I AM CHRISTOPHER LEACH THE ARTIST. I started this blog so that I can share with everyone my vast collection of transport photographs showing a personal and nostalgic view of the industry with images that span some 45 years taking in the U.K and some of Europe. I have no darkroom and so rather than being the perfectionist after tidying them up I upload the images warts and all, and even those that won't scan squarely or are scratched. In a way it adds age and character. You are all free to download these for your personal use but please remember I still own them and you are not just free to use them without prior permission for any knd of publishing. Click on images to enlarge them and if you want to see more leave your comments or visit my website for the mother-site with galleries including those Buses & Girls: PICTUREWORLD
Monday, 31 December 2007
It's a pity so many of us Brits choose to go abroad for our holidays when our very own Seaside Resorts can offer so much to the visitor including if the weather is kind enjoyable open-top bus rides. One of my favourite of these is Scarborough which has a very interesting Sea-Front that seems to be on constant attack from tempestuous seas.When I took a day trip to the Yorkshire Resort on a calmer day in June 1990 for me the undisputed star on this service had to be Appleby's smart former Southdown Queen Many Leyland PD3 BUF 425C, a bus which enjoyed a busy semi-retirement in the Nineties because it later moved down to balmy Torquay where it performed various duties in Wallace Arnold's yellow colours.
Alongside the Scanias and earlier generations of Leyland Royal Tiger Worldmasters to be found at the TAN Depot at Eilat in 1984 was this elderly American 'International' bus which had been used taking parties on tours out into the Desert. I was followed around by the 'Garage Help' who seemed to find a way to get in every picture.
Sunday, 30 December 2007
Not only were Southport Corportation buses turned out in an extremely smart red and cream livery they made even that hated Metro-Cammell 'Orion' range of bodywork look stunning. Also one knew exactly which Lancashire town they were in too as the lamp posts were decked in the same splendid colours. But I expect it was not only bus enthusiasts who bemoaned the passing of this rather upmarket retirement town and genteel holiday resort into the enlarged Merseyside Authority in 1974. Indeed it must have been something of a shock for the local people, the effect I imagine being rather like seeing true blue Worthing being absorbed into Brixton and other poor South London Boroughs. As you might have gleaned Southport is a bit special for me as my grandparents had a big house there in Lulworth Road. But as far as bus operations were concerned there seemed little operational sense amalgamating the small 55 bus system with the giant Liverpool and close-to Wirral because unlike St.Helens which passed over at the same time and was much closer, the buses in Southport never saw much from Liverpool apart from buses of now NBC owned Ribble whose vast territory provided a cosy semi-rural buffer-zone. However absorbing the all-Leyland fleet which had recently recieved new Atlanteans with very Liverpool style Alexander bodywork and at the time of the take-over a delivery of Leyland Nationals there would not be a problem as there were already plenty of similar buses in the fleet. Even Southport's twenty-two Panthers would feel at home as Liverpool had contributed 110 MCW bodied examples of this rear-engined beast, albeit with far less attractive bodywork by the same manufacturer of this bus. Of interest might be the fact that from this working view of former No.70 of 1968 we can clearly see there is a definitely bowing of the window-line either side of the central-doors with the rear section tilting slightly backwards. Whether this was part of the design or worrying signs of structural weakness I'm not too sure, but it is no secret that this generation of 36ft rear-engined single-deckers from Leyland, AEC, and Daimler all suffered from flexing caused by mounting the heavy power-unit on it's side right at the back which also affected their reliability and ride.
Saturday, 29 December 2007
Until I stumbled on it again I had totally forgotten about once seeing this fabulous double-deck sightseeing coach in Lisbon. Also if I were the sort of person to make New-Year-Resolutions I might have decided to post more items in my so far neglected 'Rare Birds' blog category as I do have quite a lot of unusual stuff waiting patiently in my archive. Some rare buses are the stuff of legend like the FRM or the Midland Red D10's, but this gem is pure childhood fantasy as I'm sure I'm not the only schoolboy enthusiast who was weened on those eclectic books by Paul Hamlyn which amazed us with seemingly everything from tilting Routemasters on the Chiswick Skid-Pan to oxen dragging buses up the sides of Volcano's. They would have simply loved this one but all I really know is it is a Volvo with Portuguese Coachwork dating from about the end of the Sixties, also I'm sticking my neck out here but I've a feeling I read somewhere Cityrama ran it on the Paris Sightseeing Tour.
