Old Bus Photos

LUT – Guy Arab IV – 534 RTB – 43

534 RTB

Lancashire United Transport
1961
Guy Arab IV 
MCCW H41/32R

534 RTB is a Guy Arab IV from the Lancashire United fleet, once considered by many to be the biggest of the Independents. Regular contributor to this site Neville Mercer, among others, disagrees. It has a Metropolitan Cammell body, to the H73R layout, and was new in 1961. We see it at Duxford on 29 September 1996.

534 RTB_2

Tis second view being of a close-up of the LUT Crest.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Pete Davies


26/01/17 – 10:30

Among my milder teenage dislikes were tin fronts, Orion bodies and (almost) all-over red liveries, but none of these three features detracts from the magnificence of this vehicle. The matchless reliability of this model and its sound-effects obviously also play a big part in its appeal. Sincere thanks to all that preserve and maintain Guy Arabs!

Ian Thompson


26/01/17 – 14:32

Thanks, Ian. The LUT fleet was something of an oddity in that the indicator layout – in the days I paid any attention to the fleet – was similar to Manchester’s while the livery was more or less in the style of London Transport: red and cream then, when LT went to red and a grey stripe, so did LUT. Finding that this has a MCCW body came as a bit of a surprise, too, because almost all the vehicles I’ve ever seen from their fleet (I know, someone’s going to correct me!) had Northern Counties bodies.

Pete Davies


27/01/17 – 06:27

Pete you are right, the majority of LUT’s Guy Arabs had Northern Counties bodies, both rear and forward entrance. I understand the copy Manchester destination arrangement was the result of a senior manager joining LUT from Manchester sometime in the 1950’s. The same gentleman brought preselect Daimlers into the fleet at the same time. The ‘squared off’ type of font was also used on the destination blinds just the same as Manchester. I always thought LUT was a ‘quality’ operation and although an independent had all the features of a big group company. Many of its routes were lengthy trunk services across what was then South Lancashire. Another operator sadly missed.

Philip Halstead


27/01/17 – 11:27

Thank you, Philip.

Pete Davies


27/01/17 – 11:29

Is this the same vehicle that was parked up in a garden at Greenodd, near Ulverston, Cumbria for quite while in the 1980s?

Larry B


30/01/17 – 07:19

Thanks Pete for posting this photograph.
43 was one of three of this batch allocated to Swinton Depot in the early 70’s (of the batch of ten) I have always thought that LUT gave this body order to MCW as a means of keeping NCME’s prices keen, as LUT were making yearly purchases of Arabs.
They were quite a problem to Guard on the heavier turns due to their total lack of handrails between the seat backs and the ceiling on both decks, when all NCME bodied Guys did have them. Later, when I became a Driver, I found them to be pretty much the same as all the other rear loading Guys, but by then, 43, 44 & 45 were on the part day only list, so were generally to be seen in Trafford Park on work services or peak hour duplicates, as their missing handrails proving unpopular at Swinton. Another of the batch at Atherton, 40 was involved in a pretty bad accident mid sixties and was rebodied by NCME as a front loader.
The unofficial notice in the cab read – dwarfs only! – as being an Arab Mk IV with a Mk V.
Style of body severely reduced head height in the cab!

Mike Norris


30/01/17 – 12:43

Thanks for your comments, Mike. As with any others of my photos on this site, if you’d like him to e-mail you a copy for your own records, our Editor has my permission to do so.

Pete Davies


01/02/17 – 17:03

I remember LUT single deckers running into Radcliffe Bus Station on the 25 service, I think it was. They were mostly Bristol REs with a few Seddons, some had Alexander bodywork with dual doors and all were in the red/grey colour scheme by that time (early 70s).

David Pomfret


02/02/17 – 06:24

As a follow-on the Peter D’s comments, Who vied with LUT as being considered the largest independent bus company at that time?

Chris Hebbron


02/02/17 – 08:23

Chris, I’d have said Barton or West Riding. Please note that Neville discounts West Riding as well, and for the same reasons: not owned by a family local to the area of operations (eg Fishwick) and with most directors based in London. On Neville’s reasoning, it’s Barton.

Pete Davies


02/02/17 – 13:37

I had always heard that Barton was second to LUT, but logically, I would suggest that "independent" had nothing to do with where the owners lived, but whether control was separate from the large groups – e.g. THC, BET. Obviously there was a large element of government control in these groups (and local government in municipal operators), but in today’s scenario I would also exclude the major groups like First, Stagecoach etc. as independents, even though they are free of government control.

Stephen Ford


03/02/17 – 06:12

Hello David,
You are correct about the 25 service to Radcliffe. The 25 and the 13 service to Whitefield were worked by Swinton depots RE,s in the main, both the Plaxton and the Alexander bodied Bristols were always first choice for these routes ( and the 11 and 17 too) their easy steering (in pre power steering made them so) they were just that little bit more nimble on the estate work around Harper Green. I enjoyed these routes as the stretch beyond Ringley was usually quiet and relatively scenic within the bounds of what scenery there was to see in South Lancashire ! Don’t get me wrong, I loved our Seddon RU,s but an RE was the master of these routes.

