ROTHERHAM CORPORATION VEHICLES
1912 - 1913: RET Construction Co. Ltd.
Formed in March 1911, RET Construction Co. Ltd. was based in Hunslet, Leeds, taking over from the Railless Electric Traction Co.
Having chassis built by David Brown, RET Construction built six trolleybusses for Rotherham, 38, 39 and 40 supplied in 1912, 41, 42 and 42 in 1913, all equiped with two Siemens 20hp motors.
Inevitably well photographed during their pioneering days on the Maltby route, photographic evidence of these six vehicles in later life appears to be non existent, we are on the lookout for anybody who can say otherwise, so please get in touch if you know of any photos.
This is especially disappointing as at least 38, by that stage renumbered T1 and registered ET1922, was rebuilt to forward entrance to enable one man operation in 1923.
Given the fact of Tom Sykes' arival at Rotherham as General Manager from Bradford, we wonder if this trackless emerged with a Bradford like body, perhaps similar to Bradford 523 that featured in a report in "Tramway and Railway World" in February 1923.
Rotherham 39 shown in the photograph had lead the opening procession of these vehicles from Rotherham to Maltby on October 3rd 1912. Photographed in Haymarket, Sheffield at the twelfth Annual Conference on the Municipal Tramways Association that was held in September 1913.
These vehicles were withdrawn in 1928.
1921: Railless Ltd.
The former RET Construction Ltd. now renamed Railless Ltd. supplied two more vehicles for the Rotherham fleet in 1921. Numbered T5 and T6, these were two more shadowy characters in the fleet.
Throughout the research for the book "British Trolleybuses 1911-1972", Geoff Lumb failed to find any evidence of these two chassis in the Railless archives, thus we wonder if T5 and T6 were rebuilds of two earlier chassis.
Nevertheless, the Rotherham minutes note the committee's recommendation to accept the tender of Railless Ltd. for the supply of two new chassis in May 1920, an order that was subsequently reported in "Commercial Motor" the following month. In April 1921, the minutes record the manager reporting that the first Railless Electric Vehicles "...the chassis of which had been ordered some time ago had been put into service...", the body having been constructed in the tramway depot.
Needless to say, we would be very interested in additional information about this pair, if you know anything of them or indeed have any photographs, please get in contact.
Mindful of the achievment of having built two bodies in their own workshops, it seems surprising that Rotherham didn't photograph their work. A further photograph opportunity for an official photo might have occurred when they were rebuilt to centre entrance layout.
Photographs must exist tucked away somewhere on a commercial postcard of the day, and also photographers such as Scrivens were actively recording the local scene, often including trams and trolleybuses must have caught one of these vehicles?
1922 - 1924: Straker Cloughs
Joining the Rotherham fleet in 1922, numbered T2, later renumbered 52, this Straker Clough brought the beginning of the 'Roe Era' in terms of Rotherham's choice of bodywork for it's trolleybus fleet.
Two more of the same joined the fleet in 1924 numbered T3 and T4, renumbered 53 and 54 later in life.
Whilst working for the RET Construction Co. Ltd., the young Charles Roe had been involved with Clough, Smith and Co. Ltd. when they arranged for the manufacture of Straker Clough trolleybuses.
Photographed here after if was rebuilt to centre entrance layout and fitted with pneumatic tyres in 1926, standing in the forecourt of the Rawmarsh Road depot. Note that Spencer vertical spring trolley bases have been adopted. When were the first Rotherham REV's equipped with these trolley bases, another feature copied from Bradford practice.
Does anybody recognise the young man standing in front of the trolleybus? Click on the photograph for a larger version.
1925 - 1927: Straker Cloughs
A number of these vehicles were delivered to Rotherham, starting with two in 1926. Originally numbered T7 and T8, renumbered 57 and 58. One in 1928 numbered 58, later renumbered to 45, another in 1929 numbered 45, renumbered to 42 and lastly one in 1933 numbered 57, renumbered to 17.
These were the last Straker Cloughs to be built, Straker Squire Ltd., the supplier of the basic chassis having gone into liquidation in July 1926. Subsequently, Clough Smith and Co. found a new chassis supplier, working with Karrier Motors Ltd. Karrier Clough never featured in Rotherham, the next batch of vehicles being sourced from Guy Motors Ltd. in Wolverhampton and Ransomes, Simms and Jefferies Ltd. in Ipswich.
49, here photographed outside the Roe works at Crossgates, Leeds, with the background removed. In contrast to the earlier Straker Cloughs, 47-50 were of low loading type and through 50, delivered in February 1927, retained the old style, box like body design. 47-49 that arrived in September and October were more modern looking vehicles.
1930: Guy BT
This Guy BT vehicle was Guy's first two axle trolleybus. Built as a demonstrator, we do not know if this ran in Wolverhampton where it was built. Arriving in Rotherham in February 1930, it worked the Maltby route before Tom Sykes being given the authority to purchase it a few months later.
After the supply of the three axle Guys to replace the trams on the joint routes with Mexborough and Swinton, doubtlessly Sidney Guy would have been aware of Tom Sykes' plans to replace the first of the town tram routes with trolleybuses, thus presumably supplied this demonstrator in the hope of securing further orders.
