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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Wirral Bus & Tram Show - 3 etc

The Gloriously titled 'SHMD Board' and its constituent parts was represented by Blackpool's only other centre entrance bus operator in the Northwest - and a classic survivor. Lacking the distinction of the HV Burlingham design for Blackpool SHMD's small fleet were very workmanlike - as indeed they should be for their area.

Quite apart from the superlatives droning on about the period buses and restored trams on show (and in service) on October 2nd in Birkenhead there were other aspects to the event which caught my attention.

First of all what tram heritage line ends within sight of a German U Boat? Only in Birkenhead it seems. A surviving wreck was recovered from its resting place at the end of WWII and for many years lay forlornly amid dockside dereliction on the Wirral. Retrieved from this ignominous setting its remains (in two sections) have been deposited next to the Woodside Ferry terminal building to form an exhibit in its own right. I can recall one other waterfront location where a submarine featured next to a heritage tramway and this was the shortlived Philadelphia trolleyline with a US submarine (I think) in which I was encouraged to visit. I also rode that line which used a former dockside railway reserved track to run up and down with the 'trams' stored on one of the many piers/wharfs. There were some wonderful 'Red Arrow' suburban cars and two old Philadelphia city cars in tourist service, but it closed quite a few years ago.

Anyway U 534 is now the subject of a fascinating closeup display at Woodside, making up for the loss of the restored Douglas horse tram which once occupied a central position in the ferry terminal building. Where did that one go I wonder?

The Builder's plate off U 534 built in Hamburg which entered 'service' in 1942. Liverpool also had some of its initial tram fleet built in Hamburg - two types of single deck cars nicknamed 'Chinese railway' because of their exotic pagoda roof and large picture windows, and 'Ringbahn' cars - don't ask me about that one.

The Wirral Show provided its own display of period cars of diverse makes and vintages adjoining the Terminal and tram loading point. Proud owners of the diverse marques clustered around their charges, usually in a somnolent posture - the Owners not the cars. Several unusual vehicles caught my attention. What with trams clanging and squealing their way around the many tight curves leading into the Woodside terminal loop, and the roar of vintage buses fully laden passing by it was very difficult to know which way to turn next, or to focus. A Mersey Ferry in wartime 'dazzle' paint job cruised by, just to add a nautical contribution to the scene. A long way from the Knott End Ferry which could take a lesson in paint jobs and a more creative approach to its appearance perhaps?

Left and below : Morris pre-war models with their proud Oxford crest on the radiator frame.

Two sites were set aside for bus and commercial vehicle displays. Not too many of the commercial vehicles present but it was an event for the real stars of course. A military reenactment from WWII period with vehicles, camouflage netting and serious looking men standing around was a further attraction. Perhaps it was just as well this contribution to the event was kept apart from the U Boat display. All in all a great transport show in the northwest in a concentrated area making the impact even greater for visitors as different types of older buses kept appearing in diverse directions and on tours. And of course a frequent service of the trams. It will be a calendar event next year worth attending again.

Upper class motoring with panache.

A ground breaking bus design for its time. Manchester (sorry SELNEC) classic double deck example from the 1960s introduced by Ralph Bennett, formerly Manager at Bolton where he similarly commissioned a better styling for that town's famous municipal system, subsequently moving on to do the same for Manchester. Outside Taylor Street Depot bus stop - what else!

Closeup of the driving end of an old Wallasey bus (106) awaiting its chance to shine again .

Below : An unusual exhibit. Wartime utility Bedford OWB which was a long familiar sight on Britain's roads in the late 1940s and up to the mid 1950s when things got a lot better. A Northern Ireland registration methinks?

One of many interesting buses from yesteryear on display, plus quite a few others providing free rides for visitors to the event. A delightful Birkenhead single decker being one of those in service. The destination feature oddly reminiscent of the treatment given to Centenary Cars 641 and 642 in Blackpool !

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