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, 30 June 2008
Today trolleybus operation finally comes to an end in Basel which is rather sad as Switzerland with it's mountains to create hydro-electricity was always regarded as a natural home for these clean silent user-friendly vehicles. Just a few years ago Lugano closed down it's four routes that operated on a twelve-minute frequency, and I don't know whether it happened or not but the comparatively small Schaffhausen system offering a bus every ten-minutes dating from 1966 like Basel was always under threat. Way back early in January 1990 very old machines were still hard at work in Basel and I expect they were there when I made a school visit in 1964. If I guess and say they were built by FBW someone will correct me so instead I will just add that the trolleybus routes didn't penetrate the centre of the city or go close to the main railway station but Route 33 crossed the Rhine to the wrong side closer to the German Border where there is the Badische Bahnhof.
It's a bit of a squeeze trying to get Basel 921 into the viewfinder without standing in the middle of the road and getting run over in the process, but even though it's not perfect it was still worth the effort as this bus and it's sister 922 were shortly to be withdrawn. It seems rather a waste as Swiss buses never appear on the surface to get old and have a timeless quality about them almost making time stand still till they finally go.
In 2000 Basel Route 34 was converted to motorbus operation and out went these 1975 Hess/SAAS bodied FBW machines and the pair of Mercedes-Benz-Gelenkobusse 921-922. In the distance is one of the final generation of trolleybuses delivered between 1992-1996, 923-934 built by Neoplan which continued to work on routes 31 and 34.
Sunday, 29 June 2008
I shouldn't have to write captions for images like this one from 1984 as they are enjoyable enough as they are. Sadly I have a book of Portuguese Trams so I can show off a bit of my knowledge. This series of trams numbered between 150-199 were built between 1912 but later examples from the class like No.193 dated from the Thirties and weighed 11.71 tonnes. The genteel charm of this wonderful tram contrasts with the rather uninspiring world of Porto's industrial sprawl of sun baked concrete and brick.
M & D was an early user of the first generation of rear-engined double-deckers with both lowheight and Highbridge MCW bodies on Leyland Atlantean chassis. But in 1963 the choice swung to Daimler who could not only provide a bus with the more frugal Gardner 6LX engine the comparable Fleetline chassis was far more suited to the provision of lowbridge bodywork and the company took no less than three batches of these attractive Northern Counties bodied buses including DL97 from the middle series of 1966 at Maidstone on the frequent Gillingham route. Sorry about the quality which is not bad at all for my kid's first Ilford Sporty Camera.
Saturday, 28 June 2008
In 1966 way back in my schooldays one Sunday afternoon I cycled the twenty miles or more to Bridgewater to spot the Southern National allocation of 29 buses at the garage in East Quay. As you might expect the buses had changed a great deal since those days when I visited it again to se the buses about five years ago. Of course once up on a time the fleet was all solid dark green Bristol/ECW products and even though there were still a few Bristol VR's and more ECW bodies on the odd Olympian like No.1813 seen here, Mercedes minibuses were very much in evidence too. Secondhand buses and school transport played a big part here too after Privitisation and the fleet included second-hand Leyland National2 buses like this one that had been new to Crosville. But the biggest change for me was that once to reach the garage meant a ride down one of a network of very narrow bumpy streets of terraced houses but all that had all gone as new roads had cut through this part of town coupled with car based retail development. Shortly I was told by one of the mechanics that this small garage with it's larger yard down the side would go too as the site had been sold to Tesco for a supermarket: And that is a surprise!
Friday, 27 June 2008
I've always taken pictures of coaches knowing they will become more interesting with age but as far as the Germans are concerned they don't seem to get excited about them despite their vintage. Of course long before the Leyland National appeared on the bus scene Mercedes was building almost identical coaches on their sophisticated production-line at it's Mannheim Plant which I was lucky enough to visit with my school in 1964 and this standardised product might explain why they are a bit dull. In the Eighties a fairly new looking but not so pretty 0303 of Berbig of Hamburg was visiting Berlin and if nothing else illustrates how livery and graphics have changed since then.
