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
Saturday, 30 June 2007
In the British Bus Industry the Sixties was an era of innovation that was largely led by the bus companies themselves and one of the important engineers was Ralph Bennett who made a name for himself at Bolton before moving down the road to Manchester before then finding himself in charge of the big one namely London Transport. He will be best remembered for how his influence revolutionised the design of the rear-engined double-decker which up to that point had largely meant bodybuilders moving the entrance to the front and sticking the engine at the back of their existing front-engined designs. His biggest contribution to Manchester was the introduction of the striking slab-sided driver only double-deckers which arrived in a crisp red and white livery similar to that found on a Embasy Cigarette Packet. However after SELNEC absorbed the Manchester fleet into the PTA and painted them into a rather undistinguished orange and cream livery they were never to look that good again. The company was later renamed Greater Manchester Transport after even more fleets were added but the orange colour prevailed until the eventual break-up prior to Privatisation. A Daimler Fleetline like most Mancunians with bodywork by Park Royal was caught passing the old Central Station in the early Eighties.
The first time I really got to have a good look around the German part of Switzerland I still didn't know where I might find Regie Post Buses and I travelled more with a feeling of hope than purpose. Now looking back that seems no bad thing for the Post Fleet was not that varied or interesting when one considers that Swiss manufacturers were still dominant on the streets and there was a wealth of interesting trams, buses and trolleybuses waiting for me and some even dating back to when I was at school in the mid-Sixties. A good example is Olten a town one might just pass through on the train but here not only was the famous Berna bus and truck manufactured, buses still carried the proud marque. I expect the Swiss Orange nearest the camera, as I call them, was just a mundane Saurer badged as a Berna for there were not a lot of new one's about and it seems they stopped producing them in 1979. But the cream and blue bus still thankfully in traditional Olten colours no doubt was the real thing and I was lucky enough to see this Hess bodied bus at the Geneva Motor Show in 1964..
Wet days and so forth always remind me of the same and when I'm doing my blog I like something nostalgic that fits my mood or even where I'm going or where I've just been. Sadly I don't go to Leicester very often these days but I do still have to go out in the rain like everyone else and sometimes I even take photographs. In the Corporation days early in the Eighties not only was the mainly cream livery bright, the buses usually looked clean standing out well in the often poor English weather. The smart but rather conservative looking Corporation ECW bodied Leyland Atlantean going to New Parks was already about twelve years old and makes an interesting contrast to the classic Foden artic belonging to Elsby which although dating from 1972 looks a good deal older than the bus.
Wednesday, 27 June 2007
Strange things happen and I never expected to hear the distinctive engine revs of a red and white Plymouth Citibus Atlantean just across the road from my house. Still in it's old colours this was one of a group of interesting old Leylands that turned up for a function staged within the Social Club of a local factory one sunday about four or five years ago. Had a few more old buses turned up like this bus belonging to Riverside of Telford and it could have doubled as a classic bus rally.
If it still was a Golden Age of Coaching it seemed to definitely meet it's end with Deregulation as small operator's sold out to companies primarily running buses and the former NBC fleets either shed of demoted much of their coach fleet. But today it is a tough market as there is a huge difference between quality coaching and running a few old faithful workhorses doing schools contracts and on cheap excursions to The Dogs or days out to Blackpool. Buying a modern executive coach like this huge three-axel Irizar bodied Scania belonging to Solmar Travel of Walsall would definitely set you back a few bob and you would not be able to park it outside your house so it's hardly surprising that it's a task left to the experts.
Sunday, 24 June 2007
They're all quite different but Bournemouth is probably Britain's top quality traditional seaside holiday resort even if it is perhaps only the more balmy warmer climate that makes it score points over say Scarborough on the exposed East Coast or Llandudno in Wet Wales Also a huge plus was that until very recently the local council still operated it's own bus fleet in the town's traditional yellow colours including of course a number of Daimler Fleetlines and some dating from the days when British buses were still a very British affair. In 1992 Alexander bodied No.121 was Eighteen years old and still working hard for it's living.
