Amberley Publishing - Transport, Military, Local and General History

Tag Archives: Buses

  • Huddersfield Trolleys and Buses by Michael Berry

    Trolleybus No. 541 prepares to leave John William Street for Ridings, where it would climb Woodhouse Hill. (Author's collection, Huddersfield Trolleys and Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    A World away!

    In the far off days of the Huddersfield Trolley era, the “boom” wasn’t just the pole sticking out at the top of the bus – the whole industry was “booming”!

    Cars were a limited luxury few could afford – or needed for that matter. Some trolley services in the more populated parts of the boroughs had something like a 7 minute frequency at peak times.

    While the Corporation took care of the day to day working duties, firms like Hanson and Baddeleys of Holmfirth took the families on their holidays. It may not have been the tropics, but before the M62, a day trip to Blackpool on a Hanson coach was still a marathon. I remember as a young lad on one of these trips where the typical Hanson driver said with a wry grin when arriving at the seaside resort, “The bus leaves at 5, if thas not on it, I aint waitin”. Imagine saying that to the travelling public today!

    Huddersfield continued to buy Seddon vehicles for its single-deck fleet. (Author's collection, Huddersfield Trolleys and Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    But on the other hand, Hanson were a World away from the strict disciplinarian set out by the Corporation. While most of the Baddeley fleet were immaculate,  the  Hanson  fleet  (especially  service  buses)  were  notoriously shabby,  and  often  reeked  of  diesel,  but  all  that  said,  these  were  brilliant times. If you wanted a Hanson bus, more often than not, you just stuck out your hand. Bus stops were more of a passing trend than a necessity to some of the Hanson drivers, some just seemed to stop anywhere.

    With all this, not only the buses were lost, but a whole way of life went with them. My Grandma and Grandad lived in Cowrakes near Lindley, and on the dawning of the motorbuses (trolleys never went up Cowrakes), when going to Huddersfield, my Grandmother would shout “Fred the bus is in!” I never knew what that meant as it was just parked at the side of the road.

    These Regent V-looking buses were in fact 1949/50 Regal rebuilds by Roe in 1960-2. (Author's collection, Huddersfield Trolleys and Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    With the onset of the motorcar, people no longer talked, they separated themselves and the change was made. Again thinking of my Grandmother once in Huddersfield market, she stopped and talked to this other lady about eggs (my Grandfather kept a hen run in Cowrakes and sold eggs locally), “Grandma who was that” I remember saying, “no idea love” were the three words back. These were times when people talked and the buses brought them together, be it workers or families, youngsters gave up their seats for adults (not by choice admitted!), men stood to let the ladies sit, and a good old natter with a neighbour (or even a stranger) made the trip seem so much shorter.

    As with all changes the car has become a public “necessity” with families relying more on cars and less on buses. Less people on the buses means higher fares and on it goes. The bus industry was once Government backed for all to use but de-regulation and private enterprise are just two of the reasons that have played a big part in how public transport operates today. At Keighley Museum, (as in so many other Museum orientated venues), we try to re-create a past where buses were a once big part of everyday life. We celebrate a touch of history, no different to places like the Railway Museum at York, or the Maritime Museum. The Bus and Coach industry was just as much an integral part of public life as any other form of transport.

    Although a more pictorial than written history of the town’s buses, the book is written in an effort to try to show not only the changes to its transport system, but the structure of the town itself through the years.

    My thanks go to all the staff at Amberley, and John Hinchcliffe for the help in the production of this book.

    Michael Berry's new book Huddersfield Trolleys and Buses is available for purchase now.

  • Scotland's Independent Coach Operators by David Devoy

    The author in Docherity's, Midland, JA 5515. (c. David Devoy, Scotland's Independent Coach Operators, Amberley Publishing)

    The mainland of Scotland comprises the northern third of the land mass of the United Kingdom. The only land border is with England, and runs for around 60 miles. The population at the 2011 Census was 5,295,400, the highest figure ever recorded. The Central Belt has highest population density, with a population of about 3.5 million. Public transport is obviously geared up to serve the busiest areas.

    The country recorded 693 bus and coach operators in 1967, but this has dropped in recent years as many businesses have closed their doors for a variety of reasons from owners wishing to retire to bankruptcy. Many well-known names have sadly disappeared over the years. Often they drop off the radar unnoticed at the time, but looking back it is amazing just how many have actually gone.

    I’d like to thank Amberley Publishing for giving me the opportunity to put information and pictures of some of these firms into print before they are all totally forgotten about. This is my thirteenth title on the subject of Scottish buses for Amberley. It can be time-consuming and hard work, but always very rewarding to see a finished book emerge from a project. Amberley have always just left me to do things “my own way”, and have never interfered. It is perhaps inevitable that my own preferences for particular fleets, types and liveries will shine through.

    Mason's of Bo'ness, TSM 475T. (c. David Devoy, Scotland's Independent Coach Operators, Amberley Publishing)

    Some colour schemes always appealed to me more than others, and when smartly presented with signwriting and attention to detail, some fleets always looked really smart. Fashions change through time and what looked “right” at one time, can look dated and past its sell-by date if not refreshed every so often. Many colour schemes are now just based on white or silver with a few vinyls to break up the monotony.

