BTS 50th Anniversary Celebrations
Reading Event 2nd & 3rd July & Woodcote Rally 9th & 10th July 2011
The final events of the BTS's 50th anniversary celebrations took place in early July 2011. It was originally planned to bring Reading trolleybus 113 down from the Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft and display it with our ex Reading motorbus, 47, at Great Knolly’s Street depot, home of Reading Buses, at their Open Day on 3 July 2011. However, at a BTS committee meeting earlier this year it was decided to apply to Reading Borough Council to seek permission to display both vehicles in Broad Street, the main shopping area in Reading on the day prior to Reading Buses Open Day as well. Our Chairman, Graham Bilbé, eventually obtained the necessary permission and arrangements were made to tow 113 from Sandtoft to Reading. Motorbus 47 lived fairly local so that was not a problem to transport it.
At lunchtime on Tuesday 28 June 2011 113 departed from Sandtoft under suspended tow by Bridge Garage of Ossett. They took it as far as Leicester to a towing agents’ yard where it stayed until the following day. A company named Unit Recovery undertook the second half of the tow and they departed from Leicester at 23.00 and arrived at Reading Buses depot at approximately 03.00 the following morning. Reading buses kindly agreed to keep 113 and 47 (which arrived the following day) under cover.
113 was given a wash down by BTS members Adam Conner and Keith Pauline - both of whom happen to work for Reading Buses. The Reading Transport Enthusiasts Club, and several private individuals, have made significant donations to help fund 113's triumphant return to Reading, and the BTS is very grateful to them all for their kind contributions. But then what better way to mark half a century of preservation?
On Saturday 2 July 2011 113 was towed by a former Reading Buses and Chiltern Queens towing lorry, owned by Richard Rampton and taken to the eastern end of Broad Street, near to its junction with Minster Street. 47 was driven and parked on the opposite side of the road approximately 50 yards apart from 113. Various BTS committee members and also John Whitehead helped man the vehicles during the day.
The reaction of the public on seeing both vehicles was wonderful and those that could remember trolleybuses in the town were astounded not only to find out that six Reading trolleybuses still existed in preservation but also very impressed with the presentable condition that both 113 and 47 were in. I think the BTS gained a lot of respect from the public for that. Much younger people who had probably never set eyes on a trolleybus before seemed very interested in 113 and took the trouble to have a look around it.
One thing that was very noticeable was the amount of interest amongst foreigners in town. There was a lady from Brno in the Czech Republic, (who was most impressed that our Chairman had been there!!!) but others that were spoken to were from Lithuania, Latvia and France. The common thread was that all seemed to instantly recognise that this was a Trolleybus - but were intrigued having never seen a double-decker version! Sadly, it seems, it is only the Brits that don't even know what a trolleybus is but then again you would have to be approaching 50 years old to remember them in Reading. All too soon the day came to an end and 113 and 47 were taken back to Great Knolly’s Street depot.
The following day was Reading Buses Open Day, where amongst various activities on offer, members of the public could have a ride on a bus going through the wash and also being taken around various parts of the depot. Money made from the public on the day is given to charity. For my part, I was presenting digital film shows of Reading’s trolleybuses which was well attended throughout the day. 113 and 47 were displayed alongside a chassis of one of Reading Buses new Dennis Electric Hybrid buses together with another one that had been delivered with a body. Again the appearance of our two vehicles went down well with the public.
With the Open Day coming to an end, thoughts turned to taking 113 back to Sandtoft. No arrangements had been made at that stage which was just as well as somebody came up with the idea of taking 113 to the Woodcote Rally the following weekend. Following a series of emails to establish if we had a team who could tow and man 113 at the rally, it was agreed to take it there.
On Saturday 9 July 113 was towed to Woodcote using Richard Rampton’s towing lorry, this time manned by Roget Tuggey, Chris Whitehead and Richard Bilbé.
Throughout the weekend 113 was visited by many people and much interest was shown. Roy Fawcett, Keith Pauline, Chris Whitehead, Richard Bilbé and myself manned 113 for most of the Saturday and really enjoyed listening to people’s memories of the trolleybuses, not just in Reading but other towns too. Later in the day 113, under tow, joined the convoy of various types of vehicles being paraded around the site for members of the public to see. 113 won the Smiths Cup at the Rally but at the time of writing this we are not sure in which category it won!!!!
113 stayed over at Woodcote for the second day of the rally. Chris Whitehead provided the security by sleeping on it overnight! Another successful day was held and Shaun Bradbury was an addition to the crew manning 113 for that day.
There is no doubt that the BTSs profile with the public was raised by the events over the two weekends and hopefully we might attract more members as a result. There were certainly a lot of BTS prospectus’s taken by people over both weekends.
Thanks are due to Richard Rampton for providing his towing lorry for both events, to Graham Green for carrying out maintenance work on the towing lorry beforehand. To Roger Tuggey, Chris Whitehead and Richard Bilbe who were involved in all the towing arrangements and to those already mentioned who manned 113 and 47 in Reading and 113 at Woodcote.
I think we have celebrated our 50th anniversary in style this year and I hope the BTS membership that attended the four events have enjoyed themselves.
Thanks to Shaun Bradbury, Frank Cheevers and Graham Bilbe for use of their photos above.