New Lives

Two Cleethorpes trolleybuses still survive, over 40 years after the system closed. Both are kept at Sandtoft Transport Centre near Epworth and can be viewed during the museum’s regular open days. Also there is a Grimsby AEC diesel bus built in 1947. Although no Grimsby trolleybuses survive, one link with the Grimsby trolleybus system remains in the form of an Albion tower wagon. EE8128 entered service as a single deck bus in 1928 and the body was subsequently cut down to allow a tower to be fitted. It was used to maintain the overhead wiring, then to remove it after the closure, and the vehicle is now preserved privately. Although most of the 45 trolleybuses which were owned by Grimsby and Cleethorpes Corporations were life-expired when withdrawn and scrapped, at least 17 gained a further lease of life.

Pre-war and wartime Grimsby trolleybuses

Only one of Grimsby’s original single-deck trolleybuses is known to have been sold for further use. Number 6 (EE7097) was the last of the batch to be withdrawn, in December 1945, and its body was reportedly converted to a seaside caravan. This was not an unusual end for single-deck buses of this vintage. Bradford single-deck trolleybus 562 (KW6052) survived as a summerhouse at Eastoft, near Crowle, for many years and has since been acquired by Sandtoft Transport Centre for preservation.

It is a shame that none of Grimsby’s famous pre-war, centre-entrance trolleybuses survived. The last four vehicles were withdrawn in March (numbers 11, 16 and 17) and April (number 14) 1957, and may not have been used in service after the merger. All were noted in the former Pelham Road depot, which was being used as a store for withdrawn vehicles, in September 1957 together with ex-Cleethorpes AEC 661Ts 52/6/7 and several diesel buses. A 'job lot' including these trolleybuses was sold to Belgrave Autos, a dealer in Mitcham, Surrey, for £1,030 in November 1957. A similar fate befell the three wartime 'utility' bodied vehicles following their withdrawal in 1958 as they were sold for scrap to Ball & Johnson (dealer), Worksop together with ex-Cleethorpes AEC 661T 158 for £240 in late 1958 or 1959.

Pre-war Cleethorpes trolleybuses

Despite a smaller fleet, more Cleethorpes trolleybuses found new homes. The original batch of ten trolleybuses (numbers 50-59) was followed by a further three vehicles (60-62) the following year. With the outbreak of war the holiday trade ceased and Cleethorpes did not need all of its fleet of modern vehicles. In October 1940 the four newest (59-62) were sold to Nottingham City Transport, who had an increased requirement for trolleybuses, as their numbers 437-40. Cleethorpes Corporation calculated with a 12 year depreciation, valuing the four vehicles at £6,490 3s 2d. Following an inspection they were purchased for £1,705 each, the cost being charged to the Reserve and Renewals Fund. The purchase was reported in the 2 October 1940 edition of the Nottingham Journal, as follows:

"Nottingham Corporation Transport Committee has purchased four second-hand trolleybuses from Cleethorpes Corporation. An increase in the city's fleet of trolley buses was required owing to the additional traffic thrown on them by war-time conditions. Mr. Ben England, the City Transport manager, told the "Journal" that the additional vehicles (which he is pleased were purchased on his recommendation) will be a very big help in meeting the needs of the department, but a number of trolley buses which normally would have been scrapped will still have to be retained in service.

Cleethorpes is able to dispose of the four vehicles because war-time requirements are not so great as formerly, said Mr. England, who explained that they "could have been sold 12 times over", and Nottingham acquired them by taking the necessary steps quickly. It seems that urgent national necessity has to be proved to obtain new trolley vehicles nowadays, and then delay in delivery must be expected. The last additions of new vehicles to Nottingham's trolley bus fleet were in 1935. The vehicles purchased from Cleethorpes, constructed in 1937 and 1938, will therefore be Nottingham's most modern trolley buses.

They are four-wheelers, compared with Nottingham's six-wheelers, and will seat 56 passengers, whereas the great bulk of the city's trolley buses accommodate 64, and some 60. One of the trolley buses has arrived from Cleethorpes, having been towed by one of the Nottingham Corporation truck wagons. The others will follow in the next few days. They will be brought into service some weeks hence, after repainting and necessary adjustments".

They were used on the Nottingham Road service from King Street. 437 and 440 (at least) were reconditioned by NCT in November and December 1950 respectively. 438 was delicensed on 3l 12 1950 and reinstated on 1 February 1951, possibly having been reconditioned. After withdrawal in April (438, 439) and May (437, 440) 1952, 437 438 and 440 were sold to Thomas Bow, Contractor, 43 Lamartine Street, Nottingham, in April 1953 for use as site caravans, at first as complete units, but later as wooden sheds built on to the trolleybus chassis. 439 was sold to Mrs A.P. Clarke, Brownwood, Thorney, Lincolnshire, in August 1953. lnitially all were sold to Thomas Bow but 439 was not collected and subsequently resold to Mrs Clark.

