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A potted history

Brighton trolleybuses have already been mentioned a number of times on the site, especially under Lewes Road bus garage. Trolleybuses were electric powered buses, more flexible than trams in that they could move across the road instead of being “creatures that moved in pre-determinate grooves” (as trams were once described). Seating 54 passengers when introduced in 1939, the same number as the open-topped trams they replaced, they operated over all the old tram system (except Dyke Road) and were extended to Hollingbury – later to Carden Avenue, and finally to Black Rock via Elm Grove. They operated for 22 years until June 1960.

Two Brighton Corporation trolleybuses in Marlborough Place, June 1961
Photograph by Martin Nimmo
What might have been; Tramways Manager William Marsh takes the wheel on an early demonstration trolleybus in London Road in 1913
From Martin Nimmo's private collection

Comments about this page

  • Memory dulls with advancing age …. I should have said ‘June 1961’. I also ought to mention that some of the Corporation’s trolleybuses survived in a scrapyard near Lewes until 1985, spending longer mouldering away in the countryside than they had run on the streets of Brighton!

    By Martin Nimmo (16/01/2005)
  • I remember seeing an old Brighton trolleybus at the East Anglia Transport Museum some years ago. It was painted in its later Maidstone livery (brown and cream?). The museum is at Carlton Colville near Lowestoft.

    By Alan Hobden (18/01/2005)
  • There were two former Brighton trolley buses at Carlton Colville; 52 is a B.U.T./Weymann from the Brighton Corporation fleet which, arguably, should be restored into her former Brighton livery and 6340 and ex-Brighton, Hove & District A.E.C./Weymann living at Wroughton.

    By Alan J Piatt (09/03/2005)
  • Hove Corporation also toyed with the trolley bus idea in 1914 on a short section near Hove station. Unlike the early Brighton system the Hove vehicle used a system whereby a counterweight and trolley were attached to the overhead wiring and passed over upper deck passengers’ heads. The Hove concept was soon abandoned (possibly due to the Great War). Hope this information is of use.

    By Siegmund De Reuther (17/08/2005)
  • Was it one of your exhibits viz ex Brighton, later Maidstone trolley bus, that was displayed in Maidstone last year?

    By Ted Bates (22/05/2006)
  • I quite agree that the ex-Brighton trolley buses, now in horrible Maidstone brown colours, should be restored to their original splendid red & cream of Brighton – either Corporation or BH&D. Brighton was my birthplace and this book brings my childhood memories back to life. Thank you so much.

    By Ted Bates (in Brighton from 1935 to 1961) (22/05/2006)
  • There are many enthusiasts & historians that collect and share their interests in transport that would really like to see the trolleybus currently in M&D colours return to its former Red & Cream. But for one thing, anyone who owns any vehicle, being one person or as a group, have the right to have it in any livery of their choice – even an incorrect one if they choose. The interior has been kept and restored to Brighton livery, so at least some of her remains to remind passengers and visitors to the museum where she is kept. Better in M&D than not kept at all, & sometimes even operated.

    By Gordon Dinnage - Transport Picture Historian & Library (23/01/2007)
  • I very much endorse Gordon’s views. It is surely better to have the vehicle restored and working, preserved for the future in Maidstone Corporation’s interesting livery, than to wrangle over what colour it should be and possibly let it rot as a result. And it spent longer (1959-1967) on the roads of Maidstone than those of Brighton (1953-1958).

    By Martin Nimmo (22/02/2007)
  • I have read with interest the comments on former Brighton corporation trolleybus 52, the trouble is that they all make sense. It would be great to have it restored to its former Brighton livery but this takes time and money, I know that funds are being raised and this is commendable, so for the time being lets keep it running in Maidstone colours. One final comment, it has been at the East Anglia transport museum longer than it was in Brighton and Maidstone.

    By John Wignall (28/08/2007)
  • At the beginning of the war I was evacuated to Brighton and used the 26 and 46 trolleybuses quite a lot. Sometimes we would be taken to Hollingbury to see films in what to me (aged 6) seemed like a large shed. Can anyone tell me where the original (1939) Hollingbury terminus was?

