For 44 years trolleybuses were a familiar sight on the streets of Wolverhampton and parts of the surrounding area. They were loved by many, and greatly missed when they had gone. They were quick, quiet, reliable, and gave a smooth, comfortable ride. They were also relatively pollution free. Pollution was produced at the power station supplying electricity to the overhead wires, but this was localised, and minimised, because the power stations were designed to run efficiently.

Trolleybuses were seen in Wolverhampton as an ideal replacement for the 20 year-old tram network which was in bad need of refurbishment.


The first trolleybus appeared on 29th April, 1882 as part of an experiment carried out for a month and a half in a suburb of Berlin, by Dr. Ernst Werner von Siemens, who called it the ‘Elektromote’. Seven years later an improved form, which could run either on or off rails was demonstrated in Berlin.

In 1900 Lombard Gérin operated an experimental line to take people to and from the Paris Exhibition. It ran for four years. The world’s first passenger-carrying trolleybus network proper, opened on 10th July, 1901 in the Biela Valley, near Dresden. It was known as the Bielatal system, and designed by Max Schiemann who developed the standard current collection system with spring-loaded, rigid trolley poles, and an under wire running contact.

The first two trolleybus services in the UK opened on 20th June 1911, one from Leeds and another from Bradford. Bradford welcomed the new form of transport with open arms and installed a large network. Bradford trolleybuses continued to operate until 26th March, 1972. It was the last trolley bus network to operate in the country.

The first trolleybus route in the West Midlands was at Birmingham, when the old tram system running from the City centre to Neachells was replaced with trolleybuses. In 1921 a delegation from the Birmingham Transport Committee visited Bradford, and was greatly impressed with the operation. By this time the state of the tram track on the route to Nechells was in a poor state of repair, and trolleybuses were seen as an ideal replacement. Twelve double-deck vehicles were ordered, the old tram track was removed, and suitable overhead wiring installed. The new buses began to operate in 1922 along the 2½ mile long route from Old Square to Nechells terminus.

Trolleybuses in Wolverhampton

A test run on Wolverhampton's first trolley bus route to Wednesfield.

The Wolverhampton Magazine, February 1965.

Early installations

The success of the Nechells route didn’t go unnoticed. Mr. Charles Owen Silvers, General Manager of the Wolverhampton Tramways Department, began to consider the possibility of replacing the trams on the Wednesfield route with trolleybuses. At the time the track was nearing the end of its economic life. On 16th January, 1923 the tramways committee visited Birmingham to inspect the new system in operation, and were greatly impressed with what they saw.

A few months later the trams on the Wednesfield route were temporarily replaced by petrol buses while the track was removed, and trolleybus overhead wiring was installed. Six Tilling-Stevens trackless single-deck trolleybuses with solid tyres were ordered, and numbered 1 to 6. They began working on the Wednesfield route on 29th October, 1923, running from Broad Street, Wolverhampton to the Wednesfield terminus at Pinfold Bridge, in Lichfield Road. The trolley buses were a great success. They offered greater flexibility, and for the first time passengers could be picked-up at the curb side.

The next tram route to be taken over by trolleybuses was the Bushbury tramway. The track was in a poor state of repair, and in urgent need of attention. Wolverhampton Transport Committee considered the matter, and decided that the trams must go.

The last trams ran to Bushbury on 19th August, 1924, and were temporarily replaced by petrol buses, while the route was converted for trolleybus operation.

Eight Tilling-Stevens single-deckers were ordered for the new route, and work quickly got underway. During the next two years a further eighteen Tilling-Stevens trolleybuses were ordered.

One of the Tilling-Stevens single-deckers outside the Town Hall. From the 1953 edition of the Wolverhampton Official Handbook.
The trams ran to Bushbury via Darlington Street and Waterloo Road, but the new route was to be different. The trolley buses ran to Bushbury from Wulfruna Street, via Molineux Street, and returned via North Street and Queen Square. The route also changed at the Bushbury end, where it was extended along Stafford Road to The Vine at Fordhouses. Trolleybuses began operating on the route on 9th March, 1925, and were clearly a success because from 23rd April, 1925 extra journeys were added to Bushbury Lane, where a turning circle was constructed.

