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Glasgow Trolleybuses - Their Silent Death
(and a few other unrelated matters concerning transport in and around Glasgow)

By John Walker

Glasgow Corporation operated trolleybuses for 18 years from 1949 until 1967, and they were truly magnificent machines. However, other than those fortunate to live in those areas of the city where they could make use of them and appreciate their superb riding qualities, they were generally disliked by the majority of Glaswegians. The typical Glasgow method of crossing the street at that time appeared to rely on the use of the ears rather than the eyes as an indication of whether it was safe to cross. Even a horse and cart would be audible to the unwary, but a 10 ton monster painted in three bright colours with only a dull whine as a warning of its approach appeared to be an unfair hazard. The nickname “The Silent Death” appears to have been the only term of “endearment” awarded these vehicles by the people of Glasgow. I may be wrong, but I have never seen any documentary proof that trolleybuses were accountable for causing a greater percentage of injury or death to the public than other forms of transport in the city. I therefore must assume that they were afforded their nickname by the cynical Glasgow public who appear to have been merely frightened of their potential to cause an unannounced death.

The trams were notorious for accidents, and my paternal grandmother died before I was born following a contretemps with a Glasgow tram. She committed the cardinal sin of failing to let go of the handrail whilst her feet were on the roadway and whilst the tram was in motion, and sadly became one of many who subsequently found out that a human being cannot hold back a tramcar. She died a short time later following complications resulting from injuries received.

Why then, apart from their derogatory nickname, were the trolleybuses so unpopular?

Glasgow was very much a tramway city, and the locals got to know all of the relevant tram routes as they were growing up. The tram routes did alter from time to time, but the changes were seldom on a grand scale. When the tramways were winding down the replacement buses were not at all well received, as they often deviated considerably from the tram routes which they replaced. The arrival of trolleybuses whilst the trams were still very much to the fore, whilst regarded as a sensible and practical approach by the Transport Department, seemed all too much for the Glasgow public. Also, in every other city in the UK where trolleybuses were operated, the trams were rapidly withdrawn thereafter and the trolleybus systems expanded. In Glasgow, this was definitely not the case, and the two modes of electrically powered transport sat uneasily alongside each other. Or rather, the trolleybuses sat uneasily in the shadow of the trams.

One other factor which made the trolleybuses unpopular was that they were not used to any great degree in the city centre, largely due to the difficulties associated with running trams and trolleybuses together over the same section of route. Where they were used in the city centre, their cross-city routes tended to be along streets not exactly popular with the travelling public. Also, there were no trolleybus termini in the city centre, save for the Night Service route to Muirend. Apart from the night service buses mentioned above, only two of the services operated, namely the 105 and 107, graced the main city centre streets. Glasgow’s decision to retain the trams for so long did nothing for the popularity of the trolleybuses, which many would argue were never used to their maximum potential in Glasgow. It was as though that the Corporation had bought them, realised that the Glasgow public didn’t like them, then embarrassed by having wasted public money, deliberately kept them out of the main thoroughfares as a concession to the public.

One notable exception to this general rule was that the former very busy “goldmine” tram service 7 was replaced by trolleybus service 106, which although never passing through the city centre, served various densely populated areas on the south side of the city, most notably Bridgeton, (the) Gorbals, and Govan. The service ran from Riddrie, on the city’s eastern side, to Bellahouston Park, west of Govan.

The High Street routes or “services” as they were always known in Glasgow, comprised Services 101 and 102 throughout most of the life of the system. Service 103 was a short lived variation of the 102, and the 104 from Cathedral Street to Muirend also had a fairly short life of about 10 years. I have no real recollection of the 103 or 104, although I have studied various photographs of the buses on all of the High Street services, particularly when stationary at the Cathedral Street terminus of service 104, and also a short turning point, which seemed a popular spot for photographers, but not for most other people! Cathedral Street could in no way be described as a location likely to attract much custom, and the buses would sit in the shadow of the rather forbidding looking 1920s style tenement buildings looking rather sorry for themselves. The majority of trolleybuses used on the High Street services were almost identical in appearance to the London Q1 class, and were mainly three axle monsters capable of seating 70. There were 64 of these, numbered TB 1-34, and TD 1-30. The “B” denoted that the chassis was manufactured by British United Traction, and the “D” indicated those with Daimler chassis.

