Old Bus Photos

Harper Bros – AEC Regal III – TRE 251 – 42

Harper Bros - AEC Regal III - TRE 251 - 42
Photograph by ‘unknown’ if you took this photo please go to the copyright page.

Harper Bros (Heath Hayes) Ltd
1950
AEC Regal III
Burlingham C33F

I do not have much information on Harper Bros but Heath Hayes is approximately 3kms east of Cannock, Staffordshire. If you have any information and would like to share it please leave a comment. From what I have come up with they were taken over by Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) in September 1974, the depot at Heath Hayes was closed and the buses were moved to a new Midland Red depot at Cannock.
I am not sure who built the body for the above coach but if I had to guess Duple would be fairly high on the list. This style of body was called an half canopy as there was no roof over the bonnet and nearside mudguard as apposed to an half cab which did. The Harper Bros livery was a light grey green with white mudguards and in the case of this coach a white roof not sure if the white roof was standard for all the fleet.
Is there anybody who can explain the difference if there is one between Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company Limited (BMMO) and Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC). If you know please leave a comment.


You are spot on, TRE 251 has a Burlingham C33F body as had sister vehicle TRE 241. Both new in 1950. TRE 251 was scrapped in Nov 1968, TRE241 not traced. Harper Bros had 9 AEC double deck buses & 6 AEC coaches from 1930 to the mid 1960s. If anyone requires information on Harper Bros I will gladly try to answer any queries.

Mick Bullock


The Birmingham & Midland Motor Omnibus Co Ltd (BMMO) was established on 26 November 1904. BMMO was commonly known as Midland Red & used the fleet name Midland on its distinctive red buses. After losing Birmingham services to the new West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive (WMPTE) BMMO was renamed to the Midland Red Omnibus Co Ltd (MRO) on 29 March 1974. MRO lasted until 6 September 1981 when it was divided into six independent companies: Midland Red (North) etc. Enthusiasts can learn all this & much more at Adam Harber’s excellent www.midlandred.net website.

Peter Walford


24/03/11 – 08:38

Hi I am seeking fleet list of Harpers from there start to BMMO sell out. Any costs will be met.

John Hellewell


07/07/11 – 06:38

I now live in Cheshire and have done since 1960, I was born in Walsall Wood during the war. I remember Harpers bus service very well and used it till it was taken over, sad day. It was in my mind the best bus service I have ever known, I wish I had kept some of the early tickets which were about 3 inches by 2, all different colours and individual. The half fare for me was tuppence from Streets corner to Aldridge, If I came out of the house late and did not get to the bus stop they would pick me up, I remember in 1965 getting the bus to Aldridge and my girl friend getting on in Aldridge and she was late, John Morson the driver would shout don’t get off Jim we will wait for her. I know this is not much but you may draw something from it.

Jimmie Charles


07/07/11 – 08:09

What a lovely romantic story, Jimmie – the driver knew what romance was all about! Were that service was like that today!

Chris Hebbron


08/07/11 – 06:19

Thanks Chris, I have very little to offer but one thing stays in my mind, they had a double decker that was different to the others, when you went upstairs the aisle did not go down the centre with twin seats either side but went down the off side of the upper deck with seats on the left which seated 4. does that make sense. If I can think of any more useless info I will let you know.

Jimmie Charles


09/07/11 – 07:05

Hi Jimmie the double decker you refer to is what was classed as a Low Bridge Decker by having the aisle along the offside meant the roofline could be lower, the normal height would be 14’6 a low bridge if I remember correctly was around 13’6. I stand corrected but I think the fleet number was 3, if you remember you had to step up from the aisle into the seats and downstairs you had to mind your head if you sat by the offside window. I used to work for Harpers for a few years from 1964 both part time and full time conducting and driving (happy days) so if their is anything that you want to know and I can give you the answer I will

Phil Burton


09/12/11 – 08:33

Jimmie you have brought back a lot of memories. I to was born in Walsall Wood and remember Harper Bros with affection both for Bus services… Cannock through Brownhills to Kingstanding; Saturday Football Coaches to Villa, WBA and Wolves, and Saturday Holiday Coaches to North Wales resorts, New Brighton, Southport and Blackpool. In school holidays worked at their Aldridge Garage taking Holiday and Day Trip bookings. Most reliable and considerate firm out, our annual trip to Colwyn Bay would never have been the same, especially as coach hardly made the big hills at times, or had to pull in and wait to cool off. Still have a model Guy Arab in their colours, prized possession.

Ken Paskin


01/04/12 – 08:36

Has John Hellewell managed to acquire a Harper Bros fleet list yet, as I could supply him with one if required.

Mick Bullock


15/04/12 – 07:35

I think Jimmie’s referring to KRE 849, Harper’s fleet no. 24, a Burlingham lowbridge bodied Guy.
Mick – any chance of a copy of your fleet list, please?

Graeme Fisher


04/07/12 – 05:14

I remember Harpers with great fondness as a young lad from the 1960’s when a bus conductor called Jack used to let me ring the bell on journeys between Hednesford and Aldridge. I am always on the look out for photos from this period and as someone has mentioned I also would love a fleet list. If anyone can.

Keith Harley


17/07/12 – 07:11

Phil and Jimmie
The lowbridge double decker was fleet number 24, KRE 849 with Burlingham bodywork.

Graeme Fisher


21/07/12 – 07:43

Graeme
Thanks for the confirmation, I wasn’t sure of the fleet number as I was only a child when I used to ride on it from Cannock to Kingstanding on Saturday afternoons with my dad who used to conduct it as well as other buses in the fleet, happy memories. When I worked for Harpers it was long gone.

Phil Burton


23/07/12 – 07:53

I would also be interested in a Harpers fleet list.