    I have had lots of help over the years from the owners and management of many Scottish coach firms, often getting vehicles moved for photographs to be taken in the sunshine. (It does actually shine on occasion!). I have even had owners washing their fleet before pictures were taken. For all that help I am eternally grateful. Digital photography has of course become the norm nowadays, but it was not always so. In the old days, the cost of film and processing often dictated what was taken. I am glad that I took as many pictures as I did, but at times the film had to be rationed and eked out.

    I can remember being out for a drive in the car with my wife on many occasions, and we would as often as not “just seem to pass a coach operators premises”. I would tell her, “I’ll not be long”, but would often get into conversation with someone or other. She soon got wise however and would come prepared with a book and some cross-word puzzles. I would often make it up to her with a nice pub-lunch or tea and cakes in a little café.

    Good taste never goes out of style, and many almost-forgotten fleets and coaches are depicted in my latest book. I hope you enjoy it.

    David Devoy's new book Scotland's Independent Coach Operators is available for purchase now.

  • East Anglian Buses 1970 to 1995 by Robert Appleton

    Eastern Counties Bristol RELL6G with Eastern Coach Works body, RL680 (RAH 680F) in Stradbroke after working service 203 from Ipswich in June 1979. RL680 was based at the Stradbroke outstation. (East Anglian Buses 1970 to 1995, Amberley Publishing)

    I was born and raised in Mistley north-east Essex, the nearby River Stour forming the natural boundary between Essex and Suffolk.

    In September 1965 I started travelling by bus to school in Colchester. These were the buses of the Eastern Counties Omnibus Company Ltd, operating service 221 East Bergholt – Colchester from an outstation at East Bergholt. Normally the bus was a Bristol – Eastern Coach Works LD5G Lodekka. For some reason I became intrigued by the builder’s plate on the rear platform, which stated the chassis builder as Bristol Commercial Vehicles at Bristol, and the bodybuilder Eastern Coach Works at Lowestoft. Also interesting that the fleet numbers and registration numbers agreed, for example fleet number LKD178 had registration number UNG 178.

    Service 221 also operated Mistley – Ipswich. Trips to Ipswich on Saturdays or in school holidays revealed that Eastern Counties had a lot of different Bristol buses and coaches with Eastern Coach Works bodies, and I was hooked, the start of my bus enthusiasm!

    Eastern Counties had a whole network of services radiating from Ipswich, a large depot in Ipswich, smaller depots at Felixstowe and Saxmundham, and a number of outstations in country towns and villages where buses were garaged overnight. The outstation system worked very well, it reduced dead mileage and gave employment to local people. At some point during the day, the outstation buses were refueled and cleaned at Ipswich depot, and swapped with other buses when regular maintenance was due.

    Over the years I enjoyed exploring Eastern Counties’ country bus services. My first journey on service 203 Ipswich – Stradbroke was in June 1979. Worked by Bristol RELL6G RL680 (RAH 680F) out stationed at Stradbroke, beyond Wickham Market we were going further and further in to rural Suffolk. The Stradbroke driver knew all his regular passengers, plus there were friendly waves to farm workers in the fields!

    Eastern National Leyland Tiger with Plaxton Paramount body 1131 (C131 HJN) in Drummer Street bus station at Cambridge in March 1986, working Highwayman service 801 from Chelmsford to Kings Lynn. (East Anglian Buses 1970 to 1995, Amberley Publishing)

    Country bus services had a different character to frequent urban services. In 1974 Eastern Counties gave up services north of Ipswich to Debenham and Otley. These services were taken over by Bickers of Coddenham who provided a reliable service with reasonable fares and friendly drivers. Bickers developed other services to such an extent that in 1988 the business was purchased by Eastern Counties and Ipswich Buses.

    Mistley was also served by the Eastern National Omnibus Company Ltd. Their small depot at Harwich provided buses for the long service 70 to Bishops Stortford via Colchester and Braintree, plus local services to Dovercourt and Parkeston Quay, and some workings to Clacton. Eastern National had a larger depot at Clacton, which operated open-top seafront services in the summer.

    Eastern National and Eastern Counties were both Tilling companies that became part of the National Bus Company, but there were differences. Eastern National’s fleet numbering system was four digits displayed on a fleet number plate with a two letter depot allocation plate above. There were differences in vehicle purchasing as well, with Eastern National buying more Bristol FLF Lodekkas and Leyland Nationals than Eastern Counties, whilst Eastern Counties bought more Bristol FS5G Lodekkas, Bristol RELL6G and Bristol VRT buses.

    East Anglia had municipal operators in Great Yarmouth, Ipswich, and Colchester. Each with its distinctive livery and different makes of chassis and body on their buses.  I regret that I did not travel to Lowestoft in time to photograph the Waveney municipal buses there before they ceased operation. Later I did see the last Bristol VRT delivered to the National Bus Company, Eastern Counties VR294 (VEX 294X) at Lowestoft depot.

    As crew operation was replaced by one man operation, I travelled further afield to Norwich, Cambridge, and Peterborough to see, ride on, and photograph the remaining Bristol FS5G and FLF6G Lodekkas in the Eastern Counties fleet before they were withdrawn. These journeys also introduced me to the buses of two other National Bus Company subsidiaries. United Counties reached Cambridge from Northampton and Biggleswade. They also served Peterborough on joint services with Eastern Counties from Huntingdon and Kettering. Lincolnshire Road Car buses reached Kings Lynn from Spalding, and later their long service Skegness – Boston – Spalding was extended to Peterborough as part of the Fenlander network.

