Modern Trolleybus Systems
There are around 350 trolleybus systems world-wide. That's as many as there are street tramways! This fact astounds most people who have never seen a modern trolleybus system, and therefore think they no longer exist. Many of the European systems are to be found in former Eastern Bloc countries.
However, a good many major cities around the world operate trolleybus systems, including Vancouver, San Francisco, Geneva, Lyon, Salzburg, Athens, Beijing and St Petersburg. In many of these places, the trolleybus is the backbone of the public transport system.
New networks are being constructed or proposed all the time - the Italian systems in Lecce and Rome, for example, have been introduced in recent years. More and more, environmentally friendly electric trolleybuses are being acknowledged as an efficient, clean and popular choice for public transport. Many are now built with a small battery that allows operation away from the overhead wires and so increasingly trolleybus systems are being expanded with minimal or no additional overhead required.
Here are some links which show trolleybuses operating in recent years, and also statistics of the spread of systems around the world:
The British Trolleybus Society's Collection
The photograph shows a line up of six of our vehicles at Sandtoft, details of these and the rest of our fleet can be found by clicking on the vehicle's photograph in the table below.
Within the information about each of our vehicles you will find a summary of its technical specification, where and when it operated, and its current restoration status.
What is a Trolleybus?
24 - Trolley boom
25 - Trolley base
26 - Power wiring
27 - Main switch
28 - Hand brake
29 - Instrument panel
30 - Hooter
31 - Battery switch
32 - Master controller
33 - Contactors
34 - Brake pedal
35 - Power pedal
36 - Resistances grille
37 - Auxillary motor
38 - Resistances
39 - Compressor
40 - Air reservior
41 - Traction motor
42 - Drive shaft
43 - First differential
44 - Second differential
A trolleybus is a bus driven by electricity collected from overhead wires, usually at around 600 volts. Various mechanical ways of collecting the power were tried in the early 1900s before roof mounted 'booms', virtually the same as used on electric trams, became the enduring answer and a trolleybus's most identifiable feature.
Above is London trolleybus 142, an AEC 'C' class of 1935. Metropolitan-Cammell Carriage+Wagon Co Ltd 70 seat body. English Electric electrical equipment. 95hp motor. 0-30mph in 23 seconds, 35-0mph in 14 seconds. Laden weight 13 tons. Worm and nut steering. 10.33 rear axle ratio. Air brake exhaust air cooled resistances. 24v lighting. Slider trolley heads. Power and electrical braking on one pedal.
Early trolleybuses operated in France, Italy and Germany, from 1900 onwards, used on 98 systems, demonstrations or trials by 1915. The world's first commercial trolleybus operation was between Fontainbleau and Samois between 1901 and 1913 using Lombard Gerin 'Trolley Automoteurs'. Self powered power collector running above the wires. 2 x 8hp motors. Series-parallel control. Jeantaud body, 18 seats. 12kph top speed. 11.48:1 gear and chain ratio.
In the UK, trolleybuses were originally seen as as a cheaper option for lightly trafficked routes or as feeders to tram services. Britain had 50 operators between 1911 and 1972 running in many large towns & London suburbs.
Former UK Systems
This page will eventually look at the many undertakings in the UK that at one time or another ran trolleybuses. A table of British Operators is given below as a temporary measure.
Date Of Opening
Date Of Closure
No. Of New Vehicles
No. Of Used Vehicles
Maximum No. Of Vehicles
No. Of Routes
|Ashton Under Lyne||26.02.1925||31.12.1966||42||0||19||5|
|Brighton Hove & District||01.01.1945||24.03.1959||11||0||11||4 (inc BCT)|
Keighley (Cedes Stoll)
|Kingston Upon Hull||25.07.1937||31.10.1964||116||0||100||7|
|Mexborough & Swinton||31.08.1915||26.03.1961||74||13||45||4|
|Newcastle Upon Tyne||02.10.1935||02.10.1966||317||6||204||28|
|Notts. & Derby||07.01.1932||25.04.1953||64||0||32||3|
|Southend On Sea||16.10.1925||28.10.1954||37||15||34||4|
|York (First Period)||22.12.1920||31.12.1929||4||0||4||1|
|York (Second Period)||06.10.1931||05.01.1935||3||0||3||1|
Museums that operate trolleybuses in the UK are: the Black Country Living Museum at Dudley, East Anglia Transport Museum, Carlton Colville, near Lowestoft and The Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft, near Doncaster.