Withdrawal of other members of the pre-war fleet began with numbers 50 and 51 in 1950 and all were sold to scrap men. Number 53, which also did not receive the grey and blue livery, was probably withdrawn in 1951. Numbers 56 and 57 are thought to have been withdrawn in December 1954, followed by 52 in December 1955, and all three were sold for scrap in November 1957 as recorded above. When Norman Drewry visited Grimsby and Cleethorpes in late 1957 only 155 was in service and 154 and 158 were in store at Pelham Road depot together with the vehicles mentioned above. He was told that 158, which had been withdrawn on 31 August, would be used again in the summer of 1958 but he does not think it was. A report in Buses in May 1958 that 11 out of 17 trolleybuses (almost certainly 1-3, 19-24, 154/5 and 159-64) were by then carrying the blue and cream colour scheme would suggest that 158 was not part of the active fleet. It was sold for scrap in late 1958 or 1959 with ex-Grimsby 1-3 (q.v.).

The last to go were 154 (FW8990), which did return to service in 1958, and 155 (FW8991), in December 1958 and January 1959 respectively. 154 was the last trolleybus to operate in the old Cleethorpes colours of grey and blue. Indeed, the November 1958 issue of Buses notes that it was by then the only trolleybus not carrying the joint livery. The demise of 155 was also recorded by the Evening Telegraph, this time on 21 January 1959. In Cleethorpes, close to the junction of Manchester Street and Grimsby Road, a breakdown truck skidded into the back of 155 in fog. The photograph accompanying the news item shows severe damage to the rear offside corner panels and (wooden) framework. Nobody was hurt but the 22-year-old veteran was considered beyond repair. Along with Grimsby 23, 154 and 155 were sold to Hill’s scrapyard, where they remained for almost ten years. In 1968, 154, by then in very poor condition but still basically intact, was purchased for preservation. To allow it to be extracted from the yard, 23 and 155 were broken up. After several years of painstaking neglect 54 passed to its present owner in 1981 and restoration commenced. When finished it will carry the dark and light blue livery of the late 1940s and operate in public service at Sandtoft.

Post-war Grimsby trolleybuses

However, a more promising future seemed to beckon for five of the six post-war vehicles following the end of trolleybuses in Grimsby and Cleethorpes trolleybuses in 1960. At this time Bradford Corporation Transport had no intention of abandoning their large trolleybus system and was snapping up trolleybuses from other undertakings at knock-down prices. Grimsby trolleybuses 19-22 and 24 (AEE22-5/7) were acquired and placed in store. Fleet numbers 822-5/7 were reserved, and in October 1960 tenders were invited for brand-new bodies to be fitted to the Grimsby chassis. East Lancashire Coachbuilders were the successful tenderers. However, on 1 July 1961 there was a change of management at Bradford and as a result the Grimsby vehicles were sold for scrap, the bodies being fitted to some newer chassis from Mexborough & Swinton instead.

Readers may be wondering what became of the other Grimsby Karrier, number 23. Its demise was reported in the Grimsby Evening Telegraph on 9 January 1959. That afternoon, at the junction of Grimsby Road and Twining Place in Cleethorpes, on an icy road described as being "like glass", 23 was involved in a serious accident with a van. The extent of the damage to the front of 23 was not evident in the photograph accompanying the news item (and was not clear in later scrapyard photographs either) but the van was clearly damaged beyond repair. 23 was withdrawn from service as a consequence and was sold to Hill’s scrap metal merchants in Armstrong Street, Grimsby along with two Cleethorpes trolleybuses, 54 and 55. It was overturned and dismantled by 9 June 1968 and was probably the last Grimsby trolleybus in existence.

Post-war Cleethorpes trolleybuses

The post-war members of the Cleethorpes fleet, 59-62 (GFU692-695) and 63/4 (HBE541/2), remained in stock until 1960 when they were purchased by Walsall Corporation at a time when the General Manager, Mr R. Edgley Cox, was still expanding the trolleybus network. The BUTs were renumbered 874-7, and three were extensively rebuilt before entering service, being converted to front entrance and lengthened to give an increased seating capacity of 67 (877) or 69 (875/6). The Crossleys cost just £90 each, and became numbers 850 and 873 in the Walsall fleet. 873 was withdrawn from service in December 1967 and experimentally fitted with a diesel engine on the back platform. It did not operate in service in this form. 850 thus became the last Crossley trolleybus operating anywhere in Great Britain, albeit confined to tuition duties. All six vehicles passed to West Midlands PTE on its formation on 1 October 1969 and survived until the Walsall trolleybus system closed in 1970.

59 and 63 were then purchased for preservation. 59 (the one which was not rebuilt in Walsall) was moved to Sandtoft where it remains, together with 54. It is in basically sound condition and a limited amount of restoration work has been carried out but it is not yet operational. Consideration is being given to restoring it to the final Cleethorpes livery of grey and light blue. Alternatively it may receive the joint Grimsby-Cleethorpes livery of blue and cream and would carry its post-merger fleet number (159) as a consequence.

63 was purchased by preservationists and towed south but plans for a museum at which it would be exhibited never reached fruition. In 1983 it was sold to a new owner who moved it to Sandtoft in late 1990. Thus, for a short while a fully representative selection of Cleethorpes trolleybuses had returned to Lincolnshire. However, soon afterwards it moved again, this time to a museum in Birmingham who planned to restore it in Walsall colours, but who sold it for scrap in 1995.

The loss of number 63 was a big disappointment but 54 and 59 survive and may yet return to their home town to rekindle memories of the vehicles known as the 'silent service'.

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