The day in 1961 when the Bradford trolleybuses stopped working equals an examination of the motorbus fleet in 1961

In the early evening of Thursday the 8th June 1961, I noticed a motorbus was operating on the trolleybus route that went past our Eccleshill home. We lived alongside the 33 Eccleshill/City/44 St Enochs Road Top route and normally had four trolleys operating a 15-minute headway. But that night, motorbuses were operating.
Something clearly had gone wrong, so, when the "unexpected" motorbuses kept coming, I jumped on my bike to see what was going on at Bolton Junction, about a mile away. Here the 33/44 route joined with the trolleybus routes 40 from Saltaire and the 42 from Greengates. At Bolton Junction, they then went down Bolton Road to the City.
However, when I got to the nearby Bolton Junction, at around 19:25 hours, routes 40 and 42 both had trolleys working outbound from City. Crikey what was going on? But then, at 19:30 hours inbound came a motorbus from Greengates on the 42!
So perhaps these other trolleybus routes had also been out?
Also at Bolton Junction was the terminus of the trolleybus radial route 34 to Bankfoot that ran over the UK's first trolleybus route from Laisterdyke to Dudley Hill in 1911. There on the 34, a trolleybus was ready to leave the terminus.
So, I quickly made my way back home and watched developments on the 33/44. The first motor bus I had seen was at 18:55 hours and this bus returned the 19:55 hours departure, as indeed did the another three up to the 20:40 hour departure. Then, with the 20:55 hour departure, we were back to the trolleybus. Situation now normal!
What went wrong I never found out, but as did not see any "run out of lecky" standing/stranded trolleybuses; I therefore always suspected it was a planned event scheduled for just after the evening peak?
So for the record, on the 8th June 1961, we had, the following 4 intruding motorbuses, on the 33/44. They are shown in their running order for that evening. Additionally they give a nice overview of the Bradford motorbus fleet in June 1961:
38 FKY 38 from the batch 1-40 (FKY) that were new in 1949/1950 AEC Regent III 9612E, with gorgeous 4 bay Weymann H56R, latterly H59R, bodies. Bradford also had 8 similar (FKU registered) trolleybuses from 1950/1951 with 5 bays bodies, along with second hand 7'6" wide Weymann trolleybuses from Notts & Derby, Hastings and Brighton. It would be great if someone could do a definitive history of these Weymann beauties.
38 had entered service in March 1950 and was one of the last of the batch to be withdrawn in October 1968.
From this 40 bus batch, 1 to 20 were initially allocated to Horton Bank Top where they stayed for over 20 years working principally on the Great Horton Road routes into the large 1950's Buttershaw council estate and up to Queensbury, that in 1961 was the largest highest populated village in the UK. However, after the post 1974 boundary changes it was no longer such, but the new Queensbury ward still had several hamlets with great, names like Catherine Slack, Hunger Hill, Mountain, Old Dolphin, and Scarlet Heights!
21 to 40 initially started out at Thornbury depot (for the Stanningley and Leeds routes) and also at Ludlam Street, where they could appear on any route.
Sadly, most of this batch was scrapped between 1963 and 1969, although number 10 was held back in 1969 to be a training/learner bus numbered 069, but this was not proceeded with; however, number 7 however was successful as it served as a training/learning bus numbered 066 from 1970 to 1972 when, with 069, was scrapped.
They were the best Bradford motorbuses ever for me, and later on in 1967 to 1969, I used to ride on them 4 times a day (joy oh joy) to/from Queensbury.

22 is outbound for Queensbury, note the "innovative" via indicator board (Stuart Emmett collection)

Meanwhile back to the plot, as there are still some buses to go. The next was another real beauty:
539 EKU 539 came from the batch 524 to 543 (EKU) that were new in 1947/1948, AEC Regent III 09611's, with very lovely NCB H59R bodies that were re-seated in 1956/57 to H57R.
539 had entered service on the 5th March 1948 and destined to be withdrawn on the 30th April 1963. The whole batch apart from two went for scrap between 1960 and 1963 with 541 and 543 finding new work in the service fleet from 1961 as a grit wagon and pole painter's wagon respectively. These were finally withdrawn in 1973 and 1972 respectively; when after their extra 10 year lease of life, they, like the others went for scrap.
Very good looking motorbuses buses and paralleled in Bradford's trolleybus fleet with 27 NCB re-bodied 1934 KY/1935 AAK registered AEC's that had re-entered service from 1946 to 1949. Some of the trolleybuses served up to 1962 and number 603, an AEC (1934) with a 1947 Northern Coachbuilders (NCB) body was especially repainted in a representation of the 1911 livery. 603 went on to complete over 1 million miles in service in April 1962, and was finally, withdrawn in June 1962.

