Blackpool’s familiar centre entrance trams dating from the 1930s were once accompanied by streamlined styled buses, very different from those that operated in other towns and cities in the UK.
Indeed, so futuristic was the design that an icon, cast in stone, appears on Blackpool’s Town Hall to this day, symbolising the development of wheeled transport (see below).
The first Corporation motor buses ran in Blackpool in 1922 and were initially mainly single deckers. Double deckers became standard from 1932 prior to the arrival of Walter Luff as manager the following year. Luff’s influence on the tram fleet is legendary but from 1935-1940 he introduced 130 modern streamlined buses. Post war two batches of 50 double deckers were delivered between 1949 and 1951, of which 246 was one of the first batch arriving in December 1949.
Like the pre-war buses these were full fronted centre entrance Leyland Titans with bodies built in Blackpool by Burlingham. They were, however, built to the newly introduced maximum 8ft width (instead of the previous 7’6”) and could seat 54 passengers, slightly less than a standard rear entrance bus. Luff retired in 1954 and Blackpool started to specify more standard designs culminating in the PD3s of 1967/8. These replaced the 1949-1951 centre entrance buses and 246 was withdrawn in October 1967.
These unusual vehicles did not command much demand on the second hand market, so few saw further use. 246 was an exception, though it stayed within the family becoming a mobile mess room for the tram track ‘Permanent Way’ repair gangs. It ran in this role until 1974 often to be seen by the side of the tram tracks where repairs were undertaken, painted in an all-over green livery.
In early 1976 the bus passed to the ownership of Lister of Bolton (a bus dealer) who used it as an office for many years. 1989 saw the bus join the preservation world before being acquired by the Lancastrian Transport Group the following year. No. 246 is admittedly in a very poor condition and will require substantial reframing as part of its restoration. It returned to Blackpool in September 2004 after several years in store at the St. Helens Transport Museum and awaits extensive restoration work before it can operate again.