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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

9A For The Khyber Pass

John Woodman

One of the more amazing tales from the hundred years of Blackpool's bus operation has to be the overland journey made by a retired Burlingham bodied double deck bus - number 298. Built in 1951 at the Burlingham bodywork factory off Preston New Road the bus was one of fifty examples completed that year for Blackpool Corporation Transport Department numbered 251 to 300. The bus was retrieved from a scrap dealer by two students just in time before its dismantling following withdrawal during the late 1960s.

Intended to provide accommodation for the pair plus their girlfriends for an ambitious journey originally intended to reach Australia! Events however transpired for 298 and its intrepid crew to reach Pakistan. Still very much in Corporation green and cream colours the bus attracted attention throughout its colourful journey which took it from France to Italy, what was then Yugoslavia, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan to northern Pakistan. Its travels took it through the deserts of the middle east and along forbidding rock formations which make up the Khyber Pass leading from Afghanistan to the border of Pakistan. Quite a change from Devonshire and Bispham Road used by the 9 Service.

Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that 298 retraced its journey to return to the UK ending up in London with a group of 'backpackers' as fare paying passengers; though no TIM tickets were issued. Regrettably 298 would be finally scrapped after its return, although sister bus 300 has been saved by a Yorkshire enthusiast and in the process of being restored.

Number 298 gained wider publicity locally when it was featured in the local newspaper using the newly installed automatic bus washing plant at the Transport Department's garage on Rigby Road. It was photographed complete with the 9A route on its destination which the writer was personally familiar with in his school days as it daily carried him into town to classes at Blackpool Grammar School - which at that time was the original school premises on Raikes Parade.

The bus retained its distinctive 'vee' grill before later Body Shop tinkering saw the lower half of the grill covered with a solid cream painted metal plate. This did nothing to improve the look of the original design


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