Friday, 24 February 2017

Picking a municipal bus company and travelling across the city in 1963

Cover of Maps of Manchester & District, 1963
Now I am looking at a copy of the 1963 Manchester bus routes which my friend David has passed on to me.

Like me he was one of those that never went to a grammar school and recalled that

“I went to St Gregory's Technical High School in Ardwick Green from 1960-1967.

And because it was over 3 miles from Chorlton I was awarded a free bus pass...Joy of Joys, and could travel freely anywhere I liked in school hours for free.

Not that I did - but it did allow me to experiment with the various routes to Ardwick Green from the stop near Chorlton Baths.

I finally ended up using the fastest way - the 81 or 82 to Brooks Bar, and then the 53,  a great route known as the 'banana' service because " they came in bunches"  and from Greenheys the 123 to Ardwick Green.”

Now all of this reminded me that even the humble guide to the City’s bus routes comes with a story and opens up a fascinating glimpse into that not so distant past.

Back then according to another friend there were bus loads of students crisscrossing the city.

And like David many were in receipt of a free bus pass.  I too briefly had access to the same although in my case it was a season ticket for the train to travel from Well Hall to New Cross and back again.

Of course the sting in the tail was that they could only be used in term time and during school hours which rather limited the opportunity to boldly go and explore to the outer limits of the Corporation’s bus routes.

Detail of bus routes in and around Chorlton
But they were just another part of that welfare provision which some today frown upon.

Looking again at that bus guide is to follow long forgotten routes, and be reminded that the early 60s was still a time when a lot more people relied on public transport or did it themselves on a push bike.

The scenes outside all our big factories at clocking off time were characterised by people cycling home or waiting to catch one of the long line of buses parked up waiting for the evening rush.

And here there was a bewildering choice. Running through Chorlton there was the 80, 81, 82, 85,  and 94 along with the 41 and 43 all of which went into town.

Stevenson Square December 1966
There was also cross routes including the 16, 22, and 62 and it was possible to travel by bus into Chorltonville up to Rye Bank Road and out to Firswood.

The network also provided for more connections and all of this ran alongside a regular train service from Chorlton into Central Station or out to Didsbury, Stockport and the Derbyshire hills.

It was a complex system which involved not only Manchester Corporation buses, but also those of Salford, Oldham, Ashton, smaller local authorities, and the North West Bus and Car Company.

And so beside  the distinctive red livery of Manchester and the blue and cream of Ashton there was the green of Salford and the green of the Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley and Dukinfield Joint Transport and Electricity Board along with the maroon and cream colours of Oldham.

Piccadilly with an Ashton-Under-Lyne trolley bus, 1960
For those of a certain disposition this was a wonderful cornucopia of municipal transport that made the car less essential and can only be dreamed of today and one that vanished at the end of the 1960s.*

Ah I hear you say all of that is fine, but getting in a car at work and driving home with the radio to listen to is far superior than having to wait in the rain at the bus stop, fight for a seat and end up beside that rather boring chap from the end house whose sole topics of conversation revolve around pigeons and the poor performance of Huddersfield F.C.

All of which maybe so but I do miss the ease with which you could move around the city and so I shall revisit David’s 1963 bus route book and plan a few trips of my own, which may or may not have left me at ease in the company of that chap from the end house.

*Of trolley buses and a company called SELNEC

Pictures; Maps of Manchester and District, Manchester Corporation, 1963, courtesy of David O’Reilly and Manchester Corporation trolley bus, Stevenson Square 1966,  © Alan Murray-Rust, Wikipedia Commons, Ashton-Under-Lyne Corporation trolley bus in Piccadilly, 1960,  from the collection of J.F.A.Hampson,  Museum of Transport, Wikipedia Commons

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