The world's first six-wheeled trolleybus. Made by Guy Motors in 1926.

A six-wheeled Guy trolleybus turning in Victoria Square in 1928.

From the 1953 edition of the Wolverhampton Official Handbook.

Wolverhampton to Dudley

In 1924 Wolverhampton Corporation began negotiations with the British Electric Traction Company Limited (known as BET) over the purchase of the route from Wolverhampton to Dudley. BET operated trams throughout much of the country and was the largest private owner of tramways in the UK. The Corporation’s main problem was that beyond the Fighting Cocks the route ran through Sedgley, Coseley, and Dudley, and was leased by BET. It was finally agreed that Wolverhampton would purchase the route as far as Dudley, and that BET would assign to Wolverhampton its lease to operate in the Borough of Dudley, which ran until 31st December, 1938.

The Corporation had to wait some months before the necessary running powers on the route were granted. The Wolverhampton Corporation Act of 1925, which received the Royal Ascent on 7th August, allowed the Corporation to operate trolleybuses on the route, and to purchase the Dudley section. On 15th August the Corporation took over the route which included the bus depot at Sedgley and sixty six BET employees. Initially eight Corporation tramcars ran on the route, along with six others that were on loan from BET. Two months later the section to the Fighting Cocks had been converted for trolleybus operation, but it took almost two years before trolley buses ran into Dudley.

The delay caused many operational difficulties for the Corporation, and inconvenience for passengers, who had to change buses two or three times. Initially people would leave Wolverhampton by trolleybus, change to a motor bus at the Fighting Cocks, then board a tram at Sedgley for the final section into Dudley. The route was converted to trolley bus operation as follows:

Snow Hill to Fighting Cocks, 26th October, 1925
Fighting Cocks to Sedgley Bull Ring, 10th November, 1926
Sedgley Bull Ring to Sedgley Bus Depot, 11th May, 1927
Sedgley Bus Depot to Stone Street, Dudley, 8th July, 1927

Wolverhampton to Walsall

Wolverhampton Corporation set its sights on a trolleybus route from Wolverhampton to Walsall. At the same time Walsall Corporation sought powers to operate trolley buses between Walsall and Willenhall. Wolverhampton Corporation applied for the necessary powers to undertake its plan under the terms of the Wolverhampton Corporation Bill of 1925. The Walsall Bill, and the Wolverhampton Bill were heard in Parliament at the same time. A working agreement was made between the two corporations, and Wolverhampton Corporation secured the necessary powers to go ahead with the project. At the time the tram track on the Willenhall Road was in a terrible state, and urgently needed repair.

A Sunbeam bus with an MS2 chassis and a Weymann body, used by Walsall Corporation.

There were still problems to overcome. A preliminary agreement with Willenhall Urban District Council was not reached until August 1926. On 9th August the trams on the Wolverhampton to Willenhall route were replaced with motor buses, but trams still ran from Willenhall to Walsall. On 16th May, 1927 trolleybuses began to operate between Horseley Fields, Wolverhampton, and Neachells Lane. The service was extended to Willenhall Market Place on 16th September, 1927.

Walsall Corporation had second thoughts on the project and decided that trolleybuses were not an economic proposition in the town. The corporation wanted a through service of motor buses between Wolverhampton and Walsall. Wolverhampton would not initially agree to this proposal, but in the end an agreement was reached. Walsall would convert to trolleybuses if the receipts in its section were below a certain amount.

Walsall closed its Willenhall tram route, and a motor bus service between Walsall and Wolverhampton commenced on 4th February, 1929. Wolverhampton Corporation lowered the road under the canal bridge in Horseley Fields to allow the passage of double-deck buses. This was completed in September 1930. During the following year the canal bridge was reconstructed, and in November 1931 a service of double-deck trolley buses commenced between Wolverhampton and Walsall, operated by vehicles from each authority. Walsall went on to have a fleet of 60 trolleybuses, which was one of the last to be closed. The last of the town’s trolleybuses ran on 3rd October, 1970.