Mike Norris


03/02/17 – 14:12

Do I read this correctly, Mike? Someone claims to have LOVED the Seddon RU. I knew I shouldn’t have gone to that firm of opticians!!!!! It’s almost like one of the Hamble locals admitting to have watched ‘Howards Way’.

Pete Davies


04/02/17 – 07:15

Hello Pete,
Someone has not been keeping up with LUT and their Seddon RU,s!
Very definitely a great tool for us for on the hardest, longest, busiest one man route the 84. So highly considered that if one became faulty, the union had an understanding with management that if no other RU was available, a maximum of one round trip only was worked before another RU was found. Swinton depots were highly prized if you got one on any other route, great seat, great driving position, strong engine and good brakes.
LUT, were different from most others, with front radiator and full length cardan drive shaft hence their 31 foot six length. If you find a rear view, you will see the body extension. My particular favourite was 339, I would shunt others to gat that one out in the mornings! Yes there is lots in print, especially the Crosville ones, but ours were great.

Mike Norris


04/02/17 – 09:23

Well, as they say, one lives and learns!!! Thanks, Mike.

Pete Davies


05/02/17 – 07:40

Unfamiliar with all the variants on the Orion theme, I don’t know whether this example was significantly lighter than the NCME bodies and therefore chosen to help fuel consumption, as well as for the interesting reason Mike Norris gave: reminding NCME that they weren’t the only fish in the sea!
If the bodies were indeed true lightweights, the buses must have returned nearly 13 mpg.

Ian Thompson


05/02/17 – 09:31

Presumably this bus had the 6LX engine. The 6LW Dennis Lolines of Aldershot & District gave a fleet average of 13.5 mpg, and could turn in almost 16 mpg on the long rural runs, but A&D maintenance was of a very high standard. On the subject of the Orion body and its derivatives, I agree with Ian T – they’re horrible. The straight inward taper of the body sides gave the result a pin headed appearance exacerbated by the deep lower deck/shallow upper deck windows, and the crudity of the front/rear domes. The best examples by far were (again) the Aldershot & District examples which benefited from the lower build and the equal depth of the windows on both decks, and, unlike many (most?) Orions, the interior was equipped to a high standard. Nevertheless, MCW had earned a good reputation over the years for its metal bodywork framing, so presumably the Orion held together reasonably well in service.

Roger Cox


05/02/17 – 12:06

You raise an interesting point, Roger, with your comments. After Alder Valley was formed, from two opposite sides of the fence, one of which always ploughed its own furrow, which of the two management and maintenance regimes dominated?

Chris Hebbron


06/02/17 – 06:43

Chris, when Alder Valley was cobbled together by NBC in 1972, control and ‘management’ was concentrated at Reading. Thus, the worst and scruffiest of the Tilling operators, Thames Valley, subsumed the best of the BET companies, Aldershot & District. Standards didn’t just go downhill, they fell over a cliff. Mercifully, I moved away from Farnborough in 1975, and wasn’t present to witness the continued degeneration in the local public transport scene.

Roger Cox


06/02/17 – 06:44

This was the third and last order for Orion bodies by LUT. In 1955 Cyril Charles Oakham took over as General Manager. Coming from Manchester Corporation where he had been Chief Engineer, he was to make a number of changes, the first of which to order 24 Daimler CVG5s which arrived in 1956 with 61 seat Orion bodies. Obviously Oakham did not share his former boss’s antipathy to the Orion. These appeared in a revised livery of all over red apart from a single cream band above the lower deck windows, as was soon to appear at MCTD, and with the Manchester style number, via and destination box layout. His next change was to order PD3/4s and Daimler CSG6/30s as trolleybus replacements, the former with Orion, the latter with NCME bodies. The last Leyland, 657, was the highest fleet number used by LUT as the system started again at 1 with the first of six Plaxton bodied Reliances. The batch illustrated by the example above gave LUT a rare distinction of operating Orion bodies on chassis from three of the then major manufacturers. In between times, and thereafter, NCME continued to be favoured with orders for bodies and Guy predominated with Daimler later picking up some Fleetline orders which, had the Wulfrunian lived up to its billing, would not have been built. Why did Leyland, Daimler and MCW win the front engined vehicle orders from LUT? The evidence is that initially Oakham wanted a second string supplier for double decker chassis a la Manchester and NCME’s tenders were not always the most competitive.

Phil Blinkhorn


11/02/17 – 06:32

I like Seddon RUs so much I own one…
The LUT Arab at Greenodd was 166 I believe, it was painted as a Laurel and Hardy Museum bus and is stored at St Helens Transport Museum presently.