In the middle of Summer it is usually very hot in Portugal and it cannot be much fun riding a bike in the rush hour with all the potholes and vehicle fumes to contend with. During the Eighties Porto like other towns in this country took some new single-deck Italian Lancia Trolleybuses with Portuguese bodywork like No.68 pictured when still quite new.
Friday, 22 June 2007
The vehicles weren't usually as smart as fellow nearby BET Group neighbours Trent or Ribble but I have a soft spot for North Western, and Northwich close to where I went to school for a couple of terms was not only one of the largest garages with seventy vehicles it had one of best kept fleet's. At the time in early 1966 most of the recent stock was AEC especially the double-deck Renown but apart from a couple of demoted Alexander Leopard express coaches the newest Leylands were a pair of now middle-aged Tiger Cub coaches 768 and 770 dating from 1959. I was lucky enough to ride of No.768 on a couple of occasions including the time when the school let me have a day out on the buses when I took it to Macclesfield. Even today I sometimes think about that trip when I drive my minibus to Manchester Airport down the lanes through Mobberley and Knutsford. Early in 1966 they lost their single cream band coach livery and as well as being fitted of OPO they official became dual-purpose machines and received the new appropriate livery which now replaced the former elegant red black and cream.
Thursday, 21 June 2007
Just ahead of Aarau, Gelterkinden was the last main PTT Regie Garage to retain a 100% Saurer RH fleet as the Engineer didn't like those new fangled German machines from Mercedes and Setra. Of course this was fine by us the enthusiasts because these the Rolls-Royce of Swiss buses were our choice too. But as a bonus like other garages there was often something extra to photograph like this officially withdrawn 1968 Ramseier & Jenzer bodied Saurer DUK P25561 photographed on a grey day in January 1991.
Wednesday, 20 June 2007
Even before the fall of the Berlin Wall visits to the city by British touring coaches were not uncommon but this Ribble Duple bodied Leyland Leopard PSU5 No.87 looked a long way from home as it passed through Neukoln in the now open city in the early Nineties. SND 287X dating from 1981 was originally with National Express West and so it's more recent role as a coach might have been a sideways move in it's career but as can be witnessed here it's new role could be a lot more exotic than chasing up and down the congested M1 and M6 Motorways.
Monday, 18 June 2007
I think these Northern Counties bodied Guy Arabs with Lancashire United were a real classic and the gentle curves of the bodywork and window surrounds matched the 'Birmingham Tin Front' perfectly. Although this 1962 vehicle was rear entrance and open-platform, from 1964 buses were supplied with front-entrances and a sliding door. From 1962 like many other operators LUT thought it should embrace the future by ordering new generation rear-engined double-deckers in the shape of the Daimler Fleetline, but alongside these LUT continued to buy larger batches of the solid reliable Guy Arab V bus right till the end of the Sixties when Government Legislation rendered these traditional buses obsolete. No.112 was pictured leaving Salford Bus Station in the sunshine and was taken with my old Ilford Sporty Camera so please excuse the poor quality.
Saturday, 16 June 2007
Thursday, 14 June 2007
Strange isn't it how our tastes in fashion are changed by the pundits and design professionals and the old not so long ago derided tasteless look is now the coolest thing on two axles heading down Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse like this magnificent Saurer coach dating back to the early Fifties. But the new ones lack something because they are missing that smell of traditional quality and the sounds of polite coughing and Swiss precision engineering are replaced by the fuzz from a leaking personal stereo and the creaking of glued together plastic. This beautiful creature was seen at the Transport Rally held in the station forecourt at the tram terminus called Tiefenbrunnen in September 1990.
