Monday, 6 March 2017

Sheffield's Secret Service (1) ...

... But In The Good Old Days ...
Since the days of the trams, Sheffield Transport has run night services. Late "cars" were advertised every day of the week; likewise early morning "cars". With the demise of trams (completed in 1960) the services were operated by motor omnibus.

Last "normal" buses ran on most city routes at 2315. A Le Mans start was to be observe in High Street with services replete with passengers champing at the bit. At the stroke of 2315 and inspector would materialise from his hut and blow a whistle. Upon this signal, engines would be revved and all services would depart, leaving a haze of deathly diesel exhaust to settle on the now silent roads and pavements.
It was a spectacular and impressive sight.

Later, and on into PTE times, several services were joined together to form portmanteau routes serving several traditional city destinations. They were numbered in the 900s and special (i.e. high) fares were charged for night journeys but not for early morning trips, numbered in the 700s.

By 1985 a substantial network was still in operation. Here are the 700s.
Of particular interest to fbb was the 751, running west from the City Centre to Lodge Moor, then down the full length of Crimicar Lane and back via Hunters Bar.
Today's routes would be 51 (YELLOW), Crimicar Lane 120 (ORANGE) and 83A into City (BLUE). It passed the fbb pad at about 0343 and, on the occasional early mornings that bladder provoked a rising of the beast, it was always observed with not a single passenger. Despite fbb's professed keenness to do so, he never rode the 751.

The 900s were more extensive ...
... and readers will spot the route number 952 to Woodhouse. Please also note the 972 to Crookes.
These will re-appear in our story later.

Rotherham had two loop routes ...
... but Rotherham folk must have gone to bed much earlier at the weekends than Sheffielders as their only departures were on Friday and Saturday and no later than the 2315 whistle in Sheffield.

Two other services existed in 1985 but fbb knows nothing of their history. They were linked to the Aquarius club in Chesterfield.
The building still exists, much changed, but the arched windows behind the minibus (above) are a good clue.
It is now a health club and gym. Hey that's two of fbb's favourite nights out! (That was a joke!) In its day that Aquarius had some top names.
 The ever reliable Wikipedia tells us that its popular MC was Bernie Clifton ...
... but without the ostrich!

The club continued to trade for a few years, ending its days a "Fannys".

But on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays East Midland ran route 303 from Sheffield via a stop at Aquarius and on to Chesterfield, Mansfield and Shirebrook.
In the other direction Chesterfield Corporation Transport 304 ran to Sheffield, again for the youff enjoying a late nite at the club. 
Night and early morning services had begun to decline in the early 70s, but the lunacy of the post-privatisation chaos combined with the inexorable contraction of heavy industry with its three shift pattern meant that both networks vanished remarkably quickly.

It is the recent attempts at resurrection to which we turn tomorrow.

In the meantime, consider the fact that several London night bus routes run every TEN minutes all through the night on Fridays and Satudays. Here is the N5 ...
... and its timetable extract.
(click on the timetable to enlarge it)
There are about 600 (six hundred) London buses on the road all night at the weekend.

But none in Sheffield.
More Meteorological Menace
Yesterday at about 12 noon sleepy Seaton was engulfed in a violent hailstorm. This was the path leading to the Church hall.
On arriving back at fbb mansions, a scene of devastation struck you chubby blogger. Hailstones over 1 foot across had battered the back yard. (Perhaps it would be less dramatic to state that this was a scale 1 foot - i.e. 4 millimetres and bigger)
Just like the full-size railway, there was damage to property. The hailstones had smashed the "glass" in the roof of the carriage shed.
It was, of course, fbb's fault. When creating the building, fbb had lost some plastic glazing material and replaced it with thinner stuff. It was the thin bits that were busted. The OO scale glaziers have been alerted to the problem and repairs will be effected promptly.
When fbb can find some thicker plastic.

Message : do it RIGHT the first time!
 Next night bus blog : Tuesday 7th March 


  1. Wikipedia says that "by August 2013 this [Night Bus pvr in London] had grown to 890". It is probably now over 1000.

  2. Andrew Kleissner6 March 2017 at 08:11

    During my time as a student in Southampton in the 1970s, there was a similar "last bus Le Mans start" in the city centre, but about 8 or 10 minutes earlier.

  3. London's N29 (Enfield to Trafalgar Square) operates every 7-8 mins Mon-Thu nights and 3-4 mins on Fri-Sat nights over the Wood Green to Trafalgar section. This is sometimes greater than the daytime frequency.

  4. It's from PTE days rather than Sheffield Corporation, but this might be of interest.

  5. Sorry. Thought that link would appear as a "link" but you'll have to cut and paste or re-type. It's worth it if you've not seen it before.

    1. Andrew Kleissner6 March 2017 at 18:29

      Now that is truly impressive! I counted at least 15 buses - Southampton only managed about 7 or 8, and they didn't race like that. Looks quite hairy!