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  • 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,, 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!


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

  • Docker's Daimlers by Richard Townsend

    Docker's Daimlers 1 The 2.5 litre V8 engine designed by Edward Turner with all its plumbing in place. (Nick James, Docker's Daimlers, Amberley Publishing)

    Following a destructive and expensive world war it took Britain the rest of the 1940s and the best part of the fifties to achieve a stable peacetime economy. Daimler’s experiences during this period were somewhat peculiar, though influenced by circumstances which were common to the rest of the motor industry.

    Taking the common background first, the UK economy was harnessed to a single overriding objective which was to restore Sterling to pre-eminence in company with the US Dollar. The UK Treasury embarked on a strategy of promoting exports while conversely suppressing domestic demand for goods, in order to bring in foreign earnings and stimulate international demand for Sterling. The chief tools of this strategy were material licences and purchase tax.

    The supply of vital raw materials to industry was subject to strict state control. For example, for a few years various bicycle components could only be produced with a painted rather than chromium plated finish. More generally steel could only be purchased under licences which required specific levels of export sales. Even for the larger motor manufacturers this presented a challenge because their pre-war experience of exporting was often limited to countries within the British Empire. Those countries were very often themselves recovering from their own wartime experiences and so the market everyone had to aim for was the USA, which was also probably the one market of any size for which the majority of British car output was especially unsuited.

    Docker's Daimlers 2 This DB18 caught mid-restoration shows off the independent front suspension. (Author's collection, Docker's Daimlers, Amberley Publishing)

    Daimler’s larger models had always sold well amongst international nobility but the occasional straight eight limousine was not going to balance the books, and even those exalted customers were having their ranks thinned by the effects of socialist revolution. By the mid-fifties even British Royalty were lured away by Rolls-Royce. Like most British cars, Daimler’s smaller models were too slow or too small to appeal to anything recognisable as an average American which left Daimler reliant on the home market.

    Meanwhile in Britain, domestic demand for electrical goods and cars was deliberately suppressed throughout the forties, fifties and into the sixties. In the case of cars successive UK governments not only artificially inflated prices by means of purchase tax they also imposed rules governing hire purchase finance which mandated minimum deposits and maximum repayment periods. To make a bad situation worse these measures were subject to regular amendment which caused dramatic and unpredictable lurches in demand both up and down.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Compared to the Majestic dashboard, the Major's instrument panel was enlarged to incorporate a tachometer and the instrument and switch surrounds were black rather than chromed. (Author's collection, Docker's Daimlers, Amberley Publishing)

    A further factor to contend with was the supply of bodies. Firms capable of producing pressed steel bodywork were being rapidly brought up by the major manufacturers as they made the transition from chassis based to monocoque bodies. Meanwhile, squeezed by a declining customer base priced out by purchase tax and the loss of cheap skilled labour in a period of full employment, the traditional coachbuilders were shutting down with their industry pretty well extinct by the end of 1959.

    The capital required to ride out these market conditions was such that only large manufacturers or medium sized firms which were part of a larger corporate group could hope to survive. Morgan managed it by staying small enough to live on a niche market they inherited from their deceased rivals. Jaguar almost managed it by trying to grow themselves into an engineering group by acquisition. Daimler was relatively sheltered within the BSA group. Like Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Armstrong Siddeley and Alvis they were tolerated as loss making but prestigious figureheads. Daimler were especially fortunate in that BSAs Chairman, Sir Bernard Docker, and his wife, Lady Norah, rather enjoyed having access to a supply of luxurious automobiles which were very often hand built to personal order.

    Docker's Daimlers 4 The length of the DE36 chassis gave coachbuilders, in this case Hooper, scope to create some of the most elegant and well proportioned bodywork ever made. (Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust, Docker's Daimlers, Amberley Publishing)

    The appearance of the Docker Daimler became a regular highlight of the Earls Court Motor Show through the early fifties. These show cars, created in the workshops of Daimler’s in-house coachbuilder Hooper, were lavish demonstrations of the coachbuilders and trimmers craft. They undeniably succeeded in bringing immense international publicity to what was a very minor manufacturer. However their close association with the Dockers, for whose personal use they were almost constantly available, meant that many viewed them as little more than the Chairman’s wife’s rather tacky freebie.