A Sunbeam double deck trolleybus, 30 ft. overall length, built for Walsall Corporation in 1954.

Other Local Routes

The success of the trolleybuses led to the closure of all Wolverhampton Corporation’s tram routes. A report by the General Manager to the Transport Committee in June 1926 recommended that the remaining tram routes should be replaced with trolley buses or motor buses, because the track was worn-out, and a large sum of money would be required for the repair. The report suggested that the Penn Fields, Tettenhall, and Willenhall routes should be operated by trolleybuses, and the Whitmore Reans route by motor buses. The committee accepted the report, and during the next two years the trams were removed.

The first route to receive attention (as already mentioned) was the Willenhall route.

Trams to Penn Fields ceased to operate on 20th March, 1927, and were temporarily replaced by motorbuses, while the track was removed, and the overhead wiring put in place.

Double-deck trolleybuses began to operate on the route on 11th July, 1927, from the town centre to a turning circle at the junction of Lea Road, Stubbs Road, and Birches Barn Road.

Trams ceased to run on the Tettenhall route on 10th July, 1927, and after operation by temporary motor buses, the first trolleybus ran to Wergs Road on 29th November, 1927.

Initially this was a partial service, until the full service to Wrottesley Road began on 1st January 1928.

Trams on the Whitmore Reans route were replaced by motor buses on 1st October, 1927.

The Corporation’s last trams, which were on the Bilston route, ceased to operate on 26th August, 1928.

Wolverhampton to Darlaston

A 1934 Sunbeam bus with an MS3 chassis and a Metro-Cammell body. Turning in Victoria Square.

An advert from 1936.

On 1st September, 1928 Wolverhampton Corporation acquired the Bilston Services from BET after obtaining the necessary running powers under the terms of the Wolverhampton Corporation Act of 1928, which was Passed on 3rd August.

As part of the agreement, the Corporation had to purchase the Bilston tram depot, 15 tramcars, the overhead cables on the Bilston route, and the overhead cables on the South Staffs section between Moxley and Darlaston.

This cost the Corporation £26,500. The BET trams were replaced with motor buses on 1st December, 1928.

It had been decided to convert the motor bus route to Whitmore Reans to trolley bus operation.

This was extended as a through service to the Bull Stake at Darlaston via Wolverhampton and Bilston.

Trolley buses began to operate on the new route on 27th January, 1930.

Final Trolleybus Conversions

In 1931, the next and last phase of trolleybus expansion began when the inter-war housing estates were served by trolleybuses.

This resulted in the following motor bus routes being converted to trolleybus operation:

Prestwood Road and Amos Lane, Bushbury Hill, Low Hill Estate, Mount Road, Penn (Springhill), Finchfield via Bradmore, and Merry Hill.

By this time Wolverhampton had the largest trolleybus system in the country, and two of the largest trolleybus manufacturers in the world; Guy Motors and Sunbeam Commercial Vehicles Limited.


A Sunbeam bus with a W4 chassis and a Park Royal body. Courtesy of Eardley Lewis.
The bus terminus at the Wolverhampton end of the Wednesfield route was in Thornley Street, next to the drill hall.

The buses in the photograph are standing at the Thornley Street terminus.

The front bus is a Sunbeam with a W4 chassis and a Park Royal body. It was built in 1946.

Courtesy of the late
Lionel J. Lee.

A Wednesfield bus turning into Thornley Street from Broad Street. Courtesy of the late Lionel J. Lee.

Trolleybuses in the Cleveland Road depot. Courtesy of the late Lionel J. Lee.

The Trolleybus Years

In November 1930 the General Manager reported to the Transport Committee that the operating cost of trolleybuses was 13.85 pence per mile, compared with 15.74 pence per mile for motor buses. The average income per mile was 16 pence, so trolleybuses were seen as the best option. As a result twelve new trolleybuses were ordered.