Outside the more profitable urban conurbations it seems the availability of good bus services depends largely on Quality Partnerships between the major operators and the local authority, the latter promising to improve facilities like bus stops, put in bus lanes or even help to pay for the new buses. Starved on new double-deckers for many years this means of funding brought a small fleet of brand new Alexander-Dennis Enviro buses to the streets of Plymouth when the City Council entered a partnership with the First Group to provide smart new vehicles for it's two new Park and Ride routes.
Friday, 28 December 2007
When I was a boy we used to go regularly to Manchester for the day, and as my father was a creature of habit we would arrive at the car park close to Lower Moseley Street Bus Station at about Ten-Fifteen in the morning just in good time to catch all the long distance and express departures. The long X97 Newcastle-Leeds-Manchester-Liverpool service often brought in a new Northern General vehicle like the dual-purpose Marshall bodied Leyland Leopard, but looking really brand new was this Alexander bodied Daimler Fleetline numbered 251 in the North Western Road Car fleet boarding for Stockport and Heyfield. Like some flashback to the pre-Nationalisation days of the Railway NWRC buses used to refer to Lower Moseley Street on their service blinds as 'LMS'.
Wednesday, 26 December 2007
Interlaken is of great interest to the rail enthusiast as a number of different coloured narrow-gauge companies terminate here along with the only State Railway SBB/CFF narrow line over the Brunig Pass to Luzern. For myself though Interlaken had special status as it was one of the places where The Post Office itself had a bus garage. In 1964 the allocation here was No's P24131-2, a couple of recent Saurer Alpenwagens. But as elsewhere in Switzerland like for instance those garages in Zernez and Sierre smaller operations were transfered over to local PAH Contractors wherever possible. Working the two Post Bus routes from Interlaken West Station were two Ramseier and Jenzer bodied Contractors Post Buses, a Mercedes bases NAW and a fine Saurer RH.
For many years most of the buses in Israel were built by Leyland at it's factory there, but when the dynasty ended as you might expect Swedish buses from Volvo and Scania were chosen in preference to the mighty Mercedes and other German Manufacturers. Considering this photograph was taken from an open bus window it is not at all bad.
The first Daimler Fleetlines to be exported were forty of these buses for Lisbon in 1967-68. The chassis were exported in kit form and assembled by UTIC and the rugged looking bodywork was built in the workshops of CCFL.
Monday, 24 December 2007
Modern trams and the lit up Christmas Trees seem to have the street largely to themselves on New Years Day 1989 in Geneva for in Swizerland one can enjoy transport 365 days a year on the rail network and main bus routes.
BVG the Berlin company took a fleet of 98 new MAN double-deckers in 1995-6 and one of these No.3042 was borrowed by Copenhagen in 1998, and even though a German order never followed Arriva eventually bought some big three-axle East-Lancs bodied Dennis buses for service the the Denmark capital. Sadly these have recently been sold to Ensign and returned to Britain, and for some years it looked as though the double-deck bus in Berlin too was slowly heading for extinction. Fortunately as in London it has been decided to continue buying them for busy key routes and a whole new generation are appearing in service across the city. One can tell No.3049 of the Nineties delivery was photographed some time ago as looking a bit like a radiator-grill the Brandenberg Gate Logo is carried on the front of Berlin Buses today. In my opinion this spoils the look and the clean lines of the buses somewhat.
In a way it's a bit sad that Digbeth is going to be rebuilt as a new Coach Station for there are no former Midland Red garages still in use in the area taken over by the West Midlands PTA, but at least it will stand on the same site. The 'National Express' brand is about all that is left from the NBC era of the Seventies but the faster 'Rapide' named coaches are now just a memory too. Here looking a bit upmarket for these duties was a Northen General Leyland Royal Tiger Doyan coach which bore the Registration A722 ANL when new.
Both Massey Brothers and Northern Counties bodies were built in Wigan and consequently in all fairness the Corporation used to buy batches from both suppliers and of course for many years the buses were all Leyland. Pictured loading for the well known destination of Abbey Lakes like other half cab buses in the Greater Manchester fleet this still smart looking 1962 vehicle was nearing the end of it's days at the beginning of the Eighties.