The 101 ran between Riddrie, a housing estate or “scheme” in the north east of the city, and Rutherglen, an independent Burgh situated in the county of Lanarkshire, on the south east side of Glasgow. Rutherglen has been effectively swallowed up by Glasgow, but still retains to this day a degree of local independence. Certain 101 journeys terminated “short” at Shawfield, which was also situated just over the border into the county of Lanarkshire.

The other principal service that served the High Street was the 102, which was a sort of truncated version of the 101. It ran along the same route from Royston Road, in a district known as the Garngad, where my mother went to school. The Garngad had a reputation as a bit of a rough area, although some of it was flattened and “improved” after they knew my mother and her sisters had left! The other terminus was in Polmadie (pronounced Pole-mah-dee, with the stress falling on the last syllable), which was near the site of Pinkston power station in the south side of the city, owned and used by the Corporation to supply power for the trolleybuses.

These services were very busy indeed and were the stronghold of the Glasgow “Q1” types throughout. There were also 20 smaller “four wheelers”, numbered TG 1-20, including a unique batch of 5 bodied by Walter Alexander (the only trolleybuses ever bodied by the famous bodybuilder). The chassis were manufactured by Sunbeam which was a subsidiary of Guy Motors, and that explains the use of “TG”. These trolleybuses were also regular performers on the High Street services, although they were rather eclipsed by their larger 3 axled brethren. I should perhaps state here that the Q1s and TGs were used on other services as well, but towards the end of the system it was the High Street where they tended to be found. For instance I never saw a Q1 type on the 106, but that may have been just by chance.

Although I never travelled on the trolleybuses to any great degree, it was on the 101/102 that I did most of my travelling on the very short journey between Castle Street and Glasgow Cross, or when my mother took me to visit one of her old school friends in Royston Road. The Garngad couldn’t have been that tough by the early 60s, as I can only remember receiving one punch on the nose whilst playing football in the street, by a schoolboy of similar age to myself. They say that Glaswegians are friendly towards visitors, and that was indeed the case here, as the guy had advised me well in advance that I was likely “tae get wan oan the coupon” if I tackled him in such a manner again.

We also visited my grandparents in the south west side of Glasgow on alternating Saturdays, and on those relatively rare occasions when my father announced that we were to go part way by trolleybus, my sister and I would be overcome by fear, but not of the trolleybus journey, so please read on.

Our prelude to trolleybus travel meant that we boarded an Eastern Scottish bus in our home village, which at various times has been described as being anything between 7 and 9 miles from Glasgow city centre. 7 miles is probably correct, but George Graham, the former Arsenal manager, referred to his home village of Bargeddie as being “about 9 miles east of the city” in his autobiography. Other than George, whom I have never met, I can only think of one other person from there who made it “big time”. His name was Hugh Blackwood, a local dairy farmer, who made his fortune importing huge earthmoving vehicles from the USA in the days when motorway construction was beginning in earnest. He once threatened to boot my arse for climbing on one of his haystacks. People said I would be famous one day, but I now cannot remember when that day was, as I was only about 10 or 11. In any case he only threatened to do it, so I suppose I wasn’t that famous.

Transport wise, Bargeddie suffered greatly from its location, being just outside the boundaries of both Glasgow and Coatbridge, and although it was once served by the Corporation’s tramway system, it eventually became exclusively served by green Eastern Scottish buses. I use the word “served” with reservation, as it wasn’t much of a service at all. Eastern Scottish ran buses out of the company’s Clarkston (Airdrie), Bathgate, Broxburn, and Edinburgh garages along the A89 road through Bargeddie to Glasgow. However, most of these on journeys into Glasgow would be full to capacity at busy times by the time they reached Bargeddie. As we lived in an area of Bargeddie known as Drumpark, we therefore usually boarded our local “Drumpark” bus which, being a “Glasgow Local” service was operated out of nearby Baillieston garage. The bus would usually be a scruffy Park Royal bodied Leyland PD2, with an upper deck very similar in style to the last delivered Glasgow Trolleybuses. The journey to the city took just under 30 minutes.