Paul Turner


02/08/17 – 07:10

I’m going to leave a rebuttal to Roger Cox’s evaluation of ‘Avashot and Riskit versus Thames Valley. Most of my 25 years were spent in the coach side of things where the general focus was on the passenger and the experience they had. Viewed from that angle, but not suggesting for a moment that there weren’t good and bad in all companies, I’d far rather have tried to do business in High Wycombe booking office in the 70s than in Aldershot. Those companies that tried to develop their services would project a far more user friendly attitude than would the stick in the mud ‘buses only’ type.
Who would compare Western National with A&D, or Midland Red with Maidstone & District as ‘quality’ companies, and where would we be more likely to hear ‘This job would be all right if it wasn’t for the public.’? I started life with another of the ‘glamour’ companies, Southdown, but even there I once took a service over mid-route and heard an old lady say ‘Oh good. We’ve got the cheerful one.’ which doesn’t say much for my colleagues of the time.
Within ‘our’ industry we can, and do, wax lyrical about the internal aspects of what we do, but it’s the paying passenger who makes it all possible.

Nick Turner


03/08/17 – 06:54

My in-laws, from Woking, always called A&D "All aboard and Riskit!"
I’m not sure whether people at the pointy end, conductors and later/now drivers, were ever told to project a friendly manner towards their passengers, although I do recall helpfulness towards the frailer members of society and children, like helping them up and down from high rear platforms. I certainly (as a near 80-year-old) don’t recall smiles and banter as being the norm in those days. Strangely, the current habit of thanking the driver, from descending passengers, seems to have become a pleasant habit(at least in Gloucestershire) and has led to some sort of driver/passenger rapport. Is this habit only local or more general elsewhere?

Chris Hebbron


03/08/17 – 15:07

I’d never heard that variation for A&D, Chris, but the awarding of usually derisory nicknames seemed to reflect their public image, hence my defence of Thames Valley. One never heard nicknames for East Kent or Southdown – but Maidstone & District, in the middle, was always ‘Mud ‘n’ Dust’ or ‘Muddle ‘n’ Dawdle’. ‘Pants & Corsets’ for H&D was widespread and even ‘Nine Elms’ for Lincolnshire Road Car, based on the similarity of their livery with the paint company. Indeed, promotion within NBC (No Bugger Cares) followed distinct patterns and a move to one of the bigger names like United Auto, Bristol Omnibus, Crosville etc was, in itself, regarded as a promotion whereas Lincs Road Car had a reputation as being the NBC equivalent of the ‘naughty step’.
Certainly in rural areas, the closing of the Dormy Sheds was the thin end of a very nasty wedge.

Nick Turner


01/09/17 – 06:05

In belated reply to Roger Cox, LUT’s Arabs did not have 6LX engines. One did (no.27), but it was found that the Guy clutch didn’t like the 6LX torque, and the necessary modifications made the bus very difficult to drive.

Peter Williamson


06/09/17 – 06:35

With a nifty sidestep from buses to railways, Nick, I wonder if ‘First Great Western’ changed its name to ‘GWR’ because its poor reputation caused it to commonly be nicknamed ‘Worst Great Western!’

Chris Hebbron


08/09/17 – 06:38

One could be charitable, Chris, and blame the change on a nostalgic wish?

Nick Turner


 

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Lancashire United Transport – Guy Arab III – MTJ 84 – 440

Lancashire United - Guy Arab III - MTJ 84 - 440

Lancashire United Transport
1951
Guy Arab III 6LW
Roe C35F

MTJ 84 was originally Lancashire United 440. It is a 1951 Guy Arab III with Roe C35F body. It is owned nowadays by Cumbria Classic Coaches, and is regularly used for private hire work especially weddings. It is seen here at Bowber Head, near Kirkby Stephen, just outside the Cumbria Classic Coaches Depot.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Don McKeown


23/11/15 – 06:37

Another example of a somewhat anachronistic purchase by a major operator. By 1951 the underfloor engined single decker was becoming well established especially for coaches where being up to date with ‘fashion’ was more important than for buses. No doubt these were robust and reliable vehicles but very soon after purchase they would be perceived by the travelling public as very old fashioned. They did have long service lives however and spent a lot of their time on the long Tyne-Tees-Mersey service which in pre-motorway days must have been an arduous trek.

Philip Halstead


26/11/15 – 10:41

I can confirm the arduousness of the X97 in pre motorway days. We were regular travellers in the early sixties from Newcastle to Lymm Church, usually in summer. The usual trip was the 8.30 am departure from Newcastle Haymarket which from memory got to Lymm around teatime. We started queuing about an hour before the scheduled departure time in order to get on the first coach. This was usually a Northern Willowbrook bodied Tiger Cub or Reliance, or one of North Western’s black tops Reliances. They looked impressive but were basically 43 seat buses with detachable headrests on the seats.
The only bit of dual carriageway in the early days was on the A1 south of Catterick. Being a bus nut, I grabbed the front seat armed with my British Bus Fleets volumes much to the amusement of the crews.
One early lessons we learnt was never do the northbound journey on a summer Saturday. We did it once on a miserable wet day. LUT Guy Arab bus to Manchester, then on to a hired Yeates bodied Bedford to Leeds, then another change to get home.
Happy days.

