The museum has six trolleybuses on display. Dave Chick reports on 'Wolverhampton 90', an event to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the opening of the Wolverhampton trolleybus system. A colour center page spread of Doncaster trolleybus photos taken by Tony Belton is included to mark the 40th anniversary of the closure of that system.
There is a review of Vienna's Siemans electric buses which were introduced into service in the autumn of Remembering Klagenfurt's Trolleybuses - Gunter Mackinger looks at a small system that closed 50 years ago.
Elvis Joins Landskrona Party! Jan Spousta celebrates 80 years of Milan Trolleybuses with some photos and details of both the vehicles and routes. The BTS and Sandtoft are working together to create an exhibition about the trolleybus during the First World War and details are given on this project.
Chris Baldwin went in search of the Northern De Lights Of Bergen and reports on his recent visit to the trolleybus system there. Several towns and cities in Central Europe suffered severe flooding in early June.
A report looks at the repercussions on the trolleybus systems in Salzburg, Usti nad Labem and Budapest. Trolleybus Clippies Dancing In the Street???? A Dance Company has put together a dance routine depicting four London Transport trolleybus clippies from the service on their break. There are brief reports on the 25th anniversary of the start of the Usti nad Labem system and also on this years Sandtoft Gathering.
Dave Chick pays tribute to Martin Nimmo, a staunch trolleybus enthusiast who sadly passed away recently. There is a report on developments at Skoda Electric. The Vancouver Observer newspaper recently featured an article hailing the Trolleybus as a 'Climate Superhero' and this is discussed in this issue. Hugh Taylor recalls the antics of a Huddersfield trolleybus driver on the last week of operations in the town in July A selection of previously unknown photos of St Helens Garrett Trolleybuses dating from the s was found in the North West Museum of Road Transport and are reproduced with additional information from Geoff Sandford.
Brian Deans tells us all about it. Tony Belton, assisted by Steve Lockwood, tells the story of Huddersdield trolleybus which received a second hand body in the early s.
Tony Belton reports on his visit to the West Of England Transport Collection to see the five preserved trolleybuses in their care. Dave Chick reports on the London weekend at Sandtoft over the August bank holiday which saw the relaunch of London into service. Preserved Keighley trolleybus No. Dave Chick tells us the story.
Tony Belton recalls a mishap involving London trolleybus which struck the arched bridge in Kentish Town causing extensive damage to the vehicle. There is news on the recently approved project which will hopefully see Leeds re-introduce a trolleybus system to the UK.
Colin Allan marks the 75th anniversary of the Opening Ceremony of the Hull Trolleybus system on 23 July whilst Malcolm Wells has done more research on Hull's trolleybus routes that never were!
Dave Chick reports on the 60th anniversary celebrations in Ostrava with some excellent colour photos. This being issue of our journal, Fred Ivey recalls the last week of operation on London Trolleybus route This months edition is almost entirely devoted to the 50th anniversary of the London system closure. Dave Chick reports on the wonderful London Trolleybus 50 event held at at Carlton Colville between the 6 and 8 May Dave also reports on his visit to Fulwell depot in London where a day of celebration of the London Trolleybus was held on 12 May There is a selection of wonderful photos of London Trolleybuses covering route and the two events mentioned above.
The city of Valparaiso operates Chile's only current trolleybus system, which opened in The capital, Santiago, operated trolleybuses between and and again briefly between and Dave Chick reports on Sandtoft's first operational weekend of the season, held over Easter.
Bradford was the themed event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the closure of that system. David Lawrence reports on the latest happenings in the world of trolleybus preservation whilst Bruce Lake brings us up to date with the latest World News. On our cover this month we have a striking view of modern architecture and public transport as Salzburg's latest trolleybus route extension is launched. More details are in World News. An article on Milano's trolleybuses by Bob Westaway is accompanied by a centre page colour spread.
Dave Chick reviews two new models of Beijing trolleybuses and Tony Belton rounds off the April edition issue number with a pair of themed colour photos, showing Huddersfield in Northgate in August , and an unusual photo showing London trolleybus and Routemaster RM sided by side at Moorgate, both on service Dave Young recalls his last opportunity to travel on service trolleybuses in the UK with a visit to Bradford nine days prior to the closure of that system.
