Second Lives for Blackpool Buses
The sight of seeing superannuated Blackpool Transport buses now bearing Blackpool Council corporate branding busily conveying Council staff to 'hot spots' around the town reminds me of former times when similar usage occurred in Blackpool Corporation Transport days. Disposal of redundant buses would at first be circulated around other departments to check if anyone needed 'an old bus'. In fact the Transport Department itself had a long history of utilising buses past their 'sell by' date in a variety of roles.
The onset of war in 1939 saw at least two buses given entirely new roles : one as mobile gas mask testing vehicle, and the other as a large capacity ambulance. The entire fleet of Leyland PLSC3 rebodied open single deckers were assigned to ARP duties 'for the duration' - all twelve of them (55 - 66). Another famous makeover involved Number 118 - another open bus from 1935. This was given an enclosed van like structure and kitted out with kitchen (including sink) to serve as a mobile canteen for emergency services. It was smartly repainted in the Department's cream and green fleet colours. In the postwar years the whittling down of by then worn out single deck buses saw quite a number of examples given extended lives in a diversity of roles. Two examples were used as static 'Lost Children' shelters on Central and South Promenades during the summer months, complete with uniformed nurse on duty. Another found itself provided with a wooden extending gantry to work on various tasks such as tree/branch cutting, pole painting, overhead tram wire repairs, whilst two similar buses had their rear ends (!) cut away to allow manual salt spreaders to be fitted on the open platforms. Large impressive snow ploughs were affixed at the front end of both vehicles. Yet another example from the same class was internally modified to provide display and counter space as a 'Visitor Information Bureau'. Its roof boasted a model of Blackpool Tower above the driver's cab end, whilst the offside was transformed by installation of an almost full length mural (or photograph) of a busy Blackpool beach and seafront. This was 'Visit Blackpool' in the years of original creative work.
1940 delivery Leyland TS8 with HV Burlingham bodywork (naturally) altered first to a front entrance One Man Operation and finally to the travelling/mobile Visitor Information bureau seen here. Originally Fleet Number 15. Note the stylish model of Blackpool Tower on the roof and the graphic image taking up most of the offside of the vehicle. Image : John Woodman Archive
The Illuminations Department (as it was then) commandeered a rear platform PD2 to provide staff transport and fittings. This bus was given a red band over the lower deck windows replacing Transport Department green - in a fit of territorial pique. Naturally successive generations of buses were assigned the task of providing 'driver training' resources - the practice continues up to the present day.
When pushed, service buses had a temporary red 'L' plate fitted over the front as did the trams which continue this practise up to the present, although the modern versions simply input 'Not in Service' on their destination screens. I believe the red 'L' plate has been used as well, by way of legal requirement.
BCT 300 in its final role as a Permanent Way vehicle doing its duty on the promenade. Image Copyright : John Woodman
Two of the Corporation's famous centre entrance buses were handed over to the tram side of the Transport Department for the exclusive benefit of the Permanent Way Crews - with 'Permanent Way' painted on their destination screens and an all- over green livery to ensure there was no doubt of their new role. This aided their eventual morphing into a preservation age and hopefully eventual resurrection in restored states. Of course none of the above covers the bus preservation sector in a meaningful way and nor does it deal with the diverse uses some Blackpool buses were used for in private hands. Carrying a giraffe; functioning as a control box on a UK motor racing circuit, travelling furniture showrooms, etc. That's for another blog one day.