Historically this service is the most important in Bradford, despite being the only one in modern times which didn't serve the City Centre.
Bradford obtained powers in an Act that received Royal Assent in August 1910 for a solitary trolleybus route from Laisterdyke to Dudley Hill. This was officially opened at noon on 20th June 1911, a ceremony timed to coincide with a similar one held in Leeds allowing the two cities to share the honour of running the first trolleybus. Public service started on 24th June using at the first the solitary trolleybus until a second one arrived!
These first two trolleybuses were not completely satisfactory in service and soon Bradford developed their own design which, since they were prevented from building trolleybuses (or Railless vehicles as they were called then), was assembled from a series of components bought from outside firms with Bradford's own body. This design was much improved and in 1913 Bradford placed an order for twenty-eight sets of equipment to be bodied at Thornbury. The additional vehicles allowed the system to expand, although the expansion programme had to be cut short in 1914 as the outbreak of war led to a chronic shortage of materials and labour. As a result the last ten sets of equipment were supplied to Leeds.
The route was extended to Bankfoot on 17th July 1914 and to Bolton on October 13th 1914 and had already reached is maximum length of just under five miles. For such pioneering vehicles these 1914 trolleybuses had remarkably long lives, the bulk of them lasting until 1928/9.
Changes to the route over the years were minor. The loop at Bolton was changed from its original configuration running clockwise round the block to running anti-clockwise, simplifying the overhead. A turning circle was added at Bierley in about 1930, later used for the 16 service. Loops were also added at Birch Lane mainly to deal with rugby traffic from the nearby Odsal stadium. When you recall that the official attendance for the Rugby League Challenge Cup replay between Warrington and Halifax on 5th May 1954 was 102,569 it is clear good transport provision would be required!
The first stage in the decline of this service occurred from 25th July 1954 when a City Circle motorbus service was introduced, leading to significant cuts in the trolleybus service which shared a common route. The absorption process was completed some ten years later, with the last trolleybuses running on 29th February 1964. However, a large proportion of the route was used for depot journeys and only the Bankfoot to Dudley section was removed at this stage.
The withdrawal of the Wakefield Road trolleybuses in 1967 allowed the Laisterdyke to Dudley Hill section to be dismantled, but the Laisterdyke to Bolton section was still in use to serve the Saltaire and Greengates routes. When they were finally abandoned in 1971 this section of route had been continuously in use by trolleybuses for fifty-seven years. A short section on Killinghall Road between Leeds Old Road and Leeds Road survived right until the end as part of the Thornbury depot test circuit.
Despite both ends of the route at one time having trolleybus depots adjacent, this route was worked from the outset by Thornbury depot. It had two route numbers. The first, from 1930 to 1935 was 42, after that it was given the number 34.
© David Beilby