number 298 was almost preserved following an epic journey to Pakistan (and back) in the early 1970s. The pre-war single deck Leyland TS7, also of course built by HV Burlingham, was one of two examples modified in the mid 1950s for use as snow ploughs and grit spreaders. Both were purchased by garage owner David Ellor on withdrawal - and used to tow other Blackpool buses to scrapyards in Yorkshire! Number 7 was subsequently acquired from David by an enthusiast who has maintained it in operating state in its latter modified condition (more or less). It resides in the south of England.

Number 300 is now undergoing a painstaking restoration to running order through the efforts of its Owner and deserving of wider support from the heritage sector locally in Blackpool. An online Facebook page provides frequent updates of progress and details of the work involved. No easy task for one person to tackle. Together with 246 these two locally built (and operated) classic Blackpool buses are the sole examples of the streamlined designs favoured in the 1930s which came to epitomise Blackpool Corporation Transport over nearly four decades. Anyone with interest in supporting both 246 and 300 restoration should contact the Author. The duo are well worth recognition and practical help in bringing them back to display condition as Blackpool designed and built products.

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