I’ve always been fascinated by what happens when one operator is taken over by another. I suppose this fascination stems from my childhood, particularly after December 1973, when West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive took over Midland Red’s services in it’s area, which meant buses from the PTE’s former constituent fleets popping up at ex Midland Red garages like my then local garage at Oldbury.
So when I heard, in 1994, that Blackpool Transport had acquired it’s near neighbour, the former municipal but recently (end of 1993) privatised Fylde Blue Bus, I was fascinated to find out how integration between the two operators would take place, particularly since competition had been fairly intense between the two operators since deregulation. November 1994 (conveniently after the summer season had come to an end) saw a new, integrated network introduced, along with two new liveries that would allow an easy change from one to the other in the case of vehicle transfers between Blackpool Transport’s Rigby Road depot and Fylde’s garage at Squires Gate. The new livery was mostly cream based, with either a green or blue skirt around the bus’s lower area, dependent on allocation to Rigby Road or Squires Gate respectively and this could easily be repainted the other colour if a transfer occurred! Other changes occurred to the operators ticket ranges.
The separate tickets offered by each operator were replaced by a new zone system, with a central zone covering the area through Blackpool from St Annes-Cleveleys, with a north area covering Cleveleys-Fleetwood (basically involving just the Tramway and the 14/14A from Thornton-Fleetwood, although Fylde ran the evening & Sunday tendered minibus 333 through from Mereside-Fleetwood, the main operator in this area then being Stagecoach, through inheriting the former Ribble operation), a south area covering St Annes & Lytham and a rural area, which basically covered the Fylde (joint with Stagecoach) 193 from St Annes-Wesham and Fylde’s 190/191/192 tenders from Blackpool-Poulton and onto the Great Ecclestone/Kirkham areas. An all zone ticket was also availible. Like Blackpool’s previous resident club tickets, the zone tickets were only available to local residents, with the tourist oriented Travelcard being available for everyone else! This slightly more expensive ticket (with 1, 3, 5 & 7 day validity) had previously been valid on all Blackpool Transport services (which meant some nice bashes in 1988 on the 180/182 from Poulton-Preston!) but, with the inclusion of the former Fylde network, this must have been considered too much of a bargain, as the Travelcard’s area of validity was revised to be that of the Central, North & South zones, with no validity in the Rural zone.
In June 1995, I went for a weeks holiday in Blackpool with my Grandparents and this blog is the story of what I found there! We travelled up by train from Birmingham New Street (Class 86 hauled Mk 2’s) and changed at Preston onto an incredibly wedged two car 150 139, a trip which unfortunately put my Grandparents off travelling to the resort by train, something they would never do again! Upon arrival at Blackpool North station, I popped over to the enquiry office at Talbot Road Bus Station and bought a 7 day Travelcard, as well as picking up a selection of recent timetables. I then rejoined my Grandparents at the station, as they wanted to get a taxi to the digs (if it had been down to me, we’d have got the bus!)
We were staying in holiday flats on Carlin Gate, just to the north of Uncle Toms Cabin on North Shore. The flat was on the corner of the Promenade, so the tramway could clearly be seen! But as we were unpacking, I soon realised that Carlin Gate held another transport treat! Whilst sorting myself out, I heard the distinct, deep, roaring sound of a Leyland 680 engine, so I looked out of the window to see a Fylde Leyland Atlantean take the turn from Carlin Gate onto the Promenade and terminate at the bus stop outside the Castle Casino (which was immediately opposite our flat, it’s castle like appearance giving it the name). This was the terminus of Fylde’s 1 sea front service, only extended up from it’s previous Gynn Square terminus since 1993. I hadn’t travelled on the route up to the Cabin, so was unaware that it used Carlin Gate as part of it’s terminal loop!
