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Trolley Bus

David Harvey

master brummie
I don't think that Railless were a Birmingham based company rather that they were based in Rochester. Kent. They did however purchase the chassis frames for some early trolleybuses from Alldays & Onions who were based in Birmingham and manufactured cars, light vans and motor cycles until 1927.
 

Radiorails

master brummie
Thanks for posting badpenny.
Actually I have seen 'some' of this photo. In a book on BCT's trolley buses only part of the photo is given, the cyclists at the left, the lorry and the women with prams are missing. So your photo gives a far more interesting scene. The tandem is not often seen today but was more common at the time of the photo The photo was, apparently, taken during WW2 and before June 1945. My archive photo is a little clearer and shows the bus at the other side of the turning circle as being lined out, so in the pre war livery. The bus, (42) OC 1142, entering service in January 1934 and lasting until closure of the trolley system at the end of June 1951, was repainted in June 1945. The bus near the cyclists was (73) COX 73, entered service September 1937 and had the distinction of being the last trolley bus to operate the 94 route (Albert Street to City Boundary). Also clearly seen is the white paint applied to traction poles, lamps standards and other road furniture. On the nearest traction pole, to the left of the tandem, is a black and white sign which reads "S" and SHELTER plus the arrow pointing in the direction of the shelter. I cannot make out what the lorry is for, maybe a builder or municipal vehicle?
 

Lloyd

master brummie
An interesting shot, showing as it does (just!) that wiring extended past the terminus for a short distance as if the City Transport intended to extend to Elmdon Airport. Although outside of the City Boundary, the airfield was owned by the Corporation, so such an extention would be understandable. It never happened, though, and had it progressed to official applications to run would have been strongly opposed by the Midland Red company, with whom the Corporation had an agreement dating back to 1914 not to run outside of the City boundaries.
 

Radiorails

master brummie
An interesting observation LLoyd. There certainly is a lot in that photo of interest, real history I think.
 

Bob Davis

Bob Davis
An interesting observation LLoyd. There certainly is a lot in that photo of interest, real history I think.
In 100years time, people will look at this photo and give it the same reverence as we now give to photos from the early 1900s. This is social history in microcosm and as you say the tandem is particularly interesting, in all the photos on the Forum how many tandems are there?
Bob
 

Radiorails

master brummie
1566827750045.png
A photo, by Phil in Old Street pics thread.
The photo shows a trolley bus (OC 1112 (12) (right hand side of photo) circumnavigating the islands at Lancaster Place and heading for its city terminus in Old Square in 1937. These buses, as recorded elsewhere on BHF, were withdrawn from service in December 1940 as part of wartime restrictions and replaced by bus route 43. Nechells trolleybus route 7 had replaced tram route 7 in 1922. Older buses were stored during the war and scrapped afterwards, newer ones were transferred to the Coventry Road routes. Few people are alive now that would remember trolley buses heading up and down Corporation Street.
 
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Radiorails

master brummie
There are some interesting facts, in earlier posts, regarding the first trolleybuses to run in Birmingham. At their introduction in 1922 this type of bus was in its infancy. Quite a few demonstrator buses 13 (twice), 17/18/19/20 an 87 and another 17, were tried in the early days however the city had their original 12 (OK 4825 - OK 4834 1 - 12) of 1922 followed by 3 more (ON 2825 -ON 2827 14 - 16) in 1926. These buses were unique initially having upper deck roofs.All were withdrawn by 1932.
1932 saw a new 11 vehicles (OV 4001 etc) and later in the month another 5 (OJ 1012 - OJ 1016 (12 - 16). The trolleybuses were very popular with the public who appreciated the smoother ride than the trams they had previously had to use.
On commencement the overhead wiring was altered to accommodate the trolleybuses with two booms. The worn tram track was slowly removed. 1934 saw the expansion of the fleet as the Coventry Road routes were about to start, fifty buses (OC 1117 - OC 1166 (17 - 66) arrived with 12 in 1937 COX 67 - COX 78 (67 - 78) and in 1940 the last 12 ever purchased FOK 79 - FOK 90 (79 - 90). It appears that COX 76/77/78 ran on the Nechells route prior to its abandonment. Some of the overhead wiring was removed during WW2 to replaced damaged tram overhead elsewhere. At the end of the war the trolleybuses were not put back into service.
I am of the opinion that the patrons of the Nechells trolleybuses must have been quite disheartened when diesel buses replaced them due to the wartime emergencies issue that has arisen. Many of these buses were those of the wartime utility style, probably some with wooden slatted seats in the upper deck.
The withdrawal of the trolleybuses was due to the metal skates that were needed to allow the buses to get to Washwood Heath garage. Their journey was made using the tramway overhead with one pole for current collection and the skate running in the tram track at road level as the electrical return. The grit and other debris in the tracks were what caused the arcing and spark displays. No problem during the daytime but at night it was felt that it was a serious problem which could be visible from the air. Nechells possessed some very important industries, railway yards, water filtration and public utilities such as the gas works and electricity generation.
 