A great way to help the work of the Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft is to join one of the regular working parties held over various weekends in the winter months. Dave Chick attended a working party at Sandtoft and reports on its success.
There are reviews of two recently published books on Trolleybuses. There are some superb colour photos of the Bratislava and Zilina systems on the centre pages.
Tony Belton visited Geneva and reports on a section of trolleybus route recently converted to tramway. Dave Hall looks at the history of the San Remo trolleybus system as well as reporting on a visit to the system he made in October Reading won an award at the Woodcote Rally back in July but until now we were unsure why. The mystery is now solved in this issue!!! Part 8 of the RTS history by Dave Hall takes us through the year of when the Trolleybus Preservation Movement began to make some serious progress with its dreams.
John Zebedee's colourful photos of the St. BTS member Irvine Bell responds to the invitation to submit comments on this policy. Dave Lawrence updates us on the latest news from the world of trolleybus preservation whilst Bruce Lake updates on the latest World News. Dave Lawrence brings us the latest news in the trolleybus preservation movement whilst Bruce Lake reports on the latest World News.
Gunter Mackinger reports on trolleybus modernisation in the Crimea together with some colour photos on the last days of the Skoda 9Tr in the Crimea. There is a report on a policy document published by the Lonmdon Assembly Liberal Democrats who are proposing an ambitious programme to convert London's buses, taxis and light goods vehicles to electric power by There are also some photos of Newcastle and operating at Carlton Colville and Ashton 87 operating at Sandtoft.
A centre page colour photo spread is included showing scenes at Sandtoft for the Centenary Weekend and also the Sandtoft Gathering. This is a bumper 28 page edition celebrating the th issue of Trolleybus. Bob Rowe looks at Trolleybuses numbered in the UK. Dave Hall looks back at the BTS 50th annivbersary celebrations at Sandtoft including the recommissioning of Manchester back into service.
This is a special 28 page bumper edition to celebrate our 50th anniversary with 6 pages of colour photos included. There is also a copy of the first ever news sheet issued by the RTS in August Hugh Taylor tells the story of how London spent almost 50 years in France and why it returned to the UK again. The vehicle is now undergoing restoration at Zamberk near Pardubice.
This month sees the introduction of Trolleybus in the new A5 size format. Although smaller in size it has more pages and more content plus some colour photos. This months edition includes: Graham Bilbe reports on the return of Manchester to BTS ownership together with details of its journey to Swindon where it is now undergoing a complete restoration.
There is a look at the 60th anniversary of trolleybus operations in St. Gallen and also trolleybus developments in Salzburg. On the November the first of the new Solaris trolleybuses was launched into service at Eberswalde, a weekend which also saw the 70th anniversary of trolleybus operation in the town.
There is a report on the Worldwide Weekend event at Sandtoft which took place on 2 and 3 October Dave Chick looks at the history of trolleybus operation and the 70th anniversary celebrations in Eberswalde, Germany. Included in the article are some very interesting photos. John Zebedee reports on an eventful Sandtoft Gathering which took place over the weekend of 24 and 25 July David Beach brings us up to date with the latest position on Sponsortrolley, where members kindly donate money towards the rent and maintenance of the BTS fleet.
Richard has kindly supplied some additional information. Dave Hall looks back on Cardiff s service history with Cardiff Corporation and also its history since joing the BTS fleet way back in On Saturday 19 June Stadtbus Winterthur held a celebration of the trolleybus network and the introduction into public service of the first two of their fleet of 21 SwissTrolley3 single-articulated low-floor trolleybuses.
David Bowler was there to record the event. The usual round up of World News is provided by Bruce Lake whilst Dave Lawrence brings us up to date with the latest news on the trolleybus preservation scene. Part 2 - USA. Australia abandoned the last of its trolleybus systems more than 40 years ago, but there are many interesting survivors, as Graham Bilbe found on a tour in late Graham gives a comprehensive report on what he found. Trolleybuses featured on Pathe News and trolleybus connections on the big and small screen are also featured.