Richard Slater


27/11/15 – 06:24

The livery shown here is very bus-like, the original livery with "brightwork" was much more coach like. LUT bucked the trend with its coach purchases. The first underfloor engined coaches were very sturdy looking centre entrance Roe bodied Guys which arrived in the black & red livery with brightwork (which was soon changed). The next deliveries included Weymann DP Guys and Roe DPs on Atkinson Alpha chassis. (The Atkinsons technically belonged to South Lancashire Tramways.) Add to these Duple Donnington and NCME bodied Tiger Cubs, Burlingham & Plaxton Derwent AEC Reliances, so waiting for an LUT coach in the 60s was most interesting!

Andrew Gosling


27/11/15 – 06:24

Richard, I can’t comment on the Northern Willowbrook bodied vehicles’ seats but the North Western bodied Reliances’ headrests were part of the moulded seat frame and were not detachable.

Phil Blinkhorn


28/11/15 – 06:06

Phil, I recall the high backed moulded seats, and I’m sure they had detachable headrests added. From memory they were white, but we’re talking 50 years ago and my memory could well be defective.

Richard Slater


28/11/15 – 06:06

I wish I’d paid more attention in their day to a number of underfloor single-deckers that are now rarities. Sentinels, Atkinson Alphas, Dennis UFs and Seddons and others come to mind, but at the time I found them a bit unappealing in comparison with halfcabs like this magnificent Roe-bodied Guy and the equally superb Leyland PS1 in the next posting. Underfloors obviously met an operational need, making OPO possible and fitting in an extra 4 seats, but they kept the fitters busy.

Ian Thompson


28/11/15 – 08:27

Not wishing to throw a spanner in the works, a study of the "black top AECs" photos in "North Western" volume 2 by Eric Ogden makes interesting viewing.
Page 54, 720-39, Reliance/Weymann, slightly higher backed seats, no head restraint.
Page 56, 746-60, Reliance/Willowbrook, slightly better moulded seats, no head restraint.
Page 59, 797-811, Reliance/Willowbrook, 804 clearly has white head restraints 797 head restraints, not good photo, but maybe not white or just dirty.
Page 63, 852-871, Reliance/Willowbrook, 864 moulded seats, no head restraints 862 white detachable head restraints retro fitted.
This should clarify the issue!

Andrew Gosling


29/11/15 – 05:53

Thanks Andrew, I have that book and maybe I should have dug it out.

Richard Slater


30/11/15 – 06:44

Richard’s recollection of the timings for his travels on the Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Lymm ‘Tyne-Tees-Mersey’ service are quite right.
The Summer 1951 timetable shows an 0830 departure from Haymarket and the arrival in Lymm would be 1616. The Winter 1969/1970 timetable shows the departure at 0840 arriving 1618.
Both these timetables, plus others from 1932 and 1972 including the vehicle/crew diagram for 1972, may be viewed on my Ipernity album covering the ‘Tyne-Tees-Mersey’ subject. www.ipernity.com/doc/davidslater

David Slater


03/12/15 – 10:38

David, thanks for confirming that my memory isn’t that faulty, it’s reassuring. I last used the X97 around 1968 and I can’t recall ever using the M62. My last trip from Lymm was in a Northern F registered Leopard with, I think, a Willowbrook bus body. It had very comfortable coach seating so a smooth journey was ensured. We used the night service once. This ran via Irlam and Eccles. It was a Yorkshire Woollen car, a DP Reliance, which got into Newcastle ridiculously early because it ran non stop from Leeds. This was quite a common event when the service car was filled with passengers for Newcastle.

Richard Slater


 

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Lancashire United Transport – Atkinson Alpha – TTD 297 – 528

LUT - Atkinson Alpha - TTD 297 - 528

Lancashire United Transport
1954
Atkinson Alpha PL745H
Roe B44F

When the BET subsidiary and previously staunch Bristol user North Western Road Car Co. found itself unable to continue buying its favourite make of chassis (due to the manufacturer falling under state-owned BTC ownership and only able to supply to other similarly owned companies), NWRCC management, not to be outdone, sought the services of the independent truck maker Atkinson Lorries (1933) Ltd. of Walton-le-Dale to produce an equivalent to the underfloor-engined Bristol LS model which they would no doubt have otherwise purchased.
The new model was christened the Alpha, and the first ones were duly delivered to NWRCC in 1951. However the BET Group were having none of it and stepped in to force its companies to stick to its preferred choice of Leyland Tiger Cub or AEC Reliance.
Atkinson continued with the Alpha though, which was initially offered as a mediumweight model, fitted with a choice of Gardner 4, 5 or 6HLW engines, and either an Atkinson 5-speed overdrive constant-mesh or David Brown 5-speed direct top synchromesh gearbox. At the 1953 Scottish Show they displayed an Alpha fitted with Self-Changing Gears semi-automatic gearbox – quoted as being the first to be fitted to a PSV chassis (Leyland – owner of SCG – had a minority shareholding in Atkinson at the time). At the same time a lightweight version was offered. Apart from orders for 40 for LUT, and 20 for Venture of Consett, the rest were mostly supplied as coaches in small or single numbers. Production diminished throughout the 1950’s, the model’s swansong occurring in 1963 when Sunderland Corporation surprised everyone by taking three updated 33ft. long buses with semi-automatic gearboxes and modern-style Marshall bodies, but these were the last of the line.
LUT took a batch of ten in each year from 1952 to 1955, and 528 (TTD 297) seen here at their Atherton Depot was a model PL745H with Roe B44F body, new in 1954.

