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Belatedly, I would suggest that that first picture was taken in Great Lister Street, while the old tram tracks were being taken up, but before the public service was started. The twelve new trolleybuses were ordered in September 1921, but there was a long hiatus until they entered service on 27 November 1922. The trams were cut back to Nechells Green on 14 August 1922, and the remaining part finished on 26 November, the day before the trolleybuses started. Looking at the picture you can see that although the trolleybus was not in public service, and I would guess that it was a demonstration trip for members of the Tramways (not yet Transport) Committee.
'Railless' No 11, OK 4833, was new in 1922 and ran until February 1932. They were the first covered-top trolleybuses in the country, and 'Railless' referred not only to their chassis maker's name but also to the fact that they were considered as trams without rails rather than buses. Some cities called them 'Trackless trams'.
Their bodywork was by Charles Roe of Leeds, electrical equipment (including tram-type hand controller) by Dick, Kerr & co., and they were powered by two 42 HP motors, one driving each rear wheel. They were 24'6" long, 7'6" wide (Birmingham's trams were only 6' wide and ran on narrow gauge [3'6"] tracks), 16'3" high and each one (there were 12 of them) cost £3000. Not cheap in those days.
The photograph was taken during a demonstration run, and was specially posed by the road works to show how, unlike trams, trolleybuses could negotiate around obstacles blocking their path.
Here's a view of similar bus no 6 in Washwood Heath depot yard.
We have a photograph of my wife's grandfather William Toone standing next to Trolley bus number 5, on Nechells 7 route by Cuckoo Bridge. The registration number of the trolley bus is OK 4827 and has passengers on board. The photograph says "First trolley Cuckoo Bridge" on the rear.
If anyone is interested or can tell us any more information on this particular trolley, I would be most grateful to hear from you.
OK 4827 was no 5 in the 1922 trolleybus fleet, one of the Roe bodied Railless vehicles like those shown above. They were powered by two 42 horsepower electric motors, each driving one rear wheel. They were 24'6" long, 7'6" wide, 16'3¼" high and cost £3000 each. All were withdrawn from service in 1932 and broken up, having been replaced by new Leyland trolleybuses which resembled a motorbus - even down to having a bonnet and radiator!
The first day of operation of the Nechells route was Monday 27th November 1922.
I don't have a photo of no.5 on the computer, but here's identical number 6 in Washwood heath depot yard.
Are you able to scan your picture and show it?
That's a very nice view Kevin, at the Nechells route terminus with the trolleybus facing towards town. It may well be the first day, doubtful if it's the "first" journey as the service started before sunrise, and there would have been training journeys before the public service commenced.
Lloyd, Thank you for the information. My wife's Grandfather is the man on the left of the photograph. Can you tell from his uniform whether he was the driver or conductor of the bus ? We believe that at some Stage in his career he was a driver, but know little else.
His name was William Toone and was born sometime in 1896 in the Aston/Nechells area. We know he died on 12th September 1965. He played a few games for Aston Villa around 1919/1920 and we have a photograph of him with the 1920 FA Cup winning team.
We also have a photograph of him in an army football team and have memorabilia of him having played football in Poperinge in Belgium during the first world war in 1916.
Could you or one of the forum's other members point me in the right direction of researching his military history, as I would be intrigued to find out more about his involvement in the first world war and him playing football in 1916 in Poperinge.
Here's your photograph - the man on the left is the conductor, he is wearing a cash satchel and "Bell Punch" ticket machine. The other man is the driver, or "motorman" as they were called - note the different style of his uniform jacket, designed to be warmer as most motormen drove the open-fronted trams.
Those 30' long, 8' wide Sunbeam trolleybuses were indeed beautiful vehicles, nicknamed 'Goldfish bowls' because of the curved glass corners of the driver's cabs. Here's a delightful film by Barry Coward of them going about their everyday duty, in the last days of trolleybus operation in Walsall nearly 40 years ago. OK there was a bit of wire hanging over the streets, but these silent pollution-free vehicles were replaced by older diesel buses (ex- Birmingham, you'll see a few in the film). Progress ? I think not.
Luckily one still runs at the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley. Another is under restoration at Aston Manor Transport Museum.
The attached photo and text below from the the Dover Express 7.7.1922 from another forum made me realize that there has not been much on trolleybuses on the forum (unless it is deep in a thread named something else). Yet Railless (as Lloyd states earlier in this thread), was a Birmingham company. Here one of their products is being tested in dover
Dover Express - Friday 07 July 1922
RAILLESS CAR'S TRIAL AT DOVER. The car the Ralless Limited have built for the Urban District Council of Ramsbottom was brought to Dover this week, so that it could be seen running under the Dover conditions. It is a single deck car holding some twenty-five passengers comfortably, but the type of body is made to order, and Birmingham, where a number of these cars are about to be put on one of the routes, have double deck cars with a roof and seating capacity of over fifty. The point about the railless cars is that rail track is not necessary, and in order to obviate going to the very great cost laying rails over the Pier Viaduct to the Marine Station, it is suggested that two or three of these cars should be bought and a service run between Worthington St. and the Marine Station. The only equipment required is the overhead wires, but instead of two wires it is necessary to have four, as the return current has to be sent through a wire instead of a rail. It is, therefore, possible, at a fairly moderate cost, to extend the system to other streets. A fairly good road is necessary, but if the system is adopted in Dover the fact that the roads will have to be kept in a decent order will be an advantage.
An extra wire had been placed between New Bridge and the George corner, and the trials were run this week on that route. But by means of a slide trailing behind on the rails the car could be run anywhere where there are trolley wires. The trials were uniformly successful, the car running very smoothly and noislessly, and starting off without the jerk that tram cars give. The advantage claimed for this form of traction over motor buses, which they to a great extent resemble, is that electrical power is much cheaper than motor spirit, and that there is nothing like the depreciation and high maintenance costs that a petrol engine entails, as an electric motor needing nothing to be done to it for a very long period. It is questionable whether the system could be put in force till the requisite parliamentary powers have been obtained, which would take nearly twelve months, although where the tramway powers are sufficient to cover certain things, the Ministry of Transport are allowing them to be run pending the provisional order being obtained.
The operation of the car at Dover has been in the hands of a tram driver, who has had a motor lorry experience during the war, and he found no difficulty in controlling it. If the system were in general use in Dover noticeable advantages would be (1). Noiseless running. (2). Absence of vibration to passengers, which is so marked with the ordinary tram cars. (3). Cars would keep to the rule of the road, instead of dislocating the traffic as the present system does. (4). Cars would embark and disembark passengers at the pavement kerbstone instead of the middle of the road. The disadvantage is the heavy cost of making the change. Yesterday there was a trial run with officials from other systems and to-day the members of the Council are to try the car.