525 on Union Street outbound for Bierley (Stuart Emmett collection)

408 HLW 155 from the batch numbered 401 to 425 (HLW and HLX registered) were 1947 AEC RT 09610/1's ex London Transport with either Park Royal, Weymann or Saunders H56R bodies. They were bought in 1958 when Bradford Corporation Transport had a problem, as it was still running many utility double deckers. Clearly the cost of re-certifying them was looked at and instead, a decision was eventually taken to buy, from the dealers Birds in Stratford on Avon, 25x1947 London RT's, with the utilities going to Birds in a part exchange plus cash deal.
Bradford did have a "full" history of using second hand trolleybuses, but apart from the purchases of ex demonstrators, these RT's were the first major second hand bus purchases.
According to J.S. Kings 1995 lovely book, the RT's came in 1958 with a 5 year certificate of fitness. This was unusual for 11 year buses but perhaps there is an explanation due to London's virtual Aldenham works "rebuild as new" chassis and body separation maintenance policy. The first Aldenham major overhauls for the 25 that came to Bradford are known to have been in 1957 and now they had a certification free life until 1963. Then 5 were withdrawn, these were followed by 3 in 1964, 2 in 1967, 11 in 1968 and the last 4 withdrawals in April 1969; this was a variable service life in Bradford, and apart from 410 that was preserved, all were scrapped.
408 had entered service in 1st July 1958 and like the others, were given a one coat of drab blue paint with a cream/primrose narrow band, along retaining where fitted, the London roof box indicator. However, in 1960/1961 the whole 25 were painted into normal Bradford blue and cream livery, and many of them, also, had their roof box removed (where fitted), and replaced with full Bradford standard indicators.
An interesting purchase and a story I am working on, of good buses, which served Bradford very well.

402 at Manchester Road "City" for Wyke. Originally in Bradford as a non roof box RT, it was later fitted with standard indicators 2/3 years after entering service (Stuart Emmett collection)

56 GKU 56 was from the batch 41 to 65 (GKU) that entered service in September /October 1950, this being after the last of the FKY's 21 to 40 had entered service in March 1950. They were Leyland PD2/3 with Leyland H56R (later to be H59R) bodies. 56 had entered service on the 1st October 1950 and all of them started life at Bankfoot depot on the Manchester Road routes to Shelf and Woodside, to Wyke and Oakenshaw and further out to Huddersfield (jointly operated with Hebble and Huddersfield Corporation).
They were withdrawn between 1966 and 1970 and all were scrapped, apart from 59 and 61 which joined the service fleet as learner buses in 1971 (as 068 and in 1971 was renumbered 035) and 1968 (as 060 and renumbered 036 ) respectively. These were passed over to West Yorkshire PTE in April 1974 and their fate is not known.

The last in the batch, 65 ready for Huddersfield that was a joint service with Hebble, Huddersfield Corporation and quote: the British Transport Commission, (aka the Huddersfield "B" Joint Committee buses). (Stuart Emmett collection)