    Delaine Coaches 102 (GDB 181N) Leyland Atlantean with Northern Counties body, ex Greater Manchester Transport, leaving Peterborough for Bourne in September 1989. (East Anglian Buses 1970 to 1995, Amberley Publishing)

    Innovations in the 1980s included Eastern National operating Highwayman limited stop services connecting Essex with surrounding towns and cities. Eastern Counties developed Eastline limited stop services connecting towns and cities in their area.

    Visits to Peterborough also introduced me to the immaculate fleet of Delaine Coaches, who operated in to Peterborough from their home town of Bourne in Lincolnshire. In East Anglia there were many examples of bus services crossing county boundaries. Chambers of Bures operated from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk to Colchester in Essex. Norfolk’s operated from Nayland in Suffolk to Colchester. Carter’s Coach Services operated from East Bergholt in Suffolk to Colchester, and later from Hadleigh in Suffolk to Colchester. Hedingham and District had services in both Essex and Suffolk.

    Eastern Counties was split up in September 1984, with most coach work passing to Ambassador Travel, and western area bus services to Cambus. In September 1989 Cambus was split with the Peterborough area services passing to Viscount Bus and Coach, which meant another new livery and fleet numbering system. It was time to go to Peterborough again, not that I minded, because the tall walls of the car parks and Queensgate shopping centre surrounding the bus station amplified the distinctive sounds of the buses, from the melodious sounds of a Bristol RELL6G to the deep throated roar of a Bristol VRT series three with Gardner 6LXB engine.

    1986 brought bus deregulation and privatisation of the National Bus Company. Eastern Counties was privatised in 1987, and became part of Grampian Regional Transport Holdings in 1994. Eastern National was privatised in 1986, and became part of Badgerline Holdings in 1990. Grampian Regional Transport and Badgerline merged in 1995 to form First Bus. Also in 1995 Cambus and Viscount became part of Stagecoach Group.

    Thus 1995 is the end date for this book, but why start in 1970? The reason is my late father was a keen amateur photographer who bought a secondhand Exacta 35mm camera for me in 1969. It had to be used with a separate exposure meter to calculate aperture and shutter speed, and I had to estimate the distance to the subject to set the focus. After a lot of trial and error I was able to achieve good results by 1970. Most of the images in this book were taken on Agfachrome colour slide film, CT18 rated at 50 ASA, or CT100 rated at 100 ASA.

    In this book I have tried to capture the essential character of bus services in East Anglia, especially the rural and inter-urban services that connected communities across East Anglia.

    Robert Appleton's new book East Anglian Buses 1970 to 1995 is available for purchase now.

  • Bristol Omnibus Company by Stephen Dowle

    No. 2957 (977 DAE), a MW5G dating from 1959, was photographed at Lawrence Hill depot on Wednesday 26 March 1975. (Bristol Omnibus Company, Amberley Publishing)

    The provincial "company" bus undertakings that merged into the Tilling and BET groups included many famous operators with interesting histories, but the Bristol Omnibus Co. was one of the largest and may perhaps be considered the most distinguished. One of the reasons for its eminence was that as well as operating buses it also constructed them, making its name familiar throughout the industry. The operating and construction divisions became separate concerns in 1955, a date which may be taken as the high water mark of the industry's prosperity.  Thus, when I joined the company as a humble conductor in 1970, it had already been in decline for some years.

    The twenty years that followed fell neatly into equal halves. During the first, old ways persisted and the company was still recognisably itself, operating a fleet of mainly Bristol-ECW manufacture. Time-honoured practices survived, the job's management structure was unchanged and many services continued little altered from the earliest days of the motor-bus. The one big upheaval of those early years was conversion to One-Man Operation (OMO) which, by 1980, was essentially complete. In that year the Market Analysis Project was undertaken. This sought to "identify future passenger needs" which, being interpreted, meant identifying loss-making services and getting rid of them. Everything began to change as the industry was slimmed down to make it a more attractive proposition for future privatisation. From 1986 buses would operate for profit, with loss-making services discontinued where the local authorities were unwilling to subsidise them. "Providing a public service" came to be a quaintly old-fashioned concept. When, in 1990, an opportunity arose to leave the job, I went like a flash.

    With FLFs now being withdrawn from the main fleet, No. L8537 (989 EHW) muat have been one of the last LDs to be converted to a driver trainer. (Bristol Omnibus Company, Amberley Publishing)

    But still, for students of the industry they were interesting times – though it was seldom possible to approve of the "interesting" developments. As the number of passengers dwindled year by year and fare increases came barely months apart, the company's activities contracted: service frequencies were reduced, the fleet became smaller, buildings were vacated and depots closed.  In the eternal cycle of any fleet, elderly vehicles were retired and, like mushrooms springing up overnight, long lines of their shiny replacements, reeking of fresh paint, appeared in the yard of the company's main depot and Central Repair Works at Lawrence Hill. It was the impending disappearance of the handsome Bristol KSW, a favourite type of mine since boyhood, when I'd been a notebook-carrying "bus spotter" that first prompted me to take a few commemorative photographs. Finding myself suddenly a driver not long afterwards re-ignited my schoolboy interest in the subject. The photographs in this book date from this period – roughly the second half of the 1970s – before the developments mentioned above killed my enthusiasm.

