By Kingfisher Visitor Guides
There’s a certain romance associated with the old trolleybuses that used to trundle through the streets attached to overhead electric wires.
Rolling back the years
You can relive those halcyon days when buses had conductors, with a nostalgic visit to the national Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft.
Step back to a gentler time when there were fewer cars on the road and life was lived at a slower pace.
The last trolleybus gave way to motor buses just under 50 years ago, but they have not been lost completely.
On the right track
Unlike today’s buses, a trolley bus is powered by electricity, which it collects from overhead wires connected to a mains supply.
While trams run on fixed tracks, trolleybuses are not confined to rails – they have wheels and tyres, and run on normal roads. This makes them more flexible for steering around stationary objects, like parked cars.
The trolleybus is quiet and vibration-free, and still thrives in many towns and cities worldwide. With zero emissions at the point of use, it must be one of the most environmentally friendly forms of transport ever invented.
Way back in 1961, a young schoolteacher living in Reading realised that once the pre-war trolleybuses he saw on the streets every day were replaced, they would disappear for good.
Michael Dare decided to save one of them, and persuaded the general manager of Reading Corporation Transport to allow him to preserve one.
With the help of other like-minded enthusiasts, Reading’s no. 113 trolleybus was purchased from the corporation, and became the first privately preserved trolleybus in the country.
Other trolleybuses were purchased, or donated, so a permanent home was needed for them.
Getting the show on the road
The museum at Sandtoft was established in 1969, and now houses the world’s largest collection of preserved trolleybuses, with 58 in total.
Although not all have been restored, there are fine examples from all over the UK, and even some from the continent.
The Museum is run and managed by an enthusiastic band of volunteers, from all over the country, who lovingly restore and rebuild old trolleybuses.
Although Covid-19 obliged the museum to close last year, it is now firing on most cylinders, and ready to welcome back visitors.
Delve back in time at one of the Open Days, held on a number of weekends and bank holidays between Easter and late November, when the renovated vehicles are out on display around the site.
Picking up speed
Although there are always plenty of trolleybuses to see at the Open Days, the last weekend in July is an extra-special Trolleyday Plus – with displays of visiting vintage cars, motorcycles, buses and lorries.
It’s a great family day out with wonderful attractions on the central grass area, including a fairground organ, a jazz band, a real ale tent, and a selection of different stalls to tempt everyone.
At the popular Blues & Twos days, visitors can enjoy a display of preserved emergency vehicles, including police cars, ambulances, and fire engines. There are also exciting re-enactments of fire and rescue techniques.
As the sun sets earlier in the winter months, November offers a perfect opportunity to experience riding on the trolleybus after dark. Enjoy the thrill of the saloon lights flickering as the trolleybus runs through the points!
Take your foot off the pedal
Relax a while in the Tea Trolley café which offers a delicious selection of freshly prepared, wholesome food at prices that aren’t quite 1960s’, but they won’t make your eyes water.
The home-made cakes are a particular favourite with visitors, so don’t go home until you’ve tried them.
Once you’re refreshed, take some time to browse the museum shop which has recently been refurbished, and has plenty of gifts, souvenirs, and models to remind you of your day.
The road ahead
Chas Allen, the museum’s Commercial Director, is looking forward to the future of the attraction. He says: “It’s been a tough time over the last year-and-a-half, but now we’re open again, and we’ve got a lot to offer.
“Our trolleybus rides are very popular, so we want to get those fully operational again. At the moment, we’re adhering to public transport guidance about social distancing, but that doesn’t make them any less enjoyable.”
A day out at the Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft will definitely be one to remember.
Where to find it
The Trolleybus Museum, Belton Road, Sandtoft, Doncaster, North Lincolnshire, DN8 5SX
Telephone: 01724 711846