Wednesday, 25 June 2008
Yes many will remember the strange dark blue and red buses of Hydnburn, formerly known by it more sensible proper name Accrington till 1974. In those days the fleet was mostly Guy and Leyland but by the time it had it's new name it very much a Leyland fleet with a few Bristols too. This 1978 Leopard was a no nonsense service bus as was it's locally built East-Lancs body fitted with a flat screen and stout bumper. The company got it's unusual livery from the colours of a local army regiment who appropriately enough were called something like The Accrington Boys and who like many others got senselessly massacred in the mad carnage of the Great War of 1914-1918. The company struggled to keep up after Deregulation and by the time it was taken over by Stagecoach this once smart Lancashire operator looked a bit sorry.
Tuesday, 24 June 2008
On my Swiss holiday in early 1998 instead of long train journeys chasing post buses I was in Switzerland's Rhineland and had a nice easy unhurried day with time to spare and I remembered that down at the bottom end of the medieval town in Basel glorious noisy FBW buses had been operating in 1990. So once more as usual armed with my hand held tape recorder I thought I would see if my luck was in and check to see if some were still going strong on the 37 Service. The previous ones I had encountered with fleet numbers like 61-64 had all gone but the last survivors of the type were miraculously still hard at work and I got a chance to travel on Nos 82-84. As I boarded No.83 I mentioned to the driver that I had come to enjoy the music. He said in reply there was no music on his bus and so I made a FBW bus sound and he retorted "You mean din!" Well I got my recordings and as the buses were almost empty inside they made a nice deep hollow rumbling sound that seemed to echo through the bus as they ambled slowly from bus stop to bus stop.
Monday, 23 June 2008
I don't know if it was because they were not so familiar but the comparatively scarce taller highbridge ECW bodied Bristol VR buses supplied to the National Bus Company looked rather top-heavy and odd. As well as the well known Luton north of London there is also a district bearing the same name in the Medway where Maidstone and District had a former tram shed it inherited from Chatham and District. It was nice to see that in the mid-Eighties there were still plenty of bus services passing this spot.
Sunday, 22 June 2008
Fortunately even the most hard-nosed unsentimental of the big bus groups see the PR benefits of painting buses in commemorative liveries. But National Express owners of WM ( The former West Midlands PTA) did a cracking job when they painted mostly Metrobuses in the colours of it's former Municipal members Birmingham, Coventry, Walsall, Wolverhampton and this the lovingly recreated elaborate West Bromwich. It's a pity when about half a dozen birmingham buses received the treatment it's other big constituent, a hefty chunk of the once very important Midland Red didn't get it's nostalgic bus for photographers to catch as it ground to a halt at all the wretched lights on the Birmingham to Wolverhampton, New Road but by this time there were none of the old Midland Red Garages left on the system to operate it from except of course Digbeth Coach Station which was being used by Midland Red West. West Bromwich is a poor district on the edge of Birmingham and once very much a part of the Black Country with it's over-riding industrial drabness but once like the football club gave the town's fleet of individualistic traditionally liveried buses a little more to be proud of than the smaller neighbours.
Saturday, 21 June 2008
Well no actually. This in bus terms is the most exciting week-end of the year when the town of Stafford gets invaded by strange buses taking the young back-packers to the Weston Park Rock Festival. Last year WM did the contact employing most delicious old Metrobuses but on previous occasions the contract went to Arriva. This major contract meant it was all hands to the pumps and even the Boss had to take the wheel, and for his pains they made sure he got to worst bus! It was a an Alexander PS bodied Scania K92, one of six that came to Arriva with Derby City Transport in 1988 Nos.21-26. It is quite a feat too as not only is there a continuous feeder service from Stafford a similar operation occurs outside Wolverhampton Station too. Last year this event was so well supported not only were local main roads on the Staffordshire-Shropshire border gridlocked on the Friday even the M6 motorway came to a standstill with the congestion caused as people tried to make their exit on to the A5 which passes the venue.
Friday, 20 June 2008
A small problem or a driver's daily maintainance tasks like checking the oil and water, a bit of drama or gentle activity adds greatly to a scene. Here surrounded by concrete three RN coaches in Lisbon present a variety of profile shapes.
