On the edge

This is the third stage of my morning trip from Garston to Liverpool in August 1985. Previously I had caught a Bristol VR of the MPTE fleet on the 86 and arrived in Catharine Street to photograph a now preserved Dennis Dominator.

Leece Street in Liverpool delimits the southern edge of the city centre. Heading away from Lime Street along Renshaw Street it is where you turn left to head for the Philharmonic Hall. The turn is landmarked by St Luke’s “bombed out” church on the corner. In 1985 the city petered out beyond that point, “China Town” wasn’t the feature it is today and many crumbling and abandoned buildings were to be seen on the road out to the Dingle.

On my way into the city centre, on foot by now, snapping at passing vehicles with my camera, I paused by Rodney Street: using my 135mm telephoto lens, the towers of the Liver Building loomed over the rooftops of the Rapid Hardware complex in Renshaw Street as I zoomed in on the buses climbing Leece Street.

MPTE Atlanteans 1057 and 1049

To the right can be seen an attractive but neglected building which has been replaced by something rather less characterful but no doubt more functional. The vehicles featuring here are two Atlanteans of the many “old school” buses bought after the “new generation” evaluation bus featuring in my previous post from this day. The Atlanteans are on two of the major “south end” routes heading for the arterial Smithdown Road towards Garston. The 80 following up behind would proceed onwards to Speke.

Over my shoulder, another one of those beloved MPTE VRTs was coming down Hardman Street [the continuation of Leece Street beyond the Rodney Street intersection] on the 86 so I swung round and it was duly captured on film. The buildings seen behind have held up very well in comparison to the one shown above. The one next to the traffic light is the Philharmonic Dining Rooms, much reputed for its exotic urinals and not a bad place for a pint to be had [in the bar, not the urinals]. MPTE 2105 was pictured heading down for the city centre and the Pier Head beyond.

East Lancs bodied Bristol VR 2105 in Hardman Street

Further variety then appeared in the form of a Crosville Bristol VR with the more familiar ECW bodywork [but with a Leyland 501 engine rather than the Gardner motor featuring in the PTE examples] heading out of the city for Warrington.

Crosville DVL406 being pursued by MPTE 1912

DVL406 was on the Warrington allocation, returning on the H1, one of the three Crosville services from there to Liverpool. This was a long-standing Crosville interurban service in decline: it would cease to exist just over a year later, after deregulation. Prior to the MAP project [which was the National Bus Company’s pre-privatisation exercise to trim away unnecessary mileage and consolidate operations] this service had a 20 minute daytime frequency. After the survey it was reduced to hourly, with a complementary service as far as Widnes and then to Runcorn also operating hourly as H25. The H1 and H25 combined to make a 30 minute frequency between Widnes and Liverpool via Hale. After deregulation, all Crosville main line services along this road became H25 to Runcorn and the H1 was no more.

DVL406 had been new at Wrexham and used on the D1 service between Chester and Llangollen but was replaced after a year or two when a batch of Gardner-engined VRs arrived at Wrexham. Most of the 501-engined DVL class were concentrated on Merseyside. DVL406 was a bus I would drive in service on the H25 myself out of Runcorn a couple of years later.

Bringing up the rear is MPTE Atlantean 1912 on another 86 working, slightly obscured by another 1980s phenomenon, a Skoda [or is it a Lada?] remarkably with both brake lights working! After this I moved on to the city centre proper and took a train to St Helens. There is more to relate of this day another time.

Dark days in Liverpool

The previous post on this site described my arrival in the Merseyside metropolitan area as it was in 1985, on a weekday morning in August at the start of the off-peak period, ready to explore the transport network. This was achievable at reasonable cost by way of the popular “Saveaway” scratchcard ticket. I caught one of the well-liked Bristol VRT buses on the 86 service from Garston outside what was then Allerton railway station, long before the station metamorphosed into the modern day Liverpool South Parkway interchange.