Photograph and Copy contributed by John Stringer


24/04/14 – 08:21

Weren’t the first NWRCC examples delivered with single rear wheels, but the road holding, or lack of it, lead to the more normal twin rear wheels being subsequently fitted?
Did any other operator take single wheel Alphas?

Eric Bawden


24/04/14 – 08:22

If my memory isn’t faulty (and it often is these days) I have a feeling that Sunderland Corp’n took delivery of some earlier Alphas, with similar Roe bodies, in the mid-1950’s.

Chris Hebbron


24/04/14 – 08:22

Alpha

A survivor from the three Atkinsons bought by Sunderland Corporation. I took the photo at the 2013 N.E.B.P.T rally at Seaburn, which is to the north of Sunderland, so no doubt the bus would have been used on services in the area at some time during its working life.

Ronnie Hoye


24/04/14 – 11:37

Sorry folks, in my haste I forgot to add the fleet and registration numbers for the Sunderland Atkinson. WBR 248 fleet number 48. More photos of the vehicle were posted in my Metro Center May 2013 gallery.

Ronnie Hoye


24/04/14 – 11:38

The NWRCC Alphas did have single rear wheels, something the company tinkered with on and off in the 1950s.

Phil Blinkhorn


24/04/14 – 11:39

GCR 230
Copyright Chas. H Roe

Here’s an official photo of one of the earlier Alphas, with Roe bodies, which Sunderland Corp’n bought and I mentioned earlier.

Chris Hebbron


24/04/14 – 15:47

So upset was the North Western manager by the BET reaction he resigned and left the company.

Chris Hough


24/04/14 – 15:47

Just one minor point, John. Self Changing Gears did not succumb to Leyland control until 1957, when the Lancashire maker bought the Hawker Siddeley third of the shares in the company. Prior to that, the Wilson family, Hawker Siddeley and Leyland each owned a third. The Atkinson shown in Chris Hebbron’s picture was earlier one of two L644LWEXL long wheelbase models with front mounted vertical 4LW engines bought by Sunderland in 1956/7. The Leyland shareholding in the Atkinson company proved to be the decisive factor in the tragic sale of Atkinson to Seddon in 1970. Leyland decided to take the Oldham money and run.

Roger Cox


25/04/14 – 07:29

It is surprising that a large proportion of the Atkinson buses had unusual bodies. All the North Western Alphas had rear entrance bodies, and many of the Lancashire United examples had centre-entrance standee bodies, as did four of those for SHMD Board. The last three for SHMD had front entrance standee bodies, and the one-off double decker had centre entrance. Even the front entrance Roe bodied Alphas for LUT had an unusual (but attractive) appearance, and the driver had an offside cab door.
Surely the two Sunderland Atkinsons bought in the fifties were not Alphas, but modified lorry chassis.
Just think, if the BET Group management had not been so awkward, North Western might have bought a couple of hundred Atkinson Alphas instead of Royal Tigers, Tiger Cubs and Reliances of the FDB, KDB and LDB series.

Don McKeown


25/04/14 – 07:30

Strange isn’t it. You would expect Atkinsons with their quality and traditional reputation and low volumes to be an ideal manufacturer for the bus industry. No, it has to be Leyland or AEC. Eventually, they all eat each other, aided by too much direction- are rear engines or double deckers the answer to everything- so we now have over-large, wallowing buses with all the control subtlety of a dodgem. Am I being unfair?!

Joe


25/04/14 – 11:47

I tend to agree with Don’s comment about the lorry chassis. The layout is probably the most odd of all the Atkinson bus production as, to an extent, all the other body layouts followed traditional or, at least, accepted formats yet a long wheelbase with a double width door behind the front axle needs some explanation!

Phil Blinkhorn


25/04/14 – 14:24

The Atkinson L644 was a lorry chassis – L=Long wheelbase, 6=6 tonner, 4=4-wheel, 4=4cyl. The suffix LWEXL presumably means LW=Gardner LW (though this was not usually used on lorries, being taken for granted), EXL=Extra Long (being longer than the standard lwb lorry).
I’ve only ever seen these on photographs, but always thought they looked rather good, and that Roe had made a very neat job of them. The double width door looks unusual on a front-engined single decker, and the grille looks like a throwback to the BMMO S6 or D5. It’s almost like a slightly longer and more substantial alternative to the Bristol SC. I’m told however that their appeal stopped with their appearance, and that they were rather unrefined in reality.