I soon made my excuses to my Grandparents (who were used to me by now!) and went out bashing, the 1 being the perfect start to the weeks exploits! I walked around to the bus stop by the casino and was particularly pleased to find Fylde 51 turn up next! 51 was then Fylde’s oldest Atlantean, a Roe bodied example originally delivered to Salford City Transport in 1965. Passing to SELNEC then Greater Manchester PTE, the bus was one of several sold to Lancaster City Transport in 1979 and converted to open top for the Morecambe sea front service. It was then sold to Fylde Borough Transport in 1984 for use on an ultimately unsuccessful sea front service from Lytham-St Annes (the third time such a service was attempted, though the first one only ran between St Annes & Fairhaven Lake, using Shelvoke & Drewry Toastracks in the late twenties. The second attempt would see Leyland TD7’s converted to open top in 1960. Then, after 51’s abortive enterprise, Classic Bus North West would run Sea Front 12 with open top and other heritage buses on summer Sundays-and Saturdays in the first year-before the funding for this ceased)
After this, 51 was used for private hire and occasional service work after deregulation. My first ride on the bus was in 1988, on a Friday when Fylde first introduced the 1, originally as a market day service from St Annes-Fleetwood via Blackpool Promenade. That version of the 1 didn’t last, the 1995 version having evolved from Fylde’s 55 Beachcomber minibus, which started in 1987 between Gynn Square & Squires Gate Pontins, competing directly with Blackpool’s trams! 1988 would see the service back, only this time Blackpool responded by buying an extra six ex London Transport Routemasters (becoming 527-531/533, following those bought in 1986-521-526, which were bought for route 12, that remained RM operated until 1991) to use on Beachroamer 55! 1990 saw the Fylde service evolve into the Leyland Atlantean operated 1 (with Blackpool’s 55 becoming the 40), with several ex Hull Roe bodied Atlanteans converted to semi open top to join 51 on the route. In 1995, Blackpool withdrew the 40, leaving just the 1 to run alongside the trams on the prom. I suppose Blackpool could have withdrawn both sea front services but that would have left the trams vulnerable to competition from someone else.
By 1995, the 1 was running every 7/8 minutes from Cabin-Pontins, with alternate journeys providing a 15 minute service onto St Annes (Pleasure Island). 51 was on a Pontins short, so I alighted there and caught one of Blackpool’s standard East Lancs bodied Atlanteans on a 22 into St Annes, returning to Blackpool on another East Lancs/Atlantean on either the 14 or 14A (can’t remember which, as there was only a slight variation in the route, on leaving St Annes). The 14 was traditionally the Blackpool-Fleetwood route, with the 14A being a Thornton short working that had disappeared in the seventies, only to return in November 1987 when the through Fleetwood journeys had been reduced in frequency from 15 to 30 minutes. The November 1994 integration revisions had seen all 14 journeys revert to running through to Fleetwood and all were extended from the Blackpool end, replacing the 11C back route to St Annes, where competition had broke out between Blackpool & Fylde in 1988 (see blog “Blackpool Deregulated”), though each operator took a different route into St Annes (a legacy of the Fylde 11C replacing the Spring Gardens section of the 193), which accounts for the use of the 14A for those journeys. The 14/14A were now the only Blackpool Transport bus route to feature conductor operation (most of the trams also needing them) and tended to use the newer Atlanteans in the fleet. I enjoyed the usual sprint and exercise of the Leyland 680 engine along the Queensway, the fast dual carriageway that links the outskirts of St Annes with that of Blackpool at the rear of Blackpool Airport and then headed through the suburbs onto the Prom, alighting at the Tower, where I then went to play on the Tramway for most of the rest of the evening.