The last photo presented showed a view of a Bristol VR in Smithdown Road unusually clad in East Lancs bodywork, taken from the rear upstairs seat of another. My next exposure on the negative strip shows this shot of one of MPTE’s “experimental” 1980 series of “new generation” double deckers. These were being evaluated with an eye on the impending withdrawal of Leyland Atlantean chassis from Leyland’s bus chassis portfolio. The Atlantean had been the mainstay of the Merseyside fleet for many years and it was evidently a hard act to follow, the PTE seeming unimpressed by its successors. Willowbrook-bodied Dennis Dominator 0027 is seen operating from Speke on the 80 service which followed me along Smithdown Road.

MPTE 0027 in Catharine Street

It must be remembered that in the 1980s Liverpool was a city in decline with mass unemployment, riots and buildings [many that once reflected the opulence of the international city of trade] in a state of dismal neglect. The photo of 0027 [new in July 1980] was taken after I left the 86 service in Catharine Street in what they now call the “Georgian Quarter”. In those days it had a reputation for, ummm, illicit nocturnal activity in its side streets.

A vision [in those days on Merseyside] of modernity in passenger transport [though not an option followed up in numbers by the PTE], 0027 is seen passing a terrace of large Georgian town houses with peeling paint. Today they look a bit smarter.

0027 was one of a small batch of Dennis Dominators that had a relatively short life on Merseyside. This one then saw service down South with Maidstone and District…

Maidstone & District 5317
Photo hosted on the flickr site of the late Vernon C Smith https://flic.kr/p/Ux2frH

…and had a subsequent lease of life with independent operator Smiths of Market Harborough…

WWM904W  Dennis Dominator  Smiths-Market-Harborough
Photo hosted on the flickr site of harrypope https://flic.kr/p/6Epyh4

… which saw the bus survive long enough to be sought out by a preservationist from the area where it first saw service. It is now part of the Merseyside Transport Trust collection [though I do not know who currently owns it]…

Merseyside Transport 0027 WWM904W
Photo hosted on the flickr site of Steven Whitehouse https://flic.kr/p/2gzsZzB

…and is evidently under restoration returning to its original guise.

My photos indicate that I walked a few hundred yards through the “Georgian Quarter” towards the “Knowledge Quarter” before veering citywards past the Philharmonic Hall and its Dining Rooms across the road. In Leece Street I hung around for a while to snap a few scenes in another part of the city which has seen changes. We’ll take a look at those views another time.

As a postscript to the above, I have been given more information about the vehicle’s history by the owner of 0027, Neil Hilton. The trial batch of Dominators was withdrawn at the time of deregulation in 1986 and sold on to a dealer in the south of England. One passed fairly quickly to Maidstone and District but 0027 had to hang around for a year before joining its former stablemate at Maidstone. The other MPTE Dominators were sold on, one to Kingdom of Tiverton and the other exported to Hong Kong.

0027 became M&D 5317 and was later sold to a Merseyside independent, Huggins of Moreton before once again moving away from the North West to Smiths of Market Harborough. Smiths finally sold it into preservation. Thanks go to Neil for providing these extra details. I look forward to recreating the photo in Catharine Street one day!

Garston Glory Days

Back in August 1985 we were still a clear year before deregulation. I was very active with my camera, having discovered the affordability of bulk black and white film and a darkroom. Most of these pictures existed only in negative form for many years until technology made a reasonably quick scan all that was needed to unleash their full potential.

On the 23rd of August that year I was visiting my family home in Runcorn and decided to have a day travelling around Liverpool. The “freedom of Liverpool” could be had during off-peak hours by way of the very affordable Saveaway ticket. This was a scratch card that was available with a single area of validity [of the four Merseyside Areas, Liverpool, St Helens, Southport and Wirral] or, more expensively, for all areas. I must have had an all areas ticket that day because I found myself at St Helens after starting in Liverpool.

Coming from Runcorn, the Saveaway would not be available until I arrived in the Metropolitan County of Merseyside so I must have caught a train from Runcorn to Allerton because my notes tell me I made a local trip in Runcorn on Crosville SNL4 and then caught MPTE 2137 on the 86.

My photos tell the story from there. I spent a while hanging around Horrocks Avenue, by Allerton station photographing buses on the 86 service. At the time this was still largely operated by MPTE’s East Lancs bodied Bristol VRs which in those days were operated out of Walton depot and, in the case of the 86, Garston.