August On this month's cover is a remarkable photo of London trolleybuses and , both of which are now preserved. May May's issue of Trolleybus will be dropping through members' letterboxes shortly. April The April edition of our magazine "Trolleybus" is now available to members via our website and the printed edition will appear in the next few days. February We have a bit of a Baltics theme in the new edition of Trolleybus, which is now available for members to download from our website, with the printed version being distributed in a few days' time.
January This month our cover photo shows the first trolleybus launching an extension of the Jihlava system in the Czech Republic. December In this month's edition of Trolleybus we report on the closure of Wellington's trolleybus system despite hopes of a last-minute reprieve. October This month's edition has a stunning cover photo of the first Van Hool Exqui. September In this month's edition, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the closure of the Derby trolleybus system, with a fascinating photo feature by Tony Belton, as well as a recollection of a difficult journey for Derby when first preserved.
August This month we have two photo features; Tony Belton says farewell to Tallinn's route 9 and John Zebedee records the celebrations for 65 years of trolleybus operation in Pardubice. July This month's edition of our monthly magazine has features about our purchase of land which will result in the expansion of the Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft and greater long-term security for the Society's historic fleet and we also report on a very successful BTS weekend at Sandtoft which included the launch into service of Walsall June In the June edition, Stefan Limburg writes a brief history of the Dortmund Trolleybus system, to commenorate the 50th anniversary of its closure.
May This month's edition marks the 50th anniversary of the closure of the Glasgow system and 55 years since the closure of the London system.
April This month we pay tribute to the Maidstone trolleybus system, which closed 50 years ago, with Colin Allen looking at the possibility of the continued existence of an early fleet member and Andrew Henbest recalling his visits to the system. March On this month's cover we have a fine photo of Valparaiso by Sam Fuentes.
February This month we have some stunning images of Wellington trolleybuses on the front and rear covers, courtesy Alan Wickens of New Zealand magazine "Under the Wires". January We start the new year with some good news, with features on the recent expansion of the trolleybus networks in Luzern and Salzburg and the move of the latest member of the BTS fleet, Bournemouth , from Winkleigh to the Reading area.
December This month we have a photo feature by Tony Belton to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the closure of the Manchester and Ashton trolleybus systems, we look at the history of Seattle's Breda trolleybuses and their final operation, and we review three books including member Peter Smith's new definitive history of Cardiff's trolleybus system.
October There's lots of yellow this month! August Happy birthday London trolleybus no ! July We are proud to announce that the British Trolleybus Society has purchased Bournemouth , the last new trolleybus to enter service in the UK.
June This month we have a splendid commemoration of the Nottingham trolleybus system fifty years after it closed featuring a selection of Tony Belton's photos. May In the May edition of our monthly magazine, Trolleybus, Chris Veasey looks at Minsk's thriving trolleybus network. The latest news from both the Preservation Scene and World News is also included in this issue. February Tony Belton witnessed the London Transport Q1s being loaded onto ships bound for Spain in and he gives his account together with some classic photos from this time.
October This months issue includes three features about British trolleybus heritage. September Our main feature this month is the story of the thriving trolleybus system in Cluj Napoca, Romania.
July This months issue includes two historic features; Dave Hall looks at the history of Reading's service to Caversham Bridge, which closed 50 years ago, and Stefan Limburg tells us the story of the trolleybus in Heilbronn, Germany. June In the June edition of our monthly magazine we have items about the first Solaris Trollinos and the renovation of the oldest Skoda 15 Tr, Branimir Pantaleev describes the modernisation and expansion of the trolleybus system in Pleven, Bulgaria, and we have a photo feature of trolleybuses in Tallinn in each of the four seasons by Mari-Liis Meisterson.
May The May edition features a history of the Castellon trolleybus system, including the original line which operated in the s. January In November Shanghai became the first trolleybus system to celebrate its th anniversary and a brief report is included. John Zebedee fears for its future and tells us why. There is also a centre page colour spread of trolleybuses passing bridges in Gdynia.
The new Portsmouth Trolleybus history book written by David Bowler is reviewed. September This months edition features our latest trolleybus restoration, Huddersfield August This month we look at two Swiss systems, with a brief history of La Chaux-de-Fonds and an article about the entry into service of the first of Luzern's new Hess Lightram4 double-articulated trolleybuses. April Tony Belton marks the 50th anniversary of the closure of the South Shields system with a selction of his photos taken in and , including a full centre page spread in colour.