John Stringer


27/04/14 – 08:08

Although it was based upon a lorry chassis, one presumes that the frames of the Sunderland buses were dropped in the conventional psv fashion to permit a reasonable floor height. I entirely agree that the 4LW engine would have been a far from refined power unit, even with a flexible mounting. (Nonetheless, the prewar Dennis Lancet with four cylinder petrol or diesel power was noted for smooth running.) The 4LW had a capacity of 5.6 litres, almost exactly the same as the experimental 6LK engine made in the 1930s but not produced in volume. No doubt the 6LK would have been more costly to produce than the 4LW, but it would have given Gardner an effective, reliable, refined 5.7 litre 85 bhp high speed six cylinder engine, suitable for automotive applications where the 4LW was much too ponderous. An excellent opportunity was lost. Under Hugh Gardner’s autocratic management style the company’s production methods did not evolve with the passage of time, and were essentially very inefficient by the 1960s, a factor that was reflected in the level of output and the unit cost. During the 1968 strike in the foundry section, personnel from other parts of the Patricroft works stepped in to maintain production. It was discovered that the technique used for the sand core for one complex casting could be simplified, reducing the manufacturing time from 40 minutes to 12 seconds. No doubt similar economies could have been effected in other processes had the will been there to take a proper look. After the 1973 strike, during which some 600 skilled employees left the Patricroft firm for employment elsewhere, the continued demand for the LX series engines had to be met by ending production of the 4LK and 4/5/6LW ranges for which markets still existed. When, in the following year, Rolls Royce decided to pull out of making diesel engines, Paul Gardner suggested that the Patricroft firm should buy the Shrewsbury factory, equipped as it was with modern manufacturing plant. Hugh Gardner responded by threatening to resign, and the project was dropped. Paul was told to apologise for wasting the board’s time. What might have been!

Roger Cox


27/04/14 – 12:58

Thx for the insight into Gardner’s problem boss. So many livelihoods affected, often those of talented people by such high-handed and misguided behaviour.
Can you say, Roger, why the Gardner strikes occurred and why R-R pulled out of road vehicle engine manufacture?

Chris Hebbron


27/04/14 – 16:16

Chris, the comprehensive record of Gardner history is the 2002 book by Graham Edge. In August 1968, a certain shop steward in the iron foundry shop took it upon himself, presumably arising from some grievance, to cast the name ‘Gardner’ upside down on the crankcase of the large and expensive 8L3B engine. He was repeatedly warned to no effect and was ultimately suspended. The other stewards in the foundry then called a strike that lasted until September, when the action collapsed and the staff returned to work, having lost their centenary bonus. The initial troublemaker left the plant soon afterwards. The 1973 dispute was more serious, and fell within a pattern of strikes that plagued almost all the UK motor manufacturing industries of the time. By the end of 1973, when settlement was made, production of engines at Patricroft had fallen to a level, 2937 units, that was half that of the two previous years. This strike was instrumental in the move by those manufacturers traditionally employing Gardner engines towards fitting other makes of motive power. Hugh Gardner was an autocrat and must surely have been an unreceptive individual at every negotiating table with the trades unions. It is possible that an undercurrent of labour dispute arose from personal resentment by the union representatives, but the eventual outcome was yet another tragedy for British industry. The appointment of Clayton Flint as Chairman in 1975, the first ‘non Family’ person ever to hold the post, led to more flexible management of the company and improved production efficiency, particularly in the foundry shop. The rigid resistance to change ceased to be, and Paul Gardner, at last, was permitted to take Gardner engines into the world of turbocharging. Sadly, it was all too late, and even the sale of the business to Hawker Siddeley could not save Gardner. New engines were rushed into production too soon, and reliability, hitherto synonymous with the name Gardner, began to fall short. In the recession of the 1980s, during which the smaller independent commercial vehicle makers began to fall by the wayside, Hawker Siddeley lost interest in Gardner and sold off the company to Perkins. The writing was finally on the wall. Perkins disposed of Gardner by 1994, and automotive engine production ceased soon afterwards, followed by marine production three years later. The residual engine parts and support business became Gardner Avon, but this is now a non trading company. Today, the so called Gardner group is a supplier to the aerospace industry. It has several sites in the UK, but Manchester is not one of them.

Roger Cox


28/04/14 – 08:27

The North Western manager who resigned when BET refused to approve the purchase of further Atkinsons was Mr H S Driver, the company’s chief engineer. He had appealed to try to have this decision overturned, but without success. He later became Gardner technical representative for Australasia, and did not return to the UK.

David Williamson


28/04/14 – 08:27

Thanks, Roger, for that detailed, illuminating and depressing story, much of it so common in those days. That was when much of the Great went out of Great Britain!

Chris Hebbron


29/04/14 – 07:55

I’d been wondering what had happened to Gardner: there they were supplying engines, along came "uniformed service" and I sort of dropped out of bus-related business . . . then when I picked-up my interest again it was in a world without Gardner.
I do remember reading somewhere that there was a specific reason why Sunderland ordered those long-wheelbase forward-entrance Atkinsons to that forma- but I can’t remember now what I read or where I read it. Something about a heavily-trafficked night/works service seems to ring a bell.

Philip Rushworth


29/04/14 – 07:55

Much of the BET Group’s vehicle policy was determined by the availability of bulk discounts. Atkinson would probably have been unable to provide the bulk, never mind the discount. NWRC’s Mr Driver had allegedly been responsible for the creation of the Alpha, and had certainly worked closely with the manufacturer to get the spec just so for the operator. But when he went to BET HQ to plead his case, he was told that Royal Tigers had already been allocated to NWRC from a Leyland bulk order, and that was that. (Info from Glory Days: North Western by A E Jones.)

