top of page
  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Wirral Wonderland

Sunday October 2nd proved to be an exceptional day weather wise. Given that Mrs Woodman was enjoying yet another weekend in California I opted to take a drive to Birkenhead to sample the 2016 Wirral Bus & Tram Show. Started in 1998 the Show is a contrasting menage of period buses and trams with emphasis naturally on the Wirral and Merseyside area. Dominant municipal hues were of course Liverpool's crisp dark green and pale cream on both buses and tram, Birkenhead's later pale blue and cream and its dark lake open top tram, and Wallasey's delightful primrose and offwhite? with exceptional lettering on its buses and its 'seagreen' tram. Crossville naturally was well represented given its services outside the main conurbation. There was so much to cram in a few hours that this blog will be in two parts : first the buses and following this - the trams. A U Boat and period cars might even be in further blog.

Remember the 'ovaltiny' children's song on the 'wireless' ? There was a time when it was a very popular bedtime drink - now disappeared into folklore. The resplendent Birkenhead municipal livery is shown off in this view - note the large rear destination blinds which were a feature on this transport fleet.

Contrasts in municipal splendour from the period to the avant garde. Wallasey Corporation Motors in all its glory with two contrasting representative buses in service on the day. Both were kept busy but only a few passengers were allowed to be carried on the pre-war Leyland given its fragility, nonetheless it performed with all the traditional crunching of gears expected of the time.

A groundbreaking bus - Wallasey 1, the first public service Atlantean on the road. Sorry about the shadow - but it captures the municipal coat of arms which was an inspirational aspect of pre-deregulation transport and pre SELNEC's of this world. A time when local transport was controlled , if not owned, and responsible to local authorities and not the private sector with its corporate for-profit underpinning.

The Show offered frequent free bus rides on a mix of heritage buses of all shapes and sizes from Manchester's SELNEC Mancunian to the first Atlantean in public service - Wallasey Number 1. It was a bewildering array of buses pulling up at the principal loading points serving both the Transport Museum and Woodside Ferry as well as a bus display at Canning Street. The buses also went off in different directions to allow more extended rides other than the shuttle between Woodside and the Transport Museum, which was interesting enough. I found this out by

inadvertantly 'hopping' on an ageing front entrance double decker with its Owner patiently providing the driver's role - and instead of aiming for Woodside Ferry I was treated to an extensive drive around the Wirral waterfront and 'docks' with its period bascular bridges, redundant warehouses and industrial buildings and frozen in time dock railway tracks abounding. There were some ships to give the locale authenticity - and certainly we were given a firsthand and closeup look at the once bustling shipyards and port area of the Wirral which otherwise we would never have thought to find - and all this on a period bus for free. A donation bucket was provided into which I made my own contribution - well worth it.

A splendid MCT Crossley with its odd rear door and complete with mid 1930s 'sweep' so beloved by Transport Managers of the period who wanted to be seen to be avant garde in styling and vehicle design. In this case the General Manager was a certain R. Stewart Pilcher.

With both trams and buses mingling in the industrial landscape of Birkenhead's waterfront district - and crowds of enthusiasts enjoying the sunshine and the offering put on by the Organisers it was evident the day was a great success with both buses and trams packed throughout much of the day. One never knew what vehicle would pass by next which was part of the enjoyment of a seemingly random event. Naturally the trade stalls were out en masse housed in the bus and tram depot (and not outside). It was the first time I had attended this annual event and contrasting it of course with the local offer in Fleetwood, I have to say there was definitely a lot more 'transport' on show for enthusiasts. Buses and trams mingled through (and with) the crowds in an amiable way with plenty of helpers on hand to provide information and caution the unwary about oncoming traffic. Crews and staff were extremely friendly and informal - none of the officiousness one finds elsewhere. A large presence with families and all ages helped make the mix of attendance genuinely a public show. I did register complaint at lack of seating and shelter or indeed a proper 'bus stop' with three volunteers manning the departure point for buses outside the Taylor Street museum - a complete scandal ! More to follow:

PS : I can't leave out a representative Liverpool bus from the blog - in this case an immediately recognisable MCW 'Orion' example not dissimilar to the Blackpool buses of the period but with a reversed green and cream livery style of course.

All images by John Woodman

Featured Posts
bottom of page