By January 1939 things had changed. The General Manager reported that due to improvements in the internal combustion engine, motor buses were now cheaper to run than trolleybuses, however the Transport Committee decided that for the time being the trolleybus fleet would remain in use.

A Tettenhall trolleybus turning in Victoria Square. Courtesy of the late Lionel J. Lee.

During World War 2 shortages led to difficulties in maintaining the bus fleet. Fewer buses were available for use, and so the operational vehicles were subjected to extra mileage, and extra wear and tear. Ten new trolleybuses were ordered in 1940, but due to the war, delivery was delayed. At this time passenger numbers increased, but there were operational difficulties which led to some services being abandoned for the duration of the war. A dozen trolleybuses were hired from Bournemouth to help cope with the demand.

When the end of the war was in sight, the Transport Committee looked ahead to the post war period and made plans to replace the worn-out vehicles, and return the fleet to its pre-war condition. Due to expected difficulties with fuel imports, trolleybuses were still considered as the best option, and so 69 new trolleybuses were ordered along with 28 motor buses.

A Sunbeam trolleybus with a W4 chassis and a Park Royal body, built in 1948. Seen at the Tettenhall terminus. Courtesy of the late Lionel J. Lee.

In 1946 the services that had ceased to run during the war were reinstated, and a further fifty two trolleybuses were ordered.

In 1950 two thirds of Wolverhampton’s fleet consisted of trolleybuses, but by 1960 it was made up of 153 trolleybuses and 149 motor buses.

The Transport Committee met in March 1961 to consider the future of the town's trolleybuses.

Two trolley buses make their way up The Rock towards Tettenhall terminus.  Courtesy of the late Lionel J. Lee.

The last trolley bus on the Merry Hill route which closed on 3rd November, 1963. From the Wolverhampton Magazine, February 1965. It is a Sunbeam bus with an F4 chassis and a Park Royal body, built in 1949.
On the grounds of cost they decided that no more new trolleybuses would be ordered, and when trolleybuses were due for replacement they would be replaced with motor buses.

The trolley bus fleet soon dwindled.

The first trolleybus route to close, the number 32 to Oxbarn Avenue, which was also the last to open, closed in January 1961. The trolleybus services to Penn, Penn Fields, and Jeffcock Road also closed, but reopened in May 1961.

In 1963 the trolleybuses began to quickly disappear. On 9th June the first of many trolley buses appeared at the back of Park Lane Depot, where they awaited the scrap man. On the same day trolleybuses ran for the last time on the route to Penn and Penn Fields. Three weeks later the last trolleybus ran to Tettenhall, and on 3rd November trolleybuses ceased to run to Amos Lane, Finchfield, Low Hill, Merry Hill, and Wednesfield, making another 26 buses redundant.

A Sunbeam trolley bus in Queen Square. It is on route 12 which ran from Wolverhampton to Finchfield via Bradmore. Courtesy of the late Lionel J. Lee.

The conversion of Stafford Road to a dual carriageway hastened the end of the trolleybus route to Fordhouses. The last trolleybus ran to Fordhouses on 26th January, 1964. In just eight months Wolverhampton’s trolleybus fleet had halved in size, and in another three years they would all be gone. The last one ran in service on 5th March, 1967. It was number 446 operating on route 58 from Dudley to Wolverhampton.


A History of Wolverhampton Transport, Volume 1, Stanley Webb and Paul Addenbrooke, Birmingham Transport Historical Group and Uralia Press.

The Wolverhampton Magazine, February 1965, article – ‘All Fares Please’ by the National Trolleybus Association.

British Bus Archives, Wolverhampton Corporation Transport 1900-1969.

A trolley bus on route 13, Wolverhampton to Merry Hill, approaching Queen Square. It is a Guy BT bus with a Park Royal body, built in 1949. Courtesy of the late Lionel J. Lee.

A trolley bus on route 9, which ran from Jeffcock Road in Wolverhampton to Prestwood Road and Amos Lane. It is a Sunbeam bus with a W4 chassis and a Park Royal body, built in 1945. Courtesy of the late Lionel J. Lee.

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