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devonjim

master brummie
You have asked an interesting question, is there anyone out there who can say why trolley buses do not figure in any modern transport plans, yet are commonplace around the world. San Francisco & Wellington, NZ

Bob
I thought we were wandering off thread just a little!
As it was rather wet this morning had a look around google on the viability of "metro trams v trolley buses. It seems that unless you are sending the trams along existing rail tracks then a modern trolley bus wins hands down. They can run 3-5 miles off track using modern batteries charged while on their regular route thus giving a degree of flexibility if a diversion is needed. Article I was reading suggested Zurich has such a system. Makes you wonder why Birmingham has spent the last, is it 5 years laying tracks from Snow Hill to Centennial Square!
Electric buses even with the best design batteries do not have the necessary range, if weather is cold then power is wasted warming the passengers and when hot cooling them. I didn't find any mention of buses that use a self charging system but I suppose this could offer an alternative.
 

mikejee

Super Moderator
Staff member
I think electric buses are a bit better than they used to be. Reading is testing a modified hydrid diesel/electric bus which is all electric. I understand it cannot do a full days work before recharge ( have heard it is something like 10-12 hours continuous work but am not certain) the hyderids from which it was modified had some breakdown problems after some years service
 

Radiorails

master brummie
Considering Birmingham, and we should as this is a Birmingham specific Forum, it should be remembered that pre 1948 the electricity supplied to the city's trams and trolleybuses was provided by the city's own manufactury and was probably at reasonable cost. Once nationalisation took place it had to be purchased from the new nationalised industry and was probably more expensive as it was no longer 'in house'. In 1949 the decision to abandon all electric traction in the city was made. Given that the city centre and some older suburban streets were narrow, at the time, this had also caused trams to loose favour due to their obstructiveness, to pedestrians and other road users. It had been planned to cease all tram operation in the city by 1944, but WW2 altered things somewhat delaying the final abandonment until 1953.
Trolley buses were initially seen, in the early 1930's by the transport department, as a good choice for tram replacement,* but they were not as flexible as the go almost anywhere diesel bus which at that time was gathering big support, besides as there were only just over 70 trolleybuses, among a diesel fleet of over 1500, they were something of an anachronism. Neighbouring cities such as Walsall and Wolverhampton kept trolleys for a few more years, the setting up of the PTE was the end for Walsall. The Lode Lane extension was authorised during WW2 as it was seen a more beneficial to operate electricity which was coal produced rather than use petrol or diesel buses when those fuels were in short supply and had to be brought in by sea.
* When the Dudley Road and Hockley tram routes were abandoned West Bromwich had hoped to use trolley buses as a replacement. This, they believed was better for them as their other neighbour, Walsall, also had them. However, Birmingham had other ideas and diesel buses took over.
 

Radiorails

master brummie
Although I spent little time in West Bromwich and even less in Walsall or Wolverhampton it does cross my mind why those three municipalities favoured trolley buses far more than Birmingham. Birmingham did flirt with trolleybuses, but relatively speaking, that romance was short lived. It begs the question: were those three towns more enlightened than Birmingham with regard to public transport? or were there other reasons?
As nice as the new trams appear it is my personal view that it is a retrograde step which has made parts of the city become desolate at many times of the day. Trolley buses would have been a far better bet and much less disruptive to the city as appears from the tramway system. Given the battery operation of trams for part of their journey does suggest a revision of the original plans. You now have battery operated electric vehicles confined to tracks - quite inflexible. Travel to Wolverhampton could still have used rail but with conventional style trains of which some of the latest versions are non diesel types.
Monolithic operations often generate monolithic viewpoints.
 

David Harvey

master brummie
Birmingham trolleybus system in use for 29 years, (hardly flirting with 90 vehicles in use!) was basically a large scale experiment, albeit with some advanced vehicles including traction batteries on the last 24 four-wheelers. West Bromwich preferred the concept of trolleybuses for use on the Dudley and Wednesbury routes but were politically 'outgunned' by BCT despite them raising the height of Oak Lane Garage entrance doors in order to accommodate trolleybus overhead. Walsall was a small system which with the exception of the joint service with Wolverhampton when it was expanded enormously when RECox arrived and expanded the fleet with an eclectic mix of second hand and two new batches of trolleybuses, (a fleet total still less than Birmingham!) Wolverhampton had recently renewed the infrastructure when they replaced the Lorain stud system with new overhead and it made economic sense to use this equipment. They also had Guy Motors manufacturing their new trolleybuses 'on tap' and subsequently then supporting Sunbeam. Therefore your initial comments don't seem to match the actual history.
 

Radiorails

master brummie
David, I based my comments upon the very large fleet of petrol and subsequent diesel engined buses which the city has owned and the very small number of routes on which trolleybuses operated. I accept that almost thirty years was the trolley bus period however the city still has diesel buses on their streets, almost seventy years since the last trolleybus ran.
Yes, there were many 'firsts' in the city by the BCT and Midland Red. A conjecture might be that if the city had chosen, or been encouraged, to pursue trolleybus use then maybe the body and component manufacturing companies could have seen a great opportunity. We will never know I guess.
 

Astoness

TRUE BRUMMIE MODERATOR
Staff member
Birmingham trolleybus system in use for 29 years, (hardly flirting with 90 vehicles in use!) was basically a large scale experiment, albeit with some advanced vehicles including traction batteries on the last 24 four-wheelers. West Bromwich preferred the concept of trolleybuses for use on the Dudley and Wednesbury routes but were politically 'outgunned' by BCT despite them raising the height of Oak Lane Garage entrance doors in order to accommodate trolleybus overhead. Walsall was a small system which with the exception of the joint service with Wolverhampton when it was expanded enormously when RECox arrived and expanded the fleet with an eclectic mix of second hand and two new batches of trolleybuses, (a fleet total still less than Birmingham!) Wolverhampton had recently renewed the infrastructure when they replaced the Lorain stud system with new overhead and it made economic sense to use this equipment. They also had Guy Motors manufacturing their new trolleybuses 'on tap' and subsequently then supporting Sunbeam. Therefore your initial comments don't seem to match the actual history.

thanks david...i have read your books....very interesting

lyn
 

Heartland

master brummie
Are trolleybuses a suitable transport vehicle now? They have limitations and in the modern driving conditions could they cope?

There were plans to introduce a trolley bus in Leeds, but that scheme has evidently been abandoned.
 
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