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, 31 May 2008
Maybe there are always too many changes or time travels just too fast but as far as the bus scene is concerned too many good things get swept away for ever. Once Stafford was the northern outpost of the giant Midland Red which famously operated 1900 buses and coaches mostly of it's own manufacture. Almost nothing remains as a reminder of this great company in Stafford as even the old concrete bus stop poles are slowly being replaced by new metal ones as often kerb sides are raised at the same time to enable wheelchair access on the new generation wheelchair friendly buses. Worse still not only was arson suspected when the Pilgrim Street garage was gutted and many of the buses destroyed but the company at the time, British Bus tried to blame it on aggrieved bus-spotters who had been turned away. But there is one reminder that keeps those glory days alive and that is the Midland Red Stafford out-of-town area route numbers went from 823-875. The last mentioned the 875 went from Stafford to Penkridge and when the Birmingham-Dudley-Wolverhampton-Stafford 196 route was cut in the middle at Wolverhampton at the end of the Sixties so this end could be worked by Wolverhampton Garage as a single-deck OPO service it made sense to give it 876. I've heard new Scania buses are earmarked for this service so like the routes from Cannock not long ago christened 874-5 but since revamped with new buses as the 74-75, no doubt the 876 will become 76. The routes out to the Heywoods, Uttoxeter and Hixon still carry 841-842 but they are not originals either as this work came with Stevenson's and Staffordian in the Nineties As a final twist, in this view taken about six years ago of East-Lancs bodied H914 XYT , this bus came from Cowie's Grey Green the small London company that was the tiny acorn that grew into the huge Arriva.
As well as the familiar Metrobus like Cricklewood based T47 seen here working for London Transport at Victoria Metro-Cammell of Birmingham also built the Metroliner double-deck coach. Most went to National Express and received the manufacturer's own coachwork but Yorkshire Traction recieved five Plaxton low-height vehicles including the last one pictured here No.95 that was delivered in 1985 at C95 KET.
Thursday, 29 May 2008
Wandering around one doesn't seem to come across so many coaches in Switzerland these days unless they are ferrying tourists to and from the ski resorts. So I tend to photograph anything that looks rather smart like this very stylish Italian Pandene boded Mercedes-Benz 0303 coach in it's home town of Zurich paused outside the Bahnhof with suitably affluent clientele waiting to board some time in the Nineties.
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
I like to make my submissions match the day somehow whether it be the weather, at the weekend, a holiday or somewhere I've just been. This week has been horribly wet and were one to see one of Midland Red's few surviving D9's busily working away in Leicester at the end of the Seventies one would have certainly been cheered. Most of the various former BET Group operators buses looked rather depressing in the rather unimaginative toy-town NBC colours imposed on them after Nationalisation but somehow the old BMMO's of the Birmingham company had enough home-spun character and charm to negate it. With no ceremony the last of these six remaining half-cab cew operated buses operating on Leicester City Services were withdrawn from service at Southgate Street Garage on the evening of 31st December 1979
Tuesday, 27 May 2008
It's certainly worth a try as that's what it says on the sign above municipal flowerbeds here in Stafford. The First Group took over our next-door large bus operator PMT in the Nineties who at one time when I was a spotter had an impressive 520 buses but service cuts in NBC days eliminated most of the country routes and under First no-one would say they run an intensive network in the urban Potteries either and including minibuses the fleet size now must be about half what it used to be. Yes many years ago right up to the mid-Seventies the Potteries Motor Traction company had a small garage just a stones-throw-away from this now green spot at Gaol Square with for much of the 1960's five single-deckers to work the village routes north of the town and two Leyland Atlanteans to do the operator's share of the Parkside-Baswich town service with Midland Red whilst the other big bus did the important trunk-service, the Number 10 to Stoke and Hanley. Today numbered 101 and running frequently as a prestige service it is the only First Group service that runs remotely close to Stafford and now also serves Newcastle-under-Lyne employing normally exclusively these fine Polish bodied Scanias. Indeed after a couple of years this initial batch from 2004 were moved on to other important trunk work and replaced by a new set of about eight buses. When I put up one of my Stafford buses and girls pictures last week it got a lot of hits so I thought I would treat you all to another one: And why not it is Christmas.
