It was on 3 November 1968 that the trolleybus system in Reading operated for the last time and to mark the 40th anniversary it was decided by the Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft Board that the twilight trolleybus running day planned for Sunday 16 November 2008 would take on a Reading theme.
Two Reading trolleybuses, 113 and 181, were definitely available for service and 144 would also be if a rear spring could be repaired in time. 174 was available for demonstration runs only as the seats were being re-trimmed and 193 could not operate at all as it is awaiting re-fitting of seats and a repaint before being put back into service.
The Chief Executive Officer at Reading Buses, James Freeman, who is also a Vice-President of the BTS, saw an opportunity for one of his new bio-ethanol buses to take part in the running day in order to demonstrate two alternative forms of public transport to the diesel bus, and also to create an interesting contrast of Reading buses past and present.
The plan was for bio-ethanol bus 1114 (the only bus fitted with a tachograph) to travel up on the Saturday and to depart from Sandtoft late afternoon the following day. The Reading Evening Post carried a feature on this event in which the public were invited to make the journey on 1114 for the minimal cost of £10, although they had to find their own accommodation for the Saturday night.
As part of the publicity for the event, ITV news visited Sandtoft on Monday 10 November 2008 to film some of the Reading trolleybuses operating, for which Graham Bilbé travelled up especially from Reading to organise and to be interviewed. Two days later ITV visited Reading Buses depot at Great Knolly’s Street to film one of the bio-ethanol buses and also to interview a few people about their memories of the trolleybuses and also their thoughts on the new bio-ethanol vehicles. The feature was shown on Meridian News on Friday 14 November 2008.
1114 has just arrived at Sandtoft on the Saturday night and is seen in the company of Reading trolleybus 181 in Sandtoft Square.
On Saturday 15 November 2008 the three operational trolleybuses were cleaned and 144 was taken on a test run following the fitting of the new spring. Meanwhile, 1114 departed from the depot in Great Knolly’s Street, Reading at 10.00. Adam Conner was the first driver and he took 1114 as far as Nottingham City Transport depot where 1114 had to refuel. At 13.30, 1114 departed from Nottingham with Keith Pauline taking over the driving until Sandtoft was reached at 17.30.
On arrival at Sandtoft, trolleybus 181 which had been operating on test, and 1114 were parked outside the shops in Sandtoft Square for night time photo opportunities. James Freeman arrived shortly afterwards and drove 1114 around the site for anyone who wanted to board with trolleybuses 113 and 181 going around the circuit too.
Sunday 16 November 2008 sees 181, 1114 and 144 awaiting their turn for service in Sandtoft Square.
Sunday 16 November turned out to be a lovely day, the weather being reminiscent of the last day of trolleybus operations in Reading, sunny but chilly. 113, 144 and 181 provided the service trolleybuses for the day. 1114 also joined in by making two trips on the Isle Of Axholme tours as well as occasional trips around the museum site alongside the trolleybuses. The number of people attending the event was far more than expected, so much so that the Sandtoft café ran out of hot food by just after lunch, the ladies serving having a much tougher days work than expected!
113, 144 and 181 were operating regularly as demand for rides was brisk throughout the day. In the early afternoon the three operational trolleybuses together with 174 and 1114 were lined up for photo taking opportunities. Later in the afternoon 174 also made some demonstration runs. Shortly before 1114 was due to depart from Sandtoft, the last operation of trolleybuses in Reading was re-created using 174, 181 and 144. Destination blinds were set exactly as they were shown on the last journey in November 1968. Visitors were invited to travel on 181 and 144 only as 174 was not in a serviceable condition. However, being staff and a Reading trolleybus nutter, I sneaked a ride on 174 as it was the only trolleybus I had not ridden on when the re-creation of the last run was carried out a couple of times during the Reading trolleybus event in 2006!!!
There is 59 years difference between the ages of these two vehicles!! 144 passes 1114 on a service run.
1114 departed from Sandtoft at approximately 16.00. However, the trolleybuses continued to operate until 18.00, providing visitors the chance to travel in the hours of darkness. This was really enjoyable as being dark outside, you could almost imagine you were travelling on trolleybuses back in Reading.
1114 eventually arrived back in Reading at 23.00, having refuelled in Nottingham and then was heavily delayed in a queue on the M1 motorway due to an accident further south. 1114 averaged 5.17 mpg during the whole trip!
All things considered, it was a lovely day for everyone attending. For Reading trolleybus enthusiasts it was a day of pure nostalgia. For modern day bus enthusiasts it was a great chance to see an alternative to the diesel bus as well as comparing the old and new forms of transport. The staff at Sandtoft deserve a big thank you as they worked tremendously hard to make the day a success, which it undoubtedly was. It was nice that the Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft also received free publicity by virtue of the feature in Meridian News. Sadly, the only drawback for me was that my car would not start when attempting to leave the museum and my car had to be relayed back to Swindon courtesy of the AA, arriving back in Swindon at 02.00. Well it was a diesel powered car!!!!