SCT'61 Articles
The Rise and Fall of Bradford Trolleybuses in 1961 by Stuart Emmett

In 1961 Bradford, a pioneer of UK trolleybuses, was still enjoying the magical 11-year management of its General Manager, Chaceley Humpidge. The fleet stood at 193 of the quiet beauties and in June 1961, the Trolleybus Golden Jubilee was celebrated with a special tour on the 24th June that used three special trolleybuses.

The first was 603, a 1934 AEC with a 1947 Northern Coachbuilders (NCB) body and especially repainted in a representation of the 1911 livery.

603 in the 1911 look-a-like livery at Laisterdyke on the Tour
Photo © David Mitchell.

In April 1962, 603 went on to complete over 1 million miles in service, and was then, finally, withdrawn in June 1962.

Used in normal service until June 1962, 603 is passing Thornbury depot and main works on route 89. In the yard is Bradford’s last tram number 104 that was preserved by the Transport Department and currently resides in The Industrial Museum in Bradford © Travel Lens Photographic

 

The second tour bus was 687, a Karrier/Weymann (from 1939 but rebuilt by Samlesbury in 1951). 687 was repainted in its original pre-war livery which it retained until May 1962 when it was withdrawn.

687 in original pre-war livery for the 1961 Jubilee descending the 1 in 9.8 Church Bank into Forster Square. Photo © David Mitchell.

 

The third one was 787, an ex 1944 Darlington Karrier single decker bought in 1957 and rebodied before entering service in 1958 as a double-decker with a front entrance East Lancashire Coachbuilders 29-foot body. Bradford eventually bought all the Darlington fleet but not all were re-bodied with many being used for spares. It was selected for the tour as it was from the newest batch of trolleybuses to enter service and went on to give another 11 years’ service. 

793 sister of 787, seen here in 1971 at Thackley inbound from Saltaire on the 40. Photo © Paul Haywood

 

787 was the trolley that I rode on in the Tour, unfortunately, memory blurs on the full route, but it started on Well Street in the city centre and did visit the 33 Eccleshill Faltis Square terminus along with Laisterdyke (site of the first trolley in 1911) and Holme Wood estate (the last route extension opened on the 6th March 1960). Additionally, it also went to Manningham Lane for the Park Gates and the Nab Wood short workings.

603 on the Jubilee Tour on The Bank at Eccleshill. The terminus at Faltis Square is just above the roof of the van in front and with views down to the Aire valley towards Leeds and up to Yeadon on the horizon. Source Unknown

Comments on this 1959 route extension by J.S King in his book Bradford Corporation Trolleybuses (1994) are well made:

“Meanwhile the remarkable extension of the Eccleshill route into the Thorpe Edge housing estate via The Bank had opened on August 9th, 1959. In narrow Stony Lane bracket-arm suspension emphasised the old-world village atmosphere; at the 'Monkey Bridge' (formerly housing the village 'lockup') a blind corner on an unfavourable camber led to Victoria Road, from which the aptly-named Bank fell steeply away on a 1-in-8 gradient to the Faltis Square terminus. Very properly, the overhead line was planned and constructed with the utmost precision, as de-wirements would have left vehicles wholly dependent on their handbrakes. Strict speed limits were imposed; drivers were ordered to halt before descending the Bank, and the original terminus was retained for winter emergencies. It was, therefore, a tribute to the resilience of trolleybuses that the first passenger-carrying vehicle was 20-year old No. 675, (rebodied in 1956) whose 80 h.p. motor surmounted the fearsome gradient with quiet determination”.

603, 687 and 787 awaiting departure from Faltis Square at Eccleshill, all have their poles down to allow the service bus, an East Lancashire bodied Bradford standard, to pass. Source Unknown
All three Jubilee tour trolleys with 687 taking centre stage are parked at Laisterdyke on the original 1911 route (later route 34) having already been to Eccleshill (33) Photo © Stuart Emmett

All seemed to be, superficially, boding well for the Bradford trolleybus in early 1961, indeed the Bradford City Transport Trolleybus Golden Jubilee commemorative booklet also noted:

“The system is now very comprehensive and covers 47·5 route miles.

Trolleybuses have been most successful in Bradford as the City is an ideal one for trolleybus operation, with steep gradients on nearly every route. Since the tax was levied on motor fuel, trolleybuses have been cheaper to run per mile than motorbuses and have returned good net profits.

New vehicles have been added from time to time and the fleet, which commenced with two, now consists of 193 two-axle double-deck vehicles. Opportunity has been taken of purchasing second-hand vehicles at cheap rates from other undertakings; sometimes the complete vehicles, sometimes the chassis only, new 8 ft. widebodies being mounted on the old chassis. Thus, in Bradford, one sees trolley buses running about with the registration marks of Derbyshire, South Wales, Darlington, Brighton, Hastings, St. Helens and Grimsby”.

Bold words indeed, however, no trolleybuses from Grimsby were running in Bradford, for these had been stored since 1960 and were then scrapped in late 1962.