    Norah is largely forgotten now but was a household name right from the moment she married Bernard in 1949. He was rich but then so was Norah, having been twice widowed by millionaires, and she openly enjoyed her wealth at a time of socialist governments when the rich were trying to avoid attention. Whether what she lacked was airs or breeding was a matter of opinion and personal taste, either way for most of the fifties there was no avoiding the woman as she appeared in newspapers, magazines, newsreels and on TV. While the publicity was certainly considerable the BSA board became increasingly certain that it wasn’t the sort which could be translated into sales. In 1956 Bernard was ousted from the Chairmanship after a rather messy and very public boardroom revolt.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The conquest Drophead Coupe shared a great deal of its panelwork with the salon. It was only produced with the Mark 1-style front end. (Author's collection, Docker's Daimlers, Amberley Publishing)

    BSA, and thus Daimler, was now headed by Jack Sangster who had joined the board in 1951 when his Triumph motorcycle firm was acquired to augment BSA’s own motorbike interests. Triumph designer Edward Turner was placed in charge of BSA’s motoring division and immediately began adapting his Triumph engine designs to produce a pair of V8 engines of 2.5 and 4.6 litres which were to power a new generation of Daimler cars. The smaller engine was placed in a fibreglass bodied sports car called the SP250 whilst the larger engine was fitted to modified versions of Daimler’s Majestic saloon to produce the Majestic Major saloon and long wheelbase limousine. A plan to use the small V8 in a modified Vauxhall Cresta to produce what would have been the Daimler Dynamic died in the process of BSA selling Daimler off to Jaguar.

    Although Jaguar’s chief purpose in buying Daimler was to acquire extra factory space, Jaguar still had a reputation for being a bit flashy. Beginning with the 2.5 V8, essentially a Mark 2 Jaguar fitted with the small Daimler V8, Jaguar used the Daimler brand to sell cars to customers they could not otherwise reach. As Jaguar built a reputation for design excellence so this badge engineering became less useful and the last Daimler model was sold in 2007.


    Richard Townsend's new book Docker's Daimlers: Daimler and Lanchester Cars 1945 to 1960 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.


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

  • Corvette: The Rise of a Sports Car by Mark Eaton

    For many people, a car is just a tool to get them around which is a pity because not only is it a very expensive tool [most people would probably rate their car as the second most expensive thing they own after a house], but this very complicated piece of, quite frankly, amazing engineering gives them the potential of freedom [despite today’s traffic volumes] that nothing else can, both of which seems to be lost on them.

    Kevin Warrington asks, in his excellent Amberley blog entry on the Triumph 2000, “Is a simple form of transport a reflection of one’s personality?” I would contest the “simple” notation but agree that it often is a reflection of one’s personality although in some cases, it may be a partly hidden personality too. Perhaps a reflection of what one might not be able, or want, to display most of the time?

    Corvette 1969 C3 Coupe TH The muscular and aggressive 1969 Stingray. This concours coupe has a 427-ci/7.0-litre engine, tri-power carburettors and factory side pipes, giving 435 hp. (Corvette, Amberley Publishing)

    Many of the owners of America’s sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette, that I know are quite quiet and unassuming people although, in the main, the cars are anything but! One friend of mine is a model of English civility, but in his garage lurks, quite simply, a monster of a car; a 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray with a seven litre engine, triple twin-choke carburettors and drainpipe sized exhausts that exit the engine bay behind the front wheels, travel along the outside of the car under the doors and open, with very little silencing, in front of the rear wheels. The overall effect is a car that can do a very good impression of a low flying Second World War fighter plane in the noise stakes when it wants to. The fact that, when it was manufactured, it was one of the fastest accelerating cars in the world and can still severely embarrass much more modern machinery only adds to the mystique. Averaging around 9mpg is much more of the Sixties than of 2017 but there is a cost to everything, nostalgia included. Why does such a man own such a car? Because he loves it – purely and simply! It fires his imagination and his senses and a simple trip becomes an occasion.

