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  • 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.

  • Road Rollers by Anthony Coulls

    The classic shape of an Aveling & Porter steam roller evolved in the 1870s; here’s an advert for one from the Land Agents’ Record of March 1896. (Road Rollers, Amberley Publishing)

    It takes a certain kind of madness to preserve a road roller, either steam, diesel or petrol powered. All are heavy and awkward and the amount of time, effort and money expended upon restoration or repairs is not reflected in the value of the machine at the end of the work. Yet it’s still fun, and the roller folk are a particularly sociable type. In recent years, road making demonstrations have taken off and become popular, with all manner of supporting equipment from living vans to tar boilers, lamps and road repair signs. Working demonstrations such as these are immensely popular and as good as any working museum when done well.

    There can be no better depiction of the variety of Aveling rollers over the decades in terms of size and appearance than this picture of a quartet of rollers on the National Traction Engine Trust’s sixtieth anniversary road run from September 2014, led by Dick Blenkinsop’s Aveling-Barford of 1937. (Road Rollers, Amberley Publishing)

    Restoring a road roller is my blood. In 1966, my father and his friends Trevor Daw, Doug Kempton and Gus Palmer all clubbed together to buy a derelict Ruston & Hornsby steam roller which had worked for Herefordshire County Council. They paid £100 for the compound engine which was lying at the Bransford Bear public house in Worcestershire. It had been bought as a plaything but the idea came to nothing and so it was moved on to the four friends, who called themselves the Arden Steam Group. The Group had connections with the Hockley Heath Steam Association and the Warwickshire Steam Engine Society, so the plan was made to take it home to their county – under its own steam. Over a period of 12 months, the roller was retubed with no power tools and fettled to make it roadworthy to travel to Hockley Heath and in March 1967, the Ruston set sail under its own steam. The journey was filmed by the BBC, sadly the footage no longer exists. The Arden Steam Group continued to work on the engine and painted it grey, probably because that was the cheapest paint that Dad could come by from his employers at the time! Unfortunately as time progressed, the lives of the Group changed too, and so in 1971, three of the partners sold out their shares to Trevor Daw, who then went on to own Ruston 114059 for another 40 years, carrying out a heavy overhaul throughout the 1970s and then rallying it extensively throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The roller is now cared for by the Vickery family in Hertfordshire, joining the other Ruston steam roller in their collection. A regular on the steam rally scene, it will always have a special place in the heart of our family.

    The Advance was the successful later roller made by Wallis & Steevens with a twin cylinder engine for quick reversing. The picture shows the very first of its type at the Onslow Park Rally near Shrewsbury in August 2007. (Road Rollers, Amberley Publishing)

    It was therefore inevitable that I would get involved with rollers, despite there not having been on in the family in my lifetime. The first one came in 1996 when a 1944 Wallis & Steevens diesel roller was rescued from Victoria Park in Leamington Spa, my home town. There had also been an Aveling steam roller in the playground there, but this had been sold in 1993 whilst I was at university. I found a home for the Wallis with a school friend’s farmer father in South Warwickshire, and after a number of days work with my friend Ken Milns, we got it going again over the Easter weekend in 1998. Around ten years later, the roller was borrowed by Trevor Daw, our family friend from the 1960s and he completely rebuilt it in his workshop. The finished article now lives on loan at Beamish Museum in County Durham, but not before we took it back to the park in Leamington in 2013. We had a lot of work to get it going again and also had to apply via the DVLA to get the roller’s original registration number back, a process helped very much by the Road Roller Association. Likewise, drawings, manuals and archives were also sourced via the RRA and the Museum of English Rural Life at Reading University where the Wallis and Steevens records are kept.