Alan Nicholls


22/09/12 – 06:57

The depot at Heath Hayes wasn’t closed when Harpers were taken over, I think Midland Red used it for 3/4 years before opening the new depot at Cannock.
When Midland Red lost a significant proportion of its operating area (and depots) to WMPTE, it found itself short of depot capacity and therefore reopened a depot at Cradley Heath which had closed some time earlier. When the Cannock depot was opened, both Heath Hayes and Cradley Heath depots closed. (Yes, I know Cradley Heath is nowhere near Cannock, there must have been a bit of a swap about of routes). I believe that some of the staff from Cradley Heath actually transferred to Cannock, which must have been something of a hike for them.
Incidentally, after the loss of routes to WMPTE Midland Red publicly stated that it was on the acquisition trail – so it wasn’t too much of a surprise when, before too long, it had bought not only Harpers but also Green Bus of Rugeley.

David Call


02/10/12 – 15:22

I remember the Cannock garage, My uncle drove for Harpers and lived in the house next to the garage. I’m no sure if the house an garage are still there. Does anyone have any photos of Harpers Garage in Cannock?

Merv


27/10/12 – 05:57

Harper’s garage at Heath Hayes was demolished some time ago and replaced by housing. Their small garage at Aldridge survives as a carpet shop. As others have said, they were a special operator in their day and sold out because Albert Harper wished to retire and no other family member was interested.

Tony Martin


07/02/13 – 06:42

I have very fond memories of Harpers of Heath Hayes as my father, the late Joe Martin was a driver for them during my childhood in the 1950’s and 60’s. I can remember a couple of other drivers, Jack Slater, Ernie ??? We lived in the village too, so I was always going on trips during school holidays with the Labour Club, The Cons Club etc. I have a photo of my dad pictured at a reunion of drivers and staff some years ago, which I will dig out and place here. I also have some black and white photos of a couple of trips with all the children, mothers and even Nurse Girdlestone assembled (a local Heath Hayes character from the 50’s and 60’s!) They show just how many people were transported to lovely places for the day by several drivers on the same day. It was like a coach convoy!
My friend’s late mother also worked in the office at the Harpers garage on the Stafford Road in Cannock, her name was Vera Sherratt and we still often talk about this great local company, who served this area of the Midlands very well. My parents originally met on my dad’s bus too on the route to Chapel Ash. In later years he gave up his job as a driver for Harpers before Midland Red took over, to work in my mothers grocery shop in Mill Street, Cannock – he always said he felt like his driving wings had been clipped!
Sorry that my account is not too bus related, but this lovely company was always held in high regard by everyone that travelled with them.

Carol Jones


20/02/13 – 16:55

Hi Carol, I remember your late father both as a child, when my late father Cyril Burton worked different shifts with him as his conductor & some Saturdays I would have a ride to Kingstanding have a cup of tea in the billiard hall with Joe & my dad then ride back, also when your father would be the driver of an excursion to the seaside we would be going on, no motorways then. Also when I started part time with Harpers as a conductor I worked with him a few times but he did mainly excursions & private hire work then. Other drivers who would have worked for this iconic company at the time Joe was there & he would probably bring up in conversation would be George Brown, Jack Poiser, Joe Scott, Norman Mills, Eric Thacker, Les King, Ray Wilce, Tommy Owen, George & Bill Elsmore to name but a few. The people who were served by Harpers Buses & crews had no idea what a great reliable service they had until 1974 when they lost it, I bet they wish they had Harpers now.

Phil Burton


09/06/13 – 11:38

I remember Harpers well through my childhood and youth. They had a garage and small booking office at the corner of New Penkridge Road Cannock with Dartmouth Avenue. One of their renowned drivers was named Jim Brown and he lived nearby in New Penkridge Road and I was at school with his son Emlyn.
My Aunt at Wedges Mills used to organise coach trips with Harpers through many summers late 40s early 50s – Rhyl, Blackpool, New Brighton, Evesham at blossom and fruit times and London all being popular Sunday destinations leaving happy memories. My Aunt was a nervous passenger and was always more nervous when Jim drove the coach as she considered him a "speed mad driver" and she often used to say " He will kill us all" – in truth he was a good driver and she was just suffering from nervousness.
Also recall that on Saturdays when Wolves were playing at home at 2pm a single deck and a double deck Harpers would pass through packed with supporters to the game.
In the late 50s my method of transport to my first job was via Harpers single decker from Cannock (Rosas Cafe) to Brewood via Hatherton, Calf Heath and Four Ashes a life line for those places at that time..

Tony Bibb


10/03/14 – 14:53

I too used to travel on Harpers buses 1948-1964
I lived in Hatherton Village, Cannock.
Yes the bus drivers used to know every ones ‘habits’ and would wait for any of their usual passengers if they were late. Conductors helped you on and off the bus with any luggage.
I remember going to school one very deep snowy morning in Brewood, and the bus got stuck in a drift on Somerford corner, so the driver Harry, locked up the bus and actually marched us all round to our school in a line. Then went back to sort his bus out.
Nothing was too much trouble for any of the drivers or conductors.
One of the drivers I remember by name was Levi, and the guy that wore the brown overall, was he the Inspector Mr Cardman or something close to that name.
Oh what memorable, pleasant happy days.
Service with a smile always. It was a grand company.

Carole Mears


19/03/14 – 07:33

Hi Carole I think the names you are thinking about are possibly Levi Humphries and Athy Carden. Like you say pleasant happy days.

Phil Burton


11/08/14 – 09:54

It’s been a couple of years since I have been on this site, I am amazed how much has been added since then, I found the picture of the tickets interesting & remember them, however before those tickets which rolled out of a small machine when the handle was turned, the conductor & I do remember Jack if it’s the same man had a kind of wooden clip board which he took the individual tickets out & punched a hole in them, does anyone remember those wonderful different coloured tickets? Why didn’t I keep some. Also, after reading your articles I felt a warmth which you don’t get these days, also, I remember the day trips to Wales, a real treat for ordinary kids who had very little & there were plenty of us. How lucky we were.

Jimmie Charles


11/06/16 – 05:31

As a lad of 13 during the late 60s l went on many day trips with Harpers during the school holidays. My late mother and father would book the tickets for us from a little office in Park Road Sutton Coldfield,close to where we lived. We would meet the coach at a place called Harman Road and the adventure would start. We had no car and limited amounts of money, but Harpers helped to create some of the happiest memory’s of my life, l will never forget them and their ‘family ‘of friendly drivers.