The Canton of Friborg was unusual in owning it's own buses and they stood slightly apart by wearing this not unattractive soft green livery with red relief. The fleet was quite varied too and included this boxy looking dual-entrance Mercedes midi-bus loading outside the main railway station for the nearby curiously drunken sounding named village of Chesoppelox.
Monday, 26 May 2008
Memories of Copenhagen where I had a Danish Girlfriend come flooding back so it was well worth bringing this second division image to life for you with a little TLC. Indeed there's nothing I enjoy more than making something from nothing. The HT of those days is still a favourite operator of mine and these nicely rounded DAB Leyland buses had so much character like 1969 No.417, a lucky bus that outlived many of it's BL2d contemporaries receiving this yellow repaint in 1984. It is heading towards the Amager Bridge and on to the island of that name where the bus was garaged at Irlandsvej and carries the code Ir. I particular like these later examples of this bus which had an enlarged route-number-box making them that bit more memorable.
It wouldn't seem right were I to let a seasonal English Bank Holiday slip by without posting a picture from Blackpool that magnet for coaches from all over the North. Today you would have trouble finding one I expect but towards the end of the Eighties they were still in abundance, not just from NBC Operators but many patriotic Independents too like OK of Bishop Auckland. As well as this Plaxton Supreme V Express bodied Leopard the Paramount 3200 that followed on from it can be viewed on the two 1985 Tigers belonging to West Riding of Wakefield which were still new enough as to have not lost their attractive Leyland badges yet.
Sunday, 25 May 2008
It's a good job we have a good bus service in Stafford provided by Arriva as I don't think this girl would be able to walk too far in those magnificent new shiny boots. The bus is a Plaxton Pointer bodied Dennis Dart one of a batch of eight 2329-2337 (R329-337 TJW) partly funded by the local council to work the busiest cross-town service No.9 which serves a large housing estate on one side and the University and Hospital on the other. There was no 2333 R333 TJW as the licensing authority kept the more desirable numbers back in case private buyers wanted them.
Saturday, 24 May 2008
I seem to dwell rather more on the past than the present which seems a bit silly really as I take some fine digital photographs and this good one has sat in the files for over one year already. I'm not so bus-mad any more so the poor old bus usually is more of an excuse to do some photography rather than an end in itself. But I'm sure you'll agree there are occasions when I get the balance between the composition, vehicles and human interest just right. Linking the Zoo Bahnhof in the old West Berlin, The Reichstag, Unter-den-Linden and Alexander Platz the tourist favourite 100 Bus Route naturally plays host to the newest double-deck buses which always seem to be full. Still if you are like me you might prefer to stand around a bit longer as an older bus might well come along as they do. So far there are 200 of these new air-conditioned MAN buses which BVG call the Lion with another 200 to follow. Fleet numbers start at 3099 and sadly they will eventually see off all the other double-deck buses but at least there will still be top-deck rides for some years to come on the city's busiest routes.
Friday, 23 May 2008
Despite the tricky light-source just after mid-day especially on a Friday was always a good time to be outside Digbeth Coach Station in Birmingham to witness and photograph the cream of the crop of the mass departures as the coaches headed out in different directions. In the Eighties as well as the all-white National Express coaches there were other delights including the metallic blue coloured Premier Travel Leyland or older AEC Plaxton Coaches. Heading for beyond it's Cambridge Homeland this very late AEC Reliance of about 1979 is bound for the city of Norwich and the seaside and fishing town of Great Yarmouth whilst a smart A-Reg Duple Bodied Tiger of the same company follows.