So that was the four on the 33/44, but there was one more, the bus I had also seen at Bolton Junction on the 42 route:
118 PKY 118 was new to Bradford on the 1st July 1959 in the batch of 106 to 120 (PKY registrations) and were AEV Regent V's with lightweight MCW H70FD bodies that started entering service from May 1959. They were the first forward entrance motorbuses for Bradford Corporation, although Hebble had the first similar ones in Bradford with their 1958 JCP 672/3 with fleet numbers 304/305 (but 304 soon became 306). These worked on the two main routes they had between Bradford and Halifax, one via Shelf and one via Queensbury.
Bradford already had trolleybuses with forward entrances, as their 785 to 793 (GHN xxx) that had entered service between December 1958 and February 1959 (and after these, all the subsequent re-bodied trolleybuses were so equipped).
These 15 Regent V's were also the first of 120 that were delivered between 1959 and 1964. These were all body wise, broadly similar, but with small detail differences in the indicators and the roof/window ventilations. The chassis also varied, as whilst 106 to 125 had monocontrol gears and were infinitely smoother and non "body shaking", the subsequent synchromesh manual gear boxes on 126 to 225 were "shaking tin boxes" (according to one description of these buses). All of the Regent V's were eventually passed over to the WTPTE in 1974.

110 on the City Circle that was about 2 miles out of the city centre and at a timing stop, in Bankfoot outside the Red Lion pub on Rooley Lane and is heading for Dudley Hill. The absent driver has perhaps nipped over the road behind the bus to the Bankfoot depot? The absence of an AEC badge on this can be noted, it being replaced by an enamel badge of the Bradford Coat of Arms. (Stuart Emmett collection).

Out of the above five types, Bradford only had three other batches of motorbuses in service at this time. Two of these were very similar to the ones above, for example the 1949 Leyland PD2's EKY 554 to 573, were like 41 to 65; and the 1961 Regent V's UKY 121 to 125, were like 106 to 120.
However, the 40 batch 66 to 105 (HKW 66 to 105) were different. These were 1952/1953 Regent III's that were fitted at Crossley Motors with Birmingham style concealed radiator fronts, presumably whilst on their way to East Lancashire Coachbuilders in Blackburn where they got their H59R bodies. This was to be the start of Bradford's long association with East Lancs who went onto re-body 98 trolleybuses in 8 batches from late 1955 to early 1963.
The 40 x HKW's were mainly withdrawn in 1966/1967 but 10 were kept on until 1971/1972 when two then became trainers, but eventually 39 were scrapped. One (82) is fortunately preserved after it had an extended life as a service vehicle/mobile generator in 1972 (this to be ready for the then three day week and power supply issues).

85 at the bottom of Manchester Road amid the 1960's city centre demolition, the fine Alhambra theatre on the left is still magnificent today and the dome on the right was the then Gaumont Cinema where the Beatles also performed. Used/unused on /off for decades since 1968, it is now owned since 2013 by the Council who have to develop it. The absence of an AEC badge can also be noted on 85. (Stuart Emmett collection)

Bradford Corporation Motorbuses, J S King, 1995
Fleet History of Bradford Corporation, PB58, PSV Circle 1993

Stuart Emmett

08/05/17 - 08:02

A most interesting account Stuart, and not one of which I was previously aware. Certainly, I do not recall such an event in the "Duckworth" group of routes where I lived, so perhaps it was a localised feeder problem, maybe at Five Lane Ends? I must say, I endorse your comments regarding the 1-40 group of motorbuses. They were comfortable, quiet, and smooth to such an extent, in my memory at least, to surpass anything before or since. Bradford had a history of using Weymann all metal bodywork from 1934 onwards with Daimler and AEC motorbus chassis, and also the 1938/9 Karrier E4 trolleybuses., so the Weymann Mk111s and the 8 BUTs were in the true Bradford spirit. The other main supplier, English Electric, did not supply bus bodies in the post war period, and Bradford turned to NCB and others for its alternative post war supply, including Leyland of course.
It was very rare for motorbuses to be seen on trolleybus routes. My only memory was a rush hour working on the 32 Chapel Lane service, with a CWA6, although "foreign" trolleys (Tracklesses as older Bradfordians referred to them !) often appeared from Thornbury on Duckworth Depot routes.
How nice it was to see the Weymann stock augmented by second hand trolleybus purchases from Notts and Derby and Brighton, although the 2 from Hastings never seemed to be quite as majestic somehow, perhaps because of their composite construction.
Thanks Stuart, for a most fascinating account.