John Starkey


TRE 251_lr Vehicle reminder shot for this posting


19/06/16 – 05:55

I worked for Harper Bros in their Heath Hayes office from 1962-1974,then Midland Red 1974-1978. I did a short period of working at the ‘Gloria De Luxe Office in Sutton Coldfield, before moving to Head Office. Best time of my working life.

Pam Harris (Nee Dodd)


 

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Harper Bros – Leyland Tiger PS2 – LTF 808 – 22

Harper Bros - Leyland Tiger PS2 - LTF 808 - 22
Copyright Ray Soper

Harper Bros
1950
Leyland Tiger PS2
Harrington C??F

This shot is from the Ray Soper gallery contribution titled ‘Harper Brothers of Heath Hayes’ click on the title if you would like to view his Gallery and comments to it.
The shot is shown here for indexing purposes but please feel free to make any comment regarding this vehicle either here or on the gallery.


21/02/13 – 16:51

LTF 808 fleet No 22 had a Harrington C33F body.

Phil Burton


 

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Harper Bros – Guy Arab I – HWA 714 – 3

Harper Bros - Guy Arab I - HWA 714 - 3
Copyright Ray Soper

Harper Bros
1943
Guy Arab I
Park Royal H56R rebodied Northern Coachbuilders 1954

This shot is from the Ray Soper gallery contribution titled ‘Harper Brothers of Heath Hayes’ click on the title if you would like to view his Gallery and comments to it.
The shot is shown here for indexing purposes but please feel free to make any comment regarding this vehicle either here or on the gallery.


19/05/12 – 16:40

I would like to know exactly where in Heath Hayes the Harper Brothers garage was if anyone knows it would be much appreciated.

Rod


20/05/12 – 07:36

Don’t know about the depot, but the bus was new to Sheffield in 1943, gone by 1949. It was a solo vehicle.

Les Dickinson


20/05/12 – 07:37

I remember Harpers Bros Buses and Coaches very well in my childhood days as they used to go past my old house in Erdington Road, Aldridge and after I left Aldridge with my parents and sister on Saturday 10th June 1961 to move to Lichfield. As me and my parents and sister used to use them to visit our Aunty and Uncle who used to live in Daniels Lane, off Erdington Road, Aldridge

Andrew Holder


20/05/12 – 09:09

Looking at the Gallery, the poor buses look rather battered and neglected so due for the scrapyard yet are not that old so maybe Harpers were not exactly good on maintenance. It’s a shame that these quite characterful vehicles did not have a better life let alone survive.

Richard Leaman


22/05/12 – 14:46

Hi Rod the garage lay between the Cannock Rd and the Hednesford Rd Heath Hayes approx 100yards from the 5 ways island, other than the 1st photo that was taken inside the garage the other photos were taken on ground opposite the rear of the garage on the Cannock Rd prior to Newlands Lane. I think part of the premises are now a tyre depot. They also had a garage on the Stafford Rd Cannock that housed I think 2 Vehicles, a workshop at High Green Cannock where Fleet 14 in Photo at rear of Heath Hayes Garage was re bodied and a Garage that housed a couple of coaches at Aldridge opposite Portland Rd (town end).
Hi Richard you are right in thinking some of the buses looked neglected in the photo that’s because they were indeed scrap except for Fleet 31 in the middle of the three half cabs, they were old and had come to the end of there safe working serviceable life. The vehicles that were in service were in fact very well maintained.

Phil Burton


26/05/12 – 20:38

Many thanks Phil. I had a hunch it was down that road somewhere. My partner says that sounds about right think there are flats there now.

Rod


12/06/12 – 07:30

Heath Hayes has a Walsall post code. Could the Guy’s odd destination refer to West Bromwich Albion football ground, "The Hawthorns"?

Pete Davies


12/06/12 – 11:42

Hi Pete. You are indeed right, the destination did in fact mean West Bromwich Albion. Harpers ran football excursion buses to all the local teams on Saturdays and any night matches. The destinations would be Albion, Villa, Wolves etc. If the Team wasn’t on the destination blind, Football would be put up and a painted or chalked destination board would be displayed in the drivers window or in a purpose made destination board holder.

Phil Burton


13/06/12 – 09:44

Did this bus have a replacement utility body whilst in Sheffield service? Quoted as rebodied by NCB, and obviously not a Park Royal, this would seem to be quite an unusual, and interesting occurrence. If so, where did the NCB utility body come from?

John Whitaker


21/09/12 – 06:58

I have never lived in the West Midlands, so my first-hand experience of Harpers is restricted to a visit to the depot and a ride on a what was then a relatively new Daimler Fleetline on their service from Cannock (via a rather roundabout route) into Birmingham. From these experiences, and from general comments in the enthusiast press, I would say that Harpers were considered one of the leading operators of the day – much better thought of than not only other independents, but many NBC subsidiaries, PTEs, and larger municipalities. The fact that a proportion of the fleet was secondhand did nothing to detract from the fleet’s overall presentation, they always bought quality vehicles and looked after them.

David Call


22/09/12 – 07:05

I think David Call is absolutely right. I visited the depot once and it seemed to me at the time like a very well run company both operationally and maintenance wise. I remember that on the day I went, one of the Royal Tigers with Harpers own bodywork was receiving attention in the depot. I also went on a ‘Farewell to Harpers’ tour when it was known that they were selling out to Midland Red. On that occasion I had the interesting experience of travelling on 888 DUK, the Guy Arab V with the odd looking Strachans body. I believe that by then it had a Leyland 0600 engine.
It was actually a very sad loss when they closed, a substantial operator which had been well respected. I would admit that their unusual livery perhaps didn’t suit every vehicle, but it was certainly distinctive!

Chris Barker


23/09/12 – 06:32

Contemplate, chaps. It seems that Harper’s and Ledgard’s were soul mates. Are there any other mixed operators like this that the rest of you out there would like to nominate? Pennine? Who else?