Thursday, 22 May 2008
If I were to write up a list of my favourite buses most would now be crossed out having gone but one type remains still to be seen and enjoyed in decent numbers. With delivery commencing in 1984 the West Berlin BVG took about 460 of these Waggon-Union bodied MAN D 2566 double-deckers with numbers starting at 3500. Miraculously about 180 of these fine roomy spirited buses still remain in everyday service but sadly they should all be gone by the end of next year when BVG received it's second batch of 200 'jumbo-sized' Lion buses that make the whole double-deck fleet one of these worthy but not very interesting buses. Many of the former long bus routes from and to the Zoo Bahnhof Terminus have been cut back but the X10 to Tetlow affords a decent ride on some wide fast roads where unlike the new Lions that hum these old one's literally roar along like real big-hearted buses.
Wednesday, 21 May 2008
One of the most important bus routes in Berlin is the 29 renumbered to 129 after German Reunification. It is a most enjoyable double-deck bus ride taking one from sleepy Roseneck on the expensive side of the Kurfirstendam with it's big fast cars and glamorous older women to the dirty Bohemian and Imigrant quarter of Kreuzberg and then on further to the equally poor working-class district of Neukolin. As you might guess my brother lives near here so I get off in Kreuzberg a place where you have to watch where you put your feet and where almost too conveniently there seem to be piles of these Workman's street cobbles or sets left lying around at the end of April ready for the May-Day Riots. My brother thinks I'm mad as he always goes on the U-Bahn but I always take my time and go by bus enjoying the beautiful many layered historic ugliness of Berlin for unlike Arriva I think the purpose of travel is not to arrive! So sadly the bus always gets there before me and buses like a brown painted Man No.3311 dating from 1983 seen when still in it's first flush of youth are more memories to share with you here. I just wish you could hear it pass by.
Tuesday, 20 May 2008
Until standee single-deckers were introduced on the new Red Arrow services in 1966 all the red buses seen working in Central London were double-deckers. Eventually the last of the 'Red Arrow' AEC Merlins were replaced by these Leyland National 2 buses but the far more numerous earlier National Mark.1 was pretty well confined to the suburbs like it's ancestor the Fifties AEC Regal RF. However one of these Outer-London routes coming right from within breathing distance of the city's greener fringes, the No. 10 from Wanstead in the North East actually penetrated in all the way to Victoria Station at the nub of the metropolis bringing with it earlier type Leyland National Mark.1 buses like LN 405.
For most of it's years under BET ownership Southdown based on the South Coast was particularly associated with Leyland buses and so when it became a part of the National Bus Company the Atlantean seemed a suitable choice. Unlike other former BET members like Ribble and Northern General who also received these attractive and greatly improved Park Royal bodied AN68's Southdown had no experience of these buses sticking wisely with the trusted front-engined Leyland PD3. Delivery started in 1974 and although a fleet of 47 buses were delivered they were after just a few years moved on to other NBC operators as by this time the Sussex based company had become wedded to Bristol double-deck products once the sole preserve of BTC 'Tilling companies like the local' Brighton and Hove District who had been merged with this it's huge neighbour.
Monday, 19 May 2008
Square boxes with lots of black plastic do nothing for me so actually I rather like bus and coach designs with a bit of personality whether it be an excess of brightwork or a strong racy livery. This Volvo with it's big radiator grill looks rather good in the cheerful orange glow that was the friendly 'Sunny' RN image. Taken in Monte Gordo in 1984 I'm not sure who built the attractive bodywork but these slightly menacing coaches like No.9808 were by no means rare.
Despite the dull damp weather in Manchester last Saturday this remarkably clean looking Optare Solo still managed to look quite cheerful which is more than could be said for the somewhat more grubby Stagecoach Plaxton bodied Volvo coach heading out of the city on it's way to Preston and Sunny Blackpool. Of course as I'm sure as Stagecoach would point out this is just one view, but it does illustrate how impressive a clean bus can be at times.