We would normally have remained on our Eastern Scottish bus until the stop before Buchanan Street Bus Station, but when we used the trolleybus we alighted in the Townhead district of Glasgow, in the interestingly named Martyr Street. It was tempting to think that the street had been so named in memory of those who had martyred themselves whilst attempting to alight from the green Eastern Scottish buses there!

It was necessary to make sure that you gave the Eastern Scottish conductor early warning of your intent to alight at the relatively rarely used stop in Martyr Street, as the driver would have typically been held for what seemed like an age at the traffic lights in Alexandra Parade, at the junction with Castle Street, and he would be determined to get onto the dead straight Parliamentary Road to the bus station as soon as he could. A stop in Martyr Street meant that he should pull into the side of the road to let following traffic pass, but not many drivers could be bothered, and they merely brought the bus to a rolling crawl in second gear, to allow what they hoped was a single male passenger “tae drap aff” the back platform. This meant that we were expected to alight from the bus very quickly in the middle of the road, and sprint to the pavement to safety.

Having survived the ordeal of daring to alight at an unpopular stop, we would then go and stand in Castle Street to await a monster trolleybus. The first thing that casual trolleybus travellers experienced was that, despite their size, they were often full to capacity when they approached the stop. The announcement of “First two” or “First three” by the conductor/conductress meant that we, as a family of four, were obliged to wait for the next one, which could usually be seen in the distance.

When a trolleybus finally arrived that wasn’t full to capacity, the second aspect of trolleybus travel would become apparent. The passenger had to fight to get to a seat against the phenomenal acceleration of the trolleybus, always driven in the Glasgow style, so that the bus behind never caught up! The seats on the “Q1” types themselves were fairly narrow as befits a 7’6’’ wide bus, and resulted in many a sore ear when standing passengers were propelled into seated passengers in the outside rows of seats. Also, the fact they were so busy meant we often had to fight our way upstairs, and if we had to split up it would be my father and I who had to climb to the top deck. Depending on the driver, a climb to the top of Mount Everest may have been considered an easier option for a boy of tender years.

I was a fervent collector of Glasgow Corporation bus tickets in those days and it was often the case that I was disappointed. The trolleybuses were so busy that sometimes the conductor never had time to collect all of the short distance fares. This was usually due to the requirement for the conductor to be on the platform at almost every stop to prevent overcrowding. Years later as a motorbus conductor, I was obliged to do precisely the same thing. We had to keep the buses moving at the expense of the odd “missed fare”. This scarcely troubled us as, particularly on Saturdays, we knew we had put in a fair day’s work. However, it was not tolerated by the roving Inspectors, some of whom, dressed in plain clothes, were known to us as the “Gestapo”. A missed fare would almost always result in the conductor being “booked”, with possible further disciplinary action. I have touched on this matter elsewhere, so I won’t bother repeating myself by way of further explanation.

On alighting from the vehicle it was also necessary to utilise all of one’s faculties to get to the rear platform against the same acceleration that made getting to one’s seat difficult in the first place. I am convinced that the acceleration of the vehicles, whilst an asset to the crews, was a contributory factor to them being unpopular with the travelling public. The only saving grace was that, unlike the motorbuses, the drivers were obliged to respond to bell signals, as the trolleybuses never had interior driving mirrors.

So, what else made trolleybuses different?

To those few of us possessed of the desire to study the workings of the vehicles, the first anomaly was the foot pedal configuration. There were two foot pedals, and it was the left pedal which was used to control the power of the buses. The pedal could be completely depressed to the floor from a standing start, as the acceleration on Glasgow trolleybuses was automatically controlled. Releasing the pedal would instigate a form of rheostatic braking, and the bus was finally brought to a halt by the footbrake pedal. The right pedal was the brake, and the pedals were never, at least to my knowledge, used with the same foot, as in the automatic vehicles of modern times. The driver would depress the left pedal to obtain some power, and then release the handbrake to move off. Failure to apply some degree of power prior to release of the handbrake could cause the bus to roll back out of control. Although some other undertakings employed the use of “runback brakes” to prevent involuntary backward movement, and “coasting brakes” to limit acceleration on steep downhill descents to about 18 mph, Glasgow appeared to have no use for either, and the buses really flew when traffic conditions (and the configuration of the overhead wiring) allowed.