It is also possible to operate trolleybuses at The North of England Open Air Museum at Beamish. However, this museum is designed to depict an earlier era than that of the trolleybus; the usual sole trolleybus at this location, Newcastle 501, is not normally seen in operation by the public. The situation should change in the next couple of years as a 1950s village is under construction. On completion, trolleybus overhead will be erected and a route aroud this village will be inaugurated, possibly in 2024. It is intended that Newcastle 501 will be joined by Teesside 11 (ex Reading 186) to operate this route.
A number of other transport museums around the country house trolleybuses as static exhibits. Many others are owned by individuals or small groups and are kept at locations which are generally not open to the public. There is some fluidity in the situation as vehicles are moved around from time to time; either for renovation at a specific location or for operation at an event at one of the working museums. The three museums mentioned previously all hold special events at various times and welcome participation of visiting vehicles.
Several vehicles are preserved overseas. News of overseas museums is always welcome for the Museum and Preservation column, please email email@example.com.
Table of Preserved British Trolleybuses in the British Isles
Correct as at 27 September 2022 from existing information.
If you have any updates or corrections, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
|Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft,
Bournemouth 99; 297 & 3014
1stored at Thorpe-In-Balne
2 stored or undergoing restoration at Selby
4 Bournemouth 301 is currently in Ellesmere Port undergoing finishing touches following an external repaint. .
5 St. Helens 387 currently displayed at the North West Museum of Road Transport in St. Helens.
|East Anglia Transport Museum,
Ashton Under Lyne 87
|Black Country Living Museum,
Bradford 735 (Now in Walsall Corporation livery)
|Ipswich Transport Museum,
Suffolk, IP3 9JD
Ipswich 2; 96; 26; 44; 46; 1057& 126
6 Stored in a secure site elsewhere in Ipswich.
7 On loan to East Anglian Transport Museum, Carlton Colville.
|Keighley Bus Museum Trust||8||
Bradford 704, 713, 758; 8449, 8458 and 8478
8 On long term loan from The Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft
9 On Loan to Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft
West Of England Transport Collection, Winkleigh,
Bradford 703 (Privately Owned)
|Private Ownership – Boughton, Notts.||3||
|Cardiff & S. Wales Trolleybus Project,
|2||Cardiff 243 & 262|
|London Transport Museum,
Acton & Covent Garden
London 1 & 1768 (Acton)
|Hastings Trolleybus Restoration Group
Hastings No. 3 was fitted with a Commer TS3 diesel engine in 1960 but retains both trolleybus chassis and bodywork.
|1||Derby 215 (Private)|
|Greater Manchester Transport Museum,
|2||Ashton under Lyne 80
|1||Brighton & Hove 6340
|Private Ownerhip (England)||1||Bournemouth 299|
|Ulster Folk & Transport Museum,
Co. Down, N.I.
|NTA Raunds, Northants||1||Hastings 45|
|Ellough (NTA Site)||1||
Belfast 168 (NTA)
|Bradford Industrial Museum,
|2||Bradford 515 (body only) and 737|
|Glasgow Museum of Transport||1||Glasgow TBS 13|
|Kirkleatham Old Hall Museum||1||Teesside 5|
|Hampshire County Council Store, Porchester||1||Portsmouth 201|
|North of England Open Air Museum, Beamish,
|Private Ownership – North East Aircraft Museum, Washington, Sunderland||1||Bradford 835|
|Rotherham Trolleybus Group,
Burton upon Trent,
|Private Ownership||2||Bournemouth 212 (was 246) Bradford 712|
|Totals – Locations 31||111||Operators 30|
NB. British vehicles preserved overseas are NOT included.
Sadly Belfast 183, accommodated in Northern Ireland, has recently been scrapped