Sunday, 23 December 2007
A Short Winter Break Holiday found me in Gothenberg on a DFDS Mini Cruise and travelling on BNP 11W a Caetano bodied Volvo B10 belonging to Leons of Stafford. Our courier took great delight in telling us that another party on this Shamrock and Rambler Plaxton Paramount bodied Leyland Tiger in National Holidays livery were less fortunate than ourselves as the heating was not working on their coach.
Saturday, 22 December 2007
Not so many years ago Rugeley Bus Station used to be a hive of activity but not any more now there is just Arriva. In the good old days one of the smartest buses at the Midland Red North Chaserider Depot at Stafford was No.467 a Plaxton Supreme Bodied Leyland Leopard which received a smart claret and white livery. It is seen on the Stafford-Lichfield-Tamworth X25 Service in the Eighties with a couple of Cannock buses in the background including 2543 an ex-Trent Daimler Fleetline. Also in evidence are two of Stevenson's many former London DMS Fleetlines
Friday, 21 December 2007
Bern relied on the Zurich manufacturer FBW for both it's trolleybuses and motorbuses and when they were no longer available in the early-Eighties a few odd vehicles by other manufacturers were taken into the fleet for evaluation. As well as a small batch of Mercedes articulated buses that were always out in use there were a couple of normal length rigid buses too both always painted in that uninspiring almost uniform 'orange' that otherwise had almost disappeared Although I never saw the Mercedes out on the road a Vovo B10M looking slightly different to the Bern Standard did appear in service once and I managed to snap it. This company prototype led to the purchase of two batches of these nice buses plus some artics also from Volvo and one of the former can also be seen outside the Bahnhof looking very much smarter in the more usual Military Green and Cream which was reintroduced after a Nationwide scheme to paint all urban buses orange was discarded.
Thursday, 20 December 2007
Well Jennycliff magnificently overlooking Plymouth Harbour from across the bay is not quite Paradise but almost. But whose complaining most cross town bus services in our cities go from one grey housing estate to another or to maybe one of those misnamed Industrial Parks or almost as bad some nondescript shopping centre. At Plymouth on the other hand not only is their stunning countryside on every doorstep it is almost wild. Many people knock the First Group's Barbi livery because it is rather dull, but whether this is a quality or weakness I'm not too certain but one doesn't seem to notice it after a while. It certainly fit's in well with the soft stone and green colours of the South West looking very much at home, but it should look okay here for it is not so different from that employed by Western National following Deregulation, one of the important Founding Father's of Badgerline who eventually evolved into First when it joined up with Grampian. Not surprisingly as this is First Group's least profitable operating area there are no shortage of second-hand buses being cascaded down from the North like this Plaxton Pointer bodied Dennis Dart with it's Yorkshire Registration S337 TJX making me think of the old Halifax numbers.
For me bus photography is not just for sunny days I like all weather if I can take good pictures, and as far atmosphere is concerned there's nothing better than monochrome for the grainy qualities of bad weather. Typical of the Ribble buses to be seen in Blackburn during the NBC Eighties were Leyland Nationals of course but this was also a good place to find the low height ECW Bristol VR's.
Wednesday, 19 December 2007
Some people hate all advertising on the sides of buses but it doesn't bother me, besides often it adds a bit of colour plus extra added interest that can sometimes even help us to historically date our pictures down to a few weeks. With it's undulating landscape ample sunshine and closeness to the sea itself much of Plymouth is certainly far more beautiful and welcoming than most British Cities. However illustrating it's virtues in slabs on the side of a new bus like this does nothing to promote the attractiveness of looking at or viewing from the new Dennis 'Enviro' single-deckers that entered service this year with Citybus. Did I read that Alexander Dennis now builds the double-deck bodies at Falkirk and the single-deckers at Scarborough, if so might I suggest this one has a Plaxton body?
Tuesday, 18 December 2007
In 1965 an Atlantean looking very much like a Sheffield Corporation bus wearing both that city's latest style of Park Royal bodywork with it's angular raked-front and cream livery entered service as a Leyland Demonstrator. I remember seeing it at work in Brighton during the Christmas Holidays of 1966-7. I don't know how much of this was pure coincidence but it was later bought by the tiny concern of J.Wood who employed a similar cream and black livery which was quite rare anyway. Also Wood was based not too far from Sheffield either at Mirfield in the West Riding of Yorkshire and this once well known bus was seen in Wakefield Bus Station at the end of the Seventies.