Sunday, 18 May 2008
I've been rather busy over the last few days and my activities included a visit to the Manchester Museum of Transport in Boyle Street at the back of Queens Road Bus Garage where they were staging a Stockport Weekend featuring displays and former buses from that town as well as North Western of course whose headquarters were there at Charles Street along with a large garage. Old NW Bristols from the early-Fifties were very much in evidence as of course were Leylands of both operators. Former Stockport all-Leyland PD2 308 gave a perfect rattle-free ride despite being built in 1951. Stockport was the last major customer for the bigger similar half-cab Leyland Pd3 in 1969 and these East Lancs bodied buses with crash gearboxes entered service when the nearby much more adventurous Manchester was taking delivery of it's futuristic looking jumbo Atlantean and Fleetline 'Mancunian' OPO double-deckers. Indeed the PD3's also seen in this view were still in service when Stockport's new PTA owner Greater Manchester Transport was buying the new generation British Leyland London Bus the Leyland Titan at the end of the Eighties. Having said that the new Titans TN's didn't last much longer than their solid trustworthy elders and were quietly sold off as being none standard and as well as more Atlanteans, and similar Fleetlines the operator chose instead the cheaper Leyland Olympian and Metrobus as it's preferred future choice.
Thursday, 15 May 2008
Two Regie Post Buses prepare for departure from outside the railway station in St Gallen. In the background is Hess bodied P24420 the first of the NAW BH 4-23 series of buses bound for Heiden where it was garaged along with P24421-2. At this time in the early Nineties the nearby garage in St Gallen itself, was still reliant on the Saurer RH and particularly this more square looking variant with it's body shape more in keeping with the buses supplied to various PTT Contractors. This was also the longer urban variant of the RH 580-25 found in the more populated areas beyond the mountains particularly in the North East of Switzerland and P25654 was built with R&J bodywork in 1982.
Wednesday, 14 May 2008
Tuesday, 13 May 2008
This Northern Counties bodied DAF double-deck tour bus hard at work in the Italian city of Florence in December 2004 looks as if it has just been whisked away from off the London streets for despite having been modified for a new life in Europe it still bore the Yorkshire number-plate it carried when new to Blue Bus of Horwich near Bolton.
Bus rallies serve a number of functions for as well as enthusiasts showing off their pride and glory from the past the big groups like Arriva use local events to show off their latest buses. Also as well as stands selling photographs books and model buses dealers also sell hard to come by spares which often command high prices. At the end of the day it's the people one meets and seeing once more beautiful old vehicles like this wonderful Royal Blue Bristol L6B coach which would have spent much of it's working life travelling between Cornwall and Devon to London.
The first time I went to Torquay early in 1967 Devon General had received along with five AEC Regents a batch of six new high-gloss Leyland Atlanteans all carrying attractive Willowbrook Bodywork. Like other BET concerns who had taken large quantities of these Leyland buses when they first arrived on the scene their lack of enthusiasm was to be seen in their reluctance to order too many more preferring the solid no-frills reliability of the older designs, and indeed only another eight MCW bodied examples were to arrive in Devon General colours in 1969 before the whole BET Group became a part of the new Bristol VR loving NBC as the former State owned Bristol/ECW driven BTC sector was enlarged and modernised.
Monday, 12 May 2008
An interesting corner of the OK Motor Services depot at Bishop Auckland with an East Lancs bodied Leyland Tiger Cub that came from Burnley and Pendle and a former Wigan Leyland PD2 with a locally built Massey body. Like Stevenson of Uttoxeter who was also the prominent Independent in it's area this County Durham based concern bought both examples of new service buses including double-deckers and heavyweight coaches but the fleet was very reliant on quality secondhand purchases often bought in batches. Stevenson's never had any former Southdown Leyland PD3 Queen Mary's but OK had several including XUF 847-9 and we can also glimpse the former 848 in this view taken at the beginning of the 80's.