There is news on the re-instatement of the Maxglan Loop on the Salzburg system. March David Young reports on his recent visit to the Lyon trolleybus system in France. Details are given of Skoda's plans for a record breaking year in trolleybus production. Threre is an update on the Leeds Trolleybus Project. The latest Trolleybus Classics book on rotherham is reviewed David Lawrence informs us of the latest happenings in the Trolleybus Preservation movement whilst Bruce Lake keeps us up to date with the latest World News.
An obituary dedicated to Colin Enticknap, who recently passed away, is also included. The BTS has planned out various events for and full details can be seen. December Dave Chick reports on 'Wolverhampton 90', an event to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the opening of the Wolverhampton trolleybus system.
October Jan Spousta celebrates 80 years of Milan Trolleybuses with some photos and details of both the vehicles and routes. September Chris Baldwin went in search of the Northern De Lights Of Bergen and reports on his recent visit to the trolleybus system there. August Dave Chick pays tribute to Martin Nimmo, a staunch trolleybus enthusiast who sadly passed away recently.
Tony Belton provides a centre page colour spread of photos of Ipswich Trolleybuses. John Zebedee looks at the Italian system which opened in Dave Chick reports on events at Sandtoft over the Easter bank holiday weekend. March John Zebedee reports on his recent visit to the Gdynia trolleybus system in Poland. Tony Belton reports on the demise of the Plovdiv system in Bulgaria.
February Tony Belton, assisted by Steve Lockwood, tells the story of Huddersdield trolleybus which received a second hand body in the early s.
David Beach tells the story of a Trolleybus nightmare in Huddersfield. There is a colour centre page spread featuing Argentinian trolleybuses. The BTS has some exciting plans for and these are reviewed in this issue. July Colin Allan marks the 75th anniversary of the Opening Ceremony of the Hull Trolleybus system on 23 July whilst Malcolm Wells has done more research on Hull's trolleybus routes that never were!
June This months edition is almost entirely devoted to the 50th anniversary of the London system closure. April On our cover this month we have a striking view of modern architecture and public transport as Salzburg's latest trolleybus route extension is launched.
March Dave Young recalls his last opportunity to travel on service trolleybuses in the UK with a visit to Bradford nine days prior to the closure of that system. Tony Belton explains why 50 years of taking colour slides has come to an end A great way to help the work of the Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft is to join one of the regular working parties held over various weekends in the winter months.
January Dave Hall looks at the history of the San Remo trolleybus system as well as reporting on a visit to the system he made in October In Roe registered a patent for a machined continuous teak waist rail, which was designed to interlock with the vertical pillars of a bus body and with steel reinforcing strips, which when assembled bound it to the outer body panels. This was an early example of system-built bus bodywork in an age when most bodies were individually craft built.
Above - Early motorbus bodywork owed much to tramway practice, as shown by Roe bodied KH It had 56 seats. Latus collection courtesy of the late Mike Pearson. Despite producing many thousands of motor bus chassis, this would prove to be one of only two trolleybuses that the firm ever constructed. Following its time in the limelight, the chassis was despatched to Roe to be bodied.
Strangely Roe only built the framework for the body, the vehicle then being sent to John C. Beadle of Dartford in Kent to have its panelling added. Why this was done is unclear, the only other vehicles that would be sent elsewhere for finishing would be the ones in build when the works closed, some 55 years later. The resulting bus was registered DT and entered trial service in Doncaster in , being given fleet number Doncaster bought the vehicle in and it ran until withdrawal in A second excursion into the world of railway vehicles occurred in when Roe built a body on a Leeds built Hudswell Clarke chassis for the Army, for use on the Spurn Head Railway in East Yorkshire.
During the s Roe concentrated more on its bus building activities gaining a reputation for solidly built and stylish bodies. An indulgence came in with the construction of a streamlined body on an AEC chassis for exhibit at the Commercial Motor Show and ultimately destined for Leeds Corporation, an ardent supporter of the local manufacturer.