    There was plenty to keep my camera busy. At the beginning of the period covered in the book the last rear-entrance buses in the fleet were being withdrawn, but the coming of OMO implied the disappearance of all traditional front-engined, half-cab buses operated by two-man crews.  As the period closed the company was persuaded of the need for more buses with high seating capacities – which essentially meant double-deckers – and many fewer small single-deckers. For the time being the short-wheelbase REs and their dual-door longer brethren continued to pound the tarmac: it was not foreseen that they would all be gone in a couple of years, well before their time. The LH-type would also disappear, with some examples disposed of after not much more than a year's service.

    Gardner-engined LD No. L8394 (WHY 947) had been new in 1956 and was withdrawn on the last day of 1972. (Bristol Omnibus Company, Amberley Publishing)

    On Saturdays, when Lawrence Hill's yard was deserted, I sometimes took my camera to work in search of any photo-worthy behind-the-scenes subject, not neglecting the interesting "works" fleet. In 1977 I transferred to Bristol's bus station – as a depot known as Marlborough Street – where routes and fleet were more varied. Viewed through my customary rose-tinted spectacles, the few years that followed return to me as a time of lost enchantment. Although somewhat reduced since the company's great days, the network of rural services that spread out from Bristol was still substantially intact. Beneath the Cotswold Hills, in the Vale of Berkeley or the Chew Valley, little-frequented routes linked villages to their nearest towns; buses called at roadside shelters half drowned in nettles and cow parsley to pick up farmers' wives, or at lonely crossroads where, at the gates of their cottages, old ladies waited, clutching their shopping bags. With hindsight it should have been obvious that these things were at an end. I am grateful that I was in time to experience them during their final years. They have endured with a kind of super-reality in my memory. I was happy but, of course, didn't realise it at the time.

    My tireless camera sometimes accompanied me if I was due to work some obscure service or there was the promise of an interesting vehicle, such as one of the dwindling number of five-cylinder MWs, an "upgraded" LS-type, or one of the vile early LHs the company had acquired second-hand from another National Bus Company subsidiary, Alder Valley. These, with the photographs taken on company premises and others I took "out of uniform" in my spare time, form the basis of my book. I have tried to provide informative captions, giving more that the bare details of bus, location and date. The introduction gives a more complete account of my association with the company. The book covers the last phase of this distinguished company's long existence, before it changed into something different and was broken up into "operating units" to be sold piecemeal into private ownership.

    Stephen Dowle's new book Bristol Omnibus Company is available for purchase now.

  • Northampton Buses by John Evans

    Northampton buses in Wellingborough Road in the 1960s. (Author's collection, Northampton Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    We hear a lot about classic car and railway preservation. But buses? Not so much. After all, why would anyone dig deep into their pockets to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds and preserve that most humble of transport vehicles, an old bus?

    Yet in recent years there has been a flurry of restorations. Take John Child’s perfectly-restored wartime Daimler, for example, which spent all its working life on the streets of Northampton in the 1940s and 1950s. Eventually No. 129 made its last melancholy journey, along with several others, to a Cambridgeshire scrapyard run by Romany bus breaker Joe Hunt.

    John Child's Daimler No. 129 sleeps away in Joe Hunt's scrapyard, with sister No. 136 behind. Both would escape to live new lives. (c. John Child, Northampton Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    For some reason Joe decided not to cut up these vehicles. So for thirty years they sat in his yard, most of them exposed to the wind and rain, gradually deteriorating and robbed of parts. Old No. 129, however, led a more charmed life, as it had been stored under cover.  It eventually emerged, battered and bruised yet still restorable, to win a place in the heart of Mr. Child. He acquired it in 2000 and with the help of a team in Lincolnshire, lovingly brought it back to life.

    John Child is not alone. One other Northampton bus, No. 146, in much worse condition, was also rescued from Joe’s yard and beautifully restored. Others were bought direct from Northampton Transport in the 1970s by enthusiasts.  And No. 154, a 1947-built training vehicle kept at St. James’s Garage after retirement from everyday service, found its way into preservation when it was used to promote the opening of a new bus station. Yet another Northampton bus, No. 267, was the very last open platform, front engine bus delivered in the UK, and also survives. These were the last buses that needed a conductor and driver.

    Refugees from Hunt's yard reunited; John Child's wonderful wartime Daimler No. 129, restored to pristine condition with the correct adverts on the side, is seen in Northampton with Crossley No. 146. (c. John Child, Northampton Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    With so many old Northampton buses winning the hearts of enthusiasts, it might be thought that the town had one of the more important bus fleets in the country. Not so. But it was one of the more interesting. For a start it was very late making the change to one-man operation (one person these days, of course). Under Deputy Transport Manager Ken Dyer, Northampton Corporation also maintained its buses to a very high standard – by the late 1960s the town had 70 almost identical Daimler vehicles still with conductors and gleaming in pristine vermilion red.

    Recently, a few of them have returned annually to ply the streets of the town, bringing enjoyment to those with long memories and enlightenment to younger passengers. They are as important a part of the town’s transport heritage as the corporation’s old Allchin steam roller, the tram shelters at the White Elephant and Cock Hotel or old photos of Castle station.

