MANCHESTER TROLLEYBUSES: A city’s historic transport network


Manchester, United Kingdom



Manchester, one of the UK’s (and England’s) most formidable cities, is home to many great things, from a heated long-standing rivalry between its two football clubs, to being the birthplace of Nineties rock band Oasis (with leads and brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher also being fierce rivals). But this city of over 500,000 people is also the setting for soemthing else that is not as well-known – its trolleybuses. 

Appearing in 1938, the Mancunian trolleybuses were to the city what the Tube was to London or canal punts were to Oxford. For more than three decades, the buses ruled the busy streets of this industrial hub, before going for their final run on the very last day of the year 1966.


The first trolleys began operations on 1 March 1938, replacing an earlier system of trams which were common in English cities during the earlier half of the 20th century. The Manchester system was in fact on of the largest in the UK, with nine routes serviced by a fleet of 189 buses. The buses followed a rich tradition of civic transportation in Manchester with the first horse-drawn omnibus service beginning in 1824, linking the city with nearby Salford.

Usually painted red like their London cousins, the trolleybuses were invaluable for Manchester’s inhabitants and visitors in getting around the city. In 1949 alone, 492,417,219 passenger journeys were recorded by the network owner, the Manchester Corporation. The growing importance of the trolleybuses led to investments and modernisations made in them from fibreglass windows and state-of-the-art ticketing machines, to automated bus washers. 


Eventually the trolleybuses gave way to motorised public transport vehicles but still retain a sacred status among the region’s heritage transport fans and historians alike. Two trolleys are preserved in local museums, with one, the Trolleybus Museum in Sandtoft, Lincolnshire especially devoted to them.

At their peak 20,000 buses, which ran on both wheels and were powered by overhead electric cables, similar to the trams they replaced, were in operation in the UK. They were first used in 1911 and were phased out during the 1950s and 1960s.



Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc.

Simon Thompson, Twitter, Twitter Inc.

“Trolleybuses in Manchester” – Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

“Greater Manchester Transport Timeline” – Museum of Transport Greater Manchester/Greater Manchester Transport Society (GMTS)/Transport for Greater Manchester

“Trolleybus back on track” – Manchester Evening News/M.E.N Media (15 February 2007)


“Moving trolleybuses at the Museum of Transport Greater Manchester” – Paul Williams, YouTube GB (2 January 2019)

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