John Whitaker

09/05/17 - 07:38

Thanks John
There is actually two mentions in Stan Ledgards books about your route 8 having buses on them John.
First one in "Nannying" in the early 1960's when lower Westgate was closed due to a fire and buses used James Street inbound and Grattan Road and New John Street outbound. A photo on Leyland 63 is shown on 8.
Second one in "Show Up" on the 19th October 1967 when an inbound 8 took Godwin Street too fast and brought down wires and spans so bringing in buses on 8 and 16 for a few hours. RT 401 is shown on 8.

Stuart Emmett

09/05/17 - 07:38

I certainly agree that it was very rare for Bradford motorbuses to appear on trolleybus routes, although I do recall an instance (in the mid-sixties, probably) of travelling on a PD2 on service 38 (Pasture Lane). The 38 was a Thornbury depot route, and Thornbury depot was, at the time, a combined motorbus/trolleybus depot, perhaps that was a factor, or maybe a sudden shortage had led to a vehicle being summoned from Ludlam Street. One thing I do remember about that journey was that the driver must have been a bit rough for the conductress, and she took a tumble.
The only other occasion I can recall seeing motorbuses on a trolleybus route was one evening in late summer 1970, when the trolleys working the Duckworth Lane service were replaced by motorbuses for about an hour while a defective crossover received attention. The motorbuses used were dual-doorway Fleetlines of the 401-40 batch, which were new at the time. The service headway was ten minutes, so three vehicles would have been required to maintain the service.
It was Brighton which provided just two trolleys for Bradford, Hastings provided twelve. If I remember correctly, Bradford's secondhand trolleys came from Notts & Derby (32), Maidstone & District (12 - new to Hastings Tramways), South Wales (10 - new to Llanelly & District), Darlington (9), St Helens (8), Mexborough & Swinton (7); Docaster (5 - new to Darlington), Brighton (2). Those totals relate to vehicles actually entering service in Bradford, many more were acquired for spares, of course.

David Call

09/05/17 - 16:59

Thanks for the 8 route information Stuart. I am sure there were several other such occasions which have not been recorded too.
With regard to the Hastings (MandD) trolleybuses which Bradford purchased, 802 - 813 were bodied by Park Royal. The 2 Weymanns to which I referred were 814 and 815. The remaining Hastings post war Weymanns were snapped up by Maidstone and Walsall.
Looking back at the late trolleybus "surge" in Bradford, I am always full of admiration for Mr Humpidge and his staff at the economical and efficient way they produced such modern style vehicles from older chassis. Longer and wider than the original. I am not an engineer, but The BCT staff of the time were extremely adept at the process in typical "waste not want not" Yorkshire style and deserve the greatest acclaim! Just a pity the abandonment process accelerated so quickly. I think Stanley King used the "silk purse" analogy when referring to the Bradford rebuilds!

John Whitaker

11/05/17 - 19:13

Hear hear on Mr Humpidge.
As I note in an upcoming article on Bradford's trolleybuses in their pinnacle year, 1961, Bradford had the magical management of its General Manager, Chaceley Humpidge.
John King has also called him "The Apostle of the Trolleybus".

Stuart Emmett

12/05/17 - 06:54

A great story. Bradford had some lovely buses, which were often overlooked by the attraction of the trolleybus fleet. Such big batches of buses were bought back in those days - a show of great confidence.
A small niggle. You observe that the AEC badges were absent from the tin-fronted models, whereas, in fact, they were relegated to the bottom of the radiator panels (which I always felt was an unjustified demotion for such an important manufacturer).


13/05/17 - 07:06

...and painted over, by the look of the photo, Petras409!

Chris Hebbron

13/05/17 - 07:08

orry about that, Petras409! Mr Humpidge was keen to implant a "new image" to BCT and he decided to place enamel Bradford "coats of arms" where the AEC badge was meant to go, a practice continued with all new BCT stock until its demise. 66-105 also started the new standard destination layout.
I was a regular traveller on the BCT Mark Vs and must confess, they were the most jerky and noisy buses I ever rode on. As an enthusiast, I liked them, but the general public most certainly did NOT ! 106 -125 had monocontrol transmission, and a heavier style of Orion body, but 126 - 225 were the real culprits, and BCT decided to fit 224 and 225 with larger engines and monocontrol transmission in 1966. However, the remainder were not so treated.
I do not recall sampling 224 or 225 after this and would love to know whether any enthusiasts have such memories. Look forward to your next trolleybus offering Stuart and thanks for bringing it all back "to life" !