Monday, 17 December 2007
In February 1998 I had to get as far back as I could to squeeze the front of this interesting bus into my camera picture lense as this neat looking new arrival coming to join the local Post Bus fleet at Bern looked rather out of place alongside the more usual large Mercedes O405 buses. Dating from 1990 this Renault Ponticelli/Gruau MG36 bus had just been acquired from (or most likely with) one of the Post Office Contractors (PAH) and would shortly surrender it's Bern Cantonal Registration for a Post Office Mark carrying P22021.
Sunday, 16 December 2007
Although not the favourite buses of my youth, sparkling in the warm Summer sunshine of 1967 and looking spotless and pristine in a new coat of paint it was obviously enough to make me raise my camera to take a photo of this a Bristol powered Crosville Lodekka FLF of 1962 at the operator's large vehicle Queens Ferry Garage just outside Birkenhead. Here there was an allocation of 93 with only Wrexham boasting 128 and the smaller Liverpool with 105 both topping the 100 mark and being bigger.(Allocations from Ian Allan 1965)
Since the 1980's as in Britain much has changed in the bus scene of Denmark and of course not only does one no longer see Danish DAB built Leyland Buses on the streets and out in the coutryside many of the bigger operators themselves have dissapeared into larger groups, some with English sounding names like Arriva. But I guess many small operators still remain and I wonder if Birkenrod Bus still operate in the North Copenhagen suburbs on the 328 route to Horseholm and Kokkedal Station. I would like to think so.
Saturday, 15 December 2007
At one time few proud Municipal or larger operators apart from more down to earth Independents indulged in second-hand purchases, but following Deregulation money was very tight and it was a constant fight for survival as your biggest enemy might be your previously friendly big neighbour or some cheeky have-a-go newcomer with some old Leyland Nationals trying to smoke everyone out as they hoped to sell out and thus make a few bucks. But hardly anyone would have realised that this Eastbourne Borough Transport East-Lancs bodied Dennis Dominator had come all the way from Dundee having been new to Tayside Regional Transport as not only had they bought nine similar buses the same bodywork appeared on EBC's main fleet of Atlanteans. At Dundee it had been one of six similar buses but obviously that operator didn't think much of them compared to it's many Volvo Ailsa double-deckers and in truth apart from Leicester and the South Yorkshire PTA few did.
Friday, 14 December 2007
Towns like Northampton seem rather characterless now they've lost their distinctive buses and especially beautiful machines like this traditional timber framed Roe bodied Daimler CVG6. This bus No.267 was rather special as it was the very last vehicle of this type built for a British Operator and when it was delivered in 1968 it brought the fleet of these fine machines in the all-Daimler Northampton fleet of eight-eight up to sixty-eight buses.
Thursday, 13 December 2007
Martigny is situated in the most appropriately named Swiss Canton of Valais where the steep mountainsides towering above the Rhone Valley literally overshadow this small town where a sharp bend in the course of the fast flowing river marks which peaks are in nearby Italy or France. Although of course it has a railway station it is not a busy bus terminus but in 1989 I saw this old dusty looking Mercedes O305 with the nice Registration No.VS 1111.
Wednesday, 12 December 2007
Maidstone and District had a high concentration of services in the Medway Towns and there was also a garage further up the Thames Estuary at Gravesend not far from where London Transport marked the boundary of it's Country Area with a garage at Northfleet with an allocation in 1974 of 41. The M&D allocation was a bit smaller and I would guess holding about thirty vehicles in 1967 when I visited it. Typically there were plenty of AEC Reliance OPO buses and coaches but some Leyland Atlanteans too like DH 606 from the final batch of 1962.