After 1961, the decline in the system and the slow death started, and soon after the June Jubilee, the pro trolleybus GM, Chacelley Humpidge, moved onto a new job in Sheffield.

1961 was to be the watershed year, going from 193 trolleys down to 20 in August 1971; a reduction to approx. 10% of trolleybuses in 10 years. It was the last UK system to close in 1972, literally, “the first shall be the last”.

The following shows why Bradford was in 1961 a trolleybus nirvana.


Bradford Trolleys on 33/44 on the 12th July 1961

To illustrate the delightful mix of vehicles used by Bradford’s Thornbury depot, my log for route 33/44 shows that on Wednesday the 12th July 1961 the following four trolleys were on the main 15-minute frequency.

NCB (611), on 33/44 from Eccleshill for St. Enochs Road Top in Forster Square and will soon turn left onto Broadway. It has just come past the City pick up the point of routes 24 to 27, the Manningham Lane routes. Following behind is a splendid battery-powered van from Brown Muffs, a department store in Bradford. The van is likely on transfer duty from the Brown Muff depository to the nearby store on Market Street that ran parallel with Broadway. Source Unknown

624 AAK426 was an AEC 661T new in 1935 and rebodied in 1947 by Northern Coachbuilders (NCB). It had just a year to go before withdrawal on 31st July 1962. These NCB vehicles (and their sister bodied AEC Regent III’s EKY’s 524-543) were amongst my favourites and similar trolleys also went to South Shields, Newcastle and Maidstone. Called “Newcastle’s” by some Bradford drivers, they had a distinctive and unusual small tapered rear emergency exit window, which was said to have been styled after the standard London Transport 6-wheeler trollies that NCB had rebodied during the war.

 

651 waits on Tyrrell Street before departing for Buttershaw, a 1956 extension from the 44 St. Enochs Road Top. Source Unknown

651 CAK651 was a sister vehicle to 654, (the first trolley in 1957 on the through 33/44 route from Eccleshill to St. Enochs Road Top), and to 675, the first one in 1959 to the Faltis Square extension in Eccleshill. These three buses had come from the large intake of numbered 634 to 676 of AEC 661T’s that were new in 1937 to 1939 and had English Electric H56R bodies. 651, 654 and 675 were in a batch of ten rebodied by East Lancashire in June 1956.

 

802 in Forster Square and in the short lived experimental livery; as also were St Helens BUT’s 797,799 and the Hastings Sunbeam/ Weymann 815; however, 622, an AEC 661T NCB rebody, was repainted to only above the lower deck windows, and was therefore in a half and half livery. Source Unknown

802 HUF49 a BUT 9611T new in 1948 with a lovely Weymann body came from Brighton in April 1959 (reportedly it cost £250, about £5000 today); it entered service with revised route indicators, was up seated from 56 to 59, and had an experimental livery with deeper blue and reduced cream relief. This experimental repainting was not a success and soon reverted to the normal livery in November 1960. 802 and its twin in Bradford 803, also had the unusual Brighton specified “Alhambrinal” interior decorative roof panelling. 802 was withdrawn in June 1963 after an accident but was not disposed of for scrap, until April 1965. It was rumoured 802 and 803 were kept back as candidates for rebodying.

 

815 was also in the experimental livery, runs down into the City Centre bound for Eccleshill from St. Enochs Road Top. It is passing Chester Street bus station, with a rare West Yorkshire Roe rebodied Bristol K. Source Unknown

814 BDY820 a Sunbeam new in 1948 with, again that nice Weymann body and had come up from Hastings (Maidstone & District) along with sister 815 and ten with Park Royal bodies (804 to 813). All entered service with revised route indicators, and 814/815 quickly entered service in 1959. However, the last of the 12 to enter service was not until the 2nd June 1961, this being Park Royal bodied 810 which had needed, but had an unhurried, renovation. Meanwhile despite initial plans for modernisation and rebodying of all the BDYs, 814, was to succumb after just 4 years and one month’s service in October 1963.

 


I also noted on the 12th July 1961, the following trolleybuses on the 33 City only peaks. These operated for example, from Monday to Friday from City between 0810 to 0840, 1155 to 1355 and 1610 to 1810 hours and on Saturday from 1125 to 1810 hours.

Utility Brush re-bodied AEC 600 KY8203 on Union Street for Bierley Church, a peak hour only service. It is passing AEC Regent 534 EKU534 with NCB body. © Travel Lens Photographic

617 KY8220 AEC 661T from 1935 and with a 1947 NCB body like 624 on all day service. withdrawn in June 1962 it was scheduled for the local company Autospares, who had scrap yard at nearby Bingley. Nine sister KYs were the first Bradford re-bodied trolleys when in 1944 they were fitted with Brush utility bodies, followed by six with NCB Mark 1 utility bodies in 1946.

 

Utility NCB re-bodied AEC 614 KY8217 with poles down awaiting rescue whilst working the 44 to St Enochs Road Top.
Photo © John Kaye.
 

