Trolleybuses in Belfast

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Belfast trolleybus system
Old Trolley Bus - - 351325.jpg
Harkness bodied Sunbeam F4A 246 on
Shore Road in May 1968
LocaleBelfast, Northern Ireland
Open28 March 1938 (1938-03-28)
Close12 May 1968 (1968-05-12)
Operator(s)Belfast Corporation Tramways
Electrification(?) V DC parallel overhead lines
Stock245 (maximum)
Route length37.5 miles (60.4 km)

The Belfast trolleybus system served the city of Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was the only trolleybus system built in Ireland. Opened on 28 March 1938 (1938-03-28), it gradually replaced the city’s tramway network.

The Belfast system was the second largest trolleybus system in the United Kingdom, after the London system. It had a total of 17 routes, and a maximum fleet of 245 trolleybuses. It closed on 12 May 1968 (1968-05-12).


In 1936, Belfast Corporation's tramway committee recommended that an experimental trolleybus service be inaugurated after inspecting the Birmingham, Bournemouth, London, Nottingham, Portsmouth and Wolverhampton systems.[1][2] Seven pairs of chassis from AEC, Crossley, Daimler, Guy, Karrier, Leyland and Sunbeam were acquired. These were fitted with six types of electric motor with coachwork by five different builders, and were supplied on the proviso that should the trial be a success, Belfast Corporation would purchase them, and should it fail they would be returned.[3][4]

On 28 March 1938, operations commenced out of Falls Park depot along Falls Road. This was chosen as being a virtually stand-alone route.[5][6][7]

Judged a success, Belfast Corporation decided to replace the entire tramway network. An order was placed with AEC for 114 trolleybuses; however, wartime constraints resulted in only 88 being delivered.[3][8]

On 13 February 1941 operations began in East Belfast when the Cregagh route commenced from the new Haymarket depot. The network gradually expanded, with the last of the tram network closing in 1954. Further sections were added until 1959 to a total of 37.5 miles. In order to speed up the conversion, eleven second-hand trolleybuses were purchased from Wolverhampton in 1952.[7] In 1958 a prototype Sunbeam was acquired with a view to replacing the earlier vehicles; however, shortly afterwards the first section of the network closed, with the final section closing on 12 May 1968.[3][5][6][9]


Quantity Chassis Body In service Notes
1-2 2 AEC 664T Harkness 1938-1958
3 1 Crossley TDD6 Crossley 1938-1958
4 1 Crossley TDD6 Harkness 1938-1958
5-6 2 Daimler CTM6 Harkness 1938-1958
7 1 Guy BTX Park Royal 1938-1958
8 1 Guy BTX Harkness 1938-1958
9-10 2 Karrier E6A Harkness 1938-1958
11-12 2 Leyland TTB4 Leyland 1938-1958
13-14 2 Sunbeam MS2 Cowieson 1938-1958
15-102 88 AEC 664T Harkness 1940-1963
103-128 26 Guy BTX Harkness 1948-1963
129-130 2 Sunbeam W4 Park Royal 1941-1958
131-142 12 Sunbeam W4 Harkness 1946-1960
143-186 44 Guy BTX Harkness 1948-1965
187-234 48 BUT 9641T Harkness 1950-1968
235-240 6 Sunbeam MF2 Park Royal 1952-1956 ex Wolverhampton
241-245 5 Sunbeam MF2 Charles H Roe 1952-1956 ex Wolverhampton
246 1 Sunbeam F4A Harkness 1958-1968

Trolleybuses were initially painted in a blue and white livery. After World War II this was changed to red and white with silver wheels.[3]

In preservation[edit]

Five former Belfast trolleybuses have been preserved:[10]


Trolleybuses operated from three depots:[3]

  • Falls Park
  • Haymarket
  • Short Strand

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Trolleybuses for Belfast Commercial Motor 23 October 1936 page 60
  2. ^ Operating Aspects of Passenger Transport Commercial Motor 18 December 1936 page 48
  3. ^ a b c d e Harvey, David (2010). Belfast Trolleybuses. Stroud: Amberley Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84868-466-9.
  4. ^ Meeting Belfast's Special Conditions in Trolleybus Manufacture Commercial Motor 24 December 1937 page 8
  5. ^ a b Joyce, J.; King, J. S.; and Newman, A. G. (1986). British Trolleybus Systems, pp. 22–26, 159. London: Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 0-7110-1647-X
  6. ^ a b Short, Peter. "Former UK systems". British Trolleybus Society. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  7. ^ a b Russell, Michael (2014). The Colours of Yesteryear's Trolleybuses. Crowthorne: Capital Transport Publishing. pp. 252–256. ISBN 9781854143860.
  8. ^ Belfast to buy 114 trolleybuses Commercial Motor 2 June 1939 page 50
  9. ^ Half-way Stage i Belfast Scheme Commercial Motor 29 November 1963 page 38
  10. ^ Zebedee, John (30 November 2010). "A List of Preserved Trolleybuses in the UK". British Trolleybus Society. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  11. ^ Belfast 168 National Trolleybus Association
  12. ^ East Anglia Transport Museum Fleetlist East Anglia Transport Museum

Further reading[edit]

  • Belfast Corporation Transport. London: PSV Circle / Omnibus Society. 1968. OCLC 505168814.
  • Maybin, Mike (1996). A nostalgic look at Belfast trolleybuses, 1938-1968. Wadenhoe, East Northamptonshire, UK: Silver Link. ISBN 978-1-85794-068-8.
  • Maybin, Mike (2006). Ireland in the age of the trolleybus: Belfast: 1938-1968. Kettering, Northamptonshire, UK: Silver Link. ISBN 978-1-85794-256-9.
  • Montgomery, W H (2001). Belfast Corporation Buses 1926-1973. Newtownards, County Down, Northern Ireland, UK: Colourpoint Press. ISBN 978-1-898392-64-4.
  • Newman, Richard (2007). Irish Buses in the Mid 1960s. Newtownards, County Down, Northern Ireland, UK: Colourpoint Press. ISBN 978-1-904242-88-8.

External links[edit]

Media related to Trolleybuses in Belfast at Wikimedia Commons