Wednesday, 5 December 2007
How times change for it doesn't seem that many years ago since Exeter and the Torbay area of the much loved former Devon General was plagued by hundreds of Harry Blundred's Ford Transits and Mercedes 608's. Today now the South Western outpost of the huge Stagecoach Empire where there is a bus for every job what a wonderful sight to see so many double-deckers again, and even like this former 'Stagecoach Fife' Alexander R-Series Leyland Olympian affording enjoyable upstairs rides right out into the countryside as in this instance eastwards to Tiverton. Behind it is a Northern Counties bodied Volvo Citibus one of a batch of these buses purchased when Southdown was privatised dating from 1988 and still going strong nineteen years later.
Tuesday, 4 December 2007
The nice thing about publishing on a blog is that nobody minds if the images are less than perfect because it is the degree of interest that is important. So here is this thin and scratched stained old photo that I have brought to life with Adobe of one of the 22 Guy Arab 111 5LW single-deckers with unusual centre entrance bodywork delivered to Darlington in 1952-3. Even more remarkable was that they were still busy working during the day in 1970 when in much of the country this sort of half-cab single-decker was fading into memory..
Sunday, 2 December 2007
With all these Leyland Leopards with Willowbrook and Duple Dominant Coachwork gathered around the entrance of Victoria Coach Station during the busy Afternoon Peak Period in the mid-Eighties one might surmise that new products from Plaxton were in the minority but it was Willowbrook the Loughborough bodybuilder who was feeling the pinch. When the new National Bus Company swallowed them up it told the former BET Group members that now they had to buy whenever possible it's new state-or-the-art bus the Leyland National. So like Marshall of Cambridge whom had also enjoyed a healthy order book building so called same-at-both-ends single-deckers life suddenly became hard. Even the market from the Independent Sector dried up for dual-purpose vehicles with bus-shells because they found they could with a government grant purchase attractive proper coach based vehicles from Duple and Plaxton provided they spent most of their time being used as buses. Willowbrook turned more towards bodying double-deckers including a large order for Baghdad. Sadly after some promising orders for the NBC it's most promising venture the slightly futuristic Spacecar never came to anything and so a healthy order book afterwards for a new less radical design called the 003 should have got the company back on it's feet. But not only were there problems fulfilling this crucial order, vehicles were not delivered on time and there were serious issues with the build-quality. No doubt even though Willowbrook must have heaved a huge sigh of relief by this time the situation had become critical as I expect the work famine had resulted in most of the previously loyal skilled craftsmen finding work elsewhere. Most if not all of these 003 bodies were built on the Leyland Leopard chassis by this time the NBC standard for coachwork like this example belonging to Hastings and District.
One day during the Eighties when I was busy waiting for Eastern Counties buses to come into view especially the endangered Lodekka FLF's along came this rare Willowbrook Expressway bodied AEC Reliance belonging to Cullings, one of four similar coaches delivered in 1973-4.
I'm so glad I returned to Switzerland for the New Year of 1988-89 as surprisingly not too much had changed there bus-wise since the mid-Sixties and everywhere there were nice reminders as in Geneva. I remember these Saurer buses with their unique flat looking frontal design from when I first entered the country in 1963 and in those days they looked very modern and Continental espercially as there was an articulated version as well. No doubt Geneva took this design for some years and I expect the early examples I had seen thirty-four-years previously had long departed. They certainly made a sharp contrast to the PTT owned R&J bodied Saurer L4 Post Bus P23061 (P2113) that took us up the mountainside to Chesieres. Normally on charters for our school we had the much more modern and coach-like FBW Haifisch P24001 which was kept for us and as a service spare, but this was a nice introduction to this beautiful alpine country for it was a warm September evening and we slowly weaved our way upwards into the thin-air with the canvas roof rolled back like the Pioneers.
Saturday, 1 December 2007
The various London Sightseeing Tours operations have seen a good variety of vehicles over the years and as well as there being many normally retired types like Metrobuses and Fleetlines being offered a lifeline one could also see some surprising vehicles like FRM 1 the rear-engined Routemaster, BMMO D9's and massive three-axle former National Express MCW Metroliner coaches. However if one didn't know already this re-registered old Leyland working in the Nineties was a bit of an enigma. But experienced older enthusiasts might just be able to make out some the remaining Park Royal features from this former Barrow Corporation Leyland PD2 of 1958 which had been retained as a trainer . London Sightseeing Tours might have been friendly but I have to say they were not very kind to this bus, but the way I see it is that at least another fine old Leyland half-cab was saved for a few more years from the breakers torch.