    Interest in classic cars has never been higher.  Unfortunately, some people see them as nothing more that investments or, perhaps more fairly, works of art that have huge investment potential. Witness the sale of a 1962 Ferrari 250GTO in November last year for $56.4m [£47m]. A lovely car, but come on…. Meanwhile, back in the real world, classics [i.e. those over 30 years old officially] and newer versions of a marque that dates back before that can spark both interest and memories. Also perhaps, it stimulates a desire, sometimes a very strong desire, to own something similar.

    The Corvette has a sixty-four year history to date and, with a very few exceptions, will not command seven figure price tags. They do, however, provide a lot of character, charisma and, indeed, car for the money whatever age and whichever of the seven generations you might like or want to own. In the UK, they are very rare [there are about three times as many Ferraris and twice as many Lamborghinis registered in the UK as Corvettes], yet running them is relatively inexpensive compared to many of the grand marques.

    So, perhaps something that looks and often sounds outrageous? Something so out of the ordinary. An opportunity, if not to slip the surly bonds of Earth, then to at least open the throttles once in a while and head for the horizon in a car that just makes you feel good.

    Corvette C5 Wide Body convertible Corvettes have been modified by some owners since the marque began. This C5 convertible is quite an extreme example with wide body panels. (Corvette, Amberley Publishing)

    In Corvette: The Rise of a Sports Car, I summarise the long history of the car and ask “what is a sports car?” Why would anyone want to own such a thing; a car that is low not only physically but in what many see as the main point of a car – practicality – and why did a small group of Americans working for the world’s then largest corporation in a country that had nothing like it after the Second World War, think they should try to persuade the “powers that be” to build one? The trials and tribulations of corporate “issues” [something many of us are familiar with], the highs and lows, the successes and the problems, indeed the pain and the passion are all there.

    “It’s just a car” is a phrase I have heard many times in general life, despairing as I do so. It is NOT something you would have heard [or will hear] amongst the men and women at Chevrolet who have designed, engineered, manufactured and kept this particular dream alive for so long. Nor amongst the people who own them around the world.

    Imagine if you can, the sound of the large and powerful V8 engine burbling beautifully at idle, growling in the mid-range and roaring with revs, the smell of hot oil, the feel of the wheel in your hands, the acceleration pushing you into your seat, the roadholding allowing you to safely corner at exhilarating speeds and the strong brakes reining in the power when necessary. Perhaps with your most favourite person in the world sitting alongside, both with huge smiles on your faces! Often many of the people you drive by will be smiling too – not something you can usually say of sports cars these days.

    If any vehicle can stir the emotions, it is this most charismatic of cars in one or more of its seven generations to date. Are you truthfully able to entirely resist that?


    Mark Eaton's new book Corvette: The Rise of a Sports Car 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.


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

  • Triumph 2000: Defining the Sporting Saloon by Kevin Warrington

    Is a simple form of transport a reflection of one’s personality?

    For many people a motor car is not just a simple means of personal transport, it is a reflection of who they are and of their status in life. Today, the prestige market for “executive” saloon cars is dominated by three German manufacturers: BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. But in the early 1960’s, certainly in the United Kingdom, the market was very different with local manufacturers having a near monopoly on supply and the market segmented very differently. Small family cars, a result of the helter skelter, stop go economy and fuel crisis brought on by the Anglo-French “Suez Adventure” were becoming popular. At the high end, well-appointed large motor cars with engines of around 3 litres and interiors finished more like country house drawing rooms than a car. In the middle sat a range of unadventurous and mundane models that, by repute, rusted before they left the production line and while they performed the task demanded of them, were neither adventurous or stylish.

    triumph-2000-1 Shown here is a Mark 2 model, a car that was to gain a slightly undesirable reputation as being the 'get away' car of choice for armed robbers. (Triumph 2000, Amberley Publishing)

