A look at Greater Manchester’s lost bus route from Hell

If you celebrate Halloween (I personally don’t), we at East of the M60 hope you enjoy yourself and not get too giddy. Thanks to my recent attendance at the Museum of Transport in Cheetham, I was surprised to find that Greater Manchester Transport (or, more specifically, Lancashire United Transport under GMT’s ownership) had its very own 666 bus route.

Then again, being a SELNEC and Greater Manchester Transport fanatic, I shouldn’t have been too surprised. 666 would fall under Wigan (in the 600 series for LUT/Wigan Corporation routes), as per the 1973 – 74 renumbering exercise carried out by SELNEC. Greater Manchester’s very own 666 didn’t take us to the Wigan Casino (well, they say the devil has the best tunes, and Beelzebub may have been partial to a bit of Dobie Gray or Jimmy Radcliffe).

Instead, the 666 service was a shuttle bus from Earlestown Market to Vulcan Village. Before the early 1990s, Vulcan Village was noted for one thing: housing the workers who built steam, diesel and electric locomotives at The Vulcan Foundry. In 1957, English Electric took over the Vulcan foundry. It built the first 25kV a.c. locomotives for the West Coast Main Line. These included some of today’s Class 86 locos (AL6), all fifteen AL3 (Class 83) locos.

LUT route 666
The front cover of the timetable, displaying details of its operation by LUT and funding by Merseyside PTE.
LUT route 666: inside the timetable.
Very few journeys: LUT’s 666 lacked a weekend service.

The 666 service was operated by Lancashire United Transport, which made the transition to Greater Manchester Transport hands from 1976 to 1980. There was no weekend service and the times were designed to coincide with shift patterns at the Vulcan Foundry (which was owned by GEC at the time). Also to some extent, that of school times, so that pupils could continue to other schools within Newton-le-Willows or Earlestown itself.

The journey took seven minutes via Wargrave Road. It passed Earlestown station, giving the residents a possible link with Liverpool Lime Street or Manchester Victoria stations. The journeys were as follows:

  • Earlestown [Market] – Vulcan Village: 0815, 0920, 1525, 1900 (arriving at 0822, 0927, 1532, 1907);
  • Vulcan Village – Earlestown [Market]: 0823, 0930, 1303, 1533, 1908 (arriving at 0830, 0937, 1310. 1540, 1915).

Today, neither the 666 bus nor the Vulcan foundry exists any more. The factory closed in late-2002, in its final guise as part of MAN B&W Diesel. Five years on, all the ex-factory buildings were demolished. In its place, 630 homes complement the original Vulcan village. Seen below, this clip from earlier this year shows how Vulcan village has changed. You may wish to mute the audio soundtrack and play something more melodic instead.

Perhaps the estate, when fully finished could do with a bus route. Could the 666 return home once again? We doubt it but then again, I didn’t foresee the addition of an Airport link from Dukinfield Town Hall.

S.V., 31 October 2016

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