Friday, 30 November 2007
Midland Red West operated a large fleet of not very exciting Mercedes 608 minibuses on Worcester Local Services under the name Citibus but on a miserable wet day anything is welcome when it arrives. When I used to travel about more extensively in my van if there was somewhere convenient to pull up I would jump out and take individual bus pictures sometimes waiting by the bus stop not knowing what sort of bus it might be. I don't think I actually went into Worcester itself very often and this prompted me to make sure I didn't leave without a memento despite the awful weather and it is certainly an atmospheric picture of Robin Hood bodied No.1353 one of this huge batch of 105 vehicles delivered in the mid-Eighties when these minibuses were all the rage.
Thursday, 29 November 2007
Wednesday, 28 November 2007
In 1996 at Stockport there were not many reminders of the once great North Western Road Car Company which had it's headquarters and largest depot in the town but at least the smart red painted Optare was heading home to Buxton where Trent still worked out of the former North Western depot. The other buses were working for the Southern Division of the Greater Manchester PTA but had yet to receive the infamous 'back of a matchbox' designed stripes of it's new owner Stagecoach of Perth
In the Seventies Wallace Arnold of Leeds adopted a much more modern livery based on light grey with brown relief but together with the orange wheels and WA logo the effect was not at all drab and most attractive. If I remember rightly they retained the traditional yellow and orange based colours for the Devon Fleet based in Torquay but somewhat surprisingly after a few years once more painted the whole fleet back in these old colours complete with the traditional roundel that had been dropped and this staid image lasting till the concern was merged recently with Shearings. In styling when the Plaxton Panorama Elite came out at the end of the Sixties it was in looks years ahead of anything else on the road. Sadly PNW 314W was one of Wallace Arnold's very last Leyland's because about one year later having placed a large order for about 25 Tigers the Leyland workforce went out on strike and this once valued friend told them what they thought about it by transferring their allegiance to Volvo of Sweden. I'm sure this decision was not taken lightly as Wallace Arnold was the sort of operator who would have always preferred to buy British and fly the flag as we were all being encouraged to do at that time.
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
I don't know about you but I have always had favourite individual buses maybe they reminded me of a girlfriend, or perhaps I saw them on delivery or they simply stood out in some way. But the differences could be quite small and cosmetic like the sound or them if they were Leyland's retaining all their polished hug-caps and manufacturers badges. I photographed Warrington 41 a number of times because unlike it's East-Lancs Leyland PD2/40 sisters which received a later livery with greater areas of white this vehicle somehow still kept it's traditional Warrington red and white colours with that crisp black lining out when I was photographing it in 1980. BED 722C was special anyway as it had a tall look because Warrington ordered this batch of ten buses for delivery in 1965 with narrow 7 ft 6 in bodies.
Monday, 26 November 2007
The Seventies in theory was a great time for those bus operators who were not swallowed up by the National Bus Company or the PTE's surrounding our large cities for not only was there a British Government that wanted to modernise public transport they were willing to throw money at it via the bus grant system. The trouble was a highly individualistic and confident industry became little more than a branch of some indifferent Whitehall Department and even though there was money to buy buses they were not always the one's the operators wanted. Leicester having operated a small fleet of dual-entrance Leyland Tiger Cub and longer AEC Reliance single-deckers began to extend it's fleet with a decent number of new flat-front ECW bodied Bristol RELL's. But once British Leyland had launched it's new bus the Leyland National even operators beyond the control of the NBC were through lack of choice forced to buy it. Of course there were rebels like Geoffrey Hilditch the General Manager of Leicester who famously told Dennis to go away and built him a Daimler Fleetline with no Leyland parts. In the meantime Leicester City Council was not going to buy those horrible smokey Nationals and turned to the bodybuilder MCW who had teamed up with Scania from Sweden to build both new double and single-deck buses for the British market. Newport like Leicester took to them and for a period as these sophisticated buses were both popular with staff and the public but as time progressed it became obvious that they were expensive to run and not totally reliable.