Above - By November bus bodywork was looking a bit more, well, bus like. The photo appears to have been taken on Otley Road, Headingley. Following the outbreak of World War 2 production of new buses was suspended by the Government in order to preserve materials for the war effort; those vehicles in build had their construction stopped.
Roe factory initially concentrated on production of vehicle bodies for the war effort such as mobile kitchens and canteens. By however, operators were crying out for replacement vehicles due to increased traffic as a result of munitions, aircraft and other war-related factories in their areas; bombing losses or simply the expiry of pre-war bodies which were usually designed for a seven-year operating life.
The Government thus decided to un-freeze the vehicles whose production had been halted, and these were then sent to wherever the need was greatest, irrespective of who had originally ordered them. Following the end of the war, and when supplies of materials became available, demand for new buses rocketed. Various companies had expressed an interest in acquiring or merging with Roe over a number of years. In both English Electric and Metro-Cammell Weymann had approached with a view either to amalgamation or takeover, whilst in amalgamation talks were opened with Mumford of Lydney, Gloucestershire.
All were inconclusive and so it fell in to Park Royal of London to purchase a controlling stake in Charles H.
Roe joined the Park Royal board. Park Royal and Roe continued as independent concerns, but some rationalisation did occur. Production of composite wood and metal bodies was concentrated at Roe, whilst all-steel bodies were either constructed at Park Royal or by Roe on frames supplied by Park Royal.
Above - Jumping to , Roe was owned by ACV and was cementing its reputation for building solid, stylish bodywork. In June , Charles H. Roe resigned as managing director of the Leeds site and instead became company chairman. The most notable feature is the domed roof, designed to allow the bus to pass under the medieval North Bar in the town of Beverley.
This was a feature of East Yorkshire buses for many years. Copies of the pictures could be purchased by the customer. Roe official photograph, M. In the company experimented in tramcar construction, when two vehicles were produced for Leeds City Transport. Further details of these vehicles are included in the tram making article elsewhere on this site. Based on Sunbeam chassis, these vehicles were little short of revolutionary.
They were designed for one man operation i. Inside were twin staircases designed to improve the flow of passengers around the bus, with the front one for passengers going upstairs and the rear one for those coming down. A periscope was fitted to allow the driver to monitor the upper deck. These latter were two rotating drums on the bus rear one for each trolley boom around which was a rope attached at its other end to the relevant boom. Under normal operation the drums rotated to and fro, letting out and pulling in the rope to allow the booms to move as required.
However if the boom came off the wire, the drum locked and prevented it from flying up and causing damage to the overhead. The lock could be overcome by pulling the rope up and then down, at which it released the rope and allowed it to be used to put the boom back onto the wire. Due to the demise of trolleybuses in Britain the last ran in in Bradford the trolley retrievers never became commonplace, whilst the twin door arrangement and periscope would appear on motorbuses some fifteen years later.
The latter was new in and highlights how futuristic the design of and its sisters must have seemed just three years later, when the first of these trolleybuses entered service.
Although the photograph is undated, these streets were only used by trolleybuses on the 63 between June and October , the route having been diverted due to the introduction of a one way system, so the picture must have been taken in this four- month period.
Latus collection, original photographer unknown. The normal method of retrieving an errant trolleybus boom was for the conductor to use a bamboo pole which would be carried somewhere on the vehicle.
The pole had a hook on the end which would be used to pull the boom down and place it back on the wire. As the Hull Coronations were designed to run without a conductor, the trolley retrievers were fitted to make the drivers life easier.
They also had the advantage of stopping the boom from flying up too high and causing damage to the overhead equipment. The prototype Coronation carried a bamboo pole as a back up system, this being fitted in a specially created void in the chassis. Obviously the retrievers worked well enough, as the fifteen production buses dispensed with the back up pole.
This vehicle put the engine at the back and the door at the front, next to the driver-the exact opposite of the usual arrangement until this time. The Wulfrunian had a front engine which was angled over to create space for a front door and featured such radical ideas for the early s as independent front suspension and disc brakes. Roe were approached for the bodywork, presumably due to West Riding wishing to support a local manufacturer.
