trolleybus in 1967 in Newcastle

ITS human nature to be very wary on Friday the 13th you never known what might happen.

But once you settle down into your seat on a bus, in this case a trolley bus, you should at least feel quite safe.

But on Friday, February 13, 1959, passengers travelling on Newcastle trolley bus No 33A to Denton via Elswick Road, were in for a big shock and a very lucky escape when their bus struck a trolley standard and keeled over, sending passengers flying, glass breaking and engine parts careering across the road surface.

The driver had to be dragged semi-conscious from his cab and, along with the other five people on the bus, had to be taken to hospital but looking at the results of the accident, this was a minor miracle in itself.

The bus fell on its side opposite Benwell Towers, in Benwell Lane.

The front wheels were ripped from the chassis and the nearside of the drivers cab was a left a shattered mass of jagged metal.

The fact there were only a few passengers on board was because the bus had travelled only about 200 yards from the Delaval Road terminus on its way into the city.

The three passengers on the bus, all injured, were John Tinning, of Rachel Street, 11-year-old Dorothy Middleton, of Delaval Road, and 15-year-old Elizabeth Thompson, of Benwell Dene Terrace, all Newcastle.

The conductor, Jean Oliver, 32, of Brighton Grove, had a miraculous escape, as did the driver, William Spence. The sixth person hurt was George Robson, of Newcastle, who gashed his hand while helping to rescue the driver.

Luckily, all the passengers were on the bottom deck.

Joan Anderson was the first person to reach the wrecked bus.

She had just made herself a cup of tea when she heard a double bang and the sound of breaking glass.

I rushed out into the road and tried to get the driver out. But I couldnt move him. A man came to help and he forced the door open.

The dazed driver was carried into Mrs Andersons house.

When he came to all he was worrying about was his conductress and the passengers, Mrs Anderson said. Witnesses said George Robson, who gashed his hand, fainted just before he was put into an ambulance.

John Nisbet, of Haig Crescent, was standing at the opposite side of the road when the trolleybus crashed.

He said it seemed to go over a dip in the road just before the collision.

I saw it bang into the post and then saw it rolling over on to its side. It seemed to crash slowly to the ground.

We pulled the back door open to allow the passengers to get out and then I ran with another man to the front to get the driver out.

The driver was in his cab with the steering column across his body.

Witnesses said the driver was mumbling: Never mind about me. Get the passengers out.

Conductor Jean Oliver was sitting in the casualty department of the RVI when she talked to the Chronicle of her miraculous escape.

Her only injuries were a cut on the chin and mouth.

I had just left the front seat of the bus to start taking fares and as I looked out of the window I saw the pole coming towards us. I jumped to the other side of the bus. If I hadnt I would have been caught by the side which was smashed to smithereens.

Ive had a lucky escape. I cant remember passing out but when everything was quiet I found myself still standing on my feet.

If the accident had happened half a mile further down the road, the bus would have been packed with housewives going shopping.

Miss Oliver said: I hate to think what might have happened if we had been full.

Passenger John Tinning said: The seats were cracking and the glass was flying and the bus toppled over on its side.

Amazingly, in spite of the damage, the trolleybus was repaired and went back into service lasting until February, 1967.

  1. Hi Simon, I remember these. I had just moved to the area. I was about 12 years old, but I can’t ever having a ride on one. I know there is a model in the Science & Engineering Museum?

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