Blackpool 346

The tenure of Walter Luff as manager of Blackpool was characterised by flamboyant streamlined centre entrance vehicles, culminating in the Coronation tram and Streamline PD2s represented by 304 and 246 in our collection. Luff retired in 1954 and was replaced by Joe Franklin. While Franklin continued to innovate around the tram fleet, his approach to the buses was to adopt more standard vehicles. His first order was for 10 rear entrance PD2s in 1957, half (301-305) bodied by local firm Burlingham and half (306-310) by Metro Cammell of Birmingham. A legal dispute over previous bodies from Burlingham had soured the relationship and Metro Cammell became the supplier of choice for all new vehicles from 1957-1968.

Perhaps surprisingly Franklin retained the Blackpool full front design and decorative ceilings, but otherwise the PD2s were standard. The newly introduced longer PD3 was eschewed until 1962 (the first was our 351). The first batch, 301-310 were followed by 311-330 in 1958 and 331-350 in 1959. Generally most new buses entered service on trunk routes such as the 11/11A, 14 and 22/22A and the PD2s became regulars on these routes, gradually cascaded onto quieter routes when newer PD2s, or later PD3s arrived. By 1969 the rear entrance PD2s were the oldest in the fleet and began to be replaced by new AEC Swifts, like our 554, designed to be operated by one person, yet accommodating the same number of passengers as a PD2. This bucked the trend as now the quietest routes had the newest buses.

The conversion to OPO operation was accelerated by the new Bus Grant which gave operators up to 50% off new buses. This meant that all the PD2s were withdrawn by 1975, most achieving only 13-15 years in service which was shorter than most previous buses (246 running for 18 years). Several were sold for further use and 3 were kept for ancillary duties from 1975. 334 and 337 were converted to mobile mess rooms for the tramway Permanent Way gang, replacing 246 and painted all-over orange, lasting until 1986 and 1988 respectively. 346 survived to the end of regular PD2 operation in March 1975 and then saw use, like its sisters as a mess room, but this time for the Illuminations Department. Active use ceased in spring 1982 but the bus remained stored until December 1985 when it was purchased by the North West Museum of Transport and moved to Burtonwood Airfield and later to St. Helens Transport Museum for preservation. Sister bus 334 was later secured as a spares donor.

Although tidy enough to be displayed for several years 346 was never restored and was declared surplus to requirements in 2005 as part of a review of their collection for display at their refurbished museum. 346 was acquired by LTT in September 2005 from the St.Helens Transport Museum collection and returned to Blackpool in December 2005.

Restoration work on Blackpool 346 started in the autumn of 2015.