Sunday, 25 November 2007
Making a top 100 Classic Buses Trams and Trolleybuses wouldn't be easy especially as it's a very personal thing. But looking around Europe and the rest of the world for me one would have to include Porto's impressive Caetano bodied Leyland Atlanteans built at the end of the Sixties as they had so much style. Putting that aside this is an odd photograph for the bus and the bus inspector look very British but I couldn't imagine double-deckers in Manchester or Birmingham stopping at the local Shell Garage in the middle of a service journey making the passengers on board patiently wait till it was finished.
Saturday, 24 November 2007
Duple of Hendon was best known for bodying lightweights like the little Bedford OB but when it took over Burlingham of Blackpool in 1962 whose main business had been bodying heavyweight buses and coaches particularly for the BET Group it established Duple (Northern) to continue the coach business. A few years later in 1966 one of it's two main competitors closed down too, but now Thomas Harrington had gone Duple still had a huge job on it's hands matching up to Plaxton's modern and cheerful Panorama Range. The early Duple Commanders bore a strong resemblance to the lightweight Hendon products but in 1968 Duple really pushed the boat out with the flashy and bold Commander Mark.111 body. It certainly had that head turning wow-factor but I would have liked to have heard the comments of these older Maidstone and District drivers respectfully giving it 'the-once-over' and especially so as this was also that operator's first of many foreign Leyland Leopards too after years of working on homely AEC's Reliances with tastefully restrained Harrington Coachwork. This coach having arrived at Maidstone was so new it still had the company nameplate to be engraved. Unfortunately this was to mark a period of frantic design innovation at Duple and many customers left because new designs seemed to come onto the market almost every year rendering last years styling starting to already look obsolete and old-hat. Of course Duple did produce some winners too and I miss them because they had a certain gritty character, but Plaxton on the other hand slowly let the crisp looking Panorama gently evolve, and launched in 1962 it was still being produced in the same recognizable form till about 1980 when it was replaced by the a new Paramount Range.
Wednesday, 21 November 2007
Lausanne opened in 1932 was Switzerland's first trolleybus system followed by Winterthur in 1938 and Zurich a year later. When I visited Winterthur in January 1990 the thirty-five strong electric fleet included ten rather stylish looking Saurer/FHS/Stromberg trolleybuses Nos.122-131 dating from 1983.
Ok Motor Services was probably the best known and most loved Independent in North East England. Photographed against the sun at the Headquarters and principal Depot at North Bondgate, Bishop Auckland in about 1980, but definately worth a photograph was EJR 791 an elderly Leyland Royal Tiger that was new to Hunter of Seaton Delaval but which had been rebodied in the mid-Sixties by Plaxton and which was quite unusual at the time. In the background is a former Burnley and Pendle East-Lancs bodied Tiger Cub of 1963.
Monday, 19 November 2007
Maidstone took two deliveries of eight Leyland Atlanteans with Massey bodywork Nos.26-42 in 1965 and 1967 to replace it's small trolleybus system operating between Barming on the Tonbridge Road on the one route which became two in the south of the town with one branch going to Loose and the other Sutton Road. The sixteen new seventy-five seat buses not only replaced twenty-four smaller trolleys, they also introduced a new light blue livery to replace the former warm ginger-brown colours which had suited Maidstone well with it breweries of brown beer and a toffee-factory, all of which created a wealth of interesting smells. Not everyone liked the Atlanteans though as they were heavy on the steering and not the most elegant products to leave the Massey Brothers works in Wigan, but they were certainly well put together and relatively free from the usual rattles. I for one mourn the passing of these traditional Municipal Operators like Maidstone for not only did the buses carry neat proper sign-written advertisements for small businesses in the Borough, even after the frequencies were reduced because of the extra seats provided, one still only had to wait three or if you were unlucky four minutes for a bus up towards Barming during normal hours. You couldn't grumble at that could you!