This was early in the season, with the full summer timetable having not long started, all scheduled cars at this time being single deckers. The through Starr Gate-Fleetwood service ran every 15 minutes, with alternate trams being operated by the Centenary One Man operated cars and crewed trams (either Brush cars or the three ex Towing Cars 678-680, which were the three Twin Cars never permanently attached to their Traillers and thus running as single Railcoaches). The crew single deckers were also used on a fifteen minute Pleasure Beach-Cleveleys service that ran between the through cars during the day. A few double deckers were also out on specials (running to inspectors instruction with no Time Card), consisting of a few Balloon cars plus the two Jubilee cars (761 & 762). I interrupted my tram riding session to have a ride on one of Blackpool’s newest buses, six Northern Counties Palatine 2 bodied Volvo Olympians (374-379) delivered the previous year. Initially used on the 6 (Grange Park-Mereside) they were soon transferred to the 22/22A (Cleveleys-St Annes/Lytham) following upper deck vandalism on the 6. I caught one on a 22A out to Cleveleys, returning to Blackpool on a Brush car.
Sunday morning saw me riding Blackpool’s newest attraction, the Pepsi Max Big One rollercoaster at the Pleasure Beach! Needless to say, I reached the amusement park by tram, travelling on a Centenary car. I figured that Sunday morning would be a quiet time to ride the rollercoaster but there was still quite a queue! A single seat became available right at the front and I found myself sharing a car with a very serious faced rollercoaster enthusiast! Whilst I was screaming my head off all the way round (stunning view on the way up, with about 1.5 seconds to spot any trams on the Pleasure Beach loop before the big drop!) my companion just gave a stern smile! His verdict as we came to a halt?
“Not as good as the one at Alton Towers, is it?” he said in a voice reminiscent of then Prime Minister John Major!
Afterwards, I caught a tram down to Manchester Square, had a view of Rigby Road Depot, then walked over to Central Drive, where I got my second ride on one of the new Olympians. Apart from these, all other Rigby Road Sunday services were in the hands of Blackpool’s then standard full size single decker, the Optare Delta, and it was on one of these that I would take my next ride, albeit on a route that was then Delta operated throughout the week. I alighted from the 22 at Starr Gate, in time for the next number 12 on it’s way from St Annes, which I would take through to Cleveleys. The 12 was a 1991 made combination of the previously Routemaster operated 12 from St Annes-Blackpool with the minibus 9 from Blackpool-Cleveleys. It was started in conjunction with Fylde withdrawing their 66B minibus (which competed with the 9) and replacing it with an extension of their Atlantean operated 11A from Lytham over the same route as the 12. The integration had seen the 12’s Monday-Saturday daytime service reduced from a fifteen to thirty minute frequency but integrated into a ten minute frequency with Fylde’s 11A and 11 via Warbreck Drive. Evenings & Sundays saw the 11 & 11A venture no further north than Talbot Road Bus Station, with the 12 having the Cleveleys stretch to itself. That autumn, the 12 would be converted from Delta to double deck operation, usually with four of the six 1989 vintage East Lancs bodied Leyland Olympians that were previously mostly used alongside their newer Northern Counties/Volvo sisters on the 22/22A.
I travelled on the 12 right through to Cleveleys, catching a tram back to the flat for Sunday dinner! Afterwards, I walked down to Warbreck Drive and caught a Fylde Dodge minibus on tendered service 333. This evening & Sunday only service ran from Mereside-Fleetwood, covering bits of daytime 33, 44A/44B and Stagecoach’s F3 from Cleveleys-Fleetwood, a twisty route in the extreme! As I arrived in Fleetwood, I noticed Balloon car 716 on Fleetwood service, as opposed to the normal single decker, operating top deck closed with one conductor (Balloons needed two conductors with both decks open, to enable the manual doors to be opened/closed). I took this to Cabin, where I decided to have another ride on the 1.
