SOMETIMES it suits to forget anniversaries but I was taken aback at forgetting the half century in March since trolleybuses ended, not just in Bradford but in the UK.

In the years towards that finale, Bradford had become a focus for transport enthusiasts who travelled from every corner of the country to see our sky blue and cream trolleybuses.

When they began in June 1911, trolleys had been secondary to trams, on quiet routes where the expense of tram tracks couldn’t be justified. That first route, between Laisterdyke and Dudley Hill quickly became a success and was extended at both ends in 1913 to Bolton Junction and Bankfoot. Routes followed from Odsal to Oakenshaw, then to Bolton Woods. It wasn’t until the mid to late 1920s that the system really began to grow with a route to Clayton in 1926 and then the watershed moment in 1929 when trolleybuses replaced trams to Allerton and other conversions quickly followed.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: First trolleybus to enter Broadway, leaving Forster Square in 1954First trolleybus to enter Broadway, leaving Forster Square in 1954

I was born in 1950, a couple of months after the trams had ended, and in those early post war days it looked as if Bradford trolleybuses might soon become a thing of the past when a proposed trolleybus route to replace trams to Undercliffe was converted to diesel buses instead.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A 1957 single decker trolleybyusA 1957 single decker trolleybyus

But fortunes changed with the appointment of CT Humpidge as general manager of Bradford City Transport in 1951. New routes were opened to Thornbury, to Wibsey and Buttershaw with an extension to Horton Park for football matches at Park Avenue. An extension was made from the terminus at Clayton along The Avenue. A through route was opened between Eccleshill and St Enoch’s Road Top, an extension made from Eccleshill down to Thorpe Edge at Faltis Square and the final extension from Tong Street to Holme Wood opened in 1960.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: One of the last trolleybuses still in service, in 1961 - the 603 One of the last trolleybuses still in service, in 1961 - the 603

Not only did Humpidge greatly expand the system, but he bought many good quality secondhand trolleybuses from closing undertakings. Trolleybuses last much longer than diesel buses and it made economic sense to replace the bodies on older trolleybus chassis. Most older trolleybuses received new bodies, some with platform doors. Front entrance trolleybuses appeared in 1958 and the final trolleybuses of 1962/3 looked at least as modern as the latest diesel buses bought to replace them, a fact that didn’t escape the many disappointed passengers who wrote to the T&A to complain about the replacement on their routes by inferior diesel buses.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Celebrating the 50th anniversary of trolleybuses, in 1961Celebrating the 50th anniversary of trolleybuses, in 1961

Forster Square was then one of the main city centre thoroughfares and was a complex web of trolleybus wiring, running in almost every direction. The square itself featured beautifully tended lawns and flowerbeds and was a popular haunt for shoppers taking a breather when the weather was fine. I remember being there in summer 1962 and seeing a new, highly modern front entrance trolleybus. With its deep front windscreen, it seemed futuristic and I had no idea that in only a few weeks my route would be replaced by diesel buses. When Bradford Moor trolleybuses ended in November1962, down came almost all the trolleybus wiring, ready for redevelopment with the ‘Square’ itself becoming truncated, usually devoid of people, reached only by subways that were flooded in the later June 1968 conflagration.

Almost every road has to climb out of our city centre and on almost every one of them trolleybuses ran. My route had the steepest climb of all up Church Bank, so steep that several bus routes that ran up Otley Road past the Cock and Bottle pub were routed up Leeds Road and past St Mary’s Church in order to avoid Church Bank. Trolleybuses to Bradford Moor sailed effortlessly up the Bank past the Cathedral to Barkerend Road and beyond. My route was the first to go, only a year after Mr Humpidge had moved on to Sheffield and it was readily apparent that the replacement buses were unsuitable, so noisy that they could be heard struggling uphill from a mile away.

When young, the 10 years it took from for trolleybuses to disappear seemed endless. I continued to explore the system, often catching trolleybuses to Bolton Junction, and along the Bolton to Bankfoot trolleybus route of 1913 - anything rather than catching diesel buses to Bradford Moor.

In June 1971 a much smaller system celebrated its 60th anniversary, but the writing was on the wall; by the end of the year only the Duckworth Lane Route and the Thornbury to Thornton routes were running. A miners’ strike in January 1972 had led to power cuts and the final trolleybus routes were replaced by diesel buses. When the strike ended on February 28, trolleybuses were reinstated for their final three weeks and very briefly, those remaining wonderful vehicles became film stars.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A trolleybus on Duckworth Lane in 1972A trolleybus on Duckworth Lane in 1972

What with the oil shock and talk of the need for greener policies, subsequent years have seen several attempts to reinstate them here and elderly trolleybus drivers were kept on for a while to help train new trolleybus drivers, but all to no avail. There have been many changes, some good, many indifferent, but without its pioneering trolleys, Bradford has never been quite the same.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Last service trolleybus which ran the 11pm to Thornton. Kevin is peering out of the window, third from front, top deck Last service trolleybus which ran the 11pm to Thornton. Kevin is peering out of the window, third from front, top deck