John Whitaker

13/05/17 - 07:10

Bradford`s Mark V AEC Regents.
I have always understood 121 - 125 as being fitted with monocontrol transmission, as were 106 - 120. However, my records show 106 etc as being type LD2RA, whereas 121 - 125 were 2D3RA. The subsequent 100 vehicles, with synchromesh transmission were also type 2D3RA even with this difference. There was obviously something different with 121 - 125 as they were the first withdrawals by some considerable time, not surviving like the others, until PTE takeover.
I always loved the AEC designation system from more traditional days, but the newer system from the Mk.V era is , to me anyway, most confusing!
I know that dry liner engines have something to do with it but if one of our contributors can explain all this, I would be most grateful!

John Whitaker

13/05/17 - 07:12

Yes, the Regent V's did have AEC badges fitted, and it would certainly have been clearer if I had actually said something like "The absence of an AEC badge in the normal position can be noted"
There is however, actually, no AEC badge on HKW 85.
On all of the pictures I have of the Crossley fitted tin front HKW's, none of them have AEC badges, despite the triangular space being there at the bottom.
Besides the Regent V's and HKW's, the coat of arms badges were fitted to all of the post 1956 re-bodied East Lancashire trolleybuses, to all of the Fleetlines and Atlanteans and to the small single decker fleet.
However, they were not used on the half cab front entrance Leyland's and Daimlers.
I guess this was because it would be difficult to find an appropriate space on the standard Leyland and Daimler engine cowls, whereas they could be more easily fitted to the full fronts of the trolleys etc.
As an aside, the badges were made by Bradford's Fattorini jewellers; who also made the 1911 FA Cup.
This is still being used today and the first winners of this cup was, coincidentally, Bradford City!

Stuart Emmett

13/05/17 - 09:50

Well Stuart....I never realised, looking back, that the Titan and Daimler F/E buses of post 1966 did not have the enamel coats of arms. I left Bradford in 1968 so perhaps have some excuse!
Great to hear the Fattorini connection mentioned too.
Up the Bantams!!

Just found a photo of 87 still with grey roof and therefore before its first repaint, and it is definitely fitted with the low placed AEC badge. My other photos of this batch do not seem to have them fitted, so it looks as though they were removed quite early on. I will check Stanley.s book and other sources to gain a "bigger picture"

John Whitaker

13/05/17 - 15:57

121-125 were definitely Monocontrol and the PSV Circle Fleet History shows them as being of type 2D2RA (i.e. the revised version with AV590 as opposed to A218 engine, amongst other things). Confusingly though it shows the first batch (106-120) as type MD2RA, which was the 27ft AV470 model, but I would presume that this was an unfortunate typo' and that they should be LD2RA.

John Stringer

14/05/17 - 07:26

A most fascinating article Stuart, and thank you for posting it. As John (W) has pointed out, the event may well have been the result of a feeder problem or other localised issue, causing disruption until repairs were safely completed. Interestingly in Stanley King's book 'Bradford Corporation Trolleybuses', the author states that in 1961 "an unusual crop of trolleybus dewirements (one outside the manager's window) caused delays. In a normal year motor-bus failures exceeded trolleybus failures eleven months out of twelve, but in December, 1961, the trolleybus figures were less favourable than usual". Around this time many transport undertakings, Bradford included, were experiencing staffing shortages.
Now this is purely speculation on my part, but could BCT's 1961 trolleybus reliability problems have been due in part to a few hapless new recruits unwittingly dewiring vehicles at critical locations simply due to inexperience? If a dewirement took place due to inappropriate positioning or speed at a frog or crossover, the potential for serious overhead damage would be far greater than a dewirement on a stretch of straight wire for example. The time taken to repair any damage would probably take much longer, and damage at a junction or roundabout (such as the one at Five Lane Ends already mentioned) could obviously affect more than one route, as Stuart's observations noted. Fifty six years after the event, I guess we'll never really know what caused the 'outage', but it is still interesting to speculate nonetheless isn't it?

Brendan Smith



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