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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Oh what a lovely ride

Classic buses in service on the promenade - an added Blackpool attraction.

It was a back to the future morning in Blackpool when carless I was tempted to take a bus ride along the promenade and ended up spending a few hours on Catch22 buses. First along was a London Transport RML (Routemaster) en route to Blackpool Zoo - a journey I had never previously sampled so I decided to go the whole way. Inside the bus is a timewarp with London advertising cards still on both decks and the original Park Royal makers badge by the stairwell. Period moquette and windows needing to be wound open made a big change from the normal 'hopper' design bereft of neat little handles. Chrome grab rails were a novelty completing a 1960s feeling as we negotiated our way past Stanley Park after traversing unfamiliar Blackpool roads from the promenade. A good load of visitors found the experience extremely enjoyable on what was a warm sunny morning

The return journey allowed me to change buses on the Promenade and the chance to ride another Catch22 vintage bus; former Blackpool Corporation PD3 516. Now in unusual red and white livery this is one of the company's special hire vehicles popular with wedding parties. Before its arrival yet another veteran from the same company was caught in company with Blackpool Transport's Trident and Flexity tram at the Wedding Chapel stop. Heading north on 516 yet another veteran trundled past in the form of Balloon Car 700 on Driver Training duty - only in Blackpool are transport heritage enthusiasts able to witness such a diversity of veteran vehicles outside of a vintage rallies.

The PD3 was also immaculate inside and out - with the familiar Corporation green floral style moquette dominating both 'saloons'. Familiar in the sense that I am spending some time working on the Trust's trailer - former T7, which still has some of the original period seats of the late 1950s and 1960s. Catch22bus are to be congratulated on their efforts in keeping these iconic buses from an earlier era on the road - and importantly still serving the public in regular service. Truly remarkable. Blackpool Transport are busy reconditioning their last Atlantean so it too can be made available for public display. Its just a pity that other former buses could not be held back to represent travel in previous decades. As things stand the familiar yellow and black Trident style fleet will itself become a memory as the new Palladium livery is introduced on the next generation of Blackpool double deck vehicles in 2016. Hopefully management will find the will to retain one or two examples in the current and earlier Metrolines colours - for inclusion in a future Blackpool Transport Museum.

Balloon 700 from the top deck of PD3 516 - and below - the pristine Blackpool Corporation Transport styling from sixty years ago. Images : John Woodman

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