BTS 50th Anniversary Celebrations at Sandtoft - 28 to 30 May 2011
Following on from our celebrations in Reading at the beginning of April 2011, the next event was scheduled to take place at The Trolleybus Museum At Sandtoft over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend 28 – 30 May 2011.
Two main events were planned for the weekend. The first was to assemble the entire BTS fleet together in one location for the first time in our history and operate as many of them as possible.
The second was to re-commission Manchester 1344 back into service following its restoration by Thamesdown Transport in Swindon. For these events to occur, much planning had to be done.
Manchester 1344 was towed from Swindon to Sandtoft on 12 March 2011. There were a few outstanding tidying up jobs to be done plus there was an electrical problem which prevented 1344 from running.
Bruce Lake eventually traced the problem as being a faulty coil in one of the contactors, which the Bradford Armature Company sorted out for us.
Walsall 872 has been based at the Aston Manor Road Transport Museum since 1993 where Roy Pearce, Colin Page and Neil Preston have gradually restored her internally. With the work now finished, 872 was towed to Sandtoft on 22 May 2011.
Walsall 342 has been stored undercover on a farm at Thorpe-in-Balne since May 2006 and was towed to Sandtoft also on 22 May 2011. Finally, our ex Reading motorbus No. 47 travelled up from Reading to Sandtoft under its own power later that week. All our fleet was now at Sandtoft!
That was not the end of the work though as Mexborough & Swinton 34, which has been stored at the back of the depot, was moved for the first time in many years. Our Horse Drawn Tower wagon, ‘William’, also had to be towed out from the back of the depot. Manchester 1344 needed to have all transfers applied and thanks are due to Stan Letts from the Black Country Museum for providing and applying the new transfers. All vehicles were thoroughly cleaned in the week leading up to our big weekend.
I arrived at Sandtoft during Saturday lunchtime to find Aachen 22, Walsall 342 and 872, Bournemouth 99 and Mexborough & Swinton 34 (the non operational vehicles) lined up on the back corner of Sandtoft Square. Reading 113, Huddersfield 631, London 1812, Cardiff 203 South Shields 204 and Glasgow TB78 provided the trolleybus service. Manchester 1344 was in the workshop being prepared for its re-commissioning the following day. A steady stream of visitors arrived throughout the day including enthusiasts from different parts of the country who were keen to see our collection together for the first time in 50 years!
The big day for the BTS was Sunday 29 May 2011 but the weather was not good. It was very overcast and windy with persistent showers. The BTS fleet provided the basic trolleybus service until 14.00 when 1344 was towed out from the workshop ready for the re-commissioning ceremony.
Invited guests included Martin Ford, who originally purchased 1344 from Manchester Corporation in July 1964, Carl Isgar, Denis Vickers and Jim Widdowson who were original shareholders of the vehicle when it belonged to the Manchester Trolleybus Preservation Society. Samuel Ford, who drove 1344 when it became the last trolleybus to operate in Manchester on 31 December 1966 was also in attendance and invited to perform the re-commissioning ceremony.
Following a brief speech by the BTS Chairman, Graham Bilbé, Samuel Ford gave a speech recalling his time as a trolleybus driver in Manchester and also praising the restoration job carried out on 1344. Following the cutting of a white ribbon attached to the rear entrance, 1344s booms were connected to the overhead and attendees were invited for the first ride around the Sandtoft circuit. A full load was carried. Luckily the rain held off during the ceremony.
Later in the afternoon a full line up of the BTS fleet was organised and it was wonderful to see all our vehicles together at long last. For a number of the early RTS/BTS members including myself it was a dream to see the collection together as I can recall the days at Smiths Coaches garage in Reading when a small number of our fleet was stored there and a museum in which to operate them was just a dream!
On Monday 30 May 2011 the entire operational BTS fleet was used again to provide the service for the day and the line up of the BTS fleet was organised so that those people who had not attended the previous day could take photos.
All in all it was a great weekend and the BTS can be proud of what it has achieved during its 50 years existence. Well done to all those people who worked so hard to make this event happen and to the Board at the Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft for their assistance in supporting for the event.
Thanks are due to Graham Bilbe, Stewart David and Dave Hall who kindly supplied the above photos.