    A new life for a Northampton CVG6 - still resplendent in its immaculate Northampton livery, No. 258 has been converted to the Bowland Brewery bus bar. (c. Paul Brookfield, www.flickr.com/photos/lancashire, Northampton Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    Look around the town today and deregulation of bus operations has led to a delightful array of companies and liveries. Your bus may be a pink double-decker or a red, white and blue single deck vehicle; it will have a hi-tech destination panel visible a hundred yards away.  But enthusiasts long for the old days, when route 14 meandered all over the town to get to Kenmuir Avenue, on a cold day a piece of cardboard would be shoved down the front of the radiator grill to keep the engine warm and on a hot one the driver would leave the sliding cab door open to stay cool.

    Researching my new book on Northampton Buses for Amberley was very much a labour of love.  I started with old town records, made a nuisance of myself with the very helpful team in Northampton Public Library’s local history team and was given free access to all the photos stored by the Northampton Chronicle and Echo. I also had hours of fun sorting and scanning the dozens of colour pictures I took of Northampton buses in the 1960s. Even now I cannot quite remember why I took so many.

    Meanwhile, I’m off for a pint served from Northampton bus No. 258. Did I mention it has been perfectly restored – as a bus bar?

    John Evans new book Northampton Buses is available for purchase now.

  • National Bus Company Service Vehicles 1972-1986 by Michael Hitchen

    Crosville G581, HFM 581D, Wrexham Garage. (National Bus Company Service Vehicles 1972-1986, Amberley Publishing)

    In the Summer of 1978 my brother took me on one of our many train trips around the North West, on this occasion to nearby Chester, it was there outside a travel agents in Foregate Street that I caught sight of a Crosville Morris Marina van, painted leaf green with bold white lettering, matching the local bus company. At that moment a lifelong interest was born! Few enthusiasts at the time paid any attention to the non-PSV parts of a bus fleet, but unexplainably I found this, hitherto unknown, part of the fleet fascinating.

    The now long gone, state owned, National Bus Company was at its peak the largest bus company in the world, alongside the well documented and photographed bus and coach, every fleet contained another fleet, known as the ‘Service Fleet’. Here were the company owned vans, Lorries, towing vehicles, trainers and other non-PSV vehicles. Finding information and photographs of these overlooked vehicles was at the time nearly impossible! Some NBC subsidiaries occasionally published details, but this tended to be the exception not the rule. Therefore it was a task of collating details from wherever they could be found, fortunately in the case of my local company ‘Crosville’ it published official fleet lists and included details of such vehicles. Possibly had they not I may have not pursued this interest?

    So what of the books content? Often a former bus, in the form of trainer or converted towing vehicle, for obvious reasons, appealed to the camera of the enthusiast at the time, but not surprisingly commercial vehicles, in a period when every view was limited to that of a roll of film, were often ignored. Never the less I have strived to include a selection of vans, Lorries and even Land Rovers.

    National Welsh E1060, t/p 331 AX, Aberdare Garage, April 1983. (National Bus Company Service Vehicles 1972-1986, Amberley Publishing)

    Sadly the organisation that interested me so much became victim of the erstwhile governments’ dogmatic drive to privatise state run assets, with no long term view as to the outcome. The National Bus Company has now not existed for more than 30 years, meaning it been gone longer than it existed in its corporate form. Much contained within will be familiar to many readers, but it is sobering that much can also be viewed as historical information.

    I have compiled this book with a hope to illustrate a cross section of the vehicles used. Over the corporate period, which only lasted 14 years, the 34 subsidiary companies of the NBC must have operated thousands of vehicles, many of which I imagine no photographs now exist at all. We must all thank the photographers that made the effort to capture these humble Service Vehicles!

    It was by sheer coincidence that I had reached a point where my research had grown to the point where I was considering a book, when approached by the publisher! This will be the first time a work has been published dedicated solely to the National Bus Companies Service Vehicles, and I am grateful to the publishers for support a fairly obscure study, and all the individuals who kindly allowed their photos to be included, their generosity has allowed that extra level of detail and depth I wanted to convey.

    Michael Hitchen's new book National Bus Company Service Vehicles 1972-1986 is available for purchase now.

  • East London Buses: 1970s-1980s by Malcolm Batten

    The first North Weald Bus Rally was held on 31 May 1981. Among the exhibits was London Transport RML2760, whish was already a celebrity vehicle on account of being the final Routemaster. Alongside is the unique rear-engined FRM1, which was built in 1966. (East London Buses: 1970s-1980s, Amberley Publishing)

    For transport enthusiasts and historians, anniversaries are always important occasions, and 2018 is no exception. For railway enthusiasts 2018 marks fifty years since the end of main line steam on British Railways with the “15 Guinea Special” on 11 August 1968. Many of the heritage railways will be commemorating this in various ways. Already the Mid-Hants Railway have held a gala for which they brought in another LMS ‘Black Five’ 4-6-0 to work with their resident example and recreate this last BR train, which featured a pair of the type.

    The other locomotive that featured on that August day, Britannia No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell has been working some main line trips prior to the expiry of its boiler certificate in March. On Thursday 22 February it ran over its original stamping ground from London to Norwich. Unfortunately it suffered lubrication problems on the outward journey and the return trip was diesel hauled. This had been the last steam locomotive to receive a general overhaul before BR stopped overhauling steam, and was saved for preservation on withdrawal.

