Trolleybus Museum celebrates 50 years

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A special Bank Holiday programme of events and a record number of vehicles in service was organised to mark the event, reports Nick Larkin

The Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft, just off the M18 near Doncaster, has celebrated its 50th anniversary with the message that British operators should be looking at this mode of transport today. Britain’s last trolleybus system in Bradford ended in 1972, but networks still remain in mainland Europe and the former Soviet Bloc.

Trolleybus Museum
Trolleybus action at Sandtoft 50. GRAHAM BILBE

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Sandtoft Chair and Chief Engineer Graham Bilbe said: “Although we are a museum we are keen to promote the use of trolleybuses today. No longer are complex wiring junctions needed as they used to be. ‘Trolleys’ can run partly on battery power nowadays, these batteries being charged while the vehicle is on the road. They don’t have to spend time off the road while their batteries are being charged.”

Some trolleybus systems are still being expanded, for example in the city of Prague.

‘Sandtoft 50’ took place over the August Bank Holiday weekend and saw 20 trolleybuses in action – a record. The museum’s story began in 1961 when Mike Dare, a teacher in Reading, Berkshire wrote a letter to the local paper suggesting that one of the Corporation’s 1938 AEC trolleybuses should be preserved.

As a result, Reading 113 was bought – this very vehicle having just been refurbished in time for Sandtoft 50 – and a preservation group set up. Mike had relations in South Yorkshire and saw an old chapel for sale, which was purchased to store trolleybuses, and eventually several groups banded together to buy land at the former RAF Sandtoft which already had a road network in place.

The first trolley ran in 1969 and the annual Sandtoft Gathering has been taking place since 1971. The site has been developed over the years with a workshop and other buildings. The weekend also gave an opportunity to share trolleybus memories, several former drivers attending the event including Sandtoft president Bob Roe, who worked on the Walsall system.

Anyone from the coach and bus industry who would like to visit Sandtoft is invited to email [email protected].

The museum is home to more than 60 trolleybuses from Britain and abroad, plus a small number of motorbuses.

Look out for more about this interesting and unique museum in CBW later in the year.