Darwen Corporation Transport
The first tramway in Darwen was inaugurated on the 16th
April 1881 by the Blackburn and Over Darwen
Tramways Company under the 1879 Blackburn and Over Darwen Tramways Act, who
commenced a steam tram service from Blackburn, through Ewood, Earcroft and
Hawkshaw to Darwen, terminating at Whitehall.
The Company operated until 1898 when Blackburn and
Darwen Corporations took up the option to purchase the undertaking as allowed
for in the 1879 Act. The section of track in Darwen was taken over by Darwen
Corporation and that within Blackburn by Blackburn Corporation. Until Darwen
electrified itís system in 1901 the line was leased to Blackburn Corporation
allowing the steam trams to continue running.
In February 1900, work commenced on electrifying the
tramway between Darwen and Blackburn, and whilst electrification was carried
out, the steam tram service continued. As a result the original steam track was
left in situ and an additional line laid alongside, the whole being electrified
at the same time.
For the opening, ten open-topped uncanopied bogie cars,
numbered 1-10, built by Milnes, were bought. Interior seating was longitudinal
with 15 on each side and on the upper deck was transverse with patent dry flap
seating, to ensure dry seats in all weathers. The livery used was vermilion on
the upper panels with purple lake on dash and rocker panels.
When considering the Tramway & Improvement Act in
1898, the Tramways Committee received petitions from residents and councillors
for branch lines. The first was to run from the Circus along Bridge Street,
Redearth Road, Sough Road and Watery Lane to Whitehall where it joined the main
line again. The second was to branch off Bridge Street, along Sudell Road and
continue to Hoddelesden. The third would branch of Sudell Road to Entwistle
Street, South Street and Railway Road to the Circus. Subsequently the
Hoddelesden route was modified to run along Marsh House Lane to Pole Lane,
crossing Roman Road to Harwoods Lane at Old Sett End.
The Hoddelesden route was completed and opened for
traffic on 11th October 1901 and four new cars were ordered for the
route. They were Milnes bodied, with four-wheel trucks by Brill, numbered 11-14
they were again liveried in vermilion and purple lake. A special feature of
these cars was the triple braking system - a conventional wheel brake, a power
brake which reversed the current in the motors and a slipper brake which acted
directly on the track, and could be operated by either driver or conductor.
In 1905 a four-wheel demi car (No. 15) with trucks by
Mountain & Gibson, of Bury, was purchased for one-man operation of the
Hoddelesden route. Its initial success lead to the purchase of two identical
cars (Nos. 16/17) in 1906. By 1912, the cars had become troublesome and were
In 1913 official tram stops were introduced - up until
that time trams could be stopped anywhere and conductors were instructed to be
on the lookout at all times for intending passengers! During this year the
original cars were fitted with windscreens for driver protection.
By 1915 increased patronage on the main road service
meant two further cars arrived. Built by United Engineering Co., on Peckham
trucks, they were numbered 18 and 19. The livery of these cars reverted to the
vermilion and cream of the former steam cars. Three identical cars were
purchased in 1921 (Nos. 20-22) with English Electric bodies on Burnley bogies.
The purchase of these cars signalled the end for the demi cars withdrawn in
1912, and No.16 became a shelter at Sett End, whilst No.15 was converted to a
works car (numbered 1), with only one driving position and minus its body.
Following the arrival of these cars, consideration was
given to updating the original cars, since sufficient motive power existed to
maintain services. Due to low railway bridges at two points on the Blackburn
route, rebuilding was made more difficult. It was, however, felt that provision
of top covers was necessary. Two new cars (Nos. 16/17) were purchased in 1925
from English Electric to a low-height design, which proved successful, and this
prompted the then manager, Mr. Newsome, who had been involved in the design
work, to set about rebuilding the original cars.
The first to be rebuilt during 1924/25 were Nos. 1 and
8, receiving top covers by Brush. No.1 was renumbered 15, as the number 1 was
used for the works car that had been constructed from the demi car No.15.
Subsequent rebuilds took place in 1927 (No.3), 1928 (No.5) and 1929 (No.7), all
fitted with Brush top covers and the Brill trucks replaced with Burnley bogies.
In 1931 work started on reconstructing Nos. 2 and 10. Two second-hand top covers
were purchased from Rawtenstall Corporation, but only No.10 received its cover.
The top cover intended for No.2 was dropped and damaged beyond repair. Also
included in the second-hand purchase from Rawtenstall were two single truck
bodies that became Nos. 9 and 11, No.11 mounted on the original No.11 truck that
had remained derelict at the depot since an accident in 1926.
In February 1925 the Tramways Committee recommended that
the Bolton Road section should be extended from Whitehall to the New Cemetery at
Moss Gap at a cost of £1200. A Bill was presented to Parliament to authorise
this extension but ultimately it was never built. However, this act also gave
the Corporation powers to run motorbuses and even trolleybuses in the borough.
On the 19th September 1926 motorbus services commenced to Chapels,
Bold Venture Park, Spring Vale and Sunnyhurst with four Leyland Lionesses Nos.
1-4 with 26-seat Leyland bodies. They wore a similar livery to the trams. In
1927 two more (Nos. 5 and 6) were purchased to supplement the Hoddelesden tram
service, with an additional two (Nos. 7 and 8) arriving in 1928 to inaugurate an
express service to Blackburn Railway Station from Whitehall. In the event the
Lionesses were found unsuitable and in 1930 two Leyland Lion LT2 models were
purchased (Nos. 9 and 10) for this route. No further purchases of motorbuses
took place until the expansion of services six years later. By 1930 motorbuses
were working to Hoddelesden, trams working the early morning peak period and
afternoons. Buses left the Circus via Railway Road and Kay Street, and made a
detour at Sett End via Harwoods Lane, the original 1899 proposal for the tram
route. Evening services comprised three buses per hour Monday to Thursday, two
trams per hour on Friday and Sunday, and four trams per hour on Saturday.
