by  Roy Brook  and  John S. Hinchliffe

Huddersfield Passenger Transport Group




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Tram track renewal was, however, becoming increasingly expensive, and when the track on the Almondbury route became due for replacement, the Tramways Committee decided instead to replace the trams with trolleybuses. The first trolleybus service in Huddersfield from Byram Street to Almondbury was therefore inaugurated on 4 December, 1933, using six vehicles with varying chassis, bodies and electrical equipment with a view to evaluating the best types for local conditions.

  When the question of renewing about a mile of track in Trinity Street, Westbourne Road and New Hey Road arose in 1933 it was again decided to substitute trolleybuses on the Outlane and Lindley routes and the changeover, which was made on 11 November 1934, included the Waterloo route to which they were linked as a through service.  24 Karrier trolleybuses with Park Royal and Brush bodies were ordered for the conversion

In April 1935 a wholesale tramway abandonment scheme was approved by the Town Council, the programme being spread over five years.  Two further ‘one off’ vehicles (Nos. 31 and 32) arrived and the latter was adopted as the prototype for the future fleet; it was also the first Huddersfield trolleybus to have the familiar cream lower front panel below the windscreen, a feature retained throughout the trolleybus era.

The tramway conversion scheme proper started with the acquisition of eight further Karrier / Park Royal trolleybuses for the Newsome route in May 1937. The service was extended to Caldercliffe Road, Berry Brow, and a new route name ‘Newsome South’ was coined by the Department for this terminus.

85 Karrier trolleybuses were then ordered, this being the largest single order for such vehicles ever placed in the U.K. up to that time. 10 of these had Weymann, 10 had Brush and 65 had Park Royal bodies.  The pre-war trolleybus fleet was completed by a final order for 15 Karrier/Park Royal vehicles delivered in 1939.

A necessary preliminary as with tramcars was the inspection of each route by the Ministry of Transport (successor to the Board of Trade) before public service was sanctioned. As trolleybuses consume more power than tramcars running on their smooth rails it was found necessary to provide new sub-stations on each route to make this power available where needed. Very frequent services were the order of the day when new trolleybus routes opened, with 10/12 minute off-peak and 4/5 minute peak hour services quite typical.

Trolleybuses were painted in the same striking livery as the Joint Omnibus Committee, i.e. cream bands above and below the lower saloon windows, below the upper saloon windows (all edged with black lines), maroon below lower saloon cream bands, and Post Office red for the remaining parts. The Borough Coat of Arms appeared on each side on the maroon panel and also at the front and back of each bus.

It was not possible to operate trolleybuses on the Honley route beyond Lockwood Church as they could not negotiate the low railway bridge in Woodhead Road, and the service over this section was provided by motor buses of the Huddersfield Joint Omnibus Committee with an annual adjustment to the Corporation of £2922. When war came in September, 1939, only the Brighouse service remained to be changed over, the conversion having been delayed due to a problem in connection with the running of trolleybuses over the L.M.S. Railway bridge in Gooder Lane, Brighouse. After various tests the L.M.S. ultimately agreed to trolleybuses crossing the bridge at a dead slow speed in the central part of the road and subject to the bridge being strengthened. Meanwhile the Weymann bodied Karriers (116 to 125) were stored in brand new condition, whilst difficulties were encountered in maintaining the remaining tramcars in good condition.

The last tram ran on 29 June 1940 with trolleybuses taking over the Brighouse route on the following day.  The trolleybus fleet now consisted of 140 vehicles and Huddersfield was in a more fortunate position than many other operators as its fleet was almost new and no further replacements were necessary for the duration of the war.

The trolleybuses operated from a new depot built at Longroyd Bridge utilising the 1921 tram depot and the old 1901 Car Shed & Power Station areas, the old buildings on these sites being demolished. The 1921 tram depot is still in existence at present, only the wall flanking St. Thomas’ Road having been rebuilt in stone. This is the building now used by a window firm.

