The Launch of Services.
Southend’s Trolleybus system begun operating its first services on 16th October 1925, two single deck cars from Railless Ltd were hired to provide the service, the first arrived in October 1925 the second in early 1926.
The first route to be laid down was relatively short running from Victoria Circus to Blur Boar/St Mary’s Church, in the first fortnight of operating a total of 24,315 passengers were carried with takings of £99!
This was then extended in 1926 to Priory Park, the route was a single track with one passing loop, at Victoria Circus the tram network took over to carry passenger across the rest of the town.
An ex single deck AEC demonstration car was acquired later in 1927, the three cars in use could only seat around 30 people each, so in January 1928 a six wheel Garret double deck trolleybus seating 55 passengers was acquired.
The new double deck trolley proved popular and more were added to the fleet.
The trolleybuses operated alongside the trams that had been operating the Victoria Avenue however the smoother ride of the trolleys saw use of the trams reduce so on 18th December 1928 the trams were withdrawn from the route so that it was wholly operated by the trolleybuses.
Plans to run the service into Southend Victoria Railway Station were blocked by the railway company, so the route was extended in to the High Street and then turning into Whitegate Road,Bankside, Seaway and then on to Marine Parade and the Kursaal, the opening of the extended route took place on 2ndAugust 1929.
Trolleybuses and Trams never ran the full length of the High Street as the railway bridge halfway down taking the London Tilbury and Southend Railway line to Shoebury was too low to permit them to pass under.
With the further extensions included:
21st January 1932: Fairfax Drive from Priory Park to Eastwood Boulevard.
31st July 1932: Victoria Circus via Bradley Street, Guildford Road, Sutton Road and North Avenue to Hamstel Road (later to the Kursaal)
Summer 1934: Marine Parade to bottom of Pier Hill
24th July 1934: Eastwood Boulevard, Nelson Road to terminating at Wellington Avenue.
These extensions were partly to co-inside with the withdrawal of the trams that had been operating the same routes.
A further extension included the popular Kursaal to Thorpe Bay Corner service on 4th June 1939.
The Second World War saw a number of Southend’s Trolleybus fleet sent to other towns and cities, the war also saw the end of the trams in Southend with the last operating in April 1942.
A loop was added to the trolleybus network on 1st June 1943 when wires were erected round Warrior Square Gardens, the trolleybuses operated a clockwise route round the gardens.
Milton Road, Gilford Road were added to the route in 1943 and on 3rd April 1944 the final extension to include North Road and Hamstel Road, Southchurch Road and on to the White Horse was opened.
The service was well used but the long drawn out war had taken its toll on the network with various air raids destroying roads and damaging the overhead cables.
28A: West Circular: London Road, Chalkwell Schools, Fairfax Drive & Victoria Circus.
28B: West Circular: Fairfax Drive, Chalkwell Schools, London Road & Victoria Circus.
28C Works Service: Priory Park - Kursaal
51: Victoria Circus and Kursaal via: Southchurch Road & Southchurch Avenue.
52 Summer Service:
63A East Circular: Victoria Circus, North Avenue, Hamstel Road, White Horse.
63B East Circular: White Horse, Hamstel Road, North Avenue, Victoria Circus.
|Coded||Type||Registration||Years of Service|
|103||AEC 603T||NW 9583||1927-1937|
|104||Garrett OS||HJ 7363||1928-1939|
|105||Garrett OS||HJ 8925||1928-1939 |
|106||Garrett OS||HJ 8926||1928-1939|
|107||Garrett OS||HJ 8927||1928-1939|
|109||Garrett OS||HJ 8929||1928-1939|
|110||English Electric (EEC)||JN 60||1930-1939|
|111||English Electric (EEC)||JN61||1930-1939|
|112||AEC 661T/EEC||JN 2112||1932-1950|
|113||AEC 661T/EEC||JN 2113||1932-1950|
|114||AEC 661T/EEC||JN 2114||1932-1950|
|115||AEC 661T/EEC||JN 2115||1932-1950|
|116||AEC 661T/EEC||JN 2986||1932-1950|
|117||AEC 661T/EEC||JN 2817||1932-1954|
|118||AEC 661T/EEC||JN 2818||1932-1954|
|119||AEC 661T/EEC||JN 2819||1932-1954|
|120||AEC 661T/EEC||JN 2820||1932-1954|
|121||AEC 661T/EEC||JN 2821||1932-1954|
|122||Gloster TDD||JN 3822||1934-1950|
|123||AEC Q 761T||JN 4373||1934-1949|
|124||AEC 661T||BHJ 194||1939-1954|
|125||AEC 661T||BHJ 195||1939-1954|
|126||AEC 661T||BHJ 196||1939-1954|
|127||AEC 661T||BHJ 197||1939-1954|
|128||AEC 661T||BHJ 198||1939-1954|
|129||AEC 661T||BHJ 199||1939-1954|
|130||Sunbeam W||BHJ 827||1945-1961|
|131||Sunbeam W||BHJ 828||1945-1961|
|132||Sunbeam W||BHJ 829||1945-1961|
|133||Sunbeam W||BHJ 898||1946-1962|
|134||Sunbeam W||BHJ 899||1946-1962|
|135||Sunbeam W||BHJ 900||1946-1962|
|136||Sunbeam W||BHJ 901||1946-1962|