David Oldfield


24/09/12 – 07:22

Indeed there are David, I’ve always thought the obvious pair were South Yorkshire and South Notts. So many similarities, it’s almost uncanny. To name a few; both had similar size fleets, both operated busy inter-urban services, both had a blue livery, both were mainly stage service operators but with a modest coaching side too, all of their double deckers were lowbridge or low height, all vehicles were bought in two’s or three’s, both bought all-Leyland PD2’s, then turned to other bodybuilders for PD2’s and PD3’s, both had Atlantean PDR1/3’s with Northern Counties bodies, both later turned to the Fleetline with Leyland engine, again with NCME bodies, both ended with the Olympian. I’m sure there were other similarities but you get my drift!

Chris Barker


15/11/12 – 11:15

I heard a guy was writing a book about Harper Bros. Anyone know if it has been completed?

Rod


15/11/12 – 15:02

The book is ‘Harpers Bus Memories in Colour’, published by Irwell Press, which was due to be available in October 2012 price £12.95. It is listed in the latest MDS Books catalogue, reference IR956.

John Stringer


15/11/12 – 15:53

Paul Roberts book ‘Harpers Bus Memories in Colour’ is still awaited.

Philip Lamb


23/11/12 – 08:19

The book is now on the shelf for purchase.

Phil Burton


06/12/12 – 06:55

There is also another long awaited book being written, this is a far more in depth publication. This one will trace the actual history from day one. I would imagine it is not far away now. I will try and get in touch with the author.

Mick Bullock


21/02/13 – 17:38

The Northern Coachworks Body put on Guy Arab I HWA 714 Fleet No 3 in 1954 was a Lowbridge L27/26R. It finished service December 1963.

Phil Burton


18/10/13 – 07:38

In addition to local football trips, Harpers ran to important away matches too – I remember going to watch Wolves in a cup match at Leeds with my grandmother some time in the 70s. Used to catch Harpers buses between Shire Oak and Brownhills, then Walsall Corporation on to Pipe Hill where footballing grandmother lived (non-footballing one at Shire Oak made a convenient stop off on Sunday when the less frequent services left me to wait in the rain ….)

ex ENOC conductor


22/03/14 – 17:15

In the fifties I grew up as neighbour to Felix Harper and to his neighbour sister Mary Harper in the large houses (286 to 280 Cannock rd) that they had built in the thirties. There was a large field next to our houses which gave access to another large field which lay behind our three houses. This was the hidden junkyard for all the old Harpers buses where a handful of those of us kids ‘in the know’ spent many a happy, forbidden and dangerous hour playing and trespassing.

Sheila James Baggaley


20/09/14 – 06:00

Harpers had a small garage at Aldridge as well along from the Avion cinema. My Dad Jack Preston was the Coop chemist in the same road. Anchor Road. From 1957 until 1965 used to go to school in Lichfield every day on a Harpers bus. In 1958 I had an accident coming home when I fell off one of the single deckers with a sliding door at the front and the back wheel of the bus went over the bottom of my leg. Still limping today. Good old Gloria deluxe.

Bryan Preston


08/10/15 – 14:54

It’s sometime since I made a comment on this post has I didn’t have much more to add, however, I don’t remember inspectors being on Harper’s buses, have I got this right?

Jimmie


06/01/16 – 05:37

No Jimmie, Harold Haytree was the inspector, and also at one stage Bob Finch who was ex police joined the company.

Phil Burton


12/01/16 – 14:07

In my student days, back in 1966, I worked with the company as a conductor for about eight weeks in July / August.
Harold Haytree was the Inspector – but his duties didn’t involve any actual inspecting! He was the firm’s ‘presence’ at Cannock Bus Station, and I think he may have had a hand in compiling duty rotas.
The fleet comprised mainly ex London Transport type RT double deckers. I recall the purchase and arrival of a replacement for a crash-damaged vehicle – and the scramble for a trophy in the form of the London Transport radiator badge (replaced by a standard AEC radiator badge).
My other memory was the uniform – emerald green double-breasted dust jackets with cream facings. Very distinctive! Only, they only had one in stock when I joined: it was much MUCH too big!
Having conducted for Liverpool Corporation Passenger Transport the previous summer, I was used to having my own ticket machine (an ‘Ultimate’). At HB, we took any available ‘Setright’ from a hook in the crew room!

Les


13/01/16 – 06:08

Here are a lot of photos of Harper’s vehicles, an amazing assortment which, had they survived, would have made a wonderful museum collection. They had a fair selection of London Transport RT/RTL’s, too. SEE: http://www.heathhayeshistory.co.uk/harpers_buses_1/

Chris Hebbron


14/01/16 – 06:02

Thanks for that link to the Harper fleet, Chris- a fascinating array, even though some of the captions are a bit doubtful (e.g. Cravens RT body built in Anglesey). I am also curious about the single deck Guy Arab JVK 654 with its " back to front gearbox". Did it have one forward gear and four reverse?

Roger Cox


14/01/16 – 06:39

I think that what would be meant by a ‘back to front’ gearbox would be that one or more gears were in a different position to what might be expected. This wasn’t at all unusual with commercial vehicles – Bedford coaches, for instance, up to and including the VAL14 (but not VAL70) had a so-called ‘Chinese’ gearbox.

David Call


14/01/16 – 10:03

A very common feature of Guy Arab gearboxes was that first and second gears were against the driver’s knee, while third and fourth were nearest to the engine. We had just one such at Ledgard’s Otley depot in the form of my beloved JUA 763. It had been new in 1943 with a dreadful Pickering utility body, but in 1950 was rebodied in the finest tradition by Charles H Roe its twin JUA 762 was at Armley depot from new until the end and was treated likewise at the same time. New recruits, fresh from perhaps a lorry driving job, were often "caught out" by the gear positions and either their errors were audibly heard for miles around or they wondered why the bus would not pull away in top gear which they thought was second !!