    Also from 13 July 1985, London Country took route 313, Potters Bar-Chingford. Seen in Chingford on 11 July 1986, AN323 is a former Strathclyde Leyland Atlantean with Alexander bodywork. (East London Buses: 1970s-1980s, Amberley Publishing)

     

     

    At the Epping Ongar railway, where I am a volunteer, we will be marking the end of BR steam with a photographic exhibition ‘Barry and after – 50 years since the end of mainline steam’ in our Penny Salon gallery at Ongar throughout August. This will feature the locomotives that were sent to Woodhams scrapyard at Barry, but were not cut up and survived to become the mainstay of the present heritage railways.

    For bus enthusiasts, 2018 marks 60 years since the introduction of the Leyland Atlantean, the first rear engine double deck type to enter production. This will be commemorated at the South Eastern Bus Festival at Detling Showground, near Maidstone on 7 April. Early Atlanteans are well represented in preservation – the first production examples from the two first operators, Wallasey and Glasgow both survive. Local company Maidstone & District were an early convert, taking Leyland Atlanteans from 1959 when they replaced the Hastings trolleybuses. Indeed they bought no front engine half cab double-deckers after 1956, unlike neighbours East Kent, who did not buy any rear engine double-deckers until 1969.

    At first the advantage of the rear engine design was in the increased passenger capacity it offered over the front engine half-cab bus. But from 1966, when one-person operation of double-deckers was legalised they had the advantage of being suitable for such work, with the passengers boarding alongside the driver. By this time other models, such as the Daimler Fleetline and Bristol VR had entered the market.

    Since 1969, some London Routemasters had carried overall advertising liveries. RM1255 is seen on route 8 at Old Ford on 30 March 1975 and is promoting an employment agency. (East London Buses: 1970s-1980s, Amberley Publishing)

    Meanwhile London Transport had been introducing production models of the Routemaster, a traditional front-engine half-cab design, although mechanically superior to the Atlantean. They did buy batches of Leyland Atlanteans and Daimler Fleetlines for comparison trials in 1965-6. They also built a solitary rear-engined Routemaster FRM1. But this did not enter volume production, and eventually London Transport chose Fleetlines to succeed Routemasters in the 1970s.

    This brings us to the third significant anniversary – that of the Transport Act 1968. This brought in the National Bus Company, merging the state owned bus companies run by the Transport Holding Company with the formerly private owned BET group. It also created Passenger Transport  Executives to merge the local authority bus fleets in major conurbations – Greater Manchester, Merseyside, West Midlands and  Tyneside. As a consequence of this, London Transport lost its country area green buses and Green Line express services to a new NBC fleet, London Country Bus Services from January 1970. The Act also introduced as bus grant scheme, whereby grants were available for the purchase of new vehicles to modernise fleets. As this did not include half-cab vehicles not suited for one-person operation, production of these traditional vehicles came to an end in 1969.

    Malcolm Batten's new book East London Buses: 1970s-1980s is available for purchase now.

  • Bristol Lodekkas by Stephen Dowle

    By the mid-1970s the FLF Lodekka was well into the second half of its lifespan, but it was still a familiar sight almost everywhere. Alder Valley's Gardner-engined No. 676 (GRX I44D) leaves Reading for Newbury on WEdnesday 18 th February 1976. (Bristol Lodekkas, Amberley Publishing)

    The design problems of double-deck buses were basically two: to keep the height as low as practicable and to maximise seating capacity within the available dimensions. In the early days of the motor bus a full-width cab was placed behind the engine and the passenger-carrying bodywork was simply grafted onto the chassis behind them. This primitive configuration, known as 'normal control', squandered much passenger-carrying, revenue-generating space: in the years before the Second World War it gradually disappeared, to be replaced by a new spatial arrangement known as 'forward control'. In this, a half-width cab was placed alongside the engine, allowing the upper deck to be extended forward over the top of it.

    This optimised the use of space, but the difficulty of headroom remained. Damage to bodywork caused by overhanging branches was the least serious aspect of the problem: almost every bus operator had to contend with low railway bridges, which made it impossible to operate double-deckers on certain routes. This meant using single-deckers at more frequent intervals, with all the associated extra costs. To reduce height a very unsatisfactory alternative layout was developed: the gangway of the upper deck was placed to the offside and recessed into the ceiling of the lower deck. Not only did this imperil the heads of those passengers who were incautious in rising from the seats beneath, but the four-abreast seating of the upper deck was inconvenient for conductor and passengers alike. This, the hated "lowbridge" layout, made such buses, sometimes known as "skittle-alleys", about a foot lower than the standard height.

    The NBC's standard 'leaf green', even when fresh, was not the most beguiling of liveries and always looked dowdy by the time a trip to the paint shop was due. (Bristol Lodekkas, Amberley Publishing)

    It was to address the "lowbridge" problem that the Bristol Lodekka was developed. Bristol Tramways constructed two prototypes, which took to the roads in 1949, one in the company's own operating fleet and the other with the West Yorkshire Road Car Co. The new vehicles great innovation was a re-designed transmission in which the propeller shaft was offset to one side and drove a drop-centre, double reduction rear axle. The lower deck gangway no longer needed to clear the shaft and could pass through the dropped middle section of the axle. The step from the entrance platform to the floor of the lower deck was eliminated (in the early days many passengers came a cropper when attempting to mount this vanished step) and the entire vehicle could be correspondingly lowered. It became possible to provide conventional upper deck seating within "lowbridge" dimensions. The lowbridge bus became obsolete overnight.

