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Cardiff 203 Relaunch – 30 May 2010

Report by Dave Hall

Cardiff 203 being prepared for relaunchFollowing a gap of over 15 years out of service, the BTS proudly relaunched Cardiff trolleybus 203 back into service at The Trolleybus Museum At Sandtoft on Sunday 30 May 2010.

Cardiff 203 was one of ten AEC 6641T trolleybuses purchased by Cardiff Corporation to inaugurate a trolleybus system in the city on 1 March 1942. They were bodied by Northern Counties, the only trolleybuses to have been bodied by that company.

These vehicles served the city well for over 20 years and during its lifetime 203 had worn three different liveries. Originally it was painted in the regulation wartime grey primer livery. Around 1946/47 it was repainted into a streamlined livery of crimson lake and cream which lasted until 1950. From that time onwards it wore the standard Cardiff Corporation livery, crimson lake with cream window surrounds.

203 breaking the tape at SandtoftOn withdrawal in December 1962, 203, along with some of its sister vehicles withdrawn at the same time, were temporarily stored pending disposal. The Reading Transport Society (now known as the British Trolleybus Society) had expressed an interest on one of these vehicles and Cardiff Corporation kindly donated 203 to the RTS.

In May 1963 203 was collected from Cardiff and taken to Chadwell Heath initially. A group of London members of the Reading Transport Society (RTS) had taken 203 under its wing partially due to the fact that the RTS had nowhere to store 203 at that time. However, in March 1964 it was towed to Smiths Coaches garage yard in Reading by the group now known as the London Trolleybus Group (LTG). They continued to look after it and in 1967 the RTS sold it to the LTG which, by this time, had renamed themselves to the London Trolleybus Preservation Society (LTPS).

203 sparkles in the Sandtoft sunshineAfter initially taking 203 to Charing in Kent for storage, the LTPS moved 203 to Carlton Colville in 1968, the premises of the East Anglia Transport Museum with whom the LTPS had formed an alliance with to operate their fleet of trolleybus at that museum.

Due to pressure of space at Carlton Colville, some trolleybuses had to be released and in 1981, 203 reverted back to British Trolleybus Society (BTS) ownership. Almost immediately, BTS member David Gledhill expressed an interest in becoming custodian of 203. After paying a nominal sum to purchase her from the BTS he transferred 203 to the premises of the Oxford Bus Museum at Lower Hanborough.

Lord Stoddart giving a speech at 203's relaunchBetween 1981 and 1993 David had almost completely restored 203 back to original condition, including painting it in the regulation wartime grey primer livery. However, due to personal circumstances David could not continue to look after 203 and consequently it returned to the BTS fleet once again. With Walsall 872 departing from Sandtoft to go to the Aston Manor Road Transport Museum on 21 March 1993, the opportunity was taken to tow Cardiff 203 to Sandtoft where it took 872s depot space. Throughout 1993 David Gledhill and others worked hard to finish off 203s restoration and by June 1994 it was ready to operate at the Black Country Museum during their ‘Trolleybuses Galore’ event.

Following its stay at the Black Country Museum 203 was towed back to Sandtoft. The towing of 203 over the years has seen a few incidents take place and this tow was no exception. On the journey back a rear nearside tyre exploded causing damage to the underside on the vehicle and lifting out part of the rear wing! Repairs were carried out on arrival back at Sandtoft but sadly 203 did not see much service after that as serious problems with its motor began to manifest.

203 remained in the depot until such time as funds could be obtained to carry out repairs and as a result the bodywork began to deteriorate. Following the restoration of South Shields 204 in 2005, Cardiff 203 was Mike Dare’s choice as the next vehicle to be restored when funds permitted.

VIPs boarding 203 in Sandtoft SquareSadly Mike passed away in 2005 as did another staunch trolleybus enthusiast, Geoff Griffiths in 2003, a Welshman and author of the Trolleybooks history on Llanelli Trolleybuses. Geoff was also well known at Sandtoft, Black Country Museum and Carlton Colville for all the electrical work he carried out at these museums as well as the Cardiff and South Wales Trolleybus Project team. The BTS committee considered it would be a good idea if Cardiff 203 was restored in memory of both Mike Dare and Geoff Griffiths and an appeal for funds was made.

With enough funds now in place, restoration work was started by Brian Maguire (bodywork) and Bruce Lake (electrical work) in early 2009. It has proved to be quite a costly restoration job as the electrical motor had to be sent away to repair a serious defect and also all internal seating has had to be completely re-upholstered. 203 has been repainted into the streamlined livery it wore between 1946 and 1950.

Cardiff 203 turning in Sandtoft SquareIt was decided by the BTS to relaunch 203 back into service at Sandtoft on Sunday 30 May 2010. Lord Stoddart of Swindon, a former Reading councillor who fought hard for the cause of the trolleybus in both Reading and Parliament, agreed to conduct the ceremony.

The big day finally arrived and following last minute preparations 203 was driven from the Sandtoft workshop arriving in Sandtoft Square at exactly 2.03pm!! She looked absolutely magnificent. Following speeches by the BTS Chairman Graham Bilbe and BTS President, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, invited guests boarded 203 for a ride around the Sandtoft circuit. It was a remarkably smooth ride from a passenger point of view.

So now the BTS can call on Glasgow TB78, Huddersfield 631, London 1812, Reading 113, South Shields 204, as well as Cardiff 203 to operate at Sandtoft. Hopefully it won’t be too long before Bournemouth 99 joins the list!

The six photos included above show (from top to bottom) 203 receiving last minute finishing touches by Brian Maguire, 203 breaking the tape at its relaunch, 203 in Sandtoft Square showing the excellent restoration job carried out, Lord Stoddart Of Swindon giving a speech at the relaunch ceremony, VIPs boarding 203 for its first journey around the Sandtoft circuit and finally 203 in passenger service turning in Sandtoft Square.

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