A change in managership in 1941 resulted in vehicles being painted in Post Office red all over apart from the cream bands.  No trolleybus was ever painted in the grey or khaki wartime liveries seen in some towns and cities. During the emergency the trolleybuses were called upon to carry very heavy passenger loads, and the Karrier E6s proved equal to the task. Services were still running on frequent headways as they were unaffected by the reduction in fuel imports. On the other hand motor bus services were reduced in frequency and had an earlier close-down each evening.

     When peace returned 52 new Karrier (Sunbeam) MS2 vehicles with Park Royal 70 seat bodies were ordered, the first eight of which arrived in 1947 at a cost to the department of £4802 each.  The remainder followed over the next two years to replace the ageing Karriers and the twelve Karrier/Brush bodied 1934 vehicles were sold to Reading Corporation for further service, although only six actually ran again, the others being used as a source of spare parts.

      On 27 March, 1949, the first all-round fare increase for almost 30 years was imposed, but post-war conditions, without the stable economy of the inter-war years, have made periodic fare increases unavoidable.  In the year ended 31 March, 1949, Huddersfield trolleybuses carried the largest number of passengers during their existence, i.e. 61,255,937!

     A programme of re-bodying 28 of the tram-replacement Karrier E6 trolleybuses with new body shells by Charles. H. Roe Ltd was embarked upon in 1949, a scheme which gave these vehicles a further 10 to 12 years of life.. 14 Sunbeam trolleybuses with similar but longer Roe bodies were acquired in 1951.

Post-war extensions were made into housing estates at Brackenhall and Riddings in March, 1949, whilst the Bradley (Keldregate) branch was opened in April, 1956, and proved to be the last trolleybus extension.

During the 1950s the rebodying policy was extended to include trolleybuses built after the war, and a further 41 vehicles were given this treatment, the last as late as 1962.  During the same period 24 B.U.T. vehicles with bodywork by East Lancashire Coachbuilders were delivered in two batches (1953 and 1956). The last order for trolleybuses made by Huddersfield was for 10 Sunbeam/East Lancs vehicles and these were added to the fleet late in 1959 and were the last three-axle trolleybuses built for service in the U.K.

By the early 1960s it was found that the trolleybus was in the same position as the tramcar had been 30 years earlier, i.e. the cost of replacing overhead equipment, copper wire, and the price of electricity had increased to the extent as to make trolleybus operation uneconomic. This was particularly relevant at a time when increasing traffic called for road widening and route diversions and the expansion of the suburbs called for route extensions.  Motor buses also cost less to buy and they were more flexible.

The Brighouse (1955) and West Vale (1961) routes had already been taken off before a lengthy debate in October, 1962, at which the Town Council decided to replace all trolleybuses by motor buses. The decision made in October, 1962 resulted in the replacement of all trolleybuses with motor buses. 

To the 24 Roe-bodied Leylands already ordered the Corporation purchased between 1964 and 1966 48 Daimler buses (26 with Roe bodies and 22 with East Lancs). To these were added 32 Daimler ‘Fleetlines’, again with Roe bodies, in 1967-68 to complete the fleet at 104 vehicles. For a time they also operated two elderly 1947 AEC Regent buses with Park Royal bodies purchased from the J.O.C. for peak period use, repainted in the new Corporation style with cream fronts.

Huddersfield’s last trolleybuses ran on the Waterloo-Lindley/Outlane route on Saturday 13 July, 1968. Crowds of well-wishers lined the route to say farewell to a form of transport which had been held in very high regard by the people of Huddersfield for 35 years. Apart from local pride, the Huddersfield system was renowned throughout the U.K. for its high standard of services, vehicles and maintenance.

Two of the last trolleybuses, 619 (KVH219) a 1956 B.U.T. and 631 (PVH931) a 1959 Sunbeam S7, both with East Lancashire 72 seat bodies are now preserved, along with the first post-war trolleybus 541 (CVH741) at The Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft.   

Sadly, however, one of the pre-war vehicles which had survived as late as 2003 was destroyed when the body collapsed.  No. 70 (AVH470) which cost the department £2131 in 1938 had run 436,667 miles in service when it was sold in 1952 to Epsom and Ewell Council for £50. They used it for 20 years at Epsom racecourse as a mobile toilet; since then it had been kept in the hope that one day it could be restored, now only the chassis remains.



 Huddersfield Passenger Transport Group