Running out of service to Garston depot past Allerton station in south Liverpool

The photograph above of VR 2137 running out of service into the nearby Garston depot shows the old building at Allerton station. This has since been replaced by the Liverpool South Parkway interchange. This comprises a terminal linking the Merseyrail Northern Line [from Hunts Cross to Southport], the “City Line” former Cheshire Lines route from Warrington to Lime Street and the West Coast Main Line from Crewe. In addition to all that, a bus station linking the southern suburbs and the airport is part of the complex.

So far, London trains do not stop at South Parkway though I would imagine that it would be high on the list of aspirations for local transport authority Merseytravel and John Lennon Airport.

Allerton would have been the place to buy my Saveaway ticket, and this would be valid only from 0930. I imagine that my arrival was before that time to allow me to make the most of its validity. I would have bought my “piece” and validated it and returned to the main road outside looking for VRs to photograph. 2137 may well have been running in from a peak hour turn, perhaps a schools or work service. It was to feature in another photo soon after because it quickly returned from Garston with another driver on an 86 service to the city centre.

2137 back in service and about to take me into central Liverpool

The beauty of a telephoto lens is the ability to shoot an approaching bus and still be able to hail it in good time. I know that I boarded this bus and sat, unusually for me, rear seat upstairs. Nine-thirty buses were inevitably busy in Liverpool, for as well as the Saveaway validity starting then, so did the OAP “Twirly” passes. Liverpool is reputed for its Twirlies, standing at bus stops at 0915, hailing buses to ask the weary driver “am I too early?”

So rear upstairs seat it was, the front perch evidently occupied in the photo and perhaps the next best place, the rear downstairs bench over the engine, would have been taken too.

In 1985 Liverpool had yet to realise the tourist potential of Beatles fans so I would not have realised on the next stretch of the 86 route that I passed within sight of the adolescent Paul McCartney’s Forthlin Road home. Further along I would not have failed to appreciate the passage through the Penny Lane terminus with its shelter in the middle of the roundabout and everything else. It was just beyond here that I must have realised that the next 86 service had caught us up.

MPTE Bristol VR 2139 on Smithdown Road between Penny Lane and Greenbank Road

It’s a well-known phenomenon of high frequency services that buses tend to bunch up at busy times as the first bus along gets a pasting and becomes late. The next one will catch up, overtake, and then itself be delayed as it encounters the crowds of angry inconvenienced passengers who have accumulated along the way. So 2139 followed and I had this opportunity to photograph it in a rather down-at-heel Smithdown Road. I think that the Prince Alfred Road depot is pictured behind. This is what it looks like now [not much improved, really]:

https://goo.gl/maps/GH2pqpixAhe1HaUx5

The 86 service enters the city via Catherine Street and passes the Philharmonic Hall before descending Leece Street. I know that I left 2137 at Catherine Street and started to take more photos but there I will pause for now. Those views are for another day, reader, I will show them to you soon.

Moving People

The Leyland Society on Facebook were asking for photos on the theme of “Leyland Moving People” which took me back to the time I spent shooting from one of the footbridges on Liverpool’s “bubble bus stops” at Hood Street Gyratory. It was great for chaotic scenes of buses parked two abreast at crazy angles with general traffic flying past and passengers bolting across four lanes of traffic to catch the bus they could see loading its last passengers before pulling away. This was taken in September 1985.

I proposed this picture, taken at the start of the evening peak, with a classic MPTE Alexander-bodied Atlantean setting off with a full standing load and buses loading as crowds form in the rush hour. Also visible are another Alexander Atlantean, one of the MCW-bodied batch of 1978 and two East Lancs-bodied Bristol VRs. Just visible in the midst of all that is a Crosville SNL-class Leyland National loading up on one of the Runcorn-bound services.

Nowadays the scene is very different. The bridges have gone and a solitary Pelican crossing slows the passage of services through the much more constrained space now reserved just for buses. If I was to get my camera out in the bus station a security person would come to move me off the premises.

What a world we live in today.