    The prototypes (which I know only from photographs) must have been the ugliest buses ever constructed. They had massively wide radiators, a bizarre front bumper, ill-considered window-spacing and their reduced height did not conduce to shapely proportions. The first production vehicles, dubbed the LD-type, appeared in 1953. The body builders, Eastern Coach Works of Lowestoft, had espoused the 'new look' front (a lamentable fad in post-war bus design) in which the engine, radiator and nearside wing were enclosed within a rounded structure called a cowl. The squat, bulbous lineaments of the bus gave it a faintly toad-like appearance, but in the late 1950s new regulations permitted the construction of 30ft double-deckers, and a facelift of 1962 resulted in an improved frontal treatment. These changes considerably improved the vehicles looks. By the time production ceased in 1968 extended bodywork, which mostly went to Scotland, had made the Lodekka a handsome and imposing bus, able to accommodate 78 passengers. It was also made available with semi-automatic transmission and a larger engine, the 10.45-litre Gardner LX.

    The upper deck interior of an Alder Valley FLF with coach seating. (Bristol Lodekkas, Amberley Publishing)

    My book, Bristol Lodekkas, is a selection from photographs I took during many enjoyable journeys around the country between 1975 and 1980. The Lodekka was clearly nearing the end of its tenure, but as the period opened was still a familiar sight almost everywhere. In Scotland, where well-tried types had tended to be ordered for as long as they were available, the earlier versions were still numerous. I give an account of the motives that led me to take the photographs, and of my long association with the Lodekka as both passenger and professional busman.

    The Lodekka represented the final form of the half-cab, front-engined, double-deck bus that was a familiar feature of the streets for fifty years and an 'iconic' British vehicle recognised the world over. Alas, it required a crew of two and the economics of the modern industry made it obsolete. Bus operators, or their accountants, now demanded vehicles suitable for driver-only operation. The need to place the passenger entrance alongside the cab entailed the rear transverse-engine layout that remains with us to the present day. Mechanically, this configuration is far from satisfactory and I imagine many of today's bus company Chief Engineers must repine for the simple, rugged workhorses (such as the Bristol Lodekka) available to their counterparts forty years ago.

    Stephen Dowle's new book Bristol Lodekkas is available for purchase now.

  • Yorkshire Rider Buses by Scott Poole

    Yorkshire Rider Buses 1 5155 was one of five low-height Northern Counties-bodied Leyland Olympians delivered during 1998, looking very smart in the Yorkshire Rider livery. (Yorkshire Rider Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    Scott Poole has taken several years in compiling notes and suitable pictures to bring a pictorial history of Yorkshire Rider buses into print. With help from noted and respected photographer Malcolm King and additional work from David Longbottom, all blended with Scott’s own archive of Yorkshire Bus pictures. It is hoped that this book with a brief history of the company with evoke memories for former employees, locals and bus enthusiasts.

    Yorkshire Rider can kind of trace its roots back to the halcyon days of the former Corporations of Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield and Leeds, along with Todmorden. There are also many milestones and events which would improve transport around the West Yorkshire area. Huddersfield became the first municipal transport department to run electric trams from 1883. Bradford began operating its famous trolleybuses from June 1911, with the final examples running in late March 1972. Leeds employed many forward-thinking managers, resulting in four reserved tramways, new improved trams and the two 1953 Roe bodied Coronation cars. Halifax brought in the reliable and hardworking AEC regent and Leyland Titan double deckers to cope with the hilly enviros of the area.

    Yorkshire Rider Buses 2 During 1988, Yorkshire Rider was purchased by the management and employees, becoming the first former PTE operation to be sold. MCW Metrobus 7600 illustrates the fact of the new status at Otley. (Yorkshire Rider Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    As the new rear engine buses arrived the corporations were quite happy to continue with traditional front engine classic designs. But as the mid 1960’s arrived, Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield and Bradford took many examples of the Daimler Fleetline and Leyland Atlantean chassis, with Alexander, Roe, Metro-Cammell and Weymann bodywork, with new brighter or improved liveries.

    However as 1969 arrived the classic British Electric Traction (BET) and Transport Holding Company (THC) were combined to form the National Bus Company (NBC) and by 1972 the traditional liveries gave way for us Yorkshire to the bland poppy red and white livery. West Yorkshire’s main municipal companies were casualties of the 1974 local government act, which saw the creation of the Metropolitan County Council and with it the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (PTE). Following the newly created PTE and NBC, saw much needed integration of the local transport network, with new ideas injected into the crumbling rail network, countywide ticketing, new explorer and day dripper tickets, inter operator co-ordination.

     

    Yorkshire Rider Buses 3 Yorkshire Rider launched a new standard of service within the Halifax and Huddersfield region of the network. Flagship was brought about to improve service reliability, appearance, better customer relations and dedicated driving staff. (Yorkshire Rider Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    But as ever the dreams were shattered by the 1985 Transport Act or deregulation as it became better known, which saw companies split and new fresh competition rise into the streets of West Yorkshire. This is where the newly created Yorkshire Rider comes in, it was managed by former PTE staff and like every other operator had to bid for services the company wanted to run. Depots, buses and offices were kept or leased for a period of years, older buses were purchased to reduce the short fall of vehicles and a new brighter livery was introduced to the buses in late October 1986.