Chris Youhill


14/01/16 – 16:23

Most Atkinson lorries and some ERFs had the "Chinese" gearbox.
My Tilling Stevens Coach has a 6 speed Chinese box on and i leave a diagram on the dash to remind me

Roger Burdett


14/01/16 – 16:25

It’s the same effect as driving a LHD car- not only do you shunt your front seat passenger into the passing traffic, thinking you are next to open space, but 1 is by your right knee and you then move away for 3 & 4 & even 5 & 6. It don’t feel right!
Off (this) topic, Chris- do you know how/why Wallace Arnold had a depot in Royston?

Joe


14/01/16 – 17:32

I’m fairly sure that London Transport’s later deliveries of utility Guy Arabs had a conventional gearbox ‘gate’ and had to cut a couple of inches off the gear levers of one type (probably the non-standard ones) to enable their drivers to distinguish between the two types.

Chris Hebbron


15/01/16 – 06:23

Certainly most, if not all, the "reversed" gearboxes had a maroon knob as a means of distinction – admittedly of little use in the dark !!

Chris Youhill


15/01/16 – 06:24

Yes, I did follow what the caption to the picture was getting at, but my tongue in cheek comment about the gearbox of Guy Arab JVK 654 arose from the fact that this vehicle was an Arab III. The wartime Arab I and earlier batches of Arab II were fitted with the old sliding mesh gearbox with ‘right to left’ upward gear selector positions introduced with the pre war Arab of 1934. Later production Arab IIs had a new design of constant mesh four speed gearbox with the conventional ‘left to right’ gear lever movement. This constant mesh box was the standard fitment to the Arab III – a few had Guy’s own preselector gearbox – so why would JVK 654 have an old crash gearbox installed in place of its original constant mesh unit? Is the caption correct? Perhaps confusion is arising with the Arab I double deckers KRE 849/850, about which no such comment is made. Also, why remark upon this feature in the Guy, but fail to comment similarly about the several Dennis Lancets in the Harper fleet. The Lancet had the Dennis ‘O’ Type gearbox, a four speed sliding mesh unit with a preselected overdrive fifth ratio, and, again, the lever positions were upward from right to left. When in fifth position, the gear stick was well away from the steering column.

Roger Cox


15/01/16 – 14:38

I imagine some contributors will be able to date some of the photographs shown in the ‘Heath Hayes Gallery’ quite accurately, given the vehicles featured. The rear shot of two vehicles in the depot was clearly taken in Midland Red days, since the vehicle on the right is Midland Red 2181 (XUX 417K), the Ford R192/Plaxton B47F acquired by BMMO with the business of Hoggins, Wrockwardine Wood, in 1/74. It was apparently allocated to Heath Hayes depot from 9/74 to 7/75. The shot was presumably taken towards the beginning of that period, since the vehicle on the left, ex-Harper’s 60 (1294 RE),Guy Arab LUF/Burlingham, was ostensibly withdrawn in 10/74. In its brief stay with Midland Red, it would have been fleet number 2260. Did the ex-Harper vehicles not carry MR fleetnumbers, initially? http://www.heathhayeshistory.co.uk/Harpers_9_3.

David Call


15/01/16 – 15:46

The first bus I helped preserve was Burton Corporation 18 a Guy Arab 111 rebodied by Massey. It too had a Chinese box so again may have been a refit from another wartime Arab.

Geoff S


16/01/16 – 06:02

Joe, when John Wilson was GM of NT(SE) he was directed by NBC to accept delivery of some LHD Willowbrook Express bodied AEC Reliances for continental services: there were more accidents with these vehicles on the continent (and, perhaps not surprisingly in the UK [although I think they were only licensed for use between London and Dover]) than with RHD coaches – apparently if one is used to driving an RHD vehicle it’s easier to drive one on the continent that it is an LHD vehicle, presumably because the spatial arrangement of the controls remains the same.

Philip Rushworth


16/01/16 – 11:36

Joe, I forgot to answer your question! Wallace Arnold’s Royston depot came with the purchase of G E Billham in 1942 – I think Billham was largely involved with colliery contracts. Castleford depot, acquired with M Box (Castleford) Ltd in 1946, was another depot largely confined to contract operations (although I think some tours duties might have been operated from Castleford depot after Gillards Tours, Normanton, was taken over in 1966. In 1969 the allocation at Royston depot was 22 coaches; Castleford 16 coaches, including two licenced to Gillards.

Philip Rushworth


16/01/16 – 15:14

Interesting Philip. My own experience with occasional hire of LHD cars on the continent is that I just cannot estimate the clearance from the right hand kerb from a left hand driving seat, as I can the left hand kerb from a right hand driving seat. Accordingly I always tend to drive much farther out into the road than necessary.

Stephen Ford


17/01/16 – 06:31

Further to John W (13/6/12) and Phil B (21/2/13), HWA 714 was apparently acquired by Harper’s, chassis only, from Duncan of Law, then fitted with its second hand NCB body and placed in service 4/54.
The body was reputedly new c.1949 when it was used to rebody DH 9344, a 1932 Burlingham-bodied Leyland TS3 acquired with the business of Reynolds of Cannock in 6/44. However, I have to say that the body doesn’t look 1949 vintage to me, it looks like, as John W commented, a utility body.
They presumably made strong Leyland TS3s in 1932.
I am inclined to suppose that Duncan of Law was ultimately superseded by Irvine’s of Law, but I’ll stand corrected, of course. Irvine’s are still operational.

David Call

Correction – Irvine’s of Law ceased in 2012.
Adam Duncan sold out to prolific bus company purchaser Sam Anderson, who, only a year or two later, sold on the operation to William Irvine.


