- Belfast 168, a Guy BTX of 1949 with a Harkness body, seen
on the road.
- (Photo NTA)
Belfast trolleybus 168 was chosen as a typical representative of the
post-war fleet operated by Belfast City Transport and initially placed on
long loan to the NTA by the City Council. It was one of four trolleybuses
specially repainted to take part in the commemorations held over the weekend
of 11/12 May 1968 to mark the end of one of the finest trolleybus systems
in the United Kingdom; at one time Belfast possessed the largest trolleybus
fleet outside London. 168 operated a special late-night tour on the evening
of Sunday 12 May 1968 and after returning to the depot in the early hours
of Monday morning, had become the last trolleybus to operate on the streets
of Northern Ireland. On the following weekend, along with Belfast's unique
Sunbeam F4A trolleybus 246 purchased by the London Trolleybus Preservation
Society, it was shipped across the Irish Sea, arriving in the port of Liverpool
early on Sunday 19 May and initially stored for a brief period at Liverpool
City Transport's Green Lane depot. 168 subsequently operated a tour of the
last Reading trolleybus route on 27 October 1968, one week before the final
closure of that system.
- A night-time tour of Belfast by 168 brought trolleybus operation
in Northern Ireland to an end in the very early hours of 13 May 1968.
- (Photo Michael Russell)
- One week before closure of the Reading system, Belfast 168
toured the remaining wiring on 27 October 1968 and is shown turning at the Wokingham Road,
Three Tuns turning circle.
The vehicle has subsequently proved to be the Association's most peripatetic
trolleybus, at various stages being stored at sites in the south of England,
Midlands and North. During the period of these travels, ownership of the
vehicle was finally relinquished by the Belfast City Council and has since
been vested in the NTA.
168 is a three-axle Guy BTX chassis built in 1949 and fitted with 68-seat
bodywork by the local firm of Harkness Coachworks. Harkness was primarily
engaged in shipbuilding, a staple of Belfast industry in those days, and
its products were built to a very high standard with many features not found
on the products of the mainland bodybuilding industry. Belfast Corporation
was a major supporter of the firm and ordered many trolleybus and motor
bus bodies from it during the post-war period.
This is the Association's current restoration project, which is now moving
well towards completion. After some work had been undertaken at a site near
Horsham, 168 was in autumn 2015 moved to the Keighley Bus Museum, where
in covered conditions extensive restoration work has since been carried
out. All the main heavy components have since been completely
stripped down, overhauled and parts replaced where necessary by commercial
firms, whilst the electrical equipment has also been completely overhauled. Attention
to the bodywork has been proceeding alongside.
Restoration work on Belfast trolleybus 168, which was well advanced, came to a halt during April when Peter Price found himself unable to continue with the task. The Board wishes to place on record its gratitude for the work Peter has done on 168 over the last five years. The Board has been anxious to ensure that the work is brought to completion as soon as possible and is pleased to announce that in early June it concluded an agreement with another restorer to continue and complete the bodywork restoration at its current site in Keighley Bus Museum. The new appointee is an experienced and respected restorer of vintage vehicles and was expected to commence work on Belfast 168 in late summer. Work will be progressed as circumstances permit and whilst completion will now be delayed the extent will depend upon the availability of resources.
The extensive restoration is being financed both from the NTA's own funds and by donations
from a small but invaluable and much-appreciated group of supporters.
- The Association's current vehicle restoration project is
Belfast Guy BTX trolleybus 168. These images from Easter 2019 show the
state of work in progress at the Keighley Bus Museum.
- (Photos Michael Russell)
The NTA expects that before much longer, Belfast 168 will be added to
the list of operational United Kingdom trolleybuses.