    All this was to change in 1963 when the rival businesses of Standard -Triumph and The Rover Car Company each announced a new model that would create a paradigm shift in the motor trade by providing a new model that would offer the style and appointment of the existing three litre class, the performance of a sports car (certainly in the case of the Triumph), but be priced in the middle market area. That rival manufacturers were about to launch a new model that would turn upside down the established market segments and compete with each other was well known to each company for there had earlier been attempts to merge both businesses and historically, there were close family connections between the senior management of the two businesses.

    triumph-2000-2 Very early cars featured a two-tone dashboard covering that in certain colours was attrative, but could be quite garish with boled colours. (Steve Parkin, Triumph 2000, Amberley Publishing)

    “TRIUMPH 2000 – Defining the Sporting Saloon” tells the story of the Triumph model and how it established the market. The book starts with the origins of the Triumph company, one that like so many businesses that were to settle in Coventry had its foundations in sewing machines, bicycles and motor cycles before entering the world of motor cars. It tells of the perilous finances of the business leading to insolvency and eventual sale to the Standard Motor Company in 1945 where the Triumph name would be used to great success, initially on a range of highly successful sports cars and ultimately on the entire output. The chance meeting between senior executives of what was then called Standard – Triumph with Italian styling genius Giovanni Michelotti lead to a distinctive house style of cars that immediately suggested quality and sporting prowess. To the middle manager or professional looking for a suitable form of transport, the new Triumph or Rover was the solution. While the Rover 2000 expressed traditional “Britishness” and featured an innovative style of construction, the Triumph made great play of the company’s sporting success, which in the early 1960s was at its Zenith with multiple class wins both on the circuit at Le Mans and in rallying.

    triumph-2000-3 Inside the main assembly hall at Canley, saloons and estates are being assembled. (c. BMIHT, Triumph 2000, Amberley Publishing)

    Featuring many new and previously unpublished photographs, this book describes in detail the evolution of the car and Triumph’s efforts to substantially increase its performance through the addition of petrol injection. The first UK manufactured saloon car to feature such a system at a time where any form of fuel delivery other than by carburettors was restricted to the race track or exotic machinery with prices orders of magnitude more expensive than the Triumph. Such innovation was typical of Triumph; not always successfully.

    The book concludes by pondering whether had the Triumph brand survived the upheavals of the motor industry in the 1970s and the mergers with the volume car business of BMC not taken place. Would the aspiring successful business person of today now be considering the purchase of a Triumph rather than a BMW?

    About the Author:

    “TRIUMPH 2000 - Defining the Sporting Saloon” has been written by Kevin Warrington who has been Editor of the Triumph 2000 / 2500 / 2.5 Register club magazine “SIXappeal” for seven years and is actively involved in the management of the club. He is an enthusiastic writer and photographer, having started to take pictures when he was given his first Kodak 127 Brownie camera as a gift for his 7th birthday. “After 53 years, I think I am just about getting the hang of it”, he frequently says. Kevin’s family background has been in the motor and transport business for many generations, but prior to embarking on a writing and photographing career, he made his life in the computer industry where he did, as he describes if “just about everything”, starting as a designer, then a service engineer before moving into product management and eventually sales. A change of management and business strategy led to him leaving a very senior international management position in one of the largest software companies to pursue his own interests.


    Kevin Warrington's new book Triumph 2000: Defining the Sporting Saloon is available for purchase now.