18/01/16 – 06:05

The comments about the body are most interesting. It has the look of a utility product but there are certain aspects of it which contradict this, the drivers windscreen and the flat front are most utility like but the side windows appear to have radiused bottom corners, the foremost upper deck side windows have rounded corners on the front upper edge which a utility body would not have had. The front upper deck windows have obviously been rebuilt at some point and appear to be pan glazed. The sliding ventilators are not utility style but NCB did produce some bodies with these on unfrozen AEC chassis earlier in the war, around 1942.
If the business of Reynolds was acquired in 6/44 and the body was produced some time after that, there would only have been a short period for it to be regarded as utility because I believe NCB were one of the first bodybuilders to produce a standard post war composite design which I understand appeared in 1945.
In addition, I don’t think they built wartime bodywork in any great numbers, perhaps this was a relaxed utility built at the very end of the war. I suppose a photograph of it when it was on the TS3 would be too much to ask for!

Chris Barker


19/01/16 – 06:04

Thanks Philip….WA must have needed some consistent year round trade… Could never understand how such a totally Leeds company wandered so far south. Their fleet was always so up to date, smart and seemed of such quality, as they set off again for Edinburgh and the Trossachs. Then came cheap flights and all the rest.

Joe


19/01/16 – 09:14

Joe, As WA grew and grew it became anything BUT a totally Leeds company, and they had a thriving "stand alone" operation in Torquay. In view of the lovely rural roads and lanes of Devon and Cornwall some of their brand new otherwise standard coaches were built specially to the largely outdated 7’6" width. Then, at the other end of the UK (sorry Ms Sturgeon), Dicksons of Dundee were taken over, bringing some superb coaches with lovely tartan moquette seating, and a thriving customer base. Some vehicles initially operated from Leeds in Dickson’s smart maroon livery – two lovely Reliances MYJ 764/5 are fondly recalled for instance.

Chris Youhill


20/01/16 – 05:49

Apologies for pushing this thread further in the WA direction, but I’m hoping Chris Youhill will be able to answer something that puzzled me for years. I can see how, with a base in Torquay, WA’s Devon subsidiary could service a programme of extended based in the south west – but how were the programmes based in London (ex Homeland Tours), Northamptonshire (ex United Counties), Bristol (ex Hallens), and the ex-Dicksons Scottish-based tours serviced. And for that after the Glasgow-Skye express service that was taken over fro Skyways? Were coaches and drivers sent out from Leeds on rotation, or were some pick-ups "on line of route"?

Philip Rushworth


21/01/16 – 06:44

I’ve just seen the comments above about "Chinese" gearboxes. I’ve read elsewhere that Guy’s right-to-left gearboxes had maroon gear lever knobs, but I believe this is an error caused by the assumption that an unusual gear arrangement warranted an unusual knob. In fact I’m pretty sure that it was the other way round – the maroon knob was introduced in 1945 to distinguish the new constant-mesh gearbox from its Chinese predecessor. I’m sure I’ve seen some quite late examples, and even UFs or LUFs.
I think there is also confusion over Bedfords. Bedford’s own 4-speed gearbox was perfectly conventional. The early Turner 5-speed unit on the VAL14 (also optional on SBs at that time) was unusual in that 1st (rarely used) was on the extreme right opposite reverse, 2nd and 3rd were over on the left, and 4th and 5th were to the right but back-to-front. However, this does not justify the "Chinese" epithet, which refers strictly to arrangements where ascending through the gears means going from right to left, like Chinese writing. The only Bedfords with that arrangement were the SB coaches with the Plaxton C-type modification, which created extra passenger space by raising the floor and pushing the driving position forward, requiring extra linkage for the gearchange. Both Bedford and Turner gear arrangements were then reversed right-to-left.

Peter Williamson


21/01/16 – 15:30

Philip – I’m afraid you’ve caught me on the hop there as I was only very briefly involved in tour coach allocation before returning to driving out of my own choice. I’m pretty sure though that Paul Haywood and Malcolm Hirst will be able to answer that aspect more fully. One driving job though that I did do, just after the Dickson’s takeover, was to travel empty to Dundee one Saturday afternoon and the next morning take a load of tour passengers for their first overnight in Bradford – so that will have been something to do with Dickson’s programme no doubt, although I’m sure that it wasn’t a regular manoeuvre. Around the same time I also had to got to Wetherby (in a company car) to relieve another Leeds driver on a southbound continental tour from Dundee to Southend Airport.

Chris Youhill


03/02/16 – 06:44

A few of you have mentioned names of a few of Harper’s Drivers, I am wondering if anybody would remember my Grandfather, Derek Holden? I’m trying to do at bit of research to surprise my dad and any leads would be fantastic. As far as I am aware he worked for the company durin the 1960’s but could have possibly been earlier than that when he started. Like I said, I have little to go on other than a rough time scale and the fact that my Grandfather was from the Bloxwich/Walsall area.

Rob Holden


14/02/16 – 05:46

Philip Rushworth queries how the Croydon operations of WA were run. I lived in Croydon from 1960 to 1966 and the vehicles were licensed in the Metropolitan Traffic Area and ran from a base effectively on a large traffic island formed by St. James’s Road, Hogarth Crescent and Whitehorse Road.
Departures and arrivals used the car park at the Fairfield Halls in Barclay Road.

John Kaye


15/02/16 – 16:06

David Call,
Irvine of Law have gone but Irvine (Golden Eagle) of Salsburgh are still in business although they sold their bus service to First in the 1990s. One of their Reliances (LHS 479P) famously left Loughborough with a destination blind reading AIRDIRE.

