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Belfast 168
Belfast 168

Belfast 168
Belfast 168, a Guy BTX of 1949 with a Harkness body, seen on the road.
(Photo NTA)

Belfast trolleybus 168 was chosen as a typical representative of the post-war fleet operated by Belfast City Transport and initially placed on long loan to the NTA by the City Council. It was one of four trolleybuses specially repainted to take part in the commemorations held over the weekend of 11/12 May 1968 to mark the end of one of the finest trolleybus systems in the United Kingdom; at one time Belfast possessed the largest trolleybus fleet outside London. 168 operated a special late-night tour on the evening of Sunday 12 May 1968 and after returning to the depot in the early hours of Monday morning, had become the last trolleybus to operate on the streets of Northern Ireland. On the following weekend, along with Belfast's unique Sunbeam F4A trolleybus 246 purchased by the London Trolleybus Preservation Society, it was shipped across the Irish Sea, arriving in the port of Liverpool early on Sunday 19 May and initially stored for a brief period at Liverpool City Transport's Green Lane depot. 168 subsequently operated a tour of the last Reading trolleybus route on 27 October 1968, one week before the final closure of that system.

Belfast 168
A night-time tour of Belfast by 168 brought trolleybus operation in Northern Ireland to an end in the very early hours of 13 May 1968.
(Photo Michael Russell)
Belfast 168
One week before closure of the Reading system, Belfast 168 toured the remaining wiring on 27 October 1968 and is shown turning at the Wokingham Road, Three Tuns turning circle.

The vehicle has subsequently proved to be the Association's most peripatetic trolleybus, at various stages being stored at sites in the south of England, Midlands and North. During the period of these travels, ownership of the vehicle was finally relinquished by the Belfast City Council and has since been vested in the NTA.

168 is a three-axle Guy BTX chassis built in 1949 and fitted with 68-seat bodywork by the local firm of Harkness Coachworks. Harkness was primarily engaged in shipbuilding, a staple of Belfast industry in those days, and its products were built to a very high standard with many features not found on the products of the mainland bodybuilding industry. Belfast Corporation was a major supporter of the firm and ordered many trolleybus and motor bus bodies from it during the post-war period.

This is the Association's current restoration project, which is now moving well towards completion. After some work had been undertaken at a site near Horsham, 168 was in autumn 2015 moved to the Keighley Bus Museum, where in covered conditions extensive restoration work has since been carried out. All the main heavy components have since been completely stripped down, overhauled and parts replaced where necessary by commercial firms, whilst the electrical equipment has also been completely overhauled. Attention to the bodywork has been proceeding alongside.

Restoration work on Belfast trolleybus 168, which was well advanced, came to a halt during April when Peter Price found himself unable to continue with the task. The Board wishes to place on record its gratitude for the work Peter has done on 168 over the last five years. The Board has been anxious to ensure that the work is brought to completion as soon as possible and is pleased to announce that in early June it concluded an agreement with another restorer to continue and complete the bodywork restoration at its current site in Keighley Bus Museum. The new appointee is an experienced and respected restorer of vintage vehicles and was expected to commence work on Belfast 168 in late summer. Work will be progressed as circumstances permit and whilst completion will now be delayed the extent will depend upon the availability of resources. The extensive restoration is being financed both from the NTA's own funds and by donations from a small but invaluable and much-appreciated group of supporters.

Restoration Belfast 168
Restoration Belfast 168
The Association's current vehicle restoration project is Belfast Guy BTX trolleybus 168. These images from Easter 2019 show the state of work in progress at the Keighley Bus Museum.
(Photos Michael Russell)

The NTA expects that before much longer, Belfast 168 will be added to the list of operational United Kingdom trolleybuses.

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