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!

The Growing Network

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Avenue however the smoother ride of the trolleys saw use of the trams reduce so on 18th December 1928 the trams were withdrawn from the route so that it was wholly operated by the trolleybuses.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.

Services:

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.

 

Fleet List:
 Coded
 Type
 Registration
Years of Service 
 101
Railless 
HJ 5065 
1925-1933 
 102
Railless 
HJ 5389 
 1926-1933
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  
 108
Garrett OS 
HJ8928 
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  
Winding Down:

 

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 Last Day

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.

Last Day Tickets

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

The Last Day Photo Album

 

 

 "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.
 

 

View Site in Mobile | Classic