Stephen Allcroft


16/02/16 – 06:02

In the mid 1930s, Frank Flin operated a small coach business between London and Margate from a base in Park Lane, Croydon, and also ran a booking office in George Street. In 1936 he acquired the tour licences of another Croydon firm, Wilson’s Tours, and in 1937 set up Homeland Tours. At the outbreak of WW2 his seven coaches were commandeered for military use, and, at the cessation of hostilities only two were returned. An order was placed for a replacement fleet of Strachans C37F bodied Leyland Comet CPO2 coaches, http://www.na3t.org/road/photo/Hu02356  but securing hotel bookings in the early post war years was very difficult for small tour operators with limited bargaining power. Around this time Leeds based Wallace Arnold was seeking to strengthen its presence in the London area, and opened negotiations with Flin. In 1948 Flin passed his tour licences to Wallace Arnold, but retained his coaches. The travel agency in George Street, though still owned by Frank Flin, then became an agency for Wallace Arnold. The maroon liveried Homeland Leyland Comet coaches continued to run private hire and day excursions, though I believe that they were operated on Flin’s behalf by Wallace Arnold. I used to see them about regularly in the Croydon area of the early 1950s. These operations were sold in 1956 to Bourne and Balmer, by then a Timpson subsidiary, who had a garage and coach station in Dingwall Road. Homeland Tours then became purely a travel agency business. It is now run under the name of Wallace Arnold World Choice by the grandson of Frank Flin in premises in George Street only a short distance from the original shop site. Notwithstanding the name, which is retained with the agreement of Shearings (the current owner of the Wallace Arnold name) it is still an independent business. The site mentioned by John Kaye is in an area known locally as Spurgeon’s Bridge after the adjacent huge Spurgeon’s Tabernacle (aka West Croydon Baptist Church). The bridge itself goes over the railway line from London into West Croydon. I used to cross this junction, then just a straightforward crossroads traversed by the 654 route trolleybuses rather than the convoluted, combined, circulatory systems of today, on my walk to school at Selhurst.

Roger Cox


16/02/16 – 08:38

This seems to be a revealing tale, Roger. The various changes and absorptions seem to have been negotiated with goodwill, and not the pac-man methods more evident today: there seems to be the idea that there could be a living for everyone. WA always seemed a decent outfit, unless others know different…

Joe


16/02/16 – 15:21

I am sure that your reading of the business relationship between Homeland Tours and Wallace Arnold is exactly correct, Joe. One imagines that the representatives of the two firms happened to meet up during tour planning/operations in the early post-war period, and saw the benefits to be accrued from joint working arrangements. That the two businesses held each other in real respect is manifest in the Wallace Arnold trading name that John Flin, the present proprietor of the Homeland Croydon agency, has adopted in the present day.

Roger Cox


17/02/16 – 05:48

Many thanks for replying – just one more thing! WA’s Croydon site was it covered/under-cover? were there maintenance facilities??. The history of London-area coaching operations is fascinating: Tom McLachlan’s "Grey-Green and contemporaries Vol 1" (taking the story to 1960) was published in in 2007 – I’m still waiting for Vol 2. And writing of delayed publication dates, on 06.XII.12 Mick Bullock promised publication of an in depth history of Harpers – now that’s another book I’m eagerly awaiting . . .

Philip Rushworth


18/02/16 – 05:51

wa_fabric

Wallace Arnold lives on in room 136 Burlington Hotel Eastbourne Feb 2016 a little thread bear in places.

Ken Wragg


18/02/16 – 10:19

The WA’s are fairly subtle, Ken, you wouldn’t notice, if you didn’t know!
Why is it there and how did you know it was there?

Chris Hebbron


18/02/16 – 10:20

Ken, an amazing discovery in the weave of the carpet – does it actually refer to the coaching giant, or is it a pure coincidence??
Also, I’m sure I recall that either a TV documentary, or possibly a bought DVD, featured Barbara Flin in her days as a courier on some of the first ambitious Continental tours, to Interlaken in particular. She eventually had a major victory against the snooty Manager of a leading hotel (still there now) in Interlaken when he "banished" her and the driver to a quiet corner of the ballroom to eat, rather than allowing them to dine in style with their passengers. Eventually she won and they were restored to their rightful place in the Dining Room. I may be wrong, time dulls the memory, but I’m sure she was eventually the wife of Francis Flin at Croydon – can anyone confirm please, or shall I "get mi ‘at."

Chris Youhill


18/02/16 – 11:56

wa_fabric_2

This discovery of Wallace Arnold carpet was in the room allocated during a holiday last week at the Burlington Hotel Eastbourne (an old Wallace Arnold hotel). I was happy to see this memento of the past but it does not show the quality I expect of the Holiday Co that owns the hotel. I add the other photo of carpet.

Ken Wragg


19/02/16 – 05:41

Phillip, I am also eagerly awaiting volume 2 of Tom McLachlan’s book. I understand that, although he now has health problems , the final draft was finished some years ago and it is hoped that his son will complete the book.

Nigel Turner


19/02/16 – 05:42

Oh dear Ken – the second photo shows that it high time the carpet was chucked out – I hope that the rest of the hotel and in particular the cleanliness and the food were much fresher !!

Chris Youhill


19/02/16 – 05:43

Thanks for thinking of photographing – I might offer to take it off their hands should they ever get round to re-decorating! "Dear Manager, As a resident of Leeds you will understand my interest in acquiring certain carpets, should they become available . . . "
Latterly WA owned eight hotels: Pentire Hotel, Newquay; County Hotel, Llandudno; Trecarn Hotel, Torquay; Savoy Hotel, Bournemouth; Grand Hotel, Exmouth; Broadway Park Hotel, Sandown; The Fife Arms, Braemar; and the Burlington.
Shearings owned quite a number of hotels, more than WA, at the time of the "merge-over"

Philip Rushworth


19/02/16 – 09:32

Philip – despite the similarity in names with Trecarne didn’t WA also own the Tolcarne Hotel, also I believe in Devon ??

Chris Youhill


19/02/16 – 15:26

A wonderful story, Chris, and I am sure that your identification of the redoubtable lady who challenged the preposterous social status nonsense of a certain hotel manager is entirely accurate. The spelling of the name ‘Flin’ is unusual, and the likelihood of there being another lady in the tour business with the first name of Barbara must be pretty remote. Frank Flin died in 1962, and the Homeland agency then passed to his son, Francis John Flin, whose wife is Barbara Mary Flin, now in her eighties. Both are still shown as directors of the business. Their son, John Richard Flin, currently runs the firm. (“So you can leave t’ ‘at ‘anging in t’ ‘all.” Apologies if my West Riding dialect is all wrong – my mother came from the East Riding.) Apparently the old close and rewarding relationship with Wallace Arnold was lost with the Shearings takeover, to the detriment of the travel agency business, but matters did recover to some degree subsequently. On the subject of the Wallace Arnold depot at Spurgeon’s Bridge, Croydon, I cannot personally recall much about it. However, the Commercial Motor Archive tells us that around a dozen coaches were drafted in during the summer months, though whether or not this means that the base was only used in summer, or that a smaller winter allocation was augmented for the season, is unclear. I would surmise that the facilities there were pretty basic. Apparently, the depot was closed finally in 1985, whereupon Wallace Arnold then stationed some 30 vehicles at the London Buses Norwood Garage, which was contracted to clean and refuel them. This indicates that mechanical maintenance work was undertaken elsewhere.