    Isaac Ball of Wharles ran a fleet of steam rollers, all equipped with the full-length roof as seen here, and mostly made by Burrells. They also built their own living vans, such as the one behind the roller. The road train, including the water cart, was part of the Ball reunion event held in June 2017. (Road Rollers, Amberley Publishing)

    The diesel and experience gained from its rehabilitation led to a steam roller, and the 15 ton Aveling roller 3315 of 1894 joined the fleet in the summer of 2003. Firstly being stored in West Yorkshire and then finding its way to County Durham where we had made our home. Having stood idle since being taken out of service in the 1950s, it had lost a number of parts, but the boiler was in essence good, and friends assured us that the rest of the machine could be repaired or replaced where fittings were missing – and thus the die was set for a ten year rebuild – or recommissioning as I liked to call it. Skills were learned such as riveting, welding, gas cutting and tubing the boiler. New friends were made in the process and much research undertaken on the engine and others like it as we looked for new parts, spares or information on how it might all fit together. As with any restoration, there were set backs and side roads followed, but with steady fundraising, progress was made. In 2012, the roller lived again, taking its first moves at a party to celebrate the restoration and support given by so many. That said, in 2013, further defects were found in the roller’s transmission and gears. At the time of writing, further long and expensive repairs are being undertaken on the roller with a view to it continuing in steam on the road well past its 125th birthday in 2019. The whole family love it however and the fun and friendship it has brought to us all.

    My Road Rollers book examines the background to these wonderful machines during their working lives and then goes further into the popular appeal and how to get involved. Who knows, you may get smitten as I was?!

    Anthony Coulls's new book Road Rollers as part of our Britain's Heritage Series 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.

  • Alvis Cars in Competition by Clive Taylor

    Harry Ratcliffe racing at Oulton Park in 1961. He raced the cars in the 1950s and early 1960s. Car details: 1926 TE 12/50; Registration No. RW 7329; Chassis No. 4321; Engine No. 9102; Car No. 9690; Body Maker - Carbodies. (c. Mike Webb Collection, Alvis Cars in Competition, Amberley Publishing)

    Celebrating the centenary of Alvis Ltd. Coventry

    T.G. John (Thomas George John) was born in Pembroke on the 18th November 1880 and the founder of the Alvis Car and Engineering Company Ltd. during 1919 in Coventry. Initially he bought the American company Holley Brothers in Coventry who specialised in the manufacture of carburettors.

    From the rudiments of manufacturing static engines, he became involved with Geoffrey de Freville and from this association he started to build a four-cylinder side valve engine, which was incorporated into the first Alvis Car known as the Alvis 10/30.

    From the outset, Alvis cars were known for high quality construction and engineering. All major components were either stamped or embossed with part numbers, an indication of attention to detail and thoroughness.

    Alvis used the popular means of competition to attract the public to their successes by entering races at the Brooklands Track in 1921 and also public long-distance trials such as the London to Holyhead Trial, winning a gold medal, and the London to Edinburgh Trial, winning a Silver Medal.

    Publicity was paramount to successful car sales and as the company grew soon a distribution network was required. The earliest and successful main distributor was the famous H. G. Henley company usually known to everyone as Henlys, based in central London with city branches elsewhere as well.

    Resting at home, ready for more action. Car details: 1931 Silver Eagle Tourer TC 16.95; Registration No. OF 9257; Engine No. 9145; Car No. 13746; Body Maker - Rod Jolley, Carbodies design.(Author's Collection, Alvis Cars in Competition, Amberley Publishing)

    Following the success of the side valve 10/30 model, larger capacity engines were built, known as the Alvis 11/40 and also 12/40, the last figures indicate the brake horse power. All these models had bespoke coachwork built by various body builders. In close succession, the universally popular model Alvis 12/50, with an overhead valve engine was born. In racing form at Brooklands, the 12/50 scored a resounding result in the 1923 200 Mile Race by Alvis works driver, Cyril Maurice Harvey winning the event. This type of engine had also been supercharged and used in competition by Harvey. Today the 12/50 model is universally recognised as one of the most popular and versatile models produced by Alvis and also the 12/60 with a larger engine capacity.

    The next significant model designed and built by Alvis was the Front Wheel Drive car. For the general public, sales were selective to new purchasers due to the power and maintenance required to keep the car in peak condition, especially as the four-cylinder model could also be supercharged.

    Alvis were also pursuing the development of the FWD with a straight eight-overhead camshaft engine with major success, but also at a crippling cost to the Alvis company.  Eventually Alvis officially withdrew from racing, but the success continued by the efforts of people like Bill and Ruth Urquhart-Dykes racing their own Alvis 12/50, not only at Brooklands but also in Belgium and France.