Suffice it to say the bus was not a huge success, but Roe bodied of the built. By the Atlantean had been made available to other body builders and Roe began constructing bodies on it. Above - By , Roe were bodying the rear-engined Leyland Atlantean. Where did all that pride go? Latus collection, courtesy of G. In the s the British bus operating industry fell into three categories.
Then came the Municipal council owned operations in most towns and cities. Finally came the independents i. Many independents were quite small but there were exceptions, such as West Riding, who operated over buses from six depots. This left suppliers such as Roe to look after BET, Municipal and Independent orders, Roe being particularly prominent in the latter two categories. The winds of change were blowing however. In the meantime, Charles H.
Roe had resigned as Chairman on 30th September and retired. He died on 30th November aged Something old, something new; a quick trip to Doncaster…. Doncaster had received nine trolleybuses between and with utility bodies by Park Royal or Brush. They were sent to Roe between and to have new bodies constructed, the originals having worn out as was usually the case with utility buses.
Roe also bodied ten new trolleybus chassis for Doncaster, beginning in Thus when Doncaster abandoned trolleybus operation in December , it found itself with nineteen very youthful trolleybus bodies.
Rather than try to sell the buses, or scrap them regardless, they sent them back to Roe to have the bodies fitted on new motorbus chassis. The work involved fitting a half-cab to the bodies to accommodate the engine and its bonnet. The buses could be identified by the thicker window pillar see above where the base for the trolley booms had been.
Earlier in Roe had completed its last trolleybus body. This vehicle had the last trolleybus body built for normal service in Britain. In the s Alexander of Falkirk built a body on a Dennis Dominator trolleybus chassis for the South Yorkshire PTE, but the resulting vehicle was used only on a demonstration line in Doncaster and never entered ordinary service.
The Titan was beset with problems caused by industrial disputes at Park Royal, many operators severely reduced or cancelled their orders due to long delays in delivery, and most of those who did take delivery found the bus to be a horrendously complicated machine. Production eventually moved to Workington, although by now only London Transport was interested. To protect its market share, Leyland incorporated the running units of the Titan into a conventional chassis known as the Olympian.
Leyland had also been rocked by the demise of its Austin car manufacturing subsidiary, and faced with the need to economise announced that it would be closing the Roe works in The announcement in May of that year sparked a campaign by Leeds City Council to save the works and the jobs within it, but despite various meetings, press coverage and hopes that funding would come from the West Yorkshire Enterprise Fund, the factory closed on 14th September Thus the curtain fell on the Leeds bus manufacturing industry.
Or so it seemed…. Photo - Martin Latus. Possibly the usual suppliers to this concern were busy with war work. Two trolleybus bodies were supplied to Railless during for fitting to vehicles destined for Ramsbottom Urban District Council, becoming their fleet numbers 5 and 6.
Between and , a further four bodies were supplied as replacements for earlier Milnes Voss bodywork on Ramsbottom numbers 1 to 4, which had been new in As far as is known no other bus bodies were constructed by this firm.
Lockwood and Clarkson were still in business in , but as with their origins, the subsequent history of the firm is unknown. Mann of Pepper Road, Hunslet, produced steam lorries and a few of these formed the basis of steam buses. Their first was for export to India in In a steam bus was constructed for the home market for Westfield Coal Merchants of Doncaster and was used to transport miners to a pit several miles out of Doncaster.
The last known steam bus was supplied to Africa in , based on the 5 ton steam wagon it also had a 4 wheel trailer with additional seating. In the mid '20s Mann advertised a bus version of its Express steam wagon but by this time petrol powered buses where the norm and it is not thought that any examples were built.
Optare Following the demise of local bus maker Charles H. Roe in efforts continued to revive the former works, these came to fruition in February when it was reopened by the Optare company. This concern had been formed by a group of former Senior Managers at Roe, led by Russell Richardson, who had pooled their redundancy money and also received some assistance from the West Yorkshire Enterprise Fund.
This was a bad time to start a bus manufacturer, uncertainty caused by impending deregulation and privatisation of the bus industry, combined with the ending of the bus grant see above meant that new bus orders had nose- dived. Most of these vehicles were converted from parcel vans by simply punching windows in the side and fitting seats. Generally speaking the traditional bodybuilders failed to get a hold in this market. Roe had designed a body for such a vehicle but had been closed before it built any.