The first bus to appear was one of the ex Hull partial open toppers, on a through run to St Annes. As we headed past Talbot Square, I noticed that the next through 1 to St Annes would be 58, the original Lytham St Annes Corporation 77, the last survivor of Fylde’s predecessor’s original batch of three Northern Counties bodied Leyland Atalnteans, dating from 1970. This one had survived the withdrawal of the other two before deregulation and had now returned to prominence as one of the fleet used on the 1! The last time I’d ridden on the bus was in 1988, on Fylde’s competing service on the 6 (Grange Park-Mereside). Deciding it was time for another ride, I got off the open topper at the Pleasure Island terminus and hung around for 58 to appear. I’d never been around this part of St Annes before, so I had a little walk around the pleasant gardens around the sea front, with the small, Pleasure Island fun fair being a delightfully discreet contrast to the large Pleasure Beach at it’s more brash neighbour! 58 soon appeared and then it was back past the sand dunes and along Blackpool Prom to the Cabin. I took to the bus so much that I made a few more rides on it over the course of the week! I then spent the next few hours bashing the four Balloons that were out on specials, alongside the other Atlanteans that were running on the 1, these including the original Fylde 1975 vintage Atlantean 80, now renumbered 50 and a near identical example that originally came from independent Clyde Coast, which was the new 70!
The rest of the afternoon, I spent riding the few Balloons on specials but decided to have a break from them by riding the 15 to Staining. This is a fair sized village just beyond the Blackpool boundary to the north of the town. The village has been traditionally served by Blackpool Corporation since that organisation took over the services of independent operator William Smith (actually a Blackpool Councillor). Staining was originally served by a double run on Smith’s Poulton via Hardhorn service, which became Blackpool’s 2 but, after the takeover, Blackpool rerouted this to run direct, with the 15 starting as a separate service to the village. 1980 saw the 15 integrated with it’s sister service, the 15A from Victoria Hospital-Bispham via Town Centre, with the 15 running hourly through to Bispham and a new 15B running from Bispham-Victoria Hospital and then onto the nearby Grange Park Estate. The 15A, meanwhile, became the evening & Sunday service from Bispham-Staining via Victoria Hospital. Deregulation saw the 15A/15B discontinued but the 15 was rerouted to follow the 15A route through the Hospital (with a brief rerouting via Warbreck Drive in lieu of Warbreck Hill Road on the Bispham leg, at first) on an hourly headway. Post deregulation developments saw the 15 extended from Bispham to a new Safeways store at Cleveleys, first with Optare Deltas, then Optare City Pacer minibuses but this was ultimately unsuccessful and the 15 cutback to terminate at Gynn Square.
The 2 and it’s 2A variant, meanwhile, had been converted into a high frequency minibus service (this route also being rerouted via the hospital at deregulation) with a degree of success but, unfortunately, this had abstracted Hospital & Newton Drive passengers from the 15, to the extent that Blackpool Transport deregistered the service but Lancashire County Council subsidised a replacement 15 from Talbot Road Bus Station-Staining, which was won by Fylde Blue Bus just before the Blackpool takeover. The main reason that I’d decided to ride the route is that the regular bus Fylde used was one of four ex Bradford Leyland Atlanteans, purchased by Fylde from Hull and rebodied with brand new Northern Counties Paladin single deck bodywork. I’d travelled on a couple of these when Fylde was still separate and I must say that I was quite smitten! The first time, I had boarded one at Talbot Road Bus Station on an 11 (this being the route that Fylde had initially used them on, although over crowding would subsequently see them transferred onto lighter work like the 15) Sitting down with the bus’s engine off, it was quite easy to imagine that this was a state of the art Dennis Dart, this style of bodywork being common on the successful midibus but you were left in no doubt that you were on board a Leyland product when that magnificent, deep sounding engine was started! Absolutely marvellous!
Being a Sunday evening, loadings were very light as we followed the 2 route up Newton Drive, diverting briefly into the Hospital, then back onto Newton Drive, surrounded by large, attractive houses. The 15 turns off the route of the 2 at Normoss (home of Seniors Fish Bar, one of my favourite Blackpool chippies!) and headed along a twisty lane with fields on one side and houses on another. We also passed the Newton Hall Holiday Park, once served by 15B short workings in the fifties! We entered the large, sleepy village and traversed the main street through it, reaching a turning circle on the very edge, which the bus turned into. I had intended to return immediately to Blackpool but, as it was a very pleasant, sunny evening, I decided to get off and have a wander around the local country lanes! I soon found a nice spot next to a stream and sat down there to chill for a bit, watching the sun go down beyond the distant view of Blackpool Tower, though the building that contained Ernie, the Premium Bond computer, on Preston New Road, being closer, loomed larger on the horizon! The hour soon passed and I made my way back to the 15 terminus, buying a bar of chocolate from a little shop opposite before the bus arrived. What an extremely idyllic hour, far away from the hustle and bustle of Blackpool’s Promenade!
