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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

And Now For Something Completely Different

My travels this weekend brought me to Sandtoft in northeast Lincolnshire. I finally had the chance to ride on a British trolleybus at the excellent museum tucked away near the M62. There are just three places where you can actually see trolleybuses meandering past in the UK : Sandtoft which is exclusive to the trolleybus enthusiasts, Carlton Colville with its own excellent collection on a working line which intermingles with trams; and at the Black Country Museum similarly operating examples from the Midlands along with old trams. I believe that the Beamish Museum may be planning for a trolleybus route into the planned 1950s townscape but with only one Newcastle example to hand (at present).

Sandtoft had one of its special running days which coincided with a journey to Crich so I made the effort to visit for the very first time and was glad I did. A selection of typical vehicles from several systems : South Shields, Bournemouth, Nottingham and Reading provided journeys around the loop 'line' which circumnavigates the compact site and large hangars housing many more examples. What struck me immediately was just how bloody quiet these electric powered vehicles actually are - with very little external sound as they move past you - just a slight swish from the overhead wires as the trolleypoles negotiate intricate junctions and curves. A far cry from the crash, screeching and clatter of Blackpool trams (new and old) on steel rail.

It was a celebration of Bournemouth's classic system which was the subject of the open day this holiday weekend - with a veteran on static display and one of the final 1960s type in service for visitors. The quite immaculate yellow livery with deep maroon and green line out complete with municipal coat of arms was very compelling and nostalgic, alongside an equally ornate 1930s South Shields veteran (the only example from that system) restored by painstaking labour of dedicated enthusiasts and its benefactor - over many years.

Immaculate lined out livery on an earlier veteran with prophetic destination in wooden tram type destination box. Below : admirers of a later example operating yesterday.

Inside the top deck of the Bournemouth trolleybus. This system perservered with dual entrance double deckers - note the front staircase and neat interior finish (by Burlingham).

The museum had quite a number of diverse 'foreign' examples parked around the site from France, Germany, Canada (and possibly elsewhere!). A Burlingham bodied trolleybus from the Manchester system was noteworthy - one of a large batch built in Blackpool in the late 1950s I believe. Burlingham built trolleybuses during that decade for four municipal operators : Manchester, Portsmouth, Glasgow and Reading. I had already seen closeup the Glasgow preserved single decker in that city's excellent transport museum some years back and even caught them in service in the waning years of the trams.

A few souvenir images from this weekend foray into a whole different era of electric traction in Britain, perhaps one which may soon return.

Left : Front of a French postway Vectra type and

Right unmistakeably Burlingham built example for Manchester.

and below :

Fabulous restoration of this South Shields example - providing stellar service at Sandtoft this weekend. Below : a general view of the busy main area of operation with variable turning circles and overhead marvels. The Museum's collection in the hangars on the left.

Below : Aachen 22 a rare one and a half decker trolleybus which ran in that city until saved for the UK collection at Sandtoft. Very utilitarian internal seating and features along with strict German signage on the doors and exterior panels (to follow)! All images by the Author on May 25 2019 and congratulations to the enthusiasts keeping the trolleybus era alive in Britain. Well worth the visit.


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