The bodies were actually designed by Roe but never built by them. As can be seen they used many parts from the contemporary double- deck bodies. Below - Optare then continued production of the Roe double deck body, with minor detail differences. The first of these to leave the factory was C KBT with body number 17, to followed suit with bodies 18 to A month later, bodies 15 and 16 left the works, the delay being due to these two being convertible open- top buses.
They were supplied with removable upper deck and roof; these could be lifted off using a crane and replaced with an open top arrangement of rails and Perspex screens.
A few minibus conversions and a gaggle of Olympian bodies were produced, but the company needed a new product range to increase its market share. This success had been achieved in spite of, rather than because of the design of the vehicles.
In June , Optare launched a coach-built minibus as opposed to a van conversion , on a modified Volkswagen LT55 chassis. It was christened the CityPacer, and found reasonable success. A similar, but larger design was launched in August , the StarRider, which featured up to 33 seats on a Mercedes- Benz D chassis. The bus was supplied new to London and, due to the difficulty in obtaining blocks of registration numbers in the Capital, was registered by Optare in Leeds prior to delivery.
The trauma of deregulation was beginning to be left behind and the industry began to want full- sized single deckers again. This led to the introduction of the Optare Delta, the first of which appeared in September Two new products appeared in this period, the Vecta in April and the Spectra in February The Optare Vecta was a smallish single decker with seats for around 40 people and was constructed on a MAN A double decker, it featured DAF running units and a stylish body.
In United Bus collapsed and Optare was bought back by its management. Although DAF also survived, uncertainty prompted Optare to seek alternative chassis providers. The bus industry was changing again, this time with the introduction of low-floor buses, which allowed a wheelchair user to board the vehicle directly from the kerb.
Initial designs were reworked ordinary chassis, generally with a low- floor front section tacked to the original design rear section. This meant that passengers at the rear of the bus towered over those at the front, many steps had to be negotiated to get to the rear seats and once there most passengers found that they could not see out as their eye line was above the top of the windows. Ever innovative, Optare began work on a purpose-designed low floor bus, the Excel, which appeared in October An integral vehicle no separate body and chassis , the exterior was stylish whilst the interior was far less awkward than existing low floor designs.
Powered by a Cummins B series engine driving through Allison transmission, both proven makes, the Excel should have been a market leader. Nevertheless sales were steady. Above - The Optare Excel was the first purpose- designed low- floor bus. An integral model all one structure, rather than separate body and chassis , its looks were striking as shown by East Yorkshire S RAG in Willerby near Hull in October Sadly the reliability did not match the looks!
The Optare Solo was the first low- floor midibus a bit bigger than a minibus but not as big as a single- decker to enter production.
After winning various awards for innovation, the Solo settled down to become a market leader and is still in production 15 years later. Optare also managed to produce the first low-floor double-decker, a reworked version of the Spectra. This was begun during , but did not appear until January Above - The first low-floor midibus was also an Optare product, the now-ubiquitous Solo.
A year later the Alero low-floor minibus appeared. Aimed at community and welfare transport operators, a few did appear on normal bus services, but proved quite unreliable and were mostly soon replaced. In , the Excel single-decker was replaced by the Tempo, which used the same basic structure but with new styling.
Plans were afoot to build a new large factory in Blackburn and a smaller one in Leeds, but these failed to come to fruition. In October production moved from Cross Gates to a new factory at Sherburn in Elmet, North Yorkshire; production of buses at the former East Lancashire plant at Blackburn ceased at this time, the Lancashire premises being given over to the bus repair and refurbishment division of the business. Due to delays in introducing new models, specifically a long- promised double deck design, and also due to upheaval resulting from the move to Sherburn, the value of Optare shares fell steadily throughout This prompted rival Alexander Dennis to request information during December with a view to mounting a takeover bid.
