Days Gone By: When trolley buses ruled the roads of Ipswich


A pair of trolley buses in the late 1940s, where Bishops Hill (behind the camera) and Fore Hamlet,

A pair of trolley buses in the late 1940s, where Bishops Hill (behind the camera) and Fore Hamlet, Ipswich, meet.

Memories of trolley buses in Ipswich feature in this week’s Days Gone By.

A trolley bus approaches a stop in St MargaretÕs Street, Ipswich, in February 1963. On the left is B

A trolley bus approaches a stop in St MargaretÕs Street, Ipswich, in February 1963. On the left is BotwoodÕs garage. The now closed Odeon cinema stands on that site today. Photo by Alan Valentine. What memories do you have of IpswichÕs trolley buses? Write to David Kindred, Days Gone By, Ipswich Star/EADT, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail info@kindred-spirit.co.uk

Ipswich’s trams had operated in the town from 1903, but were phased out in the 1920s and replaced with trolley buses using much the same routes as the electric trams.

The restriction of routes that were available for trolley buses saw them replaced by diesel buses which could serve the expanding town.

The last trolley bus travelled from Tower Ramparts to the Cobham Road depot in August 1963. The quiet electric trolley buses are remembered in the town with much affection. Some of them were made in the town at Ransomes Sims and Jefferies.

“I moved to Ipswich in 1949 and remember traffic moving both ways along Carr Street, Tavern Street and Westgate Street. It was a tight squeeze when two trolley buses had to pass. The last trolley bus ran in August 1963 and later that year the Ipswich Borough Transport tower wagon crew took down the redundant overhead trolley wires.


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The trolley buses carried a long pole in a tube running from the platform and along the side of the bus. The conductor used this when they needed to change the arms on the roof to a different set of wires. They were also used when the arms came off the wire, normally on a shower of sparks.

Bus conductors took the fares and issued tickets. There were also travelling inspectors to check the conductor’s machine and check passengers’ tickets.

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It seems that trolley buses did not have very good handbrakes, as at the top of Lloyds Avenue and outside the Cricketers public house in Crown Street, there were large wooded blocks hanging on the shelters. These were placed under the wheels while they were parked.

The seats in some of the trolleys were made of wooden slats, like garden seats. Smoking was allowed on the top deck only.

Ipswich Borough also had some very old, single deck trolleys, which had a door at either end. These were used on the routes with a low bridge, smoking was allowed in half of these.

Eastern Counties buses operated out of the Old Cattle Market, Ipswich. The most memorable thing about the double deckers was how cramped they were. On the top deck the seats were four in a row towards the nearside, with a foot well walkway on the offside. This meant that the passengers on that side downstairs had less headroom. In order to sit on the seats on top you stooped to sit down and the conductors would ask the passengers to pass the fare along to him while he remained in the footwell.

Both companies’ double deckers had open platforms, which was alright for jumping onto a moving bus, but made the journey very draughty in the winter. The trip to Felixstowe on a summer’s Sunday was quite an event, with queues at The Old Cattle Market to go and equally long queues at Felixstowe to get home.”

Paul Hyder, Claydon.

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