|137||Sunbeam W||BHJ 902||1946-1962|
|138||Sunbeam W||BHJ 903||1946-1962|
|139||Leyland TB3||VN 9434||1946-1952|
|140||Leyland TB3||VN 9435||1946-1952|
|141||Leyland TB3||VN 9436||1946-1952|
|142||Leyland TB3||VN 9437||1946-1952|
|143||Leyland TB3||VN 9438||1946-1952|
|144||Sunbeam MF2||BDA 364||1950-1953|
|145||Sunbeam MF2||BDA 365||1950-1953|
|146||Sunbeam MF2||BDA 366||1950-1953|
|147||Sunbeam MF2||BDA 367||1950-1953|
|148||Sunbeam MF2||BDA 368||1950-1953|
|149||Sunbeam MF2||BDA 369||1950-1953|
|150||Sunbeam MF2||BJW 171||1950-1953|
|151||Sunbeam MF2||BJW 173||1950-1953|
|152||Sunbeam MF2||BJW 175||1950-1953|
The maintenance of the aging system was becoming more costly with much of the infrastructure needing to be replaced, and the service vehicles were approaching the end of their service life, these issues and that of nationalisation of the local electricity generating services meaning that one council department the not be paying another council department for its service saw a large question mark hanging over the future of the trolleybus services.
With the reliability of petrol buses improving and the fact they could go anywhere the sword of Damocles begun to swing...
On the 2nd December 1944 the Kursaal leg of the trolleybus service begun operating as a seperate service from the Southchurch-Prittlewell service, single decks were operated every half hour, in November 1951 services to the Kursaal were further reduced to a “works” service only these were gradually withdrawn and taken over by motor buses.
The eastern part of the network closed down on 10th February 1954, leaving just the western sector operating.
The final day of trolleybus operations in Southend came on 28th October 1954 when trolley number “128” was decorated with Union Flags and bunting.
The final trolleybus under the command of driver Mr S.L. Nicholls and his conductor Mr F.S. Harwood, departed Victoria Circus at 11:30am, the trolleybus with a full load of passengers made its way along London Road and as it passed the Southend Corporation Transport Depot staff members lined the street and removed their uniform caps as “128” trundled past, at bus stops people would wave as the trolley bus went past each knowing that they were witnessing a moment in history.
The trolleybus proceeded along to Chalkwell Schools where it turned down towards Fairfax Drive, where it was joined by Southend Corporation Transport Inspector F. Lonergan who had driven the very first trolleybus out of the depot on 16th October 1925.
Upon returning to Victoria Circus “128” was taken over by Alderman E.N. Selby Chairman of the Transport Committee who climbed into the driver’s seat and Councillor R.E.W. Johnson who became the conductor, with the new crew in place and all the public disembarked the remaining passengers staff of the company remained on board for the short and final trip of the trolleybus era, the trip back to the depot.
Mr C Marsh aged 71 who had worked for Southend Corporation Transport and had been the conductor on the very first tram in Southend in August 1901 and conductor on the first motor bus in 1914 was an invited guest on the closing day of the trolleybus service.
The very last journey saw 154 tickets issued the very last issued to a fare paying passenger was numbered 6212.
At the close of the service the Southend trolleybus service had operated for just 29years and 12days, but many thousands of miles had been racked up by the fleet, sadly none made it in preservation.
Just how many people kept their tickets for the last day of the trolleybuses, probably quite a few did, but just how many of those tickets have survived the intervening 60 years, probably very few.
The Southend Timeline holds three in its collection, could these be the last to survive?
LEFT: Single Ticket
BELOW: Double Ticket
| ||"128" progressing along London Road on her last trip out, being photographed by a passenger from the car in front, what would the police do today!|
The Mayor of Southend Mr Henry Newman Bride receives his ticket from Councillor R.E.W. Johnson
| ||"128" Photographed from one of the buildings at Victoria Circus, showing off the special commemorative panels reading OCT 1925 & OCT 1954, the advert is for the Westcliff Hotel.|
|"128" starting her run back to the depot, the last time a Trolleybus would be seen at Victoria Circus, the building in the background is the old Technical Collage that was built in 1902, it lasted until 1971 when it was demolished, the site became a car park and a green space until it was redeveloped in to the Odeon Multiplex cinema in 1996.|
| ||"128" awaiting departure on her final revenue generating run.|
|With bunting, flags and date boards attached the driver Mr S.L. Nicholls, his conductor Mr F.S. Harwood and the last passengers gather for a group photo before the last run of the trolleybus.|| |