Monday, October 03, 2016

Tracklesses and frogs at Sandtoft

This photo may well bring back some memories for those who grew up in Glasgow in the 1950s and 60s! A Glasgow trolleybus in action  - yesterday, at the Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft.

I recall Glasgow trolleybuses as being called the 'silent death', as those more used to rattling trams and growling motor buses were inclined just to step into the road without looking, if they didn't hear anything coming!

A visit to the Trolleybus Museum has been at the top of my 'to do' list for more than a year. It is only open on certain weekends, and it is a longish drive from Skip, situated as it is in Lincolnshire, just off the M180 between Doncaster and Scunthorpe. The weather forecast yesterday was set fair, so I made an early start, to enjoy the drive over the A66 to Scotch Corner and down the new, almost completed A1(M), in light traffic.

It turned into one of my best ever 'away days'!

Three 'tracklesses' (as trolleybuses were called in some places) were in action round the loop within the museum grounds. This is Nottingham 493, built in 1943, and retired from service in 1965.

London 1348, is one of two London trolleybuses in the collection, survivors of a total of 1891 vehicles that were used in the city between 1931 to 1962. This K2, with Leyland body and chassis, was new to the fleet in 1939, and was withdrawn from service in 1961. It has six wheels, ie, three axles.

I was really pleased to see a Glasgow vehicle, in the colours I remember so well from my younger days. TB78 dates from 1958, and is a British United Traction 9613T vehicle with Crossley bodywork. The last day of trolleybus operation in Glasgow was May 27, 1967, and went largely ignored, in contrast to the day in September 1962 when some quarter of a million people turned out to see the end of the trams! Trolleybuses never captured the affection of the Glasgow public, as much as the trams had done. But, looking back, they kindle many good memories for me.

It's my platform, but 'Welcome Aboard'!

My day ticket to the museum allowed multiple rides, and it was great fun taking advantage of this. This time I'm on the upper deck, this happily in 2016 smoke free, compared with back in the 1960s.

Glasgow's coat of arms on the bus side.

ERL Fitzpayne was general manager from 1943 until 1969. He's mentioned in this article as 'a man of vision and radical ideas, not all of which were acceptable to his political masters'. The article has lots of fascinating information about Glasgow's buses and trolleybuses.

The museum has more than 50 trolleybuses in its collection, in a variety of states of preservation. It was great to be able to explore the storage sheds and find examples from all round the country! Peaking out is Bradford 746.

Three deep in places!

There is a cinema too, and I spent an hour, or more, watching footage of trolleybuses being driven around various cities.

The collection contains trolleybus examples from further afield. This is Aachen 22, from Germany. It was built in 1956. It has a Henschel 562E chassis, a Ludewig body and Siemens electrical equipment (as I learned!) 

Also on the site is this wonderful post-war prefab. In my early teens I had a friend who stayed in a prefab in Fleurs Avenue in Glasgow. Back then I was completely naive about the deficiences of these buildings, I was just impressed he lived in a detached house!

I felt right at home in this 1950s living room!

This was in the bathroom. I am pretty sure that 'Izal Medicated Toilet Tissue' was a government April fool's joke that ran and ran. In the days before labrador puppies, life was not always 'comfortable'!

Throughout the day, I kept hearing references to 'frogs'.

Turns out that a 'frog' is trackless speak for the 'points' on the overhead wires, as here. The things you learn!

It is the job of the conductor to change the frog, here on the turning circle, and signal to the driver that all is in order to proceed.

This shop window contained photographic equipment from days past. Remembering most of what was on display, made me appreciate my new digital camera!

Included in the museum ticket was a 30 minute bus tour of the local area, with commentary from guide Andy. Fascinating. And I learned that No 1357, a regular motor bus, is 'a Leyland Atlantean PDR 1/1 with a 9.8 litre Leyland 0.600 engine driving through a four-speed semi-automatic epicyclic gearbox and 77-seat Weymann bodywork'. (Yes, I bought the Museum Fleet Handbook, but there's a lot of information about all the vehicles in the collection on the museum's website here.)

This is Nottingham 802, a tower wagon, converted from a double decker bus.

Now, this is a wonderful story. It is what remains of a Hastings trolleybus from the 1920s, converted into a home by a former POW after WW2. Hopefully one day it will be restored to its former glory, and its past life remembered.

What really makes visits to places like the Trolleybus Museum so much fun is the friendliness and enthusiasm of the volunteers. Richard, a driver, and Mike, on conductor duties, went out of their way to ensure I had a good time.

Later in the day, when it was quieter, they insisted I sit in the cab of Glasgow TB78. Made my day! No, I wasn't driving it, except in my mind's eye. But what a great experience. Full marks, Sandtoft!

Photos © Skip Cottage


  1. This is Bob in his element! would have made a fabulous driver on the route between Muirend and Victoria Road. You obviously impressed the staff to be allowed to sit in the cab at the end of the day! Well done.

  2. Yet another find - you certainly do seem to have a list of places no one else has ever heard of - looks fascinating actually, and you're right a hell of a trip. My Mum moved from just across the river from you (Orchard) to a pin in the map . . South Kyme near Sleaford . . . Lincolnshire is a wonderful county.

  3. Great blog post! I visited the museum two days ago on the 50th anniversary of the closure of the Glasgow system and was delighted to get a chance to go on the Glasgow TB. I'm too yoing to have seen the Glasgow trolleys but I've always been interested. I see that you mentioned Fleurs Avenue in Glasgow above - I actually live in the next street along - Torridon Ave!