LUPTS history: formation of the Society 

1958 was, in many respects, a strange time for a transport society to be formed in Liverpool.   So much of what had seemed a permanent part of transport life in the area had disappeared in the previous eighteen months: Liverpool’s trams in September 1957, the Liverpool Overhead Railway at the end of December 1956 and the ex Mersey Railway ‘Westinghouse’ stock in March 1957 to name but three.  

Elsewhere in the country the story was similar.   Steam was still dominant on the railways although the 1955 Modernisation Plan had signalled its replacement by diesel and electric traction.   It was not realised at the time quite how soon this would take place; Richard Beeching was a little known industrialist and not the architect behind the Reshaping Plan which was to account for the closure of almost half of Britain’s railways over the next eight years.

Trams were also in terminal decline.   The only remaining systems on mainland Britain were Blackpool, Glasgow, the Great Orme, Grimsby & Immingham, Leeds, Sheffield and Swansea & Mumbles although most were due for imminent closure.   Twenty five trolleybus systems remained although these were also under threat from increasing levels of car ownership.   Interests were parochial in those days and it was to be some time before people started taking the degree of note which they do today of what was going on elsewhere in the world.

The start of LUPTS can be traced back to a chance meeting in the queue for the student café on the top floor of the Old Union Building.   The date was Thursday 6 November 1958.   John Ryan recalls hearing two people in front of him in the middle of an animated discussion about buses.   The discussion was between two school friends: Martin Jenkins and Chris Bennett.   The group had lunch together and the conversation followed two directions.   Firstly, there was the idea of forming a society for students interested in transport, along the lines of societies which were known to exist at other universities.   Secondly, and felt to be of more urgency, it was decided to make an approach to Liverpool City Transport over the ‘Baby Grand’ tram which the Corporation had retained after the aforementioned system closure. 

On the latter point, the still informal grouping decided to write to the Corporation over the tram, number 245.   Martin was to draft the letter stating their interest in the tram which they “believed existed”.   This was due to the fact the whole project was shrouded in secrecy.   Ambitious though it sounds now, the students asked if they could buy the tram at a reasonable cost for the purpose of preservation but keep it at Edge Lane Works.   This saga was to run on for several more years. 

On the subject of a society, a further lunch meeting on Wednesday 12 November considered what aims and constitution it might have and how such a society could be created.   The informal group had been enlarged to include three other students: Mike Lewis, Kevin Donnelly and Peter Burton.   Several courses of action were agreed including the organisation of an open meeting and an article in the Guild of Undergraduates’ fortnightly newspaper, Guild Gazette.   This article duly appeared in that Friday’s issue (no doubt helped by the fact that Kevin Donnelly was on the editorial panel) and read as follows: 



For some time now, Leeds has had a Railway Society, and other Universities have similar societies with an interest in one or more forms of transport.   Now a go-ahead Arts Fresher, Martin Jenkins, is trying to form a Transport Society at Liverpool.   An inaugural meeting will be held in the Gilmour Hall on Tuesday 25th November, at 5-00 p.m., and Martin extends an invitation to all who are interested in any form of public transport to come along.   Interested students who can’t make the meeting should contact Martin through the Men’s Letter Rack.


Pending the inaugural meeting, the six aforementioned students formed themselves into a provisional committee.   Three held specific posts: Martin Jenkins was Chairman, John Ryan Secretary and Kevin Donnelly Treasurer.   This committee was to remain in place until an elected one could be appointed and it was envisaged that the proper committee would include a number of additional posts, including a President (by invitation from outside the student membership rather than elected), a Visits Organiser, a Librarian and three Secretaries representing modal interests: Rail, Road and Water/Air. 

Twenty people turned up at the inaugural meeting on 25 November.   The first thing was to do was decide on a name.   By a majority of 9-7, the name Liverpool University Public Transport Society was chosen over the same name with the word “Public” omitted.   The name was the subject of discussion over the years but was always to remain LUPTS. 

The second item was to get some idea of the range of interests of those present.   Although Guild had published the initial notice under the heading of a Railway Society, the text had made it clear that the Society’s coverage was to be inclusive rather than exclusive.   The 20 people present gave the following as their interests: rail (12 people), canals (5), trams (4), trolleybus (3), air (2), bus (2), ships (2) and, intriguingly, camel/yak/animal transport (1).   With the exception of the latter, all interests were catered for over the years. 

Two honorary appointments from the University’s academic staff were made at that first meeting, both of whom were to support the Society for many years.   J Allan Patmore of the Geography Department was invited to become the Society’s President whilst Dr Geoffrey Calvert of the Mechanical Engineering Department was given the post of Honorary Vice President.   Both were to repay this ‘generosity’ by being invited to speak at LUPTS on a regular basis in years to come. 

From within the student membership, the following appointments took place: Visits Organiser: A Gant, Rail Transport Secretary: Mr Behan, Road Transport Secretary: Tony Henry, Canal/Air Secretary: Mr Abbot, Librarian: Neil Cossons. 

LUPTS initially had the status of a ‘C’ society within the Guild of Undergraduates.   For those unfamiliar with Guild organisation: ‘A’ societies were (and still are) the Departmental societies, one of which each undergraduate was required to join.   ‘B’ and ‘C’ societies encompassed all the cultural and social, political, religious and national societies.   ‘B’ societies had an account serviced by Guild and received a grant; ‘C’ societies had independent accounts and received no grant from Guild.    

There was therefore considerable benefit to being upgraded to ‘B’ society status although at least 30 members were required before this would be considered.   LUPTS achieved its 30 members fairly quickly and asked for ‘B’ society status during the early summer of 1959.   A letter retained in the University Archives dates from 8 August 1959 and is the earliest reference to the Society in Guild correspondence.   It reads:


Dear Sir,


As Secretary of the Liverpool University Public Transport Society, I am writing to you with respect to the status of our Society as recognised by Guild at the present time.


I wish to know whether or not we have been officially classed as a ‘B’ Society up to the present time.   Previous requests have been met with inconclusive replies.


You will realise that this matter has an important bearing on our activities at the forthcoming Freshers Conference and afterwards.


I would therefore be most grateful if you could clear up this matter as soon as is convenient to you.   This would be of benefit both to the society and to Guild as financial arrangements could be satisfactorally formalised without any more doubts.


Yours sincerely,


John M. Ryan

Hon. Sec. L.U.P.T.S


In spite of John’s letter having intimated that this was not the first approach, he still received no reply.   A follow up letter from Martin Jenkins fared better; he was then on the Guild Executive, which helped.   The following letter was eventually received from Guild:


17th December, 1959


M Jenkins, Esq.,


Public Transport Society.


Dear Sir,


I am please to inform you that at a Meeting of the Guild Council on Thursday, 10th December, 1959, your Society was granted ‘B’ Society status.


Your Constitution has been registered with the Guild, and if I can be of further assistance, please let me know.


Yours faithfully,


John F. Towers

Secretary of the Guild


So within 14 months of that first chance meeting, LUPTS was fully set up as a ‘B’ society and well into its programme of visits and meetings.


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Last updated: 04 March 2002

© Charles Roberts/LUPTS 2001/2002

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