Over the years Grimsby purchased four types of trolleybus and Cleethorpes purchased three. All types, except Grimsby’s original single-deckers, survived until the late 1950s. They are described here in chronological order. Chassis and electrical equipment details were kindly supplied by Philip Groves in 1996.
The Grimsby single-deckers
The first Grimsby trolleybuses were box-like single-deckers with centre entrances. Numbers 1-5 (EE6461-EE6465) arrived in September 1926 and cost £1,475 each. They had chassis by Richard Garrett and Sons of Leiston in Suffolk (type O with serial numbers 300-304). The bodies were built by C.H. Roe of Leeds and had seats for just 32 (or 36?) passengers in two saloons, one smoking and one non-smoking. The vehicles were 26 ft long, 7 ft 6 in wide, 10 ft 9 in high, with a wheelbase of 15 ft 6 in and door width of 4 ft. Each was equipped with a Bull 50 hp motor, a Garrett foot operated drum type controller and pneumatic tyres. The two trolley booms shared a single base. As five vehicles proved insufficient two further trolleybuses (numbers 6 and 7, EE7097/8, with chassis numbers 332/3) entered service in March 1927.
The Grimsby Manager, Mr J.C. Whiteley, reported that the superior speed of the trolleybuses would permit the basic service to be worked with five vehicles, as against five trams for the shorter tramway. Indeed, the vehicles were capable of a good turn of speed: only 20 minutes were allowed for the return journey, compared to 25 minutes for the trams. At times six vehicles would be in service and when a trolleybus was off the road for repairs the replacing Albion bus found it hard to keep to the timetable. They were popular with the travelling public but there were complaints about speeding (the lettering on the side indicated a maximum speed of 12 mph) and two fatal accidents to pedestrians. An accident report from that period reveals that the trolleybuses were fitted with gongs like those of the trams.
When new, the livery was predominantly cream with the front dash panel, a broad band below the windows and a thin line above them painted crimson lake, and the vehicles were elaborately lined out. Later photographs show the vehicles with a darker coloured roof. Number 3 (which was to be renumbered 5 in 1944 upon delivery of the Karrier utility trolleybuses) was illuminated with "Adapt and Improve" on one side and "Progress and Prosperity" on the other. The display was to mark the reinstatement of Freeman Street after the lifting of the tram track, this having had an adverse effect on the many tradesmen along this thoroughfare.
These vehicles led long and relatively quiet lives on the Freeman Street route, although they had a tendency to dewire on the bend in Hainton Avenue. On 23 April 1928 one disgraced itself by demolishing a shop front, an event reported in the local newspaper. When flooding occurred in Hainton Avenue, the Garretts had to be replaced by the later AEC and Karrier trolleybuses. Norman Drewry recalled only two occasions when they were used on the 'main line', once during the Second World War on a short working to Park Street and again on a fine Sunday in 1945 when he saw one turning at High Cliff. During the War number 6 was modernised by extending the lower side panels downwards to reduce the inward curve. The first Garrett was withdrawn in 1939 and the last in December 1945.
The centre-entrance double-deckers
Trolleybus design had moved on a long way by September and October 1936 when ten AEC 663T three-axle trolleybuses with Roe H32/26C bodies arrived in readiness for the new service between Old Market and Park Street. Many readers will remember these solidly-built vehicles with comfortable seats upholstered in dark brown leather. The distinctive centre-entrance bodies were fitted with platform doors (later removed) and divided staircases to a design patented by the Grimsby Manager, Mr. J.C. Whiteley (British Patent 352295) and this required the motor and the transmission to be mounted on the right hand side. Registered JV5001-JV5010, they cost £2,129 each and received fleet numbers 8-12/18/14-17. Fleet number 13 was therefore not used, and JV5006 was numbered out of sequence. As the chassis numbers were 663T077-81/3-6/2, this may have been a last minute decision. They were equipped with Metro-Vick 201DV series-wound traction motors with serial numbers 23138/43/2/0/1/5/37/46/4/39.
When new, the livery was cream with crimson lake lower panels and bands below the upper deck and above the lower deck windows. The roof may have been brown or grey. From 1943 the cream was confined to the window surrounds. They gradually acquired advertisements including "Carr’s Almond Crisps", "Albatross self-raising flour for that extra rise", "Beer - the best long drink in the world!" and "Red & White cigarettes" which cost 3/10 (19p) for 20. They averaged 20 years of service, 11, 14, 16 and 17 surviving to become part of the Grimsby and Cleethorpes Joint Committee fleet in January 1957, but none received the new blue and cream colour scheme.