 

Here is another NCB 625 on the 89 from Thornbury, complete with one of Bradford "dark satanic mills" on Union Street. Fortunately, those buildings not demolished in the 1960’s rebuilding were cleaned to reveal the original Yorkshire sand coloured stone work. Photo © John Kaye

629 AAK431 another NCB and sister of 624 that was on an all-day working; 629 having just over a year to go before withdrawal on 30th November 1962.

 

718 at the top of St. Enochs Road and soon to be turning left on 46 to Buttershaw. Source Unknown

718 DKY718 was a Karrier W new in December 1945 with a Park Royal utility body and were one of 10 rebodied by East Lancs with rear entrance bodies; 718 being reborn in November 1957 and was from the last order for rear entrance rebodies. The subsequent 27 rebodied DKY’s were all front entrance and came from the large batch of 37 trolleys, numbered 703 to 739, with 736 being the first to re-enter service in February 1959.

 

Llanelli 776 on 45 to Wibsey near to the top of St. Enochs Road Source Unknown

782 CBX912 was another Karrier W new in March 1946 to Llanelli & District (later to be South Wales Transport) and one of a batch of 10 chassis bought in 1952; all were rebodied before entering service as 775 to 784 in February/March 1956 with, you’ve guessed it, the “Bradford Standard” East Lancs rear entrance body. It was one the last three from the batch of 10, to be withdrawn in June 1971, when the three finished up going, on the 20 August 1971, for scrap to Autospares, Bingley

 

Jo'burg 697 at Saltaire before being re-bodied in 1955
Source Unknown

697 DKW997 also appeared with “L” plates and was from a batch of 25 Sunbeams that were built with Weymann utility 8-foot bodies for Johannesburg in South Africa. Diverted due to the wartime conditions, Bradford got 10 in 1942 (and numbered then 693 to 702); St. Helens got 10 and Nottingham 5. Because of their width, they were given special permission to run in the UK and in Bradford, this meant being restricted to Saltaire depot (on routes 24 City to Crossflatts or shorts as, 26 Bingley, 25 Saltaire or Nab Wood and 27 Frizinghall). They ran from 1942 to 1953 and were the first to receive Bradford’s newer lighter blue livery, for which some observers have noted, may have been inspired by the six Southend on Sea 1939 built trolleys that were hired in September 1940 to February 1942.

Rebodied Jo’burg 701 at Duckworth Lane depot was a unique bus with its central destination indicator. The rear entrance was designed for doors, but only 701 was fitted with a folding two-piece door. This however proved too slow in operational service and it was finally removed in 1962. The 10 rebodied Joburg’s re-entered service in the first week of January 1956 and had formica, stainless steel seats with blue leather trimming replacing the traditional brown polished woodwork and brown leather faced seats and lining panels. Source Unknown

This new lighter blue livery was then retained until the system closure in 1972, with the earlier darker blue livery being replicated on the Jubilee repainted 687, mentioned earlier. Meanwhile, in 1955, the Joburg’s went over to Blackburn for new rear entrance bodies from East Lancs and re-entered service in January 1956 and were the first 27 foot trolleys in the fleet. They were part of an order for 30 bodies; these being the 10 Joburgs, the 10 Llanelli’s, (like 782 above), in February/March 1956, and 10 of the AEC BAK/CAK vehicles, (like 651 above) that re-entered service in June 1956. Finally, 697 was withdrawn in February 1967 and in July, was sold with 5 of its sisters for scrap to Hardwick & Jones at Carlton

 

I did well on this one day for my favourites, with the Weymann’s and NCB’s. Also appearing were a mixture of 4 of the 50 East Lancs standards with rear entrances, some with chassis bought new by Bradford and some bought especially for rebodying.

Finally, also in service in 1961, were some original bodied trolleys from Notts & Derby and St Helens.

Ex Notts & Derby BUT/Weymann 769 on the 34 from Bolton Junction on the radial route to Bankfoot, the only route to not go into the city centre.  Source Unknown

Ex Notts & Derby BUT/Weymann 762 and 769. Two of 15, these trollies had varied destination screens, 769 seen here with a conversion to the Bradford standard, others had overpainted N&D screens and one had a squared off version of the Bradford standard. They were all withdrawn between 1962 and 1964.

 

Ex Notts & Derby 762 with overpainted “T” shaped destination screens, passes the Thornbury main works and depot.
© Travel Lens Photographic

 

Ex St Helens 801 in Thornbury depot. Alongside, is ex N&D 772 with squared off indicators. © Travel Lens Photographic

Ex St Helens 801 in Thornbury depot. Eight were bought in 1958 and from 1959, the front roof upper cream was extended above the upper windows.

Before entering service, they were all heavily refurbished by Roe in nearby Leeds (this included work on the rear emergency windows, column strengthening, removal of the front upper deck opening windows and fitting revised indicators). They were withdrawn between 1965 and 1971.

 


With thanks to Travel Lens Photographic for permission to use some pictures. Others are from my own collection and some are also from, so far, untraceable sources.