Buses were working to Tockholes via Bog Height Road in
1931 and by 1933 four buses a day were working on the Spring Vale route,
diverting along Watery Lane.
In 1936, what proved to be the final purchase for the
tramways, were two new English Electric streamlined trams, Nos. 23 and 24. The
following year the Hoddelesden route was abandoned and turned over to
motorbuses. Trams were rapidly losing favour and total abandonment was proposed,
accelerated by the general deterioration of the trackwork and equipment. By 1945
the fleet was down to 7 cars, and on 5th October 1946 car No.3,
decorated with flowers and illuminated with electric lights, made the final
journey into the depot.
To cater for this additional workload, three Leyland
Lion LT7's with English Electric 32-seat bodies were purchased, being allocated
Nos. 11-13. To cover for the abandonment of the tramway to Hoddelesden in 1937
four Leyland TD5's were bought with smart double-deck bodies by Burlingham and
numbered 14-17. In 1938 the fleet was increased again, to cater for rising
usage, with the purchase of two Leyland TD5's (Nos.18/19) and four Leyland TS8's
During 1939 an Austin K3 with Burlingham 26-seat body
was purchased for the Tockholes route, but proved unsuitable for the hilly
terrain and was withdrawn in 1942.
In 1940 ten Leyland TD7's with Leyland 56-seat bodywork
were delivered in order to hasten the proposed abandonment of the tramways. They
were numbered 25-34 but saw little service due to wartime conditions. An order
for six more Leyland double-deck vehicles was placed in 1942 to replace more of
the tramway system, however, these vehicles did not arrive until the end of the
war in 1946, numbered 1-6, they were Leyland PD1 chassis with Alexander bodies.
They were followed in 1947 by three more PD1's with Leyland bodywork.
During 1949, expansion of services called for more buses
and due to Leyland's inability to supply these due to the post-war demand, the
Corporation turned to Crossley for eight DD42/7's, which were numbered 35-42.
The delivery of these vehicles enabled the Burlingham-bodied TD5's to be
withdrawn and No.17 converted to a purpose built breakdown tender.
The purchase of large numbers of vehicles at one time
presented problems when certificates of fitness fell due at similar times. To
combat this the council adopted a policy of vehicle replacement in small
numbers. In line with this policy two Leyland PD2's with Farrington all metal
Leyland bodies were purchased in 1952 (Nos. 10/11), a further two (Nos.12/13)
were delivered in 1954 and were the last Farrington bodies produced by Leyland.
Darwen, always ready for innovation, ordered three
Leyland PD2's in 1955, this time with 'tin fronts' as opposed to the traditional
open radiator style. Nos. 14 and 15 had conventional open platform rear entrance
bodies by Crossley, and No. 16 had an East Lancs body with platform doors. No
further open platform vehicles were ordered.
In 1957 the Corporation purchased an AEC Regent Mk.V
(No. 17), supplied and badged as a Crossley, with East Lancs body. The only such
vehicle built. In the same year two Crossley-badged AEC Reliances (Nos. 18/19)
also arrived, followed in 1958 by an identical vehicle No. 20. 1958 also saw the
purchase of three further PD2's, again with 'tin fronts' and East Lancs bodies
with platform doors, which were proving popular. These vehicles were numbered
The delivery of single-deck vehicles 18-20 allowed the
withdrawal of TS8's 20,22 and 23 in 1959, which had been fulfilling the role of
private hire vehicles using the licence of Messrs. Farnworths (a local coach
operator), and to continue with these services two very fine second-hand coaches
were purchased. The first (No. 21) was a Leyland Royal Tiger chassis with a
Burlingham Seagull centre entrance body. The second (No. 22) was a Dennis Lancet
with a similar body by Plaxtons. Unfortunately private hire work declined
shortly afterwards and, as a result, the Royal Tiger was converted to one-man
operation by fitting a front entrance and the Lancet was traded for an AEC
Reliance with front entrance (also numbered 22).
In May 1964 the first front-entrance double-deck
vehicles were purchased. Nos. 27 and 28 were Leyland PD3's with St. Helens'
style fibreglass fronts. Three further identical vehicles were added in 1965
(Nos. 29-31). The Leyland Royal Tiger (No. 21) was withdrawn in 1966 and
replaced with a Leyland Tiger Cub No.23, and three Leyland PD2's (Nos. 32-34))
again with St. Helens' style fronts and forward entrances were placed in
service. These were followed over the next three years by three batches of
identical vehicles numbered 36-44 (number 35 was still in use in 1967 by a
Crossley), the last three being the last PD2's built by Leyland for use in the
UK. In 1971 there was an odd purchase of a second-hand AEC Reliance from SELNEC
(ex-Salford No. 110 and SELNEC No. 73), that became Darwen No. 21.
A change in policy to provide one-man operation on most
routes lead to the purchase, in 1971, of two high capacity single-deck vehicles.
These were Bristol RESL chassis with Leyland engines and East Lancs bodies. They
were numbered 1 and 2. In 1972, two further identical vehicles, Nos. 3 and 4,
and three more in 1973, Nos. 5-7 were purchased. These wore reversed livery with
cream as the dominant colour. Three further vehicles were ordered but
subsequently cancelled, since the delivery date was after the 1974 local
government boundary changes, when the Darwen fleet was merged with that of
Blackburn Corporation, ending over 75 years of municipal operations by Darwen
written by Peter Dawson,
abridged and edited with permission)
1898-1974 | Tram Fleet List 1904-1946 | Bus
Fleet List 1926-1974 |