Saturday, 17 November 2007
I wouldn't call myself a film buff but I really enjoy movies both shot on location and in cities that interest me for not only do I look for places I know hopefully I will catch glimpses of times gone by when it comes to transport, and maybe even catch sight of an old once numerous favourite type. Clint Eastwood made literally a cliff-hanger of a film about secret agents with an interloper in the group trying to kill them one by one as they ascend the Eiger as they do. Yes more boring Hollywood stuff but the opening scenes were a bit more interesting as they were shot in lovely Zurich, but I would have thought the budget might have been stretched a fraction to get in one of Zurich's fine blue and white trams as the usual practice normally dictates. Here is the spot which I went looking for having seen it on film but the moody little narrow passage Clint came down to meet his seedy unhealthy looking contact on The Limmat Quay had vanished. Once Clint has paid him and walked off the man lights the stub of an old cigar and a few moments later gets murdered in the back with deep penetrating bone crunching Stiletto Blade. Someone must either have followed Clint down to the Limmat Quay or this Switzerland is a dangerous place even in daytime. Sadly as you can see from the photo the passage no longer reaches the main thoroughfare as a shoe shop called of all things Buffalo now barred the way. So much for the wide-open-spaces America's Finest love but if I can divert your eyes from the wonderful display in the Beate Uhuse sex shop window for a moment I would like to make another observation. I can't really understand the film-maker's fascination for shooting exciting dramas in Switzerland as in reality very little ever seems to happen here compared to say Detroit or Birmingham and even the most stupid of criminals can think of better places to rob a bank. No all I ever saw were quiet polite harmless old people when waiting to board the almost silent No.15 tram. I guess American film makers see filming in old Europe as some kind of token holiday whilst the Swiss see all this cloak and dagger stuff as being good for tourism.
I get a lot of web searches for the Birmingham firm called Gliderways and obviously many of you still remember those fine classic Leyland Coaches of this seventeen vehicle concern carrying everyone's favourite Harrington Bodywork and sometimes even complete with that period dorsal-fin which made them such a nostalgia Classic Coach . Another nice thing about them is they were based just in Staffordshire at Bearwood just outside Brum Proper and like the Midlands Electricity Board vans they carried those almost exclusive Midland Red Smethwick HA registration letters.After Harrington's closed it's Hove factory this operator turned to Plaxton who bodied this Leopard in 1966. Sadly even though it might look like a Gliderways coach this photo taken at St Georges Drive in London was actually captured one week after operations ceased in the Autumn of 1969. We should have spotted trouble looming earlier because of all things and I say it quietly, they were even buying those horrible Dinky-Toy Bedford's towards the end. At the time I was living slightly further down this road and as you can imagine being a budding artist as well as the Tate Gallery which was within easy walking distance the very close Victoria Coach Station at the bottom of the street was one of my regular haunts especially at busy week-ends.
With all due respects to John Mac-Enroe things have changed rather a lot in the last decade or so in Switzerland. Once this was the most conservative of countries with sensible old-fashioned laws and regulations about almost everything including bus-use and specification and that mentality still remains, but Switzerland itself has changed a great deal too and even the old alpine roads with those sticking out jagged rocks on one side and a sheer drop on the other with their very tight passing places and scary hairpin-bends have been replaced by wide fast highways and long straight tunnels that cut through the mountains like a knife and the only time you glimpse the romance of the old days is when the bus turns off to call in at some cluster of crumbling barns and old houses clinging to an oversized whitewashed church and of course a bus stop a Co-op Shop and a lottery ticket machine. But now you don't see many of those still charming Romansh speaking so-called villages any more and the only danger seems to be when the not too professional driver uses his mobile-phone whilst driving. But of course there has always been a more modern side to the bus services in Switzerland and I well remember the swish-looking articulated buses running in Geneva when I first visited it in 1963. Also since the bus services were Deregulated and Post Buses too lost their legal state protection and special status not only can communities look elsewhere for public transport the Post Office itself can now tender for new better business competing on busy urban routes in new areas and has even opening up new frontiers abroad as has happened in nearby France across the Jura. So we shouldn't be too surprised when on our travels we encounter double-deck coaches up in the mountains and endless beasts like this three-axle Setra S319 UL delivered in 1997 such as this one P27812 seen in 2000 at the then new garage at Delemont. Maybe I should I have looked but I expect there was a hook on the back for the trailer.
Friday, 16 November 2007
The bus scene in Denmark when I went there during the Eighties seemed to be a fairly equal split between the two dominant combinations of Aabenraa-Volvo and DAB-Leyland and examples of each could be seen here at the busy bus terminus beside the Station in Roskilde which marked the southern boundary of HT's operations. The Greater Copenhagen HT network was split into three zones and the outer one Area 3 was served largely by this type of Volvo vehicle, and later batches of this bus which it chose for it's country routes were also delivered to the central areas too.