The theory behind the left foot power pedal was that tram drivers used their left hands to apply and reduce power and their right for braking, so that the positioning of the trolleybus pedals was meant to replicate that, and make “conversion” from tram to trolleybus easier for tram drivers. The left pedal was not simply an “accelerator”, as it also generated a preliminary braking facility when released. Another feature of Glasgow Trolleybuses, not universally used in the UK, was the use of traction batteries. The batteries allowed movement of the vehicle under its own power at a maximum speed of 4mph during temporary disruptions caused by dewirement, or where roadworks interrupted the normal route. I can remember at least one occasion where our trolleybus had to lower its booms and traverse a short section Sunday, January 12, 2014 1:04 PM was due to an accident involving the trolleybus in front at a road junction.

Drivers had to be aware of the various power switch settings necessary to run on batteries, and the need to use a reverser, similar to those fitted to the trams, in order to move backwards. Many people panicked when they saw a trolleybus travelling in reverse as they never believed it was possible. The fact that Glasgow utilised terminal loops rather than the triangular reverser system tended to reinforce the belief that Glasgow trolleybuses were incapable of voluntary backward movement.

Driving a trolleybus was not simply a case of “left to go and right to stop”, as the drivers had an awful lot more to think about. Various buzzers and lights in the cab had to be acted upon, as well as light signals usually mounted on the overhead itself, to indicate which way point frogs were set at junctions. At various points they would have to look out for the maximum permitted speed for trolleybuses passing that point, on a disc suspended from the overhead. If the circuit breakers were activated then the driver would be startled by an accompanying loud bang, and would have to calmly bring the vehicle to a halt and investigate. When driving at prolonged slow speed care had to be taken that the motors didn’t burn out. Marker studs on the road had to be observed so that the power could be applied or released at just the correct moment. Parked vehicles were a hazard, as drivers had to be careful not to drive outwith the boom tolerance (nominally 17 ½ feet) for fear of dewirement. They also had to remember not to attempt to overtake the trolleybus in front, although motorbuses were fair game, as was everything else! Perhaps the traffic conditions, even in the late 60s, made driving a trolleybus a bit too stressful, but technology has become available which has ensured that these graceful vehicles continue to serve the streets of several of the world’s cities to this day.

Glasgow was notorious for large warehouse fires, and whilst all other traffic was diverted, the trolleybuses were normally allowed to continue along their designated route. Special wooden ramps were placed over any hoses that lay in the path of the trolleybuses.

The lowering and raising of booms, whilst only required occasionally, was another perhaps undesirable feature of trolleybus operation. Where booms had to be lowered or raised, use had to be made of a long bamboo pole which was stored in a metal tube welded to the chassis of the bus. Unfortunately, these poles were often missing or had been replaced after having been broken, and many a crew would have dewired only to find that the pole stored under the vehicle only amounted to a stump, having been broken by a previous crew. The positioning of a boom back onto a trolley wire was a skill difficult to master, especially in the pitch black of a late Glasgow winter evening. The most common cause of involuntary dewirement was excessive speed or wrong positioning of the vehicle on bends, or where the point frogs were incorrectly set at road junctions.

At some road junctions with automatic points drivers had to coast (build up forward speed then remove all pressure from the power pedal) between markings on the road to proceed straight over the junction, or apply power to activate the overhead point frogs to make a turn. In heavy traffic this could be quite a feat to achieve, and any mistake would usually result in a dewirement. At other junctions there were point “boxes” operated by the conductor, but the local children got to know about these and often caused havoc to unsuspecting trolleybus crews. Eventually locks had to be fitted and operation carried out by use of a special pole carried on the trolleybus. Once this system had been established then it was used in favour of the automatic system which Glasgow drivers never seemed to be at one with. A disadvantage of the manual system was that it was often necessary for a trolleybus approaching a green light to stop so that the conductor could alight and throw the switch. Impatient drivers behind ran the risk of colliding with the rear of the trolleybus if they weren’t familiar with the system.

