The inaugural run in April 1928The inaugural run in April 1928
The inaugural run in April 1928

Remembering when eco friendly trolley buses ran in Hastings

Local historian Steve Peake remembers when the trolley bus was transport of choice in the town

He writes: This week is the 65th anniversary of the scrapping of the much-loved trolleybus system in Hastings.

Despite widespread public opposition, the popular, cheap and quiet trolleybuses were replaced in 1959 by a fleet of noisy and polluting Atlantean diesel buses. Thirty one years of eco-friendly electric traction in Hastings came to an end on 31 May 1959.

Hastings had a tram system from 1905 until 1928, when it was replaced by a fleet of trolleybuses. Both trams and trolleybuses are driven by electricity collected from overhead wires, but trams run on rails set in the road. As trolleybuses are not on rails, they run quieter than trams and more smoothly, can climb hills easier and can overtake other vehicles, which trams cannot.

Because trolleybuses are drawing their power from a centralised plant, they are more environmentally friendly than motor buses, and do not produce the road damage caused by heavy battery-powered electric buses.

The Hastings Tramway Company (HTC) in 1929 replaced its fleet of 65 tramcars with 58 six-wheeled trolleybuses. Fifty of these were single-deckers, with the other eight being the novel open-topped double-deckers, one of which has been preserved by Hastings Council as Happy Harold, who occasionally takes passengers on trips in the town.

HTC ran the trolleybuses until late 1935, when the company was bought by Maidstone and District Motor Services (known as M&D). In 1936 the power station in Parker Road, set up in 1905 to run the trams, closed down and power was taken from the municipal electricity service. In 1938 M&D tried to replace the trolleybuses with motor buses, but a big campaign by the Hastings Observer stopped the scheme.

In 1939 a fleet of 48 new double-decker trolleybuses was ordered. All the double-deckers, bar Happy Harold, were taken out of service in 1940, and all the single-deckers were withdrawn in the following years. In both 1945 and 1955 Hastings Council could have purchased the trolleybus system, but failed to do so, leaving M&D to close it in 1959, and start using diesel-powered buses.

The 1959 picture shows the ceremonial last trolleybus trip that took place on1 June. Passing Glyne Gap are Happy Harold, in front, followed by the last 1939 trolleybus and an Atlantean diesel. Britain’s last public trolleybus service, in Bradford, came to an end in March 1972.

For more history of Hastings buses, see Steve’s website www.hastingshistory.net/hastings-chronicle.

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