Peter Williamson


30/04/14 – 07:26

Very grateful to Roger for the detailed account of Gardner’s sad slide into nothingness. Having no understanding of the business side of things, I went through life blissfully confident that Gardner’s products always had been, were and always would be the finest available on earth. Of course that was once true, but I had my illusion shattered one day at Dover, where a driver had open the back panel of his bus. (I can’t remember the make of vehicle, and was the engine a 6LXCT or did it have a slightly bigger bore?) I expected him to share my enthusiasm, but his tales were of woe, and I went away with a painfully updated understanding, although I still had no idea how long the problems had been festering.
Also fascinated to read that a 6LK had actually been built. A friend used to fantasize about such an engine. It could have competed directly with the Perkins 6.354—though certainly not on price!

Ian Thompson


01/05/14 – 08:24

Thanks Roger for your detailed account of the sad demise of Gardner. I always had (and still have) the utmost respect for their products, which were built to a very high standard as is well documented, and were often known as ‘the crème de la crème of diesel engines’. (Indeed, when the 6LXB was announced, it was regarded as the world’s most fuel-efficient diesel engine at 40% efficiency). It is also well known that Hugh Gardner was most dogmatic in his views on engine design and how the company was to be run, which no doubt maintained standards, but in the longer term stifled Gardner’s ability to move with the times. As Roger says, Paul Gardner eventually started to take the company forward but it was somehow too late. Certainly the new Gardner LYT engine fell short regarding reliability, and stories of broken crankshafts began to circulate. This was something unheard of with the LW/LX/LXB engines (unless serious maltreatment had occurred), despite their crankshafts not being of fully-hardened construction. The 6LXB continued to have a strong following in the bus market, and the ’30 tons and under’ truck market well into the ‘eighties. Then along came bus deregulation and privatisation, causing widespread disruption to full-sized vehicle manufacturers’ orders following an unpredicted swing to minibuses by operators. There was also, if memory serves correctly, a recession in the construction industry, and haulage companies were also being squeezed by competition from European hauliers. The likes of Volvo, Scania and DAF were also making inroads into the truck market, with more comfortable cabs and higher output engines. Such manufacturers built their own engines which did not help Gardner’s plight. It really is sad how the mighty have fallen. Forty years ago who would have predicted that Gardner, Leyland, Foden, ERF and Seddon-Atkinson would no longer exist in the early 21st century?

Brendan Smith


01/05/14 – 08:25

Many Gardner engines had an afterlife, they were snapped up by showmen who converted them for use as fairground generators. Ironically, since the regulations for silent running generators came into force, many of those that didn’t end up going abroad have been sold to preservation groups, some for spares, but I know of one that will go into a bus which was bought minus and engine, and is currently being restored.

Ronnie Hoye


01/05/14 – 08:25

Ian, following the apocalypse of deregulation, and the acquisition of the "split up" NBC companies by profiteers, I found myself, after five years in non psv work, working at Viscount, Peterborough, the western division of the Cambus outfit. One of the Olympians there was equipped with a 6LXCT engine for the Northampton service, which was operated jointly with Stagecoach United Counties. When outshopped from overhaul, it was often allocated to other services. If it was fully on song, this bus could really motor – I once reached an indicated 70 mph with it when endeavouring to recover lost time on the A1 route to Huntingdon – but the turbocharger arrangement was sadly lacking in durability, and regularly failed. The brakes on this bus were truly dreadful, well up to the tradition of PD3s of the past, and this also tempered one’s inclination to indulge in maximum power. In trying to catch up with other manufacturers in the brave new world of turbocharging, the later Gardner efforts were under developed and under capitalised. The eyes of the top brass at Hawker Siddeley moved instinctively to the net result figure at the bottom of the P/L sheet. The past industrial environment of steady development testing had irretrievably gone, and, after nine years of ownership, Hawker Siddeley lost interest. The sale of Gardner to Perkins in May 1986 was the final kiss of death. Perkins had already taken over the Rolls Royce diesel range, and serious investment in Gardner development was deemed commercially unrewarding. The introduction of the Euro emission regulations was the final blow. Perkins disposed of Gardner in August 1992, by which time most of the output consisted of engine remanufacturing/reconditioning. Perkins/RR and Cummins then ruled the roads and the waves, but they, too, were soon to be seriously threatened by the continental onslaught.

Roger Cox


01/05/14 – 11:48

Scania and DAF both based their success on developing the Leyland O.600/O.680, which they both originally built under licence. There is also uncorroborated evidence that there was a similar beginning to the Volvo story. Another case of the Thatcherite selling off of the family silver.

David Oldfield


01/05/14 – 11:49

….and who, Brendan, would ever have foretold that the lone survivor of all the British mid/heavy transport manufacturers would be Dennis, albeit mainly in the bus field! Perkins is still around, but not in the transport field. Such proud names consigned to history.
How lucky we were to have been around to experience and enjoy their products. Oh dear, I’m at risk of becoming maudlin!

