Electric Buses Heading Our Way
Blackpool has tinkered with the potential operation of trolleybuses when the issue of replacing Marton's trams arose in the late 1930s and subsequently in the immediate aftermath of World War Two. In both cases the issue was caused by deteriorating condition of the Marton tramway track - which was subjected to high frequency service year round with frequent stops and many curves along much of the route. A costed budget for the use of trolleybuses was submitted in the 1940s together with use of Marton tram depot for stabling replacement electric vehicles.
Upgraded trams with modernised control systems (VAMBAC) and new resilient wheel bogies won out - at least for a transient decade or so up to 1962.
In the 1980s an industry conference at the then Pembroke Hotel saw demonstration of a trolleybus capable of battery power operation in addition to the familiar overhead power wiring. In this unique demonstration a stretch of trolleybus dual wires were added to the existing tram wiring along Blundell Street and alongside the Engineering Shop. A sample vehicle was transported from the Nancy transport system as a demonstrator and paraded alongside Blackpool's newest one man operated double deck tram - for the media. It later went on the promenade to be shown off at the conference hotel. Shades of the prototype English Electric rail coach in 1933.
Technology has come a long way since the 1980s and is evolving even more quickly as far as trams and electric powered buses are concerned. Wireless systems are already being introduced in the West Midlands for the latest street running extensions and considered elsewhere. Blackpool has yet to engage with this mode on its existing tram service but no doubt consideration will arise on the potential light rail links to St Annes, Poulton and even Victoria Hospital. News of the planned demolition of the Wilko site in March/April next year will of course see erection of overhead wiring along this short stretch of Talbot Road in the forseeable future.
However it is the bus fleet which is likely to adapt and adopt electric power for a new generation of vehicles - turning the clock back to 1921 when petrol electric power with batteries inaugurated Blackpool's first motor buses on the service linking Thornton Railway Station with Cleveleys Tramroad Station. BTS forward planning anticipates the town becoming 'all electric' as far as bus operation is concerned - or at least the bulk of the fleet. Another advance for the company in its pursuit of excellence as a hands on operator delivering both quality and environmentally friendly services along the Fylde coast.
Back to the Future. Blackpool's first bus shuttling between Thornton and Cleveleys from 1921. Note the red ruby quarter lights to the same pattern as the new 'Standard' double deck trams being introduced from 1921. Image : John Woodman Archive