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Southern Trolleybus Event

26 – 28 May 2007

Following the success of the Reading Trolleybus event held at Sandtoft in May 2006 the BTS organised a Southern Trolleybus event to take place over 2007’s Spring Bank Holiday weekend. Trolleybuses from Bournemouth (99 and 297), London (1812), Maidstone (56 and 72) and Reading (113, 144, 174 and 181) were scheduled to run although this required considerable activity in the preceding week leading up to the event to try and ensure the vehicles were fit for operation. Bournemouth 297 was due to be re-launched into operational service following repairs to its trolley gantry after a collision with a low bridge in Luxembourg in 1999.

Southern event line up

A colourful line-up of some of the Southern Trolleybuses at the event -
London 1812, Maidstone 72, Reading 181 and Bournemouth 297.

1812 turns in Sandtoft Square
It was known that at least one excursion coach would be travelling up from Reading and also a bus full of enthusiasts would be travelling up from Kent on the Sunday. It was planned to operate trolleybuses from all four fleets together but at other times trolleybuses would operate solely by fleet e.g. all Bournemouth, Reading or Maidstone. Maidstone 72 was celebrating its 60th birthday and a small ceremony to mark the occasion was planned for the Monday. A slide show and information boards on the four systems was provided by in the Lecture theatre.

The event got under way on the Saturday although it was not much different to any other Saturday operation except for the fact it was just trolleybuses from southern towns operating. Fortunately the weather remained mostly dry.


General view of Southern Weekend1812 turns in Sandtoft Square
under a brooding sky.

A general view of the Southern Weekend


Bournemouth 297Sunday was expected to be the day with most visitors arriving but the weather could not have been worse, the rain not stopping all day! Some of the vehicles were also misbehaving. Both Reading 144 and 1812 had problems with their windscreen wipers whilst 174 still had various faults which meant that it did not operate in service. Bournemouth 99 was having problems with its resistor bank but it was patched up so that it could make a demonstration run on the Sunday and also a final run in service on the Monday before withdrawal from operational service for repairs to be undertaken.

Magnificently restored Bournemouth 297 
breaks the tape at its launching ceremony

Bournemouth 297 & 99
Bournemouth's 297 and 99 await their duties at the Bus Station

The first event to take place was the re- launching of Bournemouth 297 into service and it was driven through tapes in the customary fashion in Sandtoft Square. It looked immaculate having been repainted externally following repairs to its roof and trolley gantry; it had also been overhauled and partially rewired. The trolleybus service was operated in turn by London 1812, Maidstone 56 and 72, Bournemouth 297 and Reading 144 and 181. Reading 113 and 174 were not used and Bournemouth 99 was still in a fragile state and was kept back for Monday.

Bournemouth 297 follows 99With the rain pouring down the Sandtoft café was doing a roaring trade. However, the lecture theatre was also well attended. Luckily I had taken a number of CDs with various southern trolleybus photos on them which I was able to show on screen. This seemed to go down well with those attending. A large number of the contingent on the Reading excursion coach packed into the lecture theatre in the afternoon and really enjoyed looking through the Reading trolleybus photos being shown (but then who wouldn’t have been impressed by the best trolleybus system that ever existed!!). One of the attendees was a former conductor/driver who was amazed to see a photo of himself with a trolleybus taken in 1961! When it was time for the Reading coach to depart most people did not want to leave.

A bit of Bournemouth re-enacted as 297 follows 99

Bournemouth 99
Outside, the trolleybuses were providing good service in atrocious conditions. Maidstone 56 and 72 were run together for a time as was Bournemouth 99 (on demonstration only) in front of Bournemouth 297. It was a shame that more Reading trolleybuses were not operated together for the benefit of the people that had travelled up from Reading with just 181 operating in the morning and 144 operating in the afternoon with 113 requiring its batteries to be recharged.

Bournemouth 99 ran only occasionally, as it requires some repair work

Reading Line Up

A line-up of Readings (181, 113, 144) with one of the visiting coaches

On Monday the day again started wet but by lunch time the rain had stopped and it remained dry for the rest of the day. Reading 113 and 181 were in operation whilst 144 was rested for the day. All the other vehicles ran as on the Sunday with the exception of Bournemouth 99 which was being held back for its final run later in the day. The number of visitors was slightly higher than expected considering the weather conditions and the trolleybuses carried a good number of passengers and again the café did a roaring trade. However, I was redundant in the lecture theatre, the weather remaining dry enough for people to stay outside.

Reading 181
Reading 181 passes the out-of-service trolleybuses in Sandtoft Square. This is where the 'spare' trolleybuses are now stored awaiting their next duty

As the operational day drew to a close Bournemouth 99 was taken to the service bay for a final run before being withdrawn from operational service for the foreseeable future due to a major mechanical overhaul being required as well as some bodywork repairs. 297 was brought up behind 99 and the two operated in service together.

London 1812As the operational day drew to a close Bournemouth 99 was taken to the service bay for a final run before being withdrawn from operational service for the foreseeable future due to a major mechanical overhaul being required as well as some bodywork repairs. 297 was brought up behind 99 and the two operated in service together.

Shortly afterwards there was a ceremony to mark the 60th birthday of Maidstone 72. An iced cake, showing the front of Maidstone 72, had been baked by Cherryll Crowther and presented to Maidstone enthusiast Malcolm Coates. Malcolm stood with the cake in front of Maidstone 72 for photos to be taken.

Taking everything into account, the event was no doubt a success with visitor numbers better than expected considering the weather conditions. However, it was a shame that some preserved motorbuses from Maidstone, Bournemouth and London did not come to Sandtoft to enhance the day as they did for the Reading Trolleybus event the previous year.


Maidstone 56 & 72London 1812 passing off-duty trollies


Maidstone 56 and 72 wait patiently in Sandtoft Square for the 'Maidstone Re-enactment' segment


Malcolm Coates
Malcolm Coates had commissioned a cake from Cherryll Crowther for 72's 60th Birthday. It was subsequently eaten with gusto!

Article: Dave Hall

Photographs: Dave Hall / Bruce Lake

Content  Management System - Peter Short

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