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Tag Archives: Robert Appleton

  • The Leyland National by Robert Appleton

    The late 1960s was a period of great change in the bus and coach industry. The formation of British Leyland on 17 January 1968 brought together all the major bus chassis manufacturers, Leyland, AEC, Bristol, Daimler and Guy. Then the National Bus Company was formed on 1 January 1969 bringing together the Tilling and British Electric Traction Groups. In addition many municipal operators were absorbed into the new Passenger Transport Executives.

    London General Leyland National 2 LS450 (GUW 450W) at Victoria Station on 6 May 1991. (The Leyland National, Amberley Publishing)

    One person operation was seen as the way forward to reduce staff shortages, and to contain costs, but was only permitted on single-deck buses. Thus the Leyland National single-decker was conceived as a joint venture between British Leyland and the National Bus Company, to be built at a new factory at Lillyhall in Cumbria.

    The Leyland National was a highly standardised bus with integral construction, so bus operators had no choice of bodybuilder. There was only one engine option, the Leyland 510 8.2 litre turbocharged diesel engine. Only two lengths for the British bus market, 10.3 metres or 11.3 metres. A sophisticated heating and ventilating system meant a pod on the rear roof.

    Production started in 1972. Early Leyland Nationals had a very stark interior, fortunately this was improved over the years. In 1978 a simplified series B Leyland National, 10.3 metres long, was introduced, which had a conventional heating system, with no pod on the roof. Then in 1979 the Leyland National 2 was introduced. This had a front mounted radiator, so was slightly longer at 10.6 metres or 11.6 metres. There was the option of the sophisticated heating and ventilation system with pod on the roof, or conventional heating system with no pod on the roof. At last there were engine options, the Leyland 0.680 or TL11 horizontal diesels, later the Gardner 6HLXB or 6HLXCT diesels.

    Burnley & Pendle Transport 121 (KBB 521L) acquired from Tyne & Wear PTE in Burnley bus station on 21 July 1984. (The Leyland National, Amberley Publishing)

    Leyland National production finished in 1985. Over 7,000 were built, but it never achieved its full potential due to the advent of one person operated double-deckers. Whilst the Leyland National was marketed a city bus, the idea of a high capacity single-decker with say thirty seats and forty standing passengers did not find much favour in this country. Instead a double-decker with circa seventy seats was preferred.

    For example London Transport bought 506 Leyland Nationals, and 2,646 Daimler/Leyland Fleetline double-deckers. Most of the National Bus Company subsidiaries bought Bristol VRT, Leyland Atlantean, and Leyland Olympian double-deckers as well as Leyland Nationals.

    Then along came the Transport Act 1985 implementing the break up and privatisation of the National Bus Company, as well as the deregulation of local bus services from 26 October 1986. This heralded another period of change. Operators reviewed their bus services, which could be operated commercially, which would be withdrawn and left for a local authority to put out to competitive tender. New bus companies were established with new liveries, and existing companies adopted new liveries as well, consigning the standard National Bus Company green and red liveries to history. Leyland Nationals became available on the second-hand market, so operators large and small got used to operating and maintaining the Leyland National.

    The integral construction of the Leyland National gave the potential for a very long life. Therefore in 1991 London & Country and East Lancashire Coachbuilders, both part of the Drawlane Group, launched the National Greenway, which involved rebuilding and refurbishing Leyland Nationals, and fitting them with reconditioned Gardner 6HLXB engines.

    Eastern National 1761 (MAR 783P) arriving at Harwich bus station in April 1979. (The Leyland National, Amberley Publishing)

    Some impressions of the Leyland National. For the passenger, one step from the kerb on to the bus, then another step on to a flat floor at the front, another step towards the rear over the rear axle and engine. Early Leyland Nationals had uncomfortable vinyl covered seats, but later more comfortable moquette seating was fitted. A smooth ride due to air suspension. The driver had a cab free from drafts, but the gear selector was on the right hand side of the cab, to leave the left hand side free for fare collection. The high revving Leyland 510 engine would clatter and whine, and if not looked after properly would emit lots of exhaust smoke. Bus operators' and drivers' views on the Leyland National differed greatly. Some loved the Leyland National, others were resigned to living with it.

    When Peter Horrex asked me to collaborate on this book, my first thoughts were that we would have lots of images of Leyland Nationals in red or green National Bus Company liveries. We do have these, plus a lot more! We have images of Leyland Nationals with bus companies formed out of the split up of the National Bus Company, privatised National Bus Company subsidiaries, London Transport and its subsidiaries, Passenger Transport Executives, municipal operators, and independents.

    We have images of the Leyland National, the Leyland National series B, the Leyland National 2, and the National Greenway. We even have images of the Suburban Express Leyland National with its high flat floor, and a Leyland DAB articulated bus using the Leyland National 2 body structure. Thus we have tried to find as much variety as possible for the standardised Leyland National, and we hope that readers of this book will enjoy the result.

    Peter Horrex and Robert Appleton's new book The Leyland National 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.

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