Wirral Transport Museum Celebrates 100 Years of Birkenhead Buses

Six of the buses taking part in the 100 years of Birkenhead Corporation Buses event at Laird Street Depot.Tom Harrison

The Wirral Transport Museum & Heritage Tramway celebrated 100 Years of Birkenhead Corporation Buses on the 20th July 2019 by holding a special commemorative event.

The day started at Wirral Transport Museum & Heritage Tramway, which is situated about a 10-minute walk from Woodside Ferry and Birkenhead Hamilton Square station.

Setting off at 10:30 am, the cavalcade of Birkenhead buses stopped first at Pacific Road then Woodside Ferry for a photography shoot with the six buses, Birkenhead Tramcar 20, and two Hong Kong-built trams 69 and 70 — which fleet numbers follow on from the last Birkenhead Corporation tramcar 68. 

The cavalcade proceeded to Birkenhead Park Station to recreate the original route to Rock Ferry Pier which isn’t accessible these days as the Rock Ferry By-Pass severed Bedford Road East when it was constructed.

Therefore, the terminus was substituted to Port Sunlight. The route took the following route, Park Road East, Charing Cross, Derby Road, Bebington Road, Bedford Avenue to Port Sunlight, where a photography line-up of the six buses taking part in the road run took place.

In 1919, Birkenhead Corporation introduced its own motorbuses in the form of five 32-seat Leyland ‘O’ type vehicles. The first service commenced on 12th July 1919, it ran between Rock Ferry pier and Park Station, via Bedford Avenue, Bebington Road, Derby Road, Charing Cross and Park Road East.

The tramway operation ceased in July 1937, the corporation continuing to run buses until the operation was absorbed into Merseyside PTE in 1969. 

The cavalcade culminated with a visit to one of Britain’s oldest working depots, Laird Street bus depot; which opened for trams in 1901. Arriva North West kindly allowed access for the buses and visiting guests. Most of the depot buildings were demolished in 2003, but the office block, dating from 1903, is still in use today for the daily operations of Arriva bus services in Wirral.

The PTE buses operated as Merseybus post-deregulation, which was sold to its employees in 1993, becoming MTL Holdings. Arriva took over in 2000.

Spokesman Adam Jones said: “Thank you to everyone who came to join us yesterday to commemorate 100 Years of Birkenhead Corporation Buses. From the photo shoot with the trams at Pacific Road and Woodside, to the re-run of the original Corporation bus route plus a photo shoot at Arriva’s Laird Street Garage and lots of dock Tours for our visitors. We had a very memorable day and we hope you did too.” 

Vehicles taking part in the event were BG 8557, a 1944 Guy Arab II which was re-bodied by Massey in 1953. RCM 493, a 1964 Leyland Leopard L1 with Massey dual-doored bodywork, two Leyland PD2s — FBG 910 with the curvaceous Massey rear-entrance bodywork new in 1958 and GCM 152E with a more upright Massey front entrance body — plus Leyland Atlantean AN68 with Alexander AL bodywork DKC 365L which was delivered in 1973 to Merseyside PTE and is presented in the blue and cream livery initially used for Wirral area operations.

Learn more about the Wirral Transport Museum and Heritage Tramway on the Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society website.

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Tom Harrison
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  • Chris Johnston
    21st August 2019, 8:28 am

    Hey Tom

    You share some great information about the Wirral Transport and Heritage Museum. It opened my eyes whilst reading through your article some great insights into our local transport. As a local Wirral based solicitor born on the Wirral it certainly brings back some memories taking those old Leyland busses home from school in the seventies.

    Enjoyed the read Thank You

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