The Little Bus Company the-bus.gif (21152 bytes) LITTLE BUS COMPANY

6 Appleyard, Haworth Close,
Halifax, HX1 2NN.
Tel: 01422 301600



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London Transport SA1/2 class Trolleybus

London Transport SA class Trolleybus


London Transport SA class Trolleybus  


Having successfully introduced trolleybuses on two routes in 1935, Durban Corporation Transport (South Africa) embarked on a programme of tram to trolleybus conversion. In the late-1930s a series of orders for 3-axle double-deck trolleybuses were placed with British manufacturers, culminating in an order for 42 Leyland TTB5 trolleybuses equipped with Metropolitan Cammell Carriage and Wagon metal framed bodies. These would feature a front exit with air-operated sliding door for the lower saloon passengers, full drop side windows, darkened glass in the upper sections of the windows to combat the heat of the tropical Natal sun, and a special rack for carrying sea angler's fishing rods at the rear!

Enemy action, early in World War II, caused substantial damage to London and its transport systems. Many trolleybuses were lost. The shortfall was to some extent made up by borrowing vehicles from fleets whose transport needs had declined as a result of wartime constraints. Trolleybuses from Bournemouth appeared on the streets of east London. A kit to model those trolleybuses has already been produced by Little Bus Company. Other enemy action placed severe limits on the availability and success of transportation to remote countries. Consequently orders for trolleybuses made by both Durban and Johannesburg, in South Africa, could not be shipped and it was agreed that the buses would be supplied instead to London Transport, where they replaced the Bournemouth trolleybuses. This direct replacement was, perhaps, something of a coincidence, as the Bournemouth buses had been located on relatively lightly-used east London routes, because their lesser seating capacity would have a smaller detrimental effect on service, whereas the South African vehicles, which were all 8ft wide, were located on those same routes because they were remote from central London congestion. The South African trolleybuses were sufficiently successful that they continued in service until withdrawn as part of the general dismantling of the London trolleybus system.


The Vehicles

The Durban vehicles were placed by London Transport in two separate classes, which differed primarily in their motors. The SA1 class had GEC motors and the SA2 class had Metrovick motors. As required by Durban, the vehicles had sliding front doors as well as open rear platforms. In London service these doors were initially locked shut, but were eventually paneled over. The bodies were of quite different appearance to the standard London vehicles and had several features to suit use in a rather warmer climate. The chassis were of Leyland manufacture and so were familiar to London Transport, unlike the preceding Bournemouth buses which had Sunbeam chassis. As already mentioned, at 8ft wide, and thus illegal in Britain at the time, the buses required special dispensation to operate. This was compounded by the fact that they also exceeded current weight limits.

London Transport SA class Trolleybus

In London, they were divided into two classes corresponding to their electrical equipment:

Class Equipment Fleet Nos. Registration Nos.
SA1 GEC 1722-1733 GGW722, GLB723-733
SA2 Metrovick 1734-1746 GLB734-746

The vehicles which actually reached Durban in 1940 and 1941 were:

Equipment Fleet Nos.
Registration Nos.
(Later Fleet Nos.)
GEC 48-64 NDC2211-2127


London: some of the SA1 class were withdrawn prematurely, reportedly due to their weak bodywork, but all members of the SA2 class remained in service until the end of trolleybus operations from Ilford Depot and the withdrawal of services 691 and 693 on 18th August 1959. Although the last withdrawals were retained by the breaker until early 1960, in the hope of resale abroad, all the vehicles were scrapped. Actual withdrawal dates were:

    -   March 1955: 1730, 1732, 1733
    -  January 1958: 1722, 1724
    -  January 1959: 1723, 1725, 1726, 1728, 1729
    -  August 1959: 1727, 1731, 1734-1746

The Model

The Little Bus Company kit nominally represents the SA2 class, but as there is no significant difference in appearance between the SA1 and SA2 classes (with minor exceptions in the case of 1722, the prototype) there seems to be no reason not to build the model as an SA1. The kit shows the front door in panelled over condition and is generally representative of the vehicles as they appeared in post-war service. The model is very straightforward to build and, as there were no significant variations during the life of the vehicles, there are no alternative parts supplied. As the vehicles had concealed trolley gantries the poles must be inserted directly into the resin casting.

Rod Blackburn, MacGregor, ACT, Australia, May, 2006
from research by David R H Bowler

Master for the model designed and built by Rod Blackburn for Little Bus Company

Model built and finished by Tony Asquith


London Transport SA class Trolleybus

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Halifax, HX1 2NN.

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