Sunday, 11 May 2008
Hot dry weather greeted those who attended the local POTS bus rally held today at the Wedgwood Visitors Centre at Barlaston. As for myself I'm not crazy about these events so I don't go too far from home but there is always something enjoyable to do whether it be browse the stalls for books and models or catch a ride on an old favourite. I always take my tape recorder with me just in case there's something special to ride on. This year was no exception as I got something new a Beadle bodied Commer two-stroke which certainly gave a spirited ride through the Staffordshire countryside and villages. I remember trips to the Stafford Brine Baths in these Commer coaches belonging to Greatrex Tours as a youngster.
Saturday, 10 May 2008
When competition was at it's fiercest in the early Ninnies Greater Manchester Transport ran some former London Routemasters in LT colours much to the consternation of their former owner's. They ran on the 143 student corridor to West Didsbury and two of them can be seen passing the Arndale Centre
Friday, 9 May 2008
I love crowd scenes and lots of activity so I don't particularly mind and even quite welcome it if people get in the way of my buses. Express coach arrivals and departures are always good for a bit of low-key drama, but having said that I like to be able to remember which vehicle it was and this brand new United Counties W-Reg Leyland Leopard No.160 was worthy of a snap on two on it's own as it paused at Saint Margarets in Leicester on the long run down to Portsmouth on the South Coast.
I do tend to prefer the more angular bus designs to the rounded jelly-mould variety and Salvador Caetano designed some very attractive bodywork seen on Portuguese buses like this Leyland Atlantean and Volvo single-decker hard at work on the busy sun-filled streets of Porto.
Wednesday, 7 May 2008
The National Bus Company with it's boring leaf green, poppy red and all white coaches was a pretty inflexible organisation but as denationalisation came into view an element of individuality became desirable once more. This mostly manifested itself on the dual-purpose and coach fleets but in some cases the simple additions made continued as part of the livery long after Privatisation became a reality including the style of letting. Maybe because historically East Yorkshire buses had been blue anyway it was one of the few operators chosen to carry this coloured relief and it was very attractive too seen against the clean white background. A coach seated Eastern Coachworks bodied Leyland Olympian was pictures in Scarborough at the start of the Nineties bound for the company's base at Hull.
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
Even though it's a bit of a box on wheels these early Dutch Bovas from the Eighties with their clean crisp lines still look amazingly good today. Wallace Arnold was pretty conservative in it's vehicle choice in the main with mainly locally built Yorkshire Plaxton bodies but despite this the fleet was often sprinkled with little batches of more exotic types like this Bova Europa one of about twenty-five in the fleet. Caught in Victoria Coach Station it certainly made a stark contrast to the mostly all-white Duple and Plaxton offering to be seen here working in National Express colours.
Monday, 5 May 2008
Some innovative bus designs look good when kept in pristine condition but once standards slips they soon look tatty and sad like the Leyland Lynx ore even the more loved Routemaster Bus once it looses the metal trim off it front grill. No doubt some of the square and angular products from manufacturers like Wright, East Lancs, and now Alexander-Plaxton will not enjoy a happy old age unlike say a Northern Counties GMT Standard or a ECW bodied VR. This old Leyland Leopard coach seen at Blackpool visiting from Birmingham and belonging to Central Coaches looked in quite nice condition but it's rather unflattering livery made it's once futuristic Willowbrook Spacecar coachwork look like some old nail that might have been bodied somewhere lacking our traditional tastes like Portugal. Plaxton on the other hand led the market for many years and the conservatively painted high-floor Plaxton 3500 Volvo coach of Yeoman's of Canon Pyon looked a very acceptable British coach. But as is often the case a few cosmetic tweaks to the livery would have made all the difference and had KIB 7256 had it's grill painted black it might have looked quite nice. By the mid-Nineties these Willowbrook bodies which once numbering I guess some 150 to 200 examples were getting quite scarce so I think this one deserves tagging as a 'rare bird'.