In Britain double-deck coaches for express services were all the rage in the Eighties and Leyland also took a share of this market when it extended the wheelbase of it's Olympian bus and gave it a more stylish and comfortable ECW body for the NBC Operators with commuter services working into London who no doubt welcomed the extra seating capacity. Following deregulation and Privatisation of the NBC Companies there seemed to be a sharp decline in coach work as the new owners lost interest in it and concentrated their efforts on the highly competitive but potentially more lucrative stage carriage market. However many of the redundant vehicles were not sold off but were moved instead around the country where they started doing similar work but looking very different in the colours of new operators within the same group. This 'First' Kelvin example seen in Glasgow came from Eastern National who ran coaches in competition with Southend Transport into London along the A12 corridor.
Wednesday, 13 June 2007
Monday, 11 June 2007
As long as I can remember London Transport had to use ordinary buses on it's Green Line coach services during peak periods but by the late Eighties when eye-catching full specification coaches were being employed an all-over green Leyland National looked somewhat out of place in Central London..
Maybe it's just me but I tend to think those poppy red buses of the NBC era look a lot better in black and white and it certainly adds gritty charm to this dirty wet day in Blackburn. Taken in about 1980 one can just catch a glimpse of the roof of a Corporation Leyland PD2, but this shot features some smiling schoolgirls and typical Ribble vehicles bought since Nationalisation. As well as two of the ubiquitous Leyland Nationals looking quite presentable with a white stripe to add a splash of brightness was a Bristol VR with ECW lowheight bodywork still looking quite shiny and new beneath the caked dirt.
Saturday, 9 June 2007
At first glance the sight of a bonneted Saurer Post Bus working on the streets of Berlin seems most odd, but of course similar looking forward-control Mercedes-Benz bonneted buses were quite commonplace right into the Sixties.The vehicle was working in Berlin in 1992 on the tourist circuit and I guess it dates from about 1957.
When I took a photograph of these two Green Line coaches at Gatwick Airport in the mid-Eighties I would never have guessed that in the next decade both vehicles now owned by British Bus would be rebodied by East-Lancs as single-deck buses and form part of a fleet of these vehicles allocated to Midland Red North at my home town of Stafford. The Berkhof bodied coach nearest to the camera became 1728 and the shorter one by ECW became 1715.
When Harry Blundred took over Devon General he more or less elimated big buses but even he was slowly mellowing to the extent that he was introducing jumbo-minibuses with dual doorways to his fleets. So not surprisingly when Stagecoach took over his network in Devon proper sized buses were soon drafted in from elsewhere and these included still in London red Leyland Titans from Selkent like former T859 seen on a sunny Sunday at Torquay in July 1998.
Friday, 8 June 2007
Wednesday, 6 June 2007
In the Seventies many operators were growing more dissatisfied with the choice and reliability of the vehicles they were more or less forced to buy off British Leyland and other manufacturers were keen to take advantage of this disquiet. MCW did a deal with Scania to build complete buses in the UK and Newport became a loyal Scania customer. Later buses included this batch of nine Wadham Stringer Vanguard bodied single-deckers. This combination was rare as the bodybuilders products were most usually found on non PSV buses belonging to the Police, Armed Forces, Social Services and the like.
Tuesday, 5 June 2007
In 1992 a girlfriend used to travel the South Coast when she worked for a bowling alley chain and treated me to a day out with her when she visited Southampton, Portsmouth and Worthing. Although the weather was quite bright and sunny, being so close to Christmas the days were short and it was dark by the time we reached her last call. The best views were taken in Southampton but later as the afternoon rush started when the schools broke up for the day I wouldn't normally have wasted a lot of film but I had to make the best of the remaining light for there was a lot to photograph in Portsmouth including the buses belonging to Provincial of Gosport. On privatisation the old inky green livery had been revived and another reminder of the old pre-NBC days in the Sixties was the dependancy on second-hand stock, but there seemed to be a certain irony in the fact that once it's fleet which included Deutz-Powered rebuilds had been quite remarkable yet the current fleet of Leyland Nationals were so mundane but surprisingly they did not look at all out of place. Considering it was the first british bus to be built on a production line like a car and whose specification offering few design options it is gratifying to note how smart homely and individualistic it could look in differing types of livery.