One unfortunate result of dewirement meant that the trolley-head could become detached and if the bus was travelling at speed these had a tendency to find the nearest first floor window through which to explore, to the obvious alarm of any occupants! Dewirement could also cause considerable damage to the overhead wiring, and emergency repair crews would have to undertake immediate repairs, whatever the weather, to the inconvenience of other road users. Much use of battery traction would then have to be made with the resultant lowering and raising of trolleybooms creating merry hell.

In icy conditions “ghost” trolleybuses had to be sent out in the wee small hours to free the ice from the overhead wires before normal service could commence.

Each trolleybus had to pass a daily “leakage” test before entering service. Precisely what that entailed is beyond my knowledge although the purpose was to ensure that the trolleybus hadn’t become “live” to the obvious danger of passengers and crew.

Glasgow trolleybuses originally carried a red and white “TB” sticker on the rear platform window to identify them as such to following traffic. However, after a copyright protest from London Transport, these had to be removed!

Glasgow trolleybus destination blinds originally featured white letters on a green background. This could make them difficult to read after a while, due to wear.

Whilst it is common knowledge that most of the trolleybuses were housed in the purpose built Hampden Garage, a fair number were housed at Govan Garage along with motorbuses there. Govan supplied most, and later all, of the buses required on the 106, as well as the many specials required to serve the docks at Linthouse and Shieldhall. There was a short term facility to “out-station” up to 18 buses at Dennistoun Depot to save dead mileage from Govan on the 106, but the facility was withdrawn after only two years or so.

The concrete apron at the front of Hampden Garage featured a ramp inclined so that buses could be moved by gravity as required.

Glasgow pioneered the use of 35 foot long single deck trolleybuses (TBS12-21) which carried very smart bodies built by Burlingham of Blackpool. These superb trolleybuses, unique to the city, ran exclusively on the suburban service 108 between Ballogie Road and Paisley Road Toll, where casual visitors to Glasgow would never have found them in a month of Sundays.

Glasgow also experimented with “continental style” crush loading Pay As You Enter single deck trolleybuses (TBS 1-11), mainly used on service 104. I should mention that TBS1 originally carried the fleet number TB35. A seated conductor took fares from passengers who entered by a door at the rear of the bus, and exited by a door in the centre of the vehicle. The buses were also trialled by Nottingham City Transport, and elsewhere, but proved to be a resounding failure in all places. They were eventually converted to centre door only with a conventional mobile conductor.

Glasgow was the third largest operator of trolleybuses in the UK, yet a fair percentage of Glaswegians would have had no cause to ever travel on a trolleybus in their lifetime. My grandmother (the one who never met an untimely death as a result of a tramcar) lived in Glasgow for her entire 84 years and never had occasion to venture aboard a trolleybus, even although she visited her many relatives in various other parts of the city. She never deliberately avoided travelling on them, it was just that most of the city wasn’t served by trolleybuses.

The last 90 double deck trolleybuses to be delivered to Glasgow (TB35-124) were magnificent 30 foot two axle buses with 8 foot wide bodywork unique to Glasgow. These buses seated 71 passengers in glorious comfort. Yet, such was the lack of attention given to their documentation that opinions differ as to whether they were bodied by Crossley or Park Royal? The drivers’ doors were undoubtedly of Crossley design, but the rest of the bus looked like a Park Royal effort. It has therefore been stated in one publication that the buses may have been built by Park Royal to a Crossley specification. Official records state they are Crossley bodies, but to those familiar with Park Royal’s styling it may be wiser to think again. The Park Royal and Crossley companies had merged and this appears to have caused the confusion. The order had been placed with Park Royal, but it is rather uncertain who actually built them. If anyone knows the real truth and nothing but the truth then I’d be delighted to know. Similar buses were supplied to other undertakings, most noticeably forward entrance versions of the “ Glasgow” style supplied toWalsall, so the answer may lie there.

However, regardless of who built them and where, these were the unique and typical “Glesca trolleybus”, the mainstay of services 105, 106, and 107, and ran to the end.