When the tenders were awarded in July 1930 for trolleybuses on the Kimberworth-thrybergh routes, the winners were Ransomes, Simms and Jefferies of Ipswich, yet another new supplier to the town.
This trolleybus was a shadowy character. This photograph, together with an identical shot reproduced in newsprint, showing the front panel lettered "Guy Motors, Wolverhampton" being the only photos ever seen of the vehicle. Does any reader know of any archive of Guy Trolleybus photographs? We would be very interested in seeing these!
Depicting a rather more modern looking vehicle than the St Helens example that had visited Rotherham a few months earlier, 39, ET6607, delivered in March 1931 was the first of 22 Cravens bodied Ransomes S4 trolleybuses, ordered to replace trams on the busy cross town Kimberworth-Thryberg route.
Tenders were accepted in July 1930 for 20 railless chassis from Ransomes, Simms and Jefferies with bodies from Cravens Ltd. In October 1930 and January 1931 the order was increased by one vehicle on each occasion, bringing the total to 22.
The second note gives us a clue to the cost of these vehicles, a modest £1168 for the chassis and body.
With the arrival of these trolleybuses, the Rotherham fleet would more than double in a few months, such that alterations to the depot at Rawmarsh Road had to be made. It was stated that the premises accommodated 35 trams and 15 railless vehicles, after the conversion it would accommodate 12 trams and 36 railless vehicles.
The arrival of these trolleybuses was accompanied by more publicity for the town, including in "Motor Transport" an article "Trolleybuses for Fast Service" an early reference to the high scheduled speeds that Tom Sykes achieved with trolleybuses in the thirties. Obviously after a suitable demonstration by Tom Sykes, the correspondents conclusion makes interesting reading eighty years later:
"Drawing conclusions, it seems to me that Mr. Sykes has not only made out a very powerful case for the railless bus for multi stop town service, but has also proved it by demonstration. As one whose time is spent among petrol people and petrol buses, I feel it heresy to say it, but in the interests of truth I must confess, nevertheless, that the run I had at Rotherham on the trolleybus is the fastest local service trip I have experienced, while the comfort was greater than any public service vehicle I know."
"As an internal combustion enthusiast I find it difficult, but at the same time, I must (in view of the demonstration which Mr. Sykes gave me) ask myself, are we right in regarding the trolleybus as a poor hybrid? Are we right, when scrapping trams, to scrap the idea of electric power at the same time? Are we right even, we petrol enthusiasts, when we say that only petrol vehicles can perform in accordance with modern traffic requirements? I dare not attempt as answer, but Rotherham Corporation has a service that will provide anyone with some weighty food for thought if he will but take it to an open mind!"
A report with which trolleybus advocate Tom sykes would doubtlessly have been delighted!
Ironically, in the long term, the Ransomes were not as successful as Tom Sykes might have anticipated and, though a few survived into the post war era, others had a short life. Certainly, the Ipswich supplier builder never supplied any other trolleybuses to the town, future orders being vested with Guy Motors, whose existing vehicles were perhaps more reliable than the new Ransomes trolleybuses.
The arrival of the Ransomes was the beginning of a "Cravens era" in terms of Rotherham's choice of bodywork for its trolleybus fleet. A local supplier, based at Darnall, Sheffield, Cravens Railway Carriage & Wagon Co. Ltd. were, as the name suggests, predominantly builders of railway carriages and wagons, the firm having diversified into bus and coach bodies, with a slump in orders from its traditional market in the twenties.
1933: Guy BTs
Doubtlessly, Sidney Guy would have been well delighted to have secured Rotherham’s business for these ten chassis though, mindful of the comments about the short life of some of the Ransomes trolleybuses, this batch was hardly notable for its longevity, only three of the ten surviving into the post war era. However, some were stored until circa 1944 as a reserve in case of enemy action during the conflict.
This batch of vehicles was interesting for introducing Roberts bodywork to the Rotherham fleet. Like the Cravens, Charles Roberts & Co. Ltd. were predominantly builders of railway wagons, having diversified into bus and coach bodies, with a slump in orders from its traditional market in the twenties. On these ten trolleybuses, the Sheffield and Wakefield built product was remarkably similar, perhaps suggesting that Tom Sykes closely specified the detail of the order.
The photograph, 59 (ET7889), photographed at Roberts prior to delivery to Rotherham in December 1933, illustrates one of the quintet of Guy BTs bodied at Horbury Junction, the only trolleybuses built by Charles Roberts and Co. Ltd.
Interestingly, the interior shots of these vehicles show full length luggage racks down both sides of the saloon, a curious fitting for a vehicle intended for multi stop town work. We are not sure if the Cravens bodied quintet likewise boasted luggage racks.
Interestingly, this photograph together with one of London United Tramways 61, AHX801, the contemporary Chiswick bodied AEC/English Electric demonstrator, features in “The Times” dated Tuesday 5th December 1933, with the caption “TROLLEY OMNIBUSES: Photographs of two recent models of trolley omnibuses” an intriguing comparison of developments in the capitol and a small northern industrial town.