Monday saw me making my usual trip to Preston (usual on a week’s holiday in Blackpool, anyhow) on this occasion by means of the Blackpool South-Kirkham branch line. To reach Blackpool South, I used the tram. As it was quite early in the morning, I was expecting either a Centenary car or one of the crewed single deckers on the Fleetwood-Starr Gate service. It was a crewed car but I was quite flabbergasted to see Balloon 701 heading towards me! This was the first morning of the peak summer service, the same timetable as the early summer service but the crewed single decks on the Starr Gate-Fleetwood service were replaced by Balloons. This was in stark contrast to the previous two years, when the Pleasure Beach-Cleveleys service has been upgraded to double deck operation. Before that, double deckers had been only used on specials since 1987! These early morning journeys ran top deck closed but a crew change at Manchester Square bought two conductors, meaning the top deck was opened up, so I decided to go upstairs and take 701 all the way to Starr Gate, catching a Fylde Northern Counties Atlantean from there back down Lytham Road on the 11, alighting at the Royal Oak for the short walk up Waterloo Road to Blackpool South station.
Back in 1976, my Mom took me to a model railway exhibition in the buildings at Blackpool South station! By that time, the branch was host to an hourly, paytrain Diesel Multiple Unit service to Kirkham and the buildings were otherwise disused. By 1980, the buildings had been demolished and a single platform with a shelter sufficing for the hourly service. The former railway land all around the station had been converted into car parking for cars and coaches coming off the Yeadon Way from the M55, this being the former direct Marton line to Kirkham (which carried onwards from Blackpool South to Blackpool Central, closed in 1964), an indication of how the role of the railway in bringing in holidaymakers had declined in this period.
1987 saw the elderly DMUs replaced by Class 142 Pacers, a change which also saw the lines service change from that of a one unit shuttle to Kirkham & Wesham, ideal for connections onto Manchester or London trains originating from Blackpool North but for very little else! The new service carried on into Preston, then heading along the East Lancashire line to Blackburn, Burnley & Colne. This gave the service a great boast, giving the folk of East Lancashire the opportunity to reach the Blackpool fleshpots without changing trains! Helping this was the opening of a new station at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, at the back of the great pleasure complex! All this has given the line a new lease of life. I’d travelled the line once before, in 1993, the first time I travelled on a Class 142. The 142s have a somewhat bad press but the Blackpool South line’s future may have been somewhat bleak without them! They still appear on the Blackpool South-Colne service, though share the line with 150’s now and are due to disappear in the next couple of years but they’ve served the line well! After Pleasure Beach, the single track makes it’s way through the South Shore suburbs before calling at Squires Gate station on the towns border, then it was out past the Airport on one side and the Pontins camp on the other (both now gone! Well, the Airports sort of hanging on!) before heading past the Sand dunes into St Annes on Sea, the first of three stations in affluent Lytham St Annes, the other two being Ansdell & Fairhaven and Lytham before heading out to rural Moss Side and onto the junction with the Blackpool North line at Kirkham & Wesham. Here, we passed the next 142 heading down the branch. From now on, the 142’s deficiencies became apparent, as the line speed increases meaning the bouncy ride the 142’s are known for became really noticeable! Still, they were economical to operate which, at a time of declining railway use and an unsympathetic government in charge, meant that at least the line, and others like it, survived!