    By Brian Bloxam (29/03/2008)
  • The original trolleybus terminus at Hollingbury was at the junction of Ditchling Road with Surrenden Road; in fact you can still see that the road has been indented into the pavement here on the east side to accommodate the turning trolleybuses. From 1939 until the late 1940s, all 26 and 46 trolleybuses travelled along Ditchling Road from Fiveways and terminated at the same point. It was only later that the 46 was diverted along Surrenden Road, Braybon Avenue and Carden Avenue, and the 26 was initially extended to Larkfield Way then down Carden Hill to join the extension of the 46.

    By Martin Nimmo (03/04/2008)
  • Thanks Martin. I must try to go and see the site when I get a chance.

    By Brian Bloxam (04/04/2008)
  • I went to see the old Hollingbury terminus last week and was surprised to see an old wooden shelter there. I thought these were for the trams. Did the trams get that far?

    By Brian Bloxam (18/05/2008)
  • No, the trams did not get that far, but a tram shelter was moved there in 1939 to give some shelter to waiting passengers for the new trolley buses in what must otherwise have been a fairly bleak environment. Luckily, both the 26 and 46 trolleybuses terminated there at the time, so the service would have been fairly frequent during the day and early evening at least.

    By Martin Nimmo (28/05/2008)
  • Thanks, I thought it might be something like that.

    By Brian Bloxam (08/06/2008)
  • I too would like to see to see No.52 return to the Brighton red and cream livery. When the on-line video ‘No Trolleys to Aquarium’ came out it was stated that profits from the sale of the video would go towards such an end, by the ‘The Brighton 52 Preservation Fund’. Is this fund still in existence? If the repainting could be achieved, there is the potential of possibly recreating a little part of the scene which occured at Old Steine, if 6340 would return to Carlton Colville and FUF63 made a trip there as well1

    By Roger Best (03/10/2008)
  • I lived in Larkfield Way from 1939 to 1957. I recall that the sharp turn from Ditchling Road into top of Carden Hill (?) would occasionally dislodge the pick-up arms, the driver having to make use of a long bamboo rod with hook to replace them. When the 26 was extended to Larkfield Way, where did the buses turn around? Many thanks for all the interesting info.

    By David Margaroni (03/02/2009)
  • David, the Larkfield Way terminus was at its junction with Woodbourne Avenue. The overhead turning circle remained, I think, until the system closed but was little used once the extension to Carden Avenue was brought into use.

    By John Goddard (19/04/2009)
  • ‘The Brighton 52 Preservation Fund’. As a supplement to my original comment dated 24/01/2007 and in  response to Roger Best (05/10/2008), the fact that a quite different group of enthusiasts in Brighton were raising funds as they stated to return the trolleybus back to its original Brighton livery, ‘they’ do not own the vehicle. As I stated earlier, outsiders cannot dictate what owners would do with their vehicle even if money is raised for good intentions. The last owner passed the vehicle apparently to the Museum on the basis it was to be kept in its M&D livery. Would the museum risk the agreement of an enthusiast who may have donated a vehicle unless there was an expiry in that donation livery request. It could deter others from donating theirs in a will. ‘Is this fund still in existence?’ well, Online may be able to tell you that for sure as none of the original 52 group have a stall these days, and any sales of the DVD (was video) are via normal trade outlets, so any donations will only be via Online Video.

    By Gordon Dinnage (21/09/2009)
  • Its great to read all these comments regarding the Trolleybuses. I don’t think I actually ever went on one – if I did I don’t remember it (I was born in 1953 in Peachaven). What I DO remember is all the overhead pick-up cables spanning the road in the old Steine when looking towards the Palace Pier from the bottom of North Street – that memory at least endures.. Paul Edwards

    By Paul Edwards (19/10/2009)
  • I seem to recall the trolley buses running along the London Road. My strongest memory is the number of times the bus would stop and the conductor had to remove a large pole from the roof and put the connectors back on the overhead cables before we could set off again!

    By JoJo (10/01/2013)
  • Trolley buses were so wonderfully quiet, and no diesel fumes either.

    By Adrian Barritt (20/01/2016)
  • Dunno why I didn’t post this years ago. A Brighton Corporation trolleybus can be found in working preservation at the Science Museum, Wroughton which we visited back around 2005. I’ll post the picture as a separate post.

    By Len Liechti (20/10/2018)

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