TB78, one of the Crossley/Park Royal buses, is preserved in full running order at Sandtoft Trolleybus Museum near Doncaster. I visited the museum last year (2004) and took more than one trip on TB78. Pure nostalgia!! I asked the driver what he thought of it and he said it was the best trolleybus they had on the site. Considering there were a few rebuilt front entrance Bradford machines that ran into the 70s, I think his comment said it all. His only complaint was that he couldn’t get the bus up to full speed because the running circuit wasn’t long enough, and was waiting for the site to be extended so that he could make the bus move in the manner in which it was intended. Is it worth visiting Sandtoft to see the auld Glesca trolleybus? Frankly, if you are in the area then I reckon it is, but I wouldn’t drive for half a day to get there, unless trolleybuses are your main interest in life.

Regrettably, the trolleybuses had died their silent death before I realised they had gone, and I had very little experience of travelling on them. However the little experience I had will remain forever as a fond memory of a means of transport that I felt wasn’t given a fair chance. Granted, none of the other UK systems really lasted very long either, but the Glasgow system, such as it was allowed to develop, was still one of the best in the country, and in my opinion did not deserve its unpopularity. The trolleybus was a clean, fast (OK maybe a bit too fast), means of transport that combined the qualities of both the tramcar and the motorbus. Maybe that was the problem, as traditionally Glaswegians tend not to be at ease with things, and people, that don’t quite fit into one category or another. In Glasgow even a Buddhist monk is likely to be asked what school he went to, in an effort to ascertain his real faith. Only the Roman Catholic and Protestant religions tend to be understood, and in days gone by people of other faiths were usually asked to sympathise with one of those religions or the other before they would be accepted. The trolleybus then, being neither a tram nor a motorbus, was possibly a victim of that same philosophy. I was the product of a Protestant father and a Roman Catholic mother, and at times that made me also feel like a trolleybus!

The trams often ran to areas well outside of the city boundary, so why wasn’t this facility also extended to the trolleybuses and the motorbuses?

The answer appears to be what I shall refer to as the “Glasgow Factor”. This is a rather difficult concept to describe, but basically it is, or possibly rather was, the willingness of the city to accept certain districts outside the boundary as being honorary parts of Glasgow, whilst rejecting others as being unfashionable and not worthy of being associated with the city. The nearby towns of Paisley, Coatbridge, and Airdrie were unfortunate examples of how fickle the “Glasgow Factor” could be. Glasgow Corporation purchased the tramway system of Paisley and the combined system of Airdrie and Coatbridge, which it linked to its own system, and no doubt earned significant revenue from them both. Unfortunately it appears that when the revenue on those systems began to fall, coupled with increasing maintenance costs, they were dropped like hot potatoes leaving the local people high and dry. There may have been underlying politics involved, but to non-political types like me, that was exactly how it appeared.

In 1957 Glasgow Corporation simply withdrew the tram service to our area without replacement. The theory apparently was, as we weren’t citizens of the City of Glasgow, then we weren’t entitled to the services of its transport system, which it had nevertheless provided us whilst the going was good for the preceding 34 years. Yet, schoolchildren from the adjacent pit village of Cuilhill (now demolished), which was totally within the City of Glasgow, attended our local primary school, due to it being the closest, and indeed only, local school available. I shudder to think what would have happened if, following the withdrawal of our tram service, their parents had received letters which stated, “As your children are not residents of the County of Lanarkshire then they are no longer entitled to an education”.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, when postcodes were introduced, we became part of Glasgow whether we wanted to be or not, and similarly were allocated Glasgow telephone numbers. However, we received no corresponding allocation of Glasgow Corporation buses.

Places like Millerston and Rutherglen in Lanarkshire, Clydebank in Dunbartonshire, and Clarkston in Renfrewshire, all of which were outwith the city boundary, much in the same manner as we were, continued to enjoy the services of the Corporation Transport system until its takeover in 1973. Many people from Airdrie, Coatbridge, and Bargeddie (including myself) gave valuable service to the City’s Corporation Transport department until it was no more. Yet all we were offered was an early morning and late evening “staff bus” from Parkhead Garage. This was to ensure that we could get to and from our work and serve the “citizens of Glasgow”, and those privileged areas outside the city, when our Eastern Scottish buses were not on the road. When travelling to and from work on normal Eastern Scottish service buses we were obliged to tender the full fare, and were thus denied the free travel afforded our colleagues also resident outwith the city boundary, but in areas served by Corporation buses. Our families had to be content with no service at all from the Corporation, and that was it.