  • British Steam Fire Engines by Ronald Henderson

    35 Shand, Mason’s double vertical fire engine

    Whenever one reads stories about the fire brigade in children’s books and comics, and indeed in some historical books on the subject there was invariably mention of the romance of the steam fire engine. There was the  thrill of seeing  two powerful fire brigade horses galloping along the streets with the firemen hanging on for dear life and shouting the traditional 'Hi Hi Hi' to warn the public and other traffic of the fire engines approach. The descriptions often went on to describe the clatter of horse’s hooves on the cobbles and the sparks and flames shooting skywards from the engines chimney. In the big cities and towns this was probably a true description but not so in the smaller towns and rural areas. Here, horses were usually hired from outside contractors that were required to repair to the fire station on the sounding of the alarm, unhitch the horses from their usual scavenging or delivery mans cart and hitch them to the fire engine before it could leave the station. In other districts, firemen had to go and seek the horses or would refuse to turn out unless the caller supplied the horses. What was not always mentioned was that on long distance journeys in rural areas the horses often had to be regularly rested as they could not sustain pulling the weight of the fire engine and its six man crew at fast speeds for long durations and on approaching steep gradients, the crews often had to dismount and assist the horses by pushing the fire engine. The era was certainly romantic and exciting whilst the engines were spectacular with their varnished vermillion red livery and polished brass and copper pipes and chimneys.

    Steam fire engines were slow to be accepted into Britain's fire service and whilst one engine could do the work of several manually operated pumps with only a handful of men compared to the many teams of men needed to work the handles of the manual engines the firemen felt threatened and fearful for their jobs. Initially the London Fire Brigade was dead set against them accusing them of causing too much damage because of the amount of water they could project and conversely claiming that the water mains in the Capital were not large enough to supply the new fangled engines. Eventually common sense prevailed and progress won. Steam fire engines gradually became the most efficient fire engines of the era.

    22 Shand, Mason’s small Volunteer fire engine

    Ronald Henderson's new book, British Steam Fire Engines is the first one that covers the fascinating subject in its entirety since Charles F.T. Young published his book, A History of Manual and Steam Fire Engines in 1866. The first steam fire engine was constructed in 1829 but it took another 30 years before steam fire engines started to be introduced into Britain's fire service. The new fangled equipment was subject to many public trials and competitions devised to identify the most efficient type of fire engine with many designers submitting exhibits including some from the United States of America. Throughout the history of steam fire engine construction, two British firms dominated, Merryweather & Sons of Greenwich and Shand, Mason & Co. Ltd., of London although later newcomers, the Fire Appliances Manufacturing Company of London and William Rose of Manchester also contributed, albeit for only a short period.  The new book describes the early trials and novel designs of steam fire engines and then goes on to describe and illustrate with period photographs, mostly taken from the archives of the builders the individual models and the improvements that occurred during the years of steam fire engine construction and the intense rivalry that occurred between the different manufacturers. In 1899 Merryweather & Sons introduced a new self-propelled Fire King Steam fire engine on which the engine powered both the road wheels and the main pump. Around about the same time, increasing developments occurred with the internal combustion engine and petrol driven road vehicles which would eventually see the demise of the glory days of horse drawn steam fire engines and other horse drawn road vehicles. These new self-propelled steam fire engines are also described and whilst Merryweather's pursued their developments of both steam and petrol driven fire engines Shand, Mason failed to develop successful motor driven fire engines and was ignominiously bought out by Merrweather's.

    75 Hitchen in Hertfordshire was one of many authorities that dispensed with horses and attached their fire engine, in this case a Shand, Mason London Brigade vertical to a motor vehicle.

    Steam fire engines were relatively simple machines that consisted of a pump, an engine to drive it, all mounted on a four wheeled carriage with a large equipment box on which the crew sat and a seat at the front for the coachman. Water had to come from external sources. Construction of them lasted until the mid 1920's, after which improvements in the design of the petrol engine rendered the type increasingly obsolete. The two horse power traction sources had been replaced by petrol engines although the type soldiered on, especially in rural fire brigades where there was little use for them and therefore no requirement to update the equipment. World War Two and the nationalisation of Britain's fire brigades saw the last operational steam fire engines quickly withdrawn.

    Some 250 British made steam fire engines survive, carefully maintained in museums and private collections, not only in Britain but throughout the world. As well as those on public exhibition in Britain preserved examples survive in many overseas countries from as far away as Australia and New Zealand, North and South America, India, Russia and several European countries;  a lasting tribute to an era when Britain's manufacturing expertise and quality of workmanship was at one time recognised throughout the globe.


    British Steam Fire Engines by Ronald Henderson is available for purchase now.

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