At Preston, I rode on a Preston Buses East Lancs bodied Atlantean on the 11 to Gamull Lane, treating myself to a Hollands steak pie and chips from a chippie by the terminus before returning on the next 11, which was a Leyland Lynx (really must write a blog on Preston some time!), then heading to the station to catch the next pacer back to Blackpool South. I walked onto Lytham Road and found myself waiting for the next bus, which turned out to be a Blue Bus 11 to Cleveleys….being operated by a bus that hadn’t been a Blue Bus for long! Upon the Fylde takeover, Blackpool had found itself owner of a further fifty two Atlanteans, adding to the forty one surviving Blackpool East Lancs bodied examples. The new acquisitions were a motley bunch, consisting of Northern Counties bodied examples (some of which were finished by Willowbrook) bought by Fylde themselves, dating from 1975-1984 (not, of course, forgetting the earlier 58-or 77 as it originally was), some of those dating from 1976/77 having been given a major refurb by Northern Counties in the early nineties. Alongside these were the various second hand examples, mostly Roe bodied buses from Hull but also some more Northern Counties examples purchased from Greater Manchester Buses in 1989.
With the savings made by the November 1994 service integration, plus the arrival of the six new Olympians, Blackpool were able to transfer it’s nine oldest Atlanteans (322-330) to Squires Gate, with them being repainted into the new cream livery with blue skirts. These joined the newer Fylde Atalnteans operating the 11 & 11A and it was on one of these (324) that I then caught on the 11 to Cleveleys. But these weren’t the only Blackpool Atlanteans transferred to Squires Gate, as the two newest examples, coach seated 363 & 364, were transferred to the Seagull Coach’s unit (a Blackpool coach firm taken over by Fylde in 1988) becoming 46 & 47 alongside Fyldes last two Atlanteans, 44 & 45, and used on Private Hire and excursions to the likes of Fleetwood Market and the Granada Studio Tours in Manchester.
At Cleveleys, I decided to take a ride on Blue Bus route 44A. Along with the 44B, this was a cross town minibus route formed the previous year from the combination of two services, the Blackpool-Mereside/Marton Mere Holiday Village 44A/44B with the 55A/55B Blackpool-Cleveleys services. The November 1994 revisions saw the 44A converted to Optare Delta operation (the 44B would remain minibus operated), with Blackpool’s 101 & 102 transferred to Squires Gate as 8 & 9 to back up Fylde’s Delta’s 1, 2 & 3. These had previously been used alongside the single deck Atlanteans on the 11 but over crowding lead to this returning to double deckers. I boarded bus 8 (or 101) on the 44A, which was an interesting route, leaving Cleveleys via the bungalow’s of the Norbreck area, once served by Blackpool’s 25A, latter replaced by an extended 3/3A, with tendered service 33 serving the area after deregulation, until Fylde decided to start the commercial 55A/55B. At Bispham, the routes split up, the 44B serving the otherwise unserved Holmfield Road, whilst the 44A joins Fyldes 11 and Blackpool’s 2/2A/2B (cross town minibus services to Poulton) along Warbreck Drive. Heading through Blackpool Town Centre, the routes travel out via Whitegate Drive, where under Fylde, the routes competed with Blackpool’s 26 minibus (formerly the Marton tramway) before heading into the Wordsworth Avenue area once served by Blackpool’s route 16 before crossing onto Preston New Road, in pre deregulated times a corridor that was considered Ribble territory but these restrictions mattered not now! Whilst the 44B continued to the Marton Mere Holiday Park, the 44A crossed onto Mereside, one of Blackpool’s two main council estates (the other being Grange Park, both then linked to each other by the 6-which now does so again!), where it terminated by Tesco.
From Mereside, I caught another Blackpool Delta on the 6 into Blackpool Town Centre, this route being very much the traditional route to Mereside. Once double deck, problems with vandalism on the new Northern Counties Olympians having seen Atlanteans return briefly before it was decided to allocate the Optare Delta single decks to the route. Very much seen as the first rival to Leyland’s new standard rear engine single decker, the Leyland Lynx, the Delta was considerably better built and Blackpool was one of several fleets to standardise on them during this time, buying twenty six between 1990 & 1993. I always quite liked them and Blackpool would eventually become the last original operator of the type to run them, the last one going in 2010.