Alexander Dennis discovered that Ashok Leyland were unwilling to sell their stake in Optare, regardless of the price offered, and as such withdrew their interest by January Incidentally it was revealed that this was the second time that Alexander Dennis had investigated taking over Optare, the first being just prior to the Darwen takeover. In order to refinance the business, it was agreed that Ashok Leyland would increase its shareholding in Optare to Thus the Leeds Company basically became owned by Ashok Leyland, bringing stability and an end to the rollercoaster ride of takeovers and management buy outs that have characterised its history.
The bulk of Solo orders remained for the original design despite the introduction of the SR model described above.
Operator response was lukewarm to say the least, and the two prototypes were rebuilt as normal Solos before sale. However in Optare announced that the original style would be phased out and all production would in future be standardised on a design featuring slightly modified SR front and rear ends. Also in the Tempo single-decker was restyled as the Tempo SR, whilst more significantly the former East Lancashire Coachbuilders site in Blackburn closed in May, with all production now centred on Sherburn-in-Elmet.
A new model was also announced; the Bonito minibus, which used a Fiat Ducato chassis with bodywork constructed from plastics by Plastisol, a company in the Netherlands. The Bonito would be imported as a complete bus and was therefore only really distributed by Optare.
In the MetroCity was launched. This was based on the Versa and could be produced as a midibus or small single- decker, with lengths ranging from 9. It was originally intended for the London market.
The following year saw the realisation of the ambition to add a double- decker to the range, with the introduction of the MetroDecker. Two versions have been produced, one for the London market and one for the provinces. Nothing further was heard of it until an announcement was made late in that the project had been abandoned. Firstly the Bonito minibus failed to win any orders and was dropped from the range in The Tempo SR suffered from disappointing sales and is currently retained as an export model, principally for the Australian market, although realistically there is nothing to stop a UK customer from ordering the bus.
Indeed Manchester Airport took delivery of four during The Tempo has been replaced in the domestic market by the long version of the MetroCity, which has ended up being made available to operators outside London. Finally the MetroDecker is still looking for its first order, the four produced thus far being manufacturers demonstration vehicles.
The original bus was converted to all electric power during The London red livery gives a clue as to its intended market. It was rebuilt in as an electric vehicle and registered properly for the first time when the work had been carried out. Latus Reports from customers who have trialled the MetroDecker have been positive, and it should perhaps be stressed that the lack of orders is likely due to the difficulty in breaking into a market already well catered for, rather than reflecting on the vehicle itself.
As well as the Sherburn-in-Elmet factory, Optare has premises for its Unitec after-sales service division in Thurrock Essex and in Rotherham South Yorkshire on part of the site of the works it acquired from Autobus, not bad for a company whose origins lie in a corner of a yard in Balm Road! At some point prior to , an office and works was established at Balm Road, Leeds, presumably to encourage business in the north of England.
The Railless Company bought the UK licence for the Max Scheimann system of current collection, which used two wires negative and positive from which the vehicle collected power by means of two booms poles attached to its roof. Part of the mill buildings survives behind the bus.
Most of the early UK trolleybus systems were ordered from Railless, who designed the overhead equipment and vehicles. The actual construction of vehicles was sub- contracted in three parts; chassis, bodywork and electrical equipment, these were then delivered separately to Leeds where they were assembled into complete vehicles before being delivered to the customer, usually being towed to their destination.
Thus a vehicle listed as a Railless product was in fact the work of several other firms, for example the first trolleybuses delivered to Bradford Corporation which were also the first to be delivered in the UK were built by Alldays and Onions of Birmingham Chassis , Hurst Nelson of Motherwell bodies and Dick, Kerr of Preston electrical equipment.
Regular service started in January Photo - Wikimedia Commons. As a result of this and other problems, and despite undertaking some war work, Railless Electric Traction went into receivership in They were seeking replacement of their first trolleybuses, supplied in , following reliability issues.
The Corporation wanted a quote for new vehicles which would take into account a part- exchange figure for the two old buses and also a discount equivalent to the amount that the Corporation had spent on repairs over the two year period.
The company was eventually purchased from the receivers by Short Brothers of Rochester, Kent and relaunched as either Railless Ltd. Company Ltd, depending on which source you read.
The Leeds office was retained and employed one Mr Charles Roe, who left in to set up his own business, Charles H.