Rather like the forest floor after a fire, when the rains finally came it did not take long for the trappings of Capitalism to take root and quickly sprout in the former East Germany. Not only did the roads fill with new street furniture and advertising up to date non-communist cars started to fill the roads and also from the West came new middle-aged buses to replace the somewhat basic but still reliable Ikarus fleet and flowery painted double-deckers advertising gardening products could even be found heading for the leafy suburbs way off the tourist trail like this BVG bus bringing the simple pleasures of riding upstairs on a MAN double-decker to Buch.
Monday, 4 June 2007
Now a part of the National Bus Company a keen operator of the double-decker Midland Red ordered it's first batch of I think it was 90 Leyland Atlanteans having previously prefered the Daimler Fleetline. Sadly the Atlanteans were divered elsewhere and in future the company was forced to take large numbers of the Leyland National instead. Of the Atlanteans Merseyside PTA took the Alexander bodied examples whilst Maidstone and District and London and Country had the ones by Metro-Cammell. A Godstone vehicle AN 111 is pictured taking on a decent load at bromley.
Sunday, 3 June 2007
In Switzerland Mercedes-Benz buses seem to be everywhere and as I shot this one as I had a few minutes to spare in Wattwil. Had I come at another time I might have seen an FBW because they were still running here till the late Nineties and wishing I had alighted earlier I followed the progress of one of them from the train as we lumbered our way towards Uznach. Although the bus belongs in Saint.Gallen the routes travel into three cantons and they are displayed at the front.
Saturday, 2 June 2007
No doubt the now demolished warehouse belonging to Bishop and Sons Removals was inadvertently photographed many times along with the generations of distinctive Green Line Coaches that paused on Ecclestone Bridge in Vicoria on their marathon journeys that crossed the Capital. By the Nineties not only had a new covered bus station been built to cater for the former NBC Commuter network London Country had become London and Country with a bright new livery by Ray Stenning which made even these awkward looking East-Lancs bodied Volvos look attractive.
Visit the gallery of old BMMO Midland Red buses from the Sixties on my website
To celebrate it's Centenary in 2004 three of the four major bus companies that operate from former Midland Red garages painted buses in the old red livery. This Arriva Mashall bodied Dennis Dart really looked like a Midland Red Bus and not only was it painted exactly the right shade of red it could have been the S14 of the Nineties complete with the customary 'Midland' plate below the windscreen and an HA Smethwick office registration number which the company also shared with Gliderways and the MEB. As one would expect this bus did a tour of the garages including Stafford where it enjoyed an extended stay to cover some of the fleet that was away being refurbished
Friday, 1 June 2007
Well sadly it didn't happen till many years later but I would have loved to have seen it in it's busy heyday when in the winter months up to fifty of the PTT Swiss Post Bus fleet could be inside the main works being overhauled during the winter months. I had the opportunity to make a brief unofficial visit with our local driver who had to take our FBW C40U there to get it repaired after it overheated on a school trip to Bern. It would have made me a bit late for dinner and when I asked the teacher in charge if I could go and be a bit late he was angry and said I was a very stupid person and going out and being part of the group drinking a few beers was what I should be thinking of. Afterwards some of my classmates got permission to go off on their own and stupidly one of them sent a letter to his sister bragging that they had been in a bar where people had been smoking drugs and all hell let loose at the school when the parents found out. Serves them right don't you think, it's one of my biggest regrets in life and when I return to Switzerland as an adult it's only the buses I go to visit. Not surprisingly the teacher's pet was teacher's pet no more. As for the bus which we had to borrow for the return journey, it was almost new and it did not pass unnoticed as we snaked our way up the mountain road and through villages like Huemot. Farmers stopped working to wave and even cows stopped eating to stare with amazement. The Saurer has been at the Post Garage in Fluelen during the Summer for the Klausen Pass run but obviously it was overwintering at Bern as I have seen another photo. I took this view of the drivers chatting at Chesieres-Villars just before it left for Bern on the return of our P24001 several weeks later.