The first Cleethorpes double-deckers
In 1937 Cleethorpes also purchased AEC 661T trolleybuses, but these were two-axle vehicles with H30/26R bodies by Park Royal. The original ten carried fleet numbers 50-59 (FW8986-FW8995) and had chassis numbers 661T188-92/4/6/7/3/5. They were fitted with Metro-Vick 201DV 80 hp, series wound traction motors with serial numbers 24771/2/5/4/6/3/80/78/9/7. These vehicles lacked electric braking and this seems to have improved motor life. The one-time General Manager at Doncaster, T. Potts, once stated that Doncaster's trolleybuses lacked electric brakes and no motor changes had been needed in any of them. The chassis of number 50 was completed on 17 March 1937 and that of number 59 on 29 April 1937. The unladen weight of number 50, the first of the batch to be delivered, was 6 ton 13 cwt 1 qr. Number 59, at least, was registered on 18 July 1937, i.e. the day before entry into service.
The AEC 661T chassis was the trolleybus version of the AEC Regent bus which first appeared in 1931. In 1933, the wheelbase was increased to 16 ft 3 in, allowing a 26 ft long, 7 ft 6 in wide body to be fitted. The five bay Park Royal bodies fitted to the Cleethorpes vehicles were typical of that bodybuilder's products of the period. Wolverhampton Corporation specified some very similar bodies to be fitted to Sunbeam MR2 chassis and the general outline was closely copied for a batch of metal framed bodies supplied to Reading Corporation in 1938. The vehicles were delivered in a deep royal blue livery, with three cream bands, carried below the upper deck windows and above and below the lower deck windows. There was yellow lining-out below the uppermost and lowermost bands. The Cleethorpes coat of arms was applied to the side panels, and the fleet number was situated on the front above the towing hatch, and to the rear beside the registration plate. Separate route number and destination apertures were carried at both front and rear, with an additional destination box above the platform.
According to Mr F.H. Peacock, then Engineer and Manager of Cleethorpes Corporation Transport Department, the keynote of the new vehicles was simplicity of design and operation. In an article which appeared in the 9 September 1937 issue of Transport World, he provided the following details of their specification:
In his article, Mr Peacock commented that the original batch of ten vehicles would possibly be augmented. Indeed, three apparently identical vehicles (although for some reason they appear to have a more severe frontal aspect) were delivered a year later, numbered 60-62 and registered AFU 153-155. Their chassis, numbered 661T265-7, were completed on 13 May 1938 (60/1) and 16 May 1938 (62). The motor serial numbers were 30733-5 and all three vehicles were registered on 1 July 1938. Their unladen weight was 6 ton 13 cwt 0 qtr. Whereas the first batch had spring filled seats the newer vehicles had Dunlopillo. World War 2 led to a drop in patronage of the trolleybus service and 59-62 were sold to Nottingham City Transport as surplus to requirements in 1940. It is not known why the newest vehicles were sold, but it may be that the choice was left to the purchaser.
In 1944 the original livery was revised: the cream bands became light blue and the roof was also changed to this colour. Three trolleybuses (numbers 50, 51 and 53) retained this livery until their withdrawal. Numbers 52, 54, 55, 56 and 58 began receiving a new grey and blue livery from about 1950 onwards and all except 57 received bodywork modifications, the most obvious feature being the replacement of the half-drop windows by slider-type. Number 55, the last of the modified vehicles to return to service, reappeared much later than the others and was said to have differed internally in minor details. One report states that upon modification some of the batch had their seats recovered in grey leathercloth, replacing the blue moquette/leather.
After the arrival of postwar trolleybuses 59-64, unmodified 57 appeared to become a reserve vehicle, in use from the old Whitsun holiday weekend until the end of September. From about 1948 it was used as a mobile addition to the annual seafront illuminations in August and September. Clad in a (removable) wooden framework to carry the electric light bulbs and set-pieces, it ran each evening between Park Street and the Bathing Pool. When not in use the framework was hung on the depot wall. It is suggested that 56 was used in 1950 and that the practice was repeated in later years, but not necessarily with the same bus, and ceased with the end of trolleybus operation. A conflicting report states that in later years one trolleybus was permanently fitted with coloured lights and was only used in the summer, and that this trolleybus was not used by the Joint Committee.
Numbers 54, 55 and 58 became part of the Joint Committee's active fleet and 55 received its fourth colour scheme prior to its withdrawal in 1959.
The Grimsby 'doodlebugs'
During the war very few new buses or trolleybuses were built. Most of those that were were built to 'utility' specification, and from sometime in 1943 also had wooden slatted seats, and were allocated by the Government on the basis of need. By 1944 Grimsby’s original single-deckers were life-expired and the undertaking obtained three Park Royal H30/26R bodied Karrier W trolleybuses in the summer of that year. Numbered 1-3 and registered JV8701-JV8703, they cost £2,950 each. The chassis, numbered 50072-4, were equipped with English Electric E406/8M 80 hp compound-wound motors probably, with light shunt winding to allow rheostatic braking.