    Winning my first trophy - the Holland Trophy - in the Silver Eagle Racer at VSCC Pembrey, Wales, in 1995. Car details: 1930 Silver Eagle Racer, Chassis No. 7059; Engine No. 8799. (c. Terence Brettell, Alvis Cars in Competition, Amberley Publishing)

    The Alvis Firefly 4- cylinder 1496 c.c. and the Alvis Firebird 4-cylinder 1842 c.c. were produced in good quantities, and later their chassis and running gear provided the basis for many Alvis engined Specials.

    The next significant model to be built was the Alvis Silver Eagle, a straight six-cylinder overhead valve - engine 2.2 litres. This model had the potential at the time to continue the successes for Alvis in competition, but Alvis did not pursue it. Post-War this model has been used by private enthusiasts including being supercharged with significant success.

    Alvis continued with six-cylinder models with the Crested Eagle, Speed 20, 3 ½ litre, Speed 25 3.5 litre and finally the swan-song 4.3 model. All the six-cylinder models have been used in various long-distance road trials, road rallies, hill climbs and sprints both before and after the Second World War. Purchasers for these new models could select from various coachbuilder’s designs, including saloon, tourer, drophead, coupe and three-quarter coupe designs, plus the facility to make special one-off bodies with personal extras included to the customers desires.

    Alvis were sensitive to the market demands for a four-cylinder model, when the 12/70 design of 1842 c.c. became a reality in saloon and drophead options. This was the last new model to be produced before the Second World War.

    Post-War, Alvis models started with the remnants of the 12/70 engine and some components until the new design of the TA 14 commenced, with saloon bodywork by Mulliners and a drophead design by Tickford and sports TB 14 by AP Metalcraft. This model with several body options proved to be very popular and continued production into the fifties.

    Paul Holdsworth with Rod Jolley in the car at VSCC Oulton Park. Car details: Giron Alvie 1932/37. (Author's Collection, Alvis Cars in Competition, Amberley Publishing)

    The new 3 Litre model designated the TA21, used a straight six-cylinder overhead valve engine. The car had supreme comfort and a high cruising speed carrying four adults and also used in the TB 21 Sports Tourer. The later model TC21/100 benefited with the improved engine including twin carburettors.

    In the 1950’s a new body design by Hermann Graber designated TC108/G was made by Willowbrook, then Mulliner Park Ward retaining the three-litre engine. In 1960 another body design influenced by Hermann Graber in Switzerland produced by Mulliner Park Ward was used on the TD 21 Series I in coupe and drophead form. The front of the car and interior ventilation was revised on the Series II model incorporating the air vents around inset fog lamps.

    During 1964 the frontal area was changed with twin vertical lamps for a more modern look designated TE 21. In 1966 the last car the TF21, had a modified head with three carburettors with 150 BHP and dashboard instruments placed around the steering column in a binnacle setting.

    Alvis sold various running chassis to Hermann Graber, producing a unique body for each of his cars known as a Graber Alvis. Rover bought Alvis in 1965 and Alvis ceased building luxurious cars in 1967.  Eventually both companies were absorbed into the British Leyland Motor Corporation.

    My book contains a selection of stories provided by owners of various models using their cars in many competitive disciplines, without their contributions the content of this book would not have been possible.

    Clive Taylor's new book Alvis Cars in Competition 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.

  • 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.

  • Classic Trucks by Roy Dodsworth

    Classic Trucks 1 This is a 1927 Thornycroft 2.5-ton truck registered in Somerset. It has a 27 horsepower petrol engine, averages 20–25 mph and returns 6 miles per gallon average. Vehicle purchased by Frederic Robinson Ltd in November 1980, at the time in livery of Irwell St Metal Co. of Ramsbottom. Restored and repainted in the livery of similar Robinsons vehicles at the turn of the century. I took this picture on a visit to the brewery. The registration YC 1176 was issued on 8 November 1927. (Classic Trucks, Amberley Publishing)

    Published in 2017, as the titles suggest this book is about trucks, wagons, lorries or commercials. Each of the four words means the same but varies in regions.

    In the letters pages of Trucks, Wagons, Lorries or Commercials magazines there is regular argument about which is correct. Example the 70+ year old strongly argues that he, sometimes she, was a wagon driver. The 30+ individuals argue that they are truckers! I chose ‘Commercials’ because in my view the word encompasses all four types.

