Wolverhampton 654 is the only example of a two-axle trolleybus in the
NTA's fleet. It was numerically the last trolleybus in the Wolverhampton
fleet, although in practice sister vehicle 652 was the last to be built.
Wolverhampton occupies a trebly significant place in British trolleybus
history. It was a British pioneer in the use of this type of vehicle when
operation commenced in 1923 and by the late 1920s and early 1930s it had
become by some margin the largest trolleybus operator anywhere in the world;
many foreign delegations beat a path to its door to see for themselves the
attributes and capabilities of this form of public transport. Secondly,
the firm of Guy Motors was based in the town and developed a series of trolleybus
chassis which were widely adopted by operators in the inter-war years and,
to a lesser extent, the post-war era. The Sunbeam Trolleybus Company was
also based in the town. Wolverhampton Corporation was understandably supportive
of its local industries and steadfastly placed orders for the products of
these manufacturers throughout the life of the trolleybus system. 654, a
two-axle chassis of type BT built in 1950, was one of the last batch of
trolleybus chassis built by Guy, as part of a massive fleet-renewal order
for 99 trolleybuses placed by the General Manager, Charles Owen Silvers,
shortly before his retirement. 654's double-deck rear-entrance open-platform
bodywork is by Park Royal, with 54 seats. A feature of the Guy chassis is
the split placement of the electrical contactor equipment, with the series
notches being located in the conventional cabinet in the driver's cab and
the parallel notches amidships under the lower saloon floor.
- For the final day of trolleybus operation in Wolverhampton,
Sunday 5 March 1967, the Association's preserved Guy BT trolleybus 654
was specially repainted into original livery and operated a members' tour.
It is seen in these images between Fighting Cocks and Sedgley, and turning
into Stone Street.
- (Photos Robin Helliar-Symons)
Another reason for the inclusion of a Wolverhampton trolleybus in the
NTA fleet is that the town was effectively the birthplace of the Association,
when an inaugural meeting took place at the Dog & Gun public house at
Tettenhall on 10 November 1963. Throughout the remaining years of the Wolverhampton
system until its final closure on 5 March 1967, the NTA maintained the most
cordial relations with the Corporation's transport department, which displayed
a benign attitude towards its objectives, resulting in the operation of
several of its historic trolleybuses under the remaining wiring and the
free use of facilities at Cleveland Road depot for the carrying out of essential
work on members of its fleet.
654 was presented to the NTA by the Wolverhampton Corporation in 1965
and subsequently externally repainted into its original livery of apple
green and yellow with grey roof. In this condition it operated a last day
tour of the system alongside another member of the then NTA fleet, Rotherham
- Also seen standing at the Dudley terminal setting-down point
in Stone Street.
- (Photo David Pearson)
After the Wolverhampton closure, 654 was moved to a local Ministry of
Defence site where the hopes of secure storage were shattered when all of
its windows were broken by vandalism in 1968. As a result, 654 moved to
the back of the restoration queue and for many years has been stored in
Northamptonshire under ideal conditions, with covered facilities supplemented
by a continuous flow of air. As a result, although the bodywork currently
appears degraded, its structure is actually very sound.
The NTA Board has resolved that once the present restoration project
on Belfast 168 is completed, Wolverhampton 654 will be fully restored and
returned to operating condition after languishing for perhaps too long as
the Cinderella of the NTA fleet.