These trolleybuses apparently acquired the nickname 'doodlebugs' on account of the number of casualties they caused to the general public. Being two axle vehicles with motors similar in power to the three-axle AECs, they were capable of a rapid rate of acceleration. Coupled with this, the floor was fitted with metal treads, and dockers in heavy steel shod clogs might just as well have been wearing ice skates. Passengers are reported to have slithered in all directions, cursing loudly as they came into contact with unyielding wooden seats.
In many other towns, utility buses and trolleybuses were fitted with new bodies or, at the very least upholstered seats, at the earliest opportunity after the war, normally in the early 1950s. The Grimsby vehicles, however, appeared to remain in original condition until their withdrawal in 1958. Furthermore, instead of being confined to the Freeman Street route they were regular performers on the 'main line'. They seemed to mostly carry advertisements for tobacco, such as 'Have a Capstan – Made to Make Friends' and 'Wills’s Woodbines – smoked by millions'. All received the Joint Committee livery of blue and cream, in the case of number 1 together with an advertisement for 'Players Digger Shag'.
Grimsby's post-war trolleybuses
A clue to the longevity of the 'doodlebugs' may lie in Grimsby’s next (and final) trolleybus purchase. In 1947 six more Karrier Ws with Roe H31/25R bodies were acquired in what was originally a Ministry of War Transport allocation. Their chassis numbers were 50336-41 and they were fitted with Metro-Vick 207A3 85 hp compound-wound motors with light shunt winding. Registered AEE22-AEE27, they were allocated fleet numbers 19-24, following on from the pre-war AECs.
They were delivered in the 1942 version of the crimson lake and cream livery. It is suggested that there were several months delay between delivery and entry into service. No trolleybuses were withdrawn as a consequence of these arrivals so services must have been increased. Prior to 1950 number 23 received a revised livery with additional cream and extensive lining out, and appears to have been the only vehicle in the Grimsby fleet to be so treated. Number 19 also received a revised livery with more cream windows in late 1955 or 1956.
These fast, comfortable vehicles were well-liked by the crews and all received Joint Committee livery. Number 22 was the first trolleybus to be repainted in the new colour scheme, in March 1957, and did not receive the all-blue rear end adopted later in the year (to reduce the visibility of marks caused by grease falling from the trolleyheads) when the next (19) was painted. Widely photographed, for example in Cleethorpes in front of the Victoria Hotel with its signs for Hewitts Ales, or at the Bathing Pool with its sign "To the Boating Lake and Motor Park", they carried advertisements for "Rentaset", "Player’s" and "Kenneth A. Smith, Television and Radio Specialists, 170 Cromwell Road, Grimsby".
The Cleethorpes BUTs and Crossleys
Cleethorpes strengthened its fleet by purchasing four BUT 9611T trolleybuses with Northern Coachbuilders H28/26R bodies in 1950. GFU692-GFU695 were numbered 59-62 in place of the AECs sold ten years earlier and were delivered in a new livery of corfe grey with three bands and the roof painted larkspur blue. With chassis numbered 9611T131-4, they were fitted with Metro-Vick 201AYG6 115 hp compound-wound motors with light shunt winding. They seem to have been fast vehicles, and GFU694 gained the epithet "Flying 61" among the crews on account of its speed.
The following year, two Crossley TTD42/3 trolleybuses were purchased, numbered 63-64 and registered HBE541/2. They were equipped with Metro-Vick 209AY1 95 hp compound-wound motors with light shunt winding and the chassis numbers were 94444/5. The chassis of number 63 was exhibited at the 1950 Commercial Motor Show. The attractive Roe H29/25R bodies were described by one conductor as roomy enough to hold the staff dance in. These six vehicles proved to be the last trolleybuses purchased by either undertaking and in 1951 the fleets were at their maximum combined strength of 32. All received the Joint Committee livery of blue and cream. Northern Electrical Co. Ltd, Riby Square, Grimsby and Lincolnshire Motor Co and the Winter Gardens were amongst the advertisers on these vehicles.
And ... ?
Twenty-two trolleybuses passed to the Joint Transport Committee on its formation on 1 January 1957 and the Cleethorpes fleet was renumbered by the addition of 100 to the fleet number. In the January 1958 edition of the magazine Buses Illustrated it was reported that the Committee had invited tenders for the supply of six buses and seven trolleybuses to replace pre-war vehicles. In the event, no trolleybus order was placed. Mr J. Rostron, when asked in 1999, doubted whether the report was correct; as General Manager at the time he was not aware of any such interest.
A visitor to Grimsby and Cleethorpes in the late 1950s could have expected to see trolleybuses in three different liveries (crimson lake and cream, grey and blue and blue and cream) and of six different types. These types included three-axle and utility vehicles, four chassis manufacturers (AEC, Karrier, BUT and Crossley) and three bodybuilders (Roe, Park Royal and NCB). Fortunately, this remarkable variety was captured on film and all of these features can be enjoyed on the video "The Passing of Pyewipe".
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