    Yorkshire Rider took control of the former PTE depots, apart from Middleton in Leeds and Longroyd Bridge in Huddersfield and many of the 992 new PTE buses, apart from fifty plus new Leyland Olympians and MCW Metrobuses because of lease agreement’s. Rider saw of competition in Leeds and Huddersfield, introduced the Flagship standard of service, brought in new Scania and Volvo buses and even purchased the remains of the former West Yorkshire Road Car company in 1989.

    Yorkshire Rider had absorbed the West Yorkshire buses and services into the fleet by March 1990, then it introduced the ‘Building on a great tradition’ former bus company liveries, as a nod to the past. It was in 1988 that Rider became the first of the former PTE’s to be brought out by management and employees, which saw the arrival of fifty new buses in the shape of Leyland Olympians and the final MCW Metrobuses for the company. As mentioned before Yorkshire Rider then turned to Scania for both double and single deck buses with a sprinkling of Volvo saloon chassis too.

    By April 1994, Yorkshire Rider was acquired by the Bristol based Badgerline company, who introduced the badger logo and with an influx of over eighty new midi and full-length saloons in 1994 a new bolder and darker livery, for buses in Leeds and Huddersfield. But this was short lived as from 1995 both Badgerline and Grampian Regional Transport, combined to form the FirstBus company.

    9781445669045

    Scott Poole's new book Yorkshire Rider Buses is available for purchase now.

  • The National Bus Company by Stephen Dowle

    The National Bus Company (14) Eastern National's no. 3019 (SMS 45H), new to Alexander Midland and registered in far-off Stirling, was snapped in Chelmsford on Tuesday 15 March 1977. (c. The National Bus Company, Amberley Publishing)

    The modern bus industry is, to me, a foreign country where they do things differently. 'What on earth must it be like now?' is a question that occurs to me often as, dodging Big Issue sellers and drifting, inattentive pedestrians absorbed with their mobile phones, I observe the outlandish vehicles of today's bus operators, whose names are mostly unfamiliar to me. The vehicles themselves seem to look and sound all alike and their poor drivers, sitting in high-vis jackets behind vast expanses of windscreen glass, have a hangdog look.  I would guess that there is little of 'job satisfaction' to be had.

    The National Bus Company (133) In standard poppy red, but with mudguards in what appears to be Western Welsh's pre-NBC colour, that company's no. H1563 (904 DBO) waits at its stand in Cardiff bus station on Riday 7 January 1977. (c. The National Bus Company, Amberley Publishing)

    The modern set-up really dates from 1986, when the state-owned part of the bus industry was dismantled, deregulated and sold piecemeal into private ownership. With hindsight one can see that preparations were being made from about 1980 onwards. My knowledge of the industry is out of date but good of its period, and that watershed year of 1980 fell at precisely the mid-way point of my twenty-year stint 'on the buses' – the first six as a conductor and the remainder as a driver. Until that date, although certain innovations – notably one-man operation – had crept in, the industry was still grounded in methods that could be traced back to the very earliest years of the motor-bus. Afterwards everything changed.

    The National Bus Company (170) Standing on the setts on Saturday 14 October 1978 was Devon General's no. 1337 (JFJ 502N), a 1975 Bristol LH with Plaxton 7-foot, 6-inch body, made for sunken lanes and tours of Dartmoor. (c. The National Bus Company, Amberley Publishing)

    The National Bus Company had come into existence on 1st January 1969. It had a complicated gestation, but was essentially a merger of the Tilling and British Electric Traction groups under the Labour government of Harold Wilson and its Minister of Transport, the auburn-haired she-devil Barbara Castle. Early on there was a certain amount of 'rationalisation' and territorial redistribution as some of the lesser companies were merged and anomalous small subsidiaries were absorbed by their larger neighbours. The old company identities had disappeared as a standard livery, in its red or green variants, with a new lettering style and staff uniform had been established in the interest of 'corporate identity'. My book The National Bus Company: The Middle Years looks at the settled period that followed and takes us up to the eve of the great upheavals that followed in the first half of the eighties. These, the mature years of the NBC, afford us a poignant backwards glance at the 'old days' of the industry, or at least the state-owned part of it, when there was still a substantial amount of two-man 'crew' operation and alongside new, standardised, types – notably the Leyland National – older buses of Tilling and BET provenance were still a familiar sight. Viewed from the present day, through the wrong end of a telescope, it seems a golden age of variety and interest.

    The former Tilling fleets were overwhelmingly of Bristol-ECW manufacture; BET, largely the legatee of tram and trolleybus operators in the more urbanised parts of the country, had more varied fleets dominated by Leyland and AEC chassis. There was a score of body builders from which to choose, and operators often felt bound by a duty to patronise the local firm. The innumerable permutations of chassis, body, engine and company spec made the study of buses endlessly fascinating. Almost all these home-grown builders have disappeared in the years since and with them much of the appeal of the subject. I hope the book will provide an enjoyable nostalgia fix to those who remember the period and give younger readers a savour of that most tantalising era, the one that immediately preceded your own.

    9781445664842

    Stephen Dowle's new book The National Bus Company: The Middle Years is available for purchase now.

10 Item(s)