If there are any women readers who might be wondering what to get a husband of a certain age for Christmas, look no further.
If he is at all interested in Portsmouth transport I suggest a magnificent new book of reference, Portsmouth Trolleybuses by David Bowler.
It is nothing less than a fantastic 383 pages of research which took the author six long years to compile. The colour photographs, many by Roger Funnell, mostly half-plate, are superb and the full-plate black and white views are so crisp one would have thought they were taken yesterday.
Everything on the subject is here – from the switch from trams to trolleys, maps of every route, overhead wiring and how everything was powered,
An array of destination blinds are also shown while another chapter gives fleet details and another, how the buses were lit.
There is even a chapter on what became of the vehicles after they were taken off Portsmouth’s streets and how much they were sold for. I think I would have paid £60 for one at the time if I’d been old enough and had had somewhere to store it.
Another chapter gives passenger counts and another fare tables and tickets. Another tells of the two main depots at Eastney and North End with photographs of the turning circle at the junction of Gladys Avenue and Northern Parade, North End.
And it will increase your vocabulary... if you’ve ever pondered the meaning of ‘pull-off’, ‘converter’ and ‘reversing triangle’.
It’s the photographs which make the book though and the interior shots simply ooze Portsmouth trolley buses. Remember running up the stairs on a winter’s day when the windows were closed and the magnificent fug of Woodbine and rolled-up tobacco smoke from dockyardmen on their way to work. It was even better if it had been raining and you got the aroma of wet coats combined with the smoke.
The panoramic views are marvellous too with the buses in centre-shot with the buildings we all knew so well in the background.
The many overhead track layouts are a wonder to me.
On the railway we called the places where many lines cross – thick-work – but here those spaghetti junctions were up in the air, like those at Fratton Bridge and Bradford Junction. All held up by posts and brackets with the Portsmouth coat of arms on them for good measure.
At £48 the book is not cheap but is excellent value for a subject close to many a man’s heart.
Orders can be taken at bookshops (ISBN 978-1-874422-96-9) or by phoning the publisher Adam Gordon on 01408 622660. He will send a copy with postage of £4.80.
The passenger count on trolley buses was phenomenal bearing in mind that Portsmouth is but a dozen square miles or so.
In 1946 there were 3,549,281 passenger rides with a mileage run of 250,748. The average fare was less than 2d.
To finish this review on the ‘silent service’, as some called trolley buses, I will leave you with David Bowler’s thoughts:
‘Traffic congestion in Portsmouth today must be amongst the very worst anywhere in the United Kingdom. In a country which associates car ownership and the production of on-street emissions as signs of civilisation and prosperity this is hardly a surprise.
‘The retention of trolley buses and their extension into the distant suburbs alone would not have prevented this, but such a policy might have contributed to a better situation than currently exists.
‘Britain has a gigantic challenge ahead if it is ever again to offer its citizens the urban mobility and environmental-friendliness that only electric transport can provide.’