Chris Hebbron


01/05/14 – 18:16

David, if you listen to a Scania you can hear the Lancashire accent!

Phil Blinkhorn


02/05/14 – 07:35

You’re right Chris, who indeed would have thought Dennis would rise to such a prominent position in the bus world bless ’em? And where did Wright’s spring from all of a sudden? Nice one Phil. I’ll listen more closely to Yorkshire Tiger’s Omnicity on the Bradford service next time I’m in Harrogate bus station.

Brendan Smith


02/05/14 – 07:36

I first noticed the Lancashire accent driving a new Scania K113 in 1995, Phil. [Especially driving up the hill toward the Air Balloon – leaving Gloucester in the Cirencester direction.]

David Oldfield


02/05/14 – 10:19

The accent is most noticeable on tickover. I can well understand how driving up towards the Air Balloon would bring out the Leyland in a Scania.

Phil Blinkhorn


02/05/14 – 10:20

Brendan. Wrights were around for years building school buses, welfare vehicles and libraries for appropriate "boards" in Northern Ireland. Their joint venture with GM to produce an advanced coach probably first brought them to attention here but it was almost certainly the Handibus – on the Dart – which set things flying. The use of Alusuisse and quality work didn’t harm them, either.

David Oldfield


02/05/14 – 15:17

Thanks for the info David. I am aware of the Handibus/Dart connection, but I had not realised that their history went quite so far back with vehicles produced for what we would probably term ‘Local Authority’ departments. They appeared to really take off following the arrival of the attractively styled Cadet/Renown-type single-deck bodies. The Wright-bodied vehicles for Blazefield certainly seem well put together and have stood the test of time in the various fleets. In some respects it could be argued that long term, Wright’s have taken up the slack left by the closure of ECW. I must admit however that I much preferred the styling of the latter.

Brendan Smith


06/09/14 – 06:30

Regarding the North Western Atkinson Alphas being rear entrance I understood this was because many queue barriers etc were designed, at that time, for rear entrances (which had been standard until then). For example an allocation of Alphas were needed at Urmston to service the 22 (Levenshulme-Eccles) which was joint with Manchester Corporation, who used rear entrance Royal Tigers, as the very substantial barriers at Eccles Bus Station, Davyhulme Nags Head etc. were positioned to suit rear entrances.

Richard Ward


24/04/15 – 06:22

May I ask through this column, for more information (or where to find information) about the BET Preferred Suppliers list. I find this aspect of PSV history quite disturbing, that private companies could be dictated to in this way. One wonders how many BET group managers would have preferred to take Gardner engined products, and how different PSV history would have been given a level playing field.

Allan White


24/04/15 – 13:34

Allan, I’m not sure of your premise. BET owned each individual company. As owner it could dictate policy to its constituents which, though each had its own General Manager, was really a branch of the main company with a small degree of autonomy. The individual operating companies were not private companies and, as BET was a FTSE listed company, their results contributed to the group balance sheet and affected the share price.
Nothing unusual in that in just about every sector of business.
The classic case of North Western and Atkinson may be the case in point which has sparked your comment. BET had decided that the group would buy Leyland Royal Tigers and later, Tiger Cubs. The deal was financially beneficial to the group as a whole. The fact that NWRCC had its own preference that was overruled may well have been a bad operational decision where financial gain perhaps overcame common sense but in my long experience of working for and with companies within groups, in a number of industries, this is by no means unusual.

Phil Blinkhorn


25/04/15 – 07:05

The Aldershot & District Traction Company was owned in equal third parts by the BET, the THC (ex Southern Railway shareholding) and private shareholders, and this gave it some latitude in its vehicle choices, predominantly Dennis until the influx of the all conquering AEC Reliance. I don’t know if any other BET group companies still had an element of private shareholding up to the 1968 sell out to the government. The ‘delisting’ of certain suppliers, fundamentally in favour of AEC and Leyland, was prompted purely by the economies achievable through bulk ordering. Whether or not BET got the best vehicles through this arrangement is arguable. For example, some BET companies, notably the Northern General group, East Kent and, to a lesser extent, Southdown amongst others, were well satisfied with the Guy Arab, probably the most reliable and economic bus of its time, and they must have been less than pleased when further purchases were vetoed from ‘above’. Even so, individual companies still had some input into the specification of their orders. The Southdown full fronted PD3s, often called ‘Queen Marys’, were unlike anything else in the BET group, apart from the roughly similar Ribble machines. I am sure that other contributors can give similar examples.

Roger Cox

ps I should have added the East Kent full fronted Regent V ‘Puffins’ to the list of distinctive individual orders.


TTD 297 Vehicle reminder shot for this posting


28/11/15 – 06:01

Harking back to Gardner for a moment, were any engines ever fitted to diesel trains, British or foreign? I’m only ever aware of mainly AEC ones and, later, Cummins and possibly the odd Leyland, but it seems to me that the ever-reliable Gardner, which, on the surface, would have seemed the ideal choice, never penetrated the rail market. Or am I wrong?

Chris Hebbron


 

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