I do not believe that greenstaff resident in Paisley were even catered for by staff buses, so perhaps I shouldn’t shout too loudly.

Nevertheless, despite the obvious bitterness I have shown, I am proud to have worked, albeit very briefly, on the Corporation transport system. The way of life and “faur too coarse tae be Glesca” language of the coalmining areas on its periphery was perhaps not always understood by our Glasgow cousins, who possibly felt we were a race apart and not worthy of the benefits of their transport system, but neither could we always understand their city logic. That logic appeared to be that, unless you lived in one of the chosen adjacent districts referred to above, then you weren’t entitled to being associated with Glasgow at all, but were still expected to state your allegiance to Rangers or Celtic! My parents, and three out of four of my grandparents before them, I was born in the city. I also often worked in the city, and still feel a certain affinity with it.

I have now finished moaning, so can you still remember that I was talking about the trolleybuses? If you want to find out more about these fascinating vehicles, then you shouldn’t have far to look, both on this site, and on other sites linked to it. Having had little or no “hands-on” experience of these vehicles, I apologise in advance for any errors, and would be delighted to hear from any former trolleybus crews, or indeed anyone else, who can assist with any such inaccuracies found.

What about detailed lists of the buses and the services they operated?

I always aim to adopt a fairly laid-back attitude (well most of the time) and prefer to keep technical details to a minimum, in the name of readability. The technical stuff has been covered in various out of print publications which can still occasionally be obtained. There is also some further information on this, and other linked websites, and it was never my intention to duplicate what has been achieved by people who have put many hours of effort into their work. There are some excellent photos on this website supplied by Tony Wilson, and as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

 If there is sufficient demand I will submit a list of trolleybuses operated along with some technical details, to Ian Semple, the webmaster, but it all depends on whether the need arises. I am still not convinced, even today, that memories of the trolleybuses will generate much interest. So this is the end (at least for the time being) of a very personal and fond memory of “thae big stupit buses wi’ poles oan thur roofs thit ye cannae hear comin’ tae thu’ve jist aboot ran ower the tap ae ye.”


Sorry folks, but it appears that my geographical knowledge of the city has diminished, both consistent with my age, and the fact that I now live so far away.

My reference to Polmadie being near to Pinkston Power Station is totally incorrect. The power station was actually in the north of the city, miles away from Polmadie.

In my account you’ll notice that I refer to the terminus of the 101 as Riddrie, and the 102 as Royston Road. That’s the way it was in 1962, but prior to that the 101 terminated in Royston Road, and it was the 102 which ran out to Riddrie. If that confuses you, then it confused me too, as I had little recollection of the trolleybuses prior to 1962.

I also forgot to mention that certain trolleybuses on the 106 ran past Riddrie to Millerston, in Lanarkshire, being another example of the “Glasgow Factor”, which I had forgotten about.

I stated that there were no termini in the city centre, although the 107 terminated in Maitland Street, which, although not being in what could be considered the very centre of the city, was not a million miles away either. However, I am content that Maitland Street did not qualify as being in the “city centre”, and I’ll leave it there.

Finally, I should have highlighted the fact that almost 100 of Glasgow’s trolleybuses were less than 10 years old when the system was wound up in 1967. The system came to a very abrupt and little publicised end and thereby the buses left the scene in the same silent manner as they had served the streets.

Is it any wonder then that the trolleybus was unpopular, as even those who profess to have had affection for them, such as I, cannot even get their facts correct when compiling a suitable testimonial?

The moral would appear to be that my memory is no longer what it was, and I would do well in future to read the books BEFORE I commit any further Glasgow Corporation Transport material to paper (or computer).

Copyright © 2005 John Walker

John Walker Who would love to hear from other GCT platform staff.