May has always been a popular time to visit the English Lake District as often the surrounding area is a blaze of pink and purple colours with all the rampant growing rhododendrons in flower. Coaches usually stop in the pretty lakeside town of Boness where visitors can enjoy boat trips on Lake Windermere. I don't know whether they've seen too much colour but in 1988 these two girls look a bit 'bushed' as they 'chill-out' besides their Ralph Bullock Duple 0340 bodied Leyland Tiger that will take them back to the comparative greyness of Cheadle and ugly old South Manchester.
Sunday, 4 May 2008
In Switzerland they don't seem to have transport enthusiasts the way we do in Britain. Well I'm sure they do but they're much more low-key and I guess normal, whereas in Britain a country renowned for it's eccentric behaviour bus and train spotters as we call them are largely treated as misfits nutters or worse still degenerates. Of course it's generally pretty stupid people who treat us this way but sadly as a soft target we often get hassled by the police as potential terrorists after we have been spotted by bored surveillance camera operators. It hasn't happened to me many times but now my policy is not to stand anywhere for too long and always slip my camera back into my pocket if a cop car comes along. So refreshing then to go to a country like Switzerland where buses, their fans and their drivers are a valued part of community life. In Britain if you want to do anything out of the ordinary these days you need the right piece of paper because of bureaucratic Health and Safety Laws and a general lack of tolerance, but whenever I've visited PTT Garages not only did they try to understand my bad French and smattering of German often they would tell me where to find buses I wanted to see or offer to get them out of the garage for a photograph. Indeed one of my visits to the area would often cause a bit of excitement and the drivers in quiet places like Triengen would tell one another I was on their patch and at places like Chur and Lugano they came to expect my annual visits and after being challenged the first time just left me alone having told them it was my Uhrlab hobby. One thing we have in common though in both countries is a healthy preservation movement and I spent an enjoyable afternoon amongst old friends in Zurich at bus and rail rally in October 1990. I took an enjoyable ride on this old bonneted SaurerSchnauzen, something I hadn't done since we had P23061 at Chesieres-Villars back in 1965. I should have checked it out but if this was a former Regie example can anyone tell me it's P-number. Thank you.
Saturday, 3 May 2008
Horrid wet miserable winter days like this I feel are just as photographically exciting as sunny ones as they are full of texture and atmosphere. As you can see the local town bus operator in Sion makes good use of the empty space on it's Mercedes-Benz buses to sell advertising. Buying drinks and food from the mobile buffet can be rather dear in Switzerland, much better to go to the Station Cafe for something twice as big like a white frothy Ovomaltine.
When one is out for the day photographing new buses in a strange town any girls who might get in the shot can be seen as a bonus. But when it comes to the familiarity of our home territory it's too easy to take everything for granted and as with Stafford those rather mundane Arriva Mercedes Minibuses won't be around for ever. Here like cracking little more than an egg with a bit of imagination I've made a worthwhile shot capturing the bus an a slightly bemused girl enjoying a quiet moment. I took this view last year but apart from a fresh cover of leaves not much has changed so I've tagged this one as recent.
Sadly most of the bus services running into Stafford now use specially designated modern low-floor buses, and Independents who run more interesting and varied vehicles just play a small part. An interesting exception though is the ever-expanding Stoke on Trent based operator D & G who took over the smart fleet of Choice from Wolverhampton along with it's sponsored contracts including the roundabout run through South Staffordshire villages on the 880 to Codsall, a bus I meet every afternoon down the narrow country lanes on my school run. Just before Choice were taken over they bought this Plaxton Pointer bodied Dennis Dart from Dukes which having not yet been repainted carried an advertisement for a Forest of Dean gravel and sand company.
Thursday, 1 May 2008
In the early Eighties I was lucky enough to visit Norwich regularly enough to photograph Eastern Counties Bristol Lodekkas still enjoying their Indian-Summer as those and other half-cab types were fast disappearing everywhere apart for those die-hards the RM in London. Norwich still ran quite a few especially the front-entrance FLF but there were some more traditional short rear-entrance FS buses too like FS 105 carrying a V for it's it's allocation to Vulcan Road one of three garages in the East Anglian principal city.