Thursday, 19 June 2008
As well as the big names some smaller Independents became well know too as they had a good Summer tours programme which meant that their coaches could be seen far and wide. Amongst the regular visitors to Plymouth and the West Country was Bibby of Ingleton whose rather ornate livery had a hint of the Gypsy caravan about it. When new in 1984 this Plaxton 3500 bodied Leyland Tiger was christened Dales Ambassador but it's predominantly grey livery seemed to echo the Devon skies here at Plymouth Hoe in this scene taken at the end of the Eighties..
Wednesday, 18 June 2008
When this Leyland Atlantean with an East Lancs body arrived in 1979 it was painted in a livery similar to that used fifty years previously on Blackburn Corporation buses. As happened elsewhere people realised it was so attractive compared to the drab Seventies red white and green then in use and it became the new norm albeit in a simplified application. Behind is a 1962Leyland PD2 which hardly surprisingly was also bodied by East Lancashire Coachbuilders as the factory was in the town.
Tuesday, 17 June 2008
To the outsider at least the featureless North Wales town of Wrexham is as unexciting as the name suggests, a mixture of light industry and farmer's market town plus a sprawling untidy mining past too. But before it was moved to the more important Chester the headquarters and birthplace of the once mighty Crosville was here and during the heyday of the Sixties it's legacy could be seen in the shape of the largest garage allocation with 128 vehicles. But even though Crosville was the only major operator in the town it was also served by a number of small Independent Operators including Edwards of Bwlchgwyn who operated this Plaxton bodied Bedford SB5 which was new to Barfoot of Southampton in 1963.
Monday, 16 June 2008
Traditionally in Switzerland Post Buses parked in an easy welcoming fashion close to the trains but by the time I stopped going they moved them further back maybe showing their diminished national icon status. With about twelve vehicles the early-Nineties Frauenfeld PTT bus fleet comprised almost solely of these standard Mercedes-Benz 0405 buses but there was also a MAN midi-bus and later as elsewhere the odd dial a ride 'PubliCar' minibus arrived on the scene too. I'm a bit of nostalgia fan and after looking at some early Post-War photos of the very different bonneted Saurers taken on this spot I'm pleased to say that at least this tree that cast shade over them still looks just the same.
Sunday, 15 June 2008
I took a ride on this FBW belonging to BBA the town operator in Aarau and the driver obviously found this bus very heavy to drive as he called it in his words a big bastard and I imagine this was not helped by the narrow wheelbase, the large amidships engine and long front overhang.
Plymouth Corporation painted Park-Royal Leyland Atlantean No.79 like this to celebrate it's anniversary and in a simplified form it became the fleet standard for a time in the Eighties. I was lucky enough to get around the depot that Sunday as they were obviously in a good mood that day. The Milehouse Depot showed more links with it's 100 year heritage as not only did these modern buses sit on Victorian cobble-stone sets there was still evidence of the system's tram rails.
Friday, 13 June 2008
Isn't it always the case that when you return from holiday you find that your favourite photograph is blurred or streaked by the Baghdad Airport X.Ray scanning machine that tells you it's harmless to film. As you can probably judge by now my favourite buses overall are Leylands of a certain age complete with the manufacturer's badges and wheel trims and this United Tours coach caught baking in the mid-day sun during Easter 1984 at Neviot in the Sinai was a real beauty even without it's Royal Tiger Worldmaster badge.
I usually try to do something interesting for Friday Thirteenth but this year it sort of sneaked up on me and I didn't have time to get organised, but maybe I might extent the theme slightly for a few days as I make some new scans. This is a breakdown I came across involving at Smiths Happiways Spencers coach in Chester, but the victim wasn't one of those AEC Reliance coaches I've grown a soft spot for as they had all gone by this time in the mid-Eighties and most probably another Volvo. From this view it looks as if the stylish breakdown conversion has an open back end but surely not as I'm sure it must have had to make some long cold journeys.
Well I don't suppose the passengers noticed here on the M5 but they were rather unlucky having to travel on this well worn Neoplan down to the West Country when before Yelloways and it's fine reputation was taken over by a bus dealer who substituted the good stuff they might have enjoyed a ride like on a well kept Leyland Tiger or rather older but still superb AEC Reliance for this German monstrosity.
Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Actually Torquay isn't all that big, it just seems so because of all it's steep hills like the one's here in the background. But for Bristol VR No.1228 it would be a fairly gentle run as it was working alongside the open-top VR's on the well known 122 taking the attractive coastal road through Brixham to Paignton. Under Harry Blundred not only did double-deckers but big buses too became pretty well extinct within this by then Privatised NBC company. Under Stagecoach ownership once more there is a healthy mix or different buses to enjoy but sadly of course Nineteen-Eighties views of these pleasant sounding Bristols is just another memory.
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
During the Easter Holidays I had to go through Cannock so I decided to take a quick peep to see what was in the yard at the local Arriva Depot. The K-Reg Dennis Falcons bought new in 1992 are still in service in Shropshire but 1989 examples that came from London and Country and North Western were parked up and presumably withdrawn. Also in this view is with a similar East Lancs body a former Grey Green Volvo and a little Dart new to Midland Red North that was waiting for a new engine. Oh and I almost forget there's a former London Routemaster RML that the company keeps for publicity purposes.
I must have been in a very enthusiastic frame of mind when I visited Portugal for two weeks in 1984 because I seemed to have photographed everything including the ugly and mundane. I imagine this elderly forward-control Volvo must have looked quite presentable when it was new but by the time I photographed it still earning it's keep in the Porto rush-hour it had paid for itself several times over. Like old Leylands these rugged fairly unsophisticated Volvo's would soldier on for years.
Monday, 9 June 2008
As can be witnessed from the girls looking nice in their shorts Britain was obviously enjoying another warm spell when I shot this busy view in London's Victoria Coach Station. Although the National Bus Company wanted to standardise, for the first few years at least the various operator's such as East Kent who had been staunch AEC fans were allowed to take delivery of the Reliance as opposed to the Leyland Leopard that was now the more usual choice like this Duple Dominant bodied example that to the casual observer might have been either. Traditionally even though East Kent operated over six-hundred vehicles they never carried fleet numbers as the registration-number sufficed, but by the time this view was taken in the early Eighties it's administration had been merged with it's next door neighbour Maidstone and District and consequently carried their numbered series No. 8031. This was no bad thing because by this time buses were being moved regularly between many companies and confusion would have been inevitable. Despite these strong links between M & D and East Kent both companies remained separate and unlike the white NBC coaches which both had in common it was still just as easy to tell them apart as the Maidstone operator wore NBC green whilst the Canterbury concern bore NBC red.
As long as I can remember there have been single-deck buses working a circular city-centre shuttle in Manchester and since the Seventies these have been midi-bus types starting with very square looking M-Reg Seddons but in comparison the Optare Solo buses used by First today on this type of work are almost pretty. Standing outside Piccadilly Station and branded for the 3 to the Metrocentre was No.53549 which a few years ago might have been worked by Optare's previous generation of these small buses more aptly christened the Metrorider.
Sunday, 8 June 2008
Like most towns in Britain it can be almost literally blue murder with all the standing vehicle fumes being belched out in the rush-hour and especially on murky wintry evenings such as here in the late Eighties when Southdown Leyland National 115 was stuck in the traffic making it's own little contribution. The 729 ' Regency Route' was a limited-stop service between Tunbridge Wells and Brighton worked jointly by Maidstone and District and Southdown like the old 119 and 122 which it partly replaced. It's a pity this photo wasn't taken in colour for at least the reborn privatised Southdown buses bore a more cheerful livery based on it's old apple-green and cream.
Saturday, 7 June 2008
Wallace Arnold is best remembered for it's coach services especially the extended tours taking it's vehicles as far as Moscow but it did a lot more including running a few buses too under the Kippax and District, Farsley and Hardwick's name including double-deckers purchased new. In 1973 half a dozen Plaxton bodied Leyland Leopards arrived to bus grant specification but when new served as coaches on the tours programme. However by the end of the Eighties KUM 511L had no doubt put in a good few years on the more mundane duties it was originally intended for. Strangely enough it was seen far from it's Scarborough base picking up in Leeds still showing it's 'pay-on-entry' sign on what must have been a private-hire.