    The vision is that it is a load carrying vehicle and whether you are 9 or 90 I suggest that you all can recall one. Be it the dustbin wagon or drain cleaner. Without any the world could not function.

    To move on there is interest from an early age, Dinky Toys and the like, to senior citizens who take pleasure seeing them, and recalling memories of seeing and driving them.

    40 or 50 years ago driving them was a feat of strength and stamina, no power steering, automatic gearboxes or air conditioning. The driver had to be well wrapped up, strong to turn the wheel, change gear, and used to cold without a heater. The modern truck is equipped with all the latest ‘gismos’ giving the old guys the impression that steering them is all that is required!

    Classic Trucks 2 A 1938 Albion LB40 two-axle rigid, fitted with a petrol engine, it has a flat platform body which is carrying an authentic textile load of bales of rags and skip baskets. In the livery of C. & C. Textiles, Rag Merchants of Barnsley. Note the starting handle secured with a rubber band to the front. Albion Motors were manufacturers of car, truck and buses in Scotstoun, Glasgow, Scotland. They became part of British Leyland and the name was dropped, with later vehicles badged as Leyland. The company now manufacture axles. The registration WE 3735 was issued in Sheffield on 23 January 1939. (Classic Trucks, Amberley Publishing)

    So preserved and restored commercials are part of our heritage and there are thousands of enthusiasts up and down the country who look after them, be it car, truck or bus.

    There are many owners and enthusiast clubs who organise events so that other people can enjoy them. As an added interest there are specialist magazines catering for all matters of interest connected with classic vehicles.

    I attend as many events as I can in the North of England and photograph as many vehicles as I can on the showground. There are still old vehicles earning their keep on daily work, ‘asleep’ somewhere awaiting restoration, or abandoned to their fate.

    I have written lots of articles for club magazines and the commercial press and I am constantly being asked ‘will my truck be in?’

    Early August I attended the Trans Pennine Run 2017, this was the 49th event and over 200 entrants too part. I took over 300 photographs. I then have the task of editing and selecting vehicles for future articles. Having made a selection I have sent them off to club magazines and the monthly specialist magazines. Such articles are keenly awaited by the readers to see ‘if they are in.’

    So over the years I have amassed a collection of almost 20,000 photographs of buses, cars, and trucks, some black and white, pre-digital and digital. They are all categorised on my home computer.

     

    Classic Trucks 3 This is a 1976 Bedford TK horsebox, registered WSG 268R, in Edinburgh; an unusual vehicle, which was new to Scottish & Newcastle Brewery as a Chinese Six brewer’s dray. This means that a two-axle TK had been converted to a three-axle vehicle with twin-steering front two axles – not unusual for brewery delivery vehicles. The vehicle was restored by the present owner, James Leech & Co., with the third axle being removed and the vehicle fitted with a Jennings of Sandbach wooden horsebox. (Classic Trucks, Amberley Publishing)

    A further source, albeit rare, is finding an old album of black and white photographs at such places as antique fairs and flea markets. A recent find by me was an album of 80+ black and white photographs from the 50’s and 60’s. This was on a market stall at Todmorden, West Yorkshire. I paid £30 for them but well worth it for the pleasure they gave to lots of people who had the chance to see them. The ownership was unknown but they created a lot of interest and comment when scanned and published. It is always pleasing to be told ‘my dad drove one of them, or I worked on them for 40 years.’

    Having agreed with Amberley to write a book it was very difficult to make a selection of up to 210 photographs. I spent considerable time preparing a draft which I had to change a couple of times, also some pictures were not suitable for printing making a further reshuffle necessary. Eventually ‘bang on’ all was sent off and the show was on the road. A couple of proofs were read with minor alterations made then the long wait to publishing date. My only thought now the book has been done is that the contents will be appreciated and enjoyed by the reader.

    I now wish to thank all clubs, and event organisers for arranging classic events, also to vehicle owners and restorers for allowing us to enjoy them, and to all at Amberley books for putting the book together and making it happen!

    9781445674407

    Roy Dodsworth's book Classic Trucks is available for purchase now.

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