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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Electric Buses - Built in Blackpool

Whilst Blackpool's Transport Department evaded (or avoided) the operation of trolleybuses it was in fact seriously considered during the 1930s and 1940s. Ironically on both occasions the debate evolved around replacement of Marton's street running tramway. Walter Luff provided a budget breakdown for trolleybuses in his wartime report to Council on the future demands on bus and tram services. This envisaged a fleet of trolleybuses based in Marton Tram Depot and more or less providing the same service as the trams from the town centre to South Shore.

The option was not taken up and instead approval given to new silent running trams and relaid track on the entire Martin tramway in the postwar years. A misleading attempt to persuade the Council that the contract for 25 postwar trams built by Charles Roberts Company in fact was intended to replace the Standard cars which operated the Marton tram service - was caught out by the midnight trial run of one of the newly delivered 'Coronation' class. This clever demonstration was carried out when the town centre streets were clear of parked vehicles otherwise the eight feet width and overhang of the Coronations would not have even managed to reach St John's Church from Talbot Square. A further problem was to be found at Waterloo Road railway bridge over which the Coronation car would have stalled. Luff arranged the demonstration run to terminate at Marton Depot avoiding this

particular insurmountable barrier. Thus the large contract was assigned exclusively to the reserved track promenade service (with street running only in Fleetwood).

With expectations high on the part of both the Council and Marton residents for new trams and quieter operation following relaying of the tramway - a smart move was upgrading the 1939 'Sun Saloon' models (10 - 21) with comfortable new seating and Vambac controls as well as resilient wheel bogies from Maley and Taunton. Experiments with rail coach 208 and Brush car 303 paved the way for this solution to be quickly and economically implemented.

In the meantime trolleybus contracts were won by HV Burlingham from four diverse operators in the aftermath of the war years. Portsmouth Corporation purchasing models with similar roof line profiles and styling to Blackpool's postwar deliveries (201 - 300). Glasgow Corporation opted to buy a series of single deck examples to the same design as Burlingham's then new product. At 35 long they were used on a tram replacement service in that city. Manchester placed a large contract for double deck trolleybuses from the Blackpool firm, whilst Reading Corporation somewhat late in the day purchased front entrance models, several of which were then sold on to Teeside Railless systems after Reading decided to do away entirely with trolleybuses in the 1960s.

Ironically the only trolleybus to actually operate in Blackpool was from France - on demonstration over a weekend for a transport exhibition. Overhead wiring was erected along Blundell Street from Hopton Road to permit demonstration running under wire, but the bus was capable of dual purpose operation using battery power. But for the record all electric buses were built in Blackpool for four UK operators with preserved examples at the excellent Sandtoft Trolleybus Museum, the East Anglia Transport Museum, and also in Glasgow's Museum of Transport.

A UK tram operator which also had trolleybus services - Glasgow Corporation. Here is one of its exclusive single deckers built in Blackpool awaiting delivery.


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