Thursday, 5 June 2008
Just across the River Neisse that separates the former East Germany from Poland is the small town of Zgorelec where even though second-hand former German Mercedes buses such as the 0405 are replacing the less sophisticated Communist types there were still plenty of distinctive looking Autosan buses running around the town like this typical example seen last year.
Wednesday, 4 June 2008
I'm absolutely certain far more people will be familiar with the haulier Alan Firmin of Linton whose lorries are a familiar sight in the maidstone and Ashford area than that of Walter Mills Tours also seen in this picture. I'm sure too Alan Firmin whose royal-blue AEC lorries carried cherished number-plates with the initials AF is still operating as I saw one not too long ago on the M6 but as you can see by the 1980's it's lorries had come down in the world and now just carried ordinary Kent Registrations, but at least it was nice to see it was still running British built wagons like this ERF. Walter Mills on the other hand only operated seven vehicles from it's Himley Road Garage premises in Gornal Wood including this Plaxton Panorama bodied Ford R11114 delivered new in 1976 in the companies crimson and cream colours. The Broad Eye Lorry and Coach Park in Stafford was full that day as teachers from all over Staffordshire visited the county town as part of some industrial action. Is Walter Mills still operating? Well I will know tomorrow as John one of the drivers I talk to on my school run knew and seems to have worked for all these small Black-Country firms like Hazeldene, Fred Winkle, Colletts, or the bigger Don Everall.
Tuesday, 3 June 2008
In Continental Europe they seem to like putting down these rough sets in the street perhaps partly to slow down the traffic. I'm sure the drumming noise the tyres make must get tiresome and I do feel sorry for ladies trying to cross in high-heels. Also I know from experience, they can be slippery too when wet. But this is a glorious photograph of one of the later Utic bodied RN AEC Reliance coaches fully laden taken in 1984 on it's way to Aluguer. I'm not sure where this view was taken but not only was it a beautiful part of town everything was so spotlessly clean just like a Commercial. Indeed had it not been for the water-stained driver's blinds this could almost have been a perfect advertisement photo for RN as well as Portugal.
Monday, 2 June 2008
Make a list of enthusiast's favourite double-deckers and I suspect the fleet of full-fronted Northern Counties bodied Leyland PD3's delivered to Southdown will be near the top. The Queen Mary's were certainly a very attractive bus and when the final batch arrived with curved glass and panoramic windows it might well have been a disaster but amazingly it looked very good. In theory the retention of the flat front should have made the whole design look odd but thankfully the operator chose this dumbed down version to the prototype No.250 that had been delivered in 1965 complete with a curved lower screen. Like many others I feel this attempt to gild the Lilly was a something of a folly as it is not possible to improve on such a beautiful bus but from the public point of view it must have seemed like progress. However as usual I tend to prefer the slightly eccentric buses to their more pedestrian counterparts as the commonplace is dull and like renovating an old building the best feature of this design had been preserved. No.350 was caught on the Brighton Sea-Front close to Pool Valley Bus Station in the winter of 1968-9.
One of the pleasures of the busy Bretonside Bus Station in Plymouth was the hordes of visiting coaches because any holiday in Torbay or tour of Devon and Cornwall wasn't complete without a visit to Plymouth and it's Naval Dockyard. You can almost hear the screeching seagulls overhead excited at the prospect of maybe a discarded half-eaten sandwich or making a mess on my head as I record two Stanley Gath Coaches taking a break. The second in the line-up with a Duple Lasar body is a DAF but most of the vehicles in this view including the Van-Hool bodied Shearings are Leylands. Bath in the Sixties together with Bristols of course there was almost nothing else to see in this city in the way of buses but today with the exception of the odd elderly First Group Olympian one would be hard pressed to see even a Leyland in Plymouth, and also vanished is the rounded structure at the far end of the bus station which on the upper level once housed a petrol filling station. Even though the bus station whose dark gloomy covered public areas lie beneath the road have been revamped following a murder down there of a vagrant, now that not many coaches visit here means it is still despite a modest face-lift not the place one once loved so much as an enthusiast.