When we hit the Promenade, I spotted open top single deck Boat car 607 trundling along the tramway, so I alighted from the Delta and caught 607 for a delightful trundle to the Pleasure Beach, a perfect end to a perfect day!
Tuesday saw me doing the usual move and concentrating on the specials operating on the tramway to Fleetwood Market as, despite this popular attraction being open on Mondays, Thursdays & Fridays as well, everyone traditionally goes on a Tuesday! As was my usual custom, I decided to reach Fleetwood first on a 14, missing the crowds queuing for trams but being in Fleetwood in good time for the first of the specials to reach Fleetwood and allowing me an almost empty tram ride back to Blackpool! Of course, as the 14 now started from St Annes, I made my way there on a Northern Counties Atlantean on the 11, then doing the extended 14 throughout!
Wednesday saw me embarking on a traditional Ribble territory bash, which I’ll probably blog up separately at some point, though I will say that the day ended in Fleetwood, after taking the 182 on an Alexander Dash/Volvo B6 from Preston and, after fish & chips at Danson’s fish bar, I caught Brush car 625 back into Blackpool, then played on the tramway for the rest of the evening. Latter on, I spotted one of the single deck Atlanteans on the 11, so I decided to ride on this to St Annes, catching the last number 1 from Pleasure Island back to the digs at Cabin. Semi open top Atlantean 53 was the bus concerned and I was the sole passenger in the open section, sitting at the back and soaking in that sea breeze and smell! This was the latest I’d ever travelled on an open top bus, being around 23.30 and is a trip that I’ll always remember!
The final two days saw me soaking up more of the scene! Thursday morning saw me take a trip to Morecambe on Stagecoach Ribble’s X42, heading out on prototype ECW bodied Leyland Olympian 2100 and returning on a 1992 vintage Stagecoach standard Leyland Olympian. The afternoon saw me take a trip out to Lytham, from where I had a ride on a Fylde turn on the 193 to Kirkham (this service being joint with Stagecoach, a legacy from 1978, when Ribble’s Wesham-Lytham service was merged with Fylde’s 3 from Lytham-St Annes (Spring Gardens), creating the 193), with Fylde at this time using the single deck Atlanteans (yes, I was truly in love with these splendidly noisy, four little buses!) Unfortunately, the changes made to Travelcard availability meant that I had to pay, hence me taking the bus from Lytham rather than it’s St Annes Square (the Spring Gardens section having been replaced by Fyldes 11C in 1988) terminus. From Kirkham, I caught a former Ribble Leyland National 2 on the 158 back into Blackpool. Evenings & Sundays had seen Fylde replace the 193 (no Stagecoach operation at this time) with an extended 11A from Blackpool and that evening offered me the opportunity to take one 11A out from Blackpool-Lytham, returning on it’s opposite number returning from Wesham, both being standard Fylde Atlanteans.
Friday saw me have a general final fling on everything, enjoying the scene for one final day. Saturday would see us leaving Blackpool on a Class 142 Liverpool train as far as Preston for our connection to Birmingham. 1996 would see the Fylde Blue Bus fleet become absorbed into the main Blackpool fleet, with the blue livery abandoned (though it took a few years to disappear totally) and the fleet renumbered into a 4xx series. I visited the town on a daytrip, using National Express’s overnight 421 and found that the whole of the Starr Gate-Fleetwood tram service operated by Balloons (with the Centenary’s spending most of the day on specials-sadly, this was a pattern that wouldn’t continue beyond 1996 but that’s another story), whilst the 1 was extended to Little Bispham! Whilst 1997 saw it return to it’s Cabin terminal, 1998 saw the route extended to Cleveleys, where it terminated for a number of years before finally making its way to Fleetwood in 2007! 1999 would see Squires Gate Garage close down, all operations now concentrated at Rigby Road. There have been many changes since but I’m sure you’ll agree that the network that I found in 1995 was a fine example of a time of transition!