Book Review by Terry Brown (Lund, Sweden)

Brighton Trolleybuses (Trolleybus Classics no. 18) by Andrew Henbest 120 black-and-white photos, Middleton Press (, £14.95

At last, a book about the long gone, silent service of Brighton. Long gone also are the days when my mother and I stormed up either Beaconsfield Villas or Ditchling Road in a trolleybus to Preston Drove on visits to Auntie Mabel and Uncle Alf, who lived a short distance from Fiveways. A service replaced by sturdy diesels, literally grinding their way up these steep hills and polluting the environment. Trolleybuses fitted so well into the town’s geography.

As a result of a joint agreement between Brighton Corporation and the Brighton, Hove and District Omnibus Company (BHD) in 1938, the trams were scrapped and replaced by buses and trolleybuses in 1939. The Corporation was to provide 72.5% of traffic and the BHD 27.5%. All vehicles were to carry the fleet name Brighton, Hove & District Transport and at its height the Corporation had 52 trolleybuses and the BHD 11.

This book is of the standard layout for this series, with a short history, route map, tickets and fleet details including scale drawings (scale 1.76) for the modellers. The trolleybuses star in the photographs to describe each route and district served by them. Most of the pictures are from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, but there are also some gems from the earlier days.

The book takes one back to a period long lost. The days of the corner shop, the small parades where daily shopping was done with personal service. Also the luxurious Corporation fleet with its seaside status and Alhambrinal ceilings in the lower decks, pride taken in the fleet’s presentation and crews who enjoyed an entirely different status than that of today. The buses/trolleybuses of that period were the ‘kings of the road’.

Most of the architecture in the pictures is easily recognisable as little has changed on the former trolleybus routes down through the years. Only the traffic situation has changed, resulting in new road layouts and of course more modern vehicles.

For the trolleybus enthusiast this book is most welcome, but even for those interested in their home town there is much of interest to be found. I warmly recommend this publication to both categories and hope they will find it most enjoyable.

Comments about this page

  • If you want to see the trolleybuses in action in full colour around Brighton, try the DVD ‘No Trolleys to Aquarium’. It’s excellent (very nostalgic) and also includes the Brighton Belle and Volks Railway. Only moving to Brighton in March 1959, I saw all too little of the trolleybuses. What a loss when they were sent to the scrapyard near Lewes.

    By Alan Hobden (19/01/2006)
  • A sad day when the trolley buses went from Brighton. I can remember them being in a chalk quarry near Lewes, and I am ashamed to say that a friend of mine, Bob Coe, and myself had a field day one Sunday shooting out the windows from the cliff top.

    Mick Peirson

    By Mick Peirson (08/12/2006)
  • I have just read the excellent book ‘Brighton Trolleybuses’. Being a Brighton exile, I didn’t want to put it down. the part I found interesting was a company trolleybus emerging from Whitehawk Garage on route 26 on a peak hour extra to go on a bit further. It was not unusual for company trolleys to work these routes as the powers of operation were granted by an act of parliament and corporation or company trolleys could work any of the routes as these did not come under the jurisdiction of the area traffic commissioners. I can well remember a company trolley working route 48 during the summer months of the early fifties so this is something extra to muse over. On a last note, the company trolleys were garaged at Lewes Road until the extension to Black Rock was built. It’s a pity that they can’t be reintroduced to Brighton

    By John Wignall (13/03/2008)
  • The Leader had a very interesting aricle about the Brighton trolley buses today (25th April 2008). This reminded me about travelling to Varndean School for Girls on the Number 26 trolley bus in the 1950s. Does anyone have any pictures or news items specifically about this route, or any memories of incidents on it?

    By Julia Moore (25/04/2008)
  • I well remember the trolleybuses in Brighton, especially the 48 from Lewes Rd barracks to Old Steine, past my grandparents’ sweet shop on the corner of Melbourne St and Lewes Road. I now live in Melbourne.

    By Rob Body (17/01/2011)
  • My dad drove the last trolley bus in Brighton. Have proof, not only my memories but from book written by Andrew Henbest

    By mo howell (23/01/2012)

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