Roger Cox


20/02/16 – 05:04

Mention of the Flin family in Croydon reminds me of a brief period when I worked in their office in the winter of 1964/65. At that time I worked in the WA Traffic Office in Leeds and volunteered to spend a week filling and addressing envelopes with tour brochures in the Flin/WA office.
Highlights of the week included travelling down from Leeds to London on a brown/cream Pullman (2nd class of course). For safety (being a snivelling 16 year old) my parents insisted I stay with my aunt rather than in a dubious B&B. This was fine with me as I made the daily commute on red (Central Area) and green (Country Area) RTs from Tolworth to Croydon via Epsom. Sadly, because of the time of year, most of the rides were in the dark, but I felt really grown-up being a London commuter!
A final memory is of the kindness (and tolerance) of the Flin family, one of whom gave me a publicity photo of their Homeland Tours Duplex coach JVB 908 (see www.sct61.org.uk/zzjvb908)

Paul Haywood


21/02/16 – 05:56

Roger and Paul – curiosity has just made me seek out the footage with Barbara Flyn and her account of the stuffy Interlaken Jungfrau Hotel is as I remembered it.
It was a Channel 4 programme called "The golden years of coach travel" or something similar, and is excellent throughout. The links feature Stephen Barber of WA and a fascinating Lancashire chap who was a lifelong passenger with Yelloways of Rochdale.
Paul – I never knew of your little adventure to Croydon – I would gladly have done the same and written a few envelopes to "fund" it.

Chris Youhill


21/02/16 – 15:47

I recall that programme, Chris. It was "The Golden Age Of Coach Travel". I made a DVD copy of it for a former work colleague at Peterborough, who told me about the no holds barred scramble to get away from Cheltenham when the "departure pistol" went off for all coaches to leave at the same time. Drivers who had communed jovially during the break period then jostled mercilessly to get out and away from the queue that quickly formed at the exit. The programme is still available on Youtube and I’ve just watched it again. Notwithstanding a few inconsistencies, it is a fascinating record of a time that, sadly, has totally gone.

Roger Cox


21/02/16 – 15:48

I’ve found "The Golden Age of Coach Travel" on YouTube. It is a BBC production of 2010. There are some wonderful anecdotes about the ‘services’ the drivers’ provided, some dubious! Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrDQ9SNYwyc

Chris Hebbron


22/02/16 – 06:15

Does any one remember the series on TV featuring a driver called Cannonball doing a Devon/Cornwall tour for Wallace Arnold is it still available.

Ken Wragg


22/02/16 – 09:03

‘Cannonball’ certainly appears in the above documentary, but is only one of several drivers saying their piece.

Chris Hebbron


23/02/16 – 05:26

Chris Y. At the time of the brochure from which I copied the hotels list above – mid 1990s? as there were a mix of van Hool/Jonckheere/Plaxton-bodied coaches pictured – there was no mention of the Tolcarne Hotel, but I’ve done a quick Google and there was a Tolcarne Hotel in Newquay . . . "filthy and old-fashioned" according the last TripAdvisor comment in 2008. And whilst I was about that I also Googled "Barbara Flynn" [sic], who apparently has been married to a Jeremy Taylor since 1982/34y-old, so the Homeland Tours connection is looking a bit weak here! Don’t get your coat though – I’d miss your knowledgeable contributions (although I might take any further contributions about the performing arts with a pinch of salt!).

Philip Rushworth


23/02/16 – 10:43

Phillip, you are looking at Barbara Flynn the actress.
She played, along with many other parts, the Milk Lady in ‘Open All Hours’, and appeared with James Bolam in the Beiderbecke Trilogy. The Barbara Flin in the Golden Age of Coaching was a different lady altogether, and was a Courier/Guide with Wallace Arnold.

Stephen Howarth


23/02/16 – 10:46

It’s not Barbara Flynn, it’s Barbara Flin, Philip. This lady is now in her eighties, and, with her husband Francis, is still a director of the Wallace Arnold World Wide agency in Croydon. (Hasn’t this discussion come a long way from a wartime Guy Arab!)

Roger Cox


13/03/16 – 14:48

I was beginning to wonder if I was on the right page here seeing as I’ve had to wade through loads of comments nothing to do with Harper Bros. The Guy JVK 654 was bought as a chassis and was fitted with a Lawton body, nothing in the Heath Hayes History caption says it was a crash box, only that it was back to front which it was. 1st & 2nd gear nearest the driver 3rd & 4th nearest the engine. Regarding the RT’s, All the Leylands were from London and the first two AEC’s with Craven Bodies built in Anglesey as caption states, Fleet No’s 2 & 12 KGK 729 & KGK 738.The other seven RTA’s were from St Helens purchased 61/2.

Phil Burton


14/03/16 – 06:53

All Guy Arab I and the great majority of Arab II chassis were fitted with the Guy four speed sliding mesh gearbox with the ‘right to left’ upward selector positions and the double plate clutch inherited from the early 1934 Arab model. Arab IIs from late 1945 onwards had the new Guy constant mesh box which had a conventional ‘left to right’ selector gate coupled with a single plate clutch. This gearbox/clutch combination then went into the new Arab III that was available from late 1946.

Roger Cox


14/03/16 – 06:53

The assumption that a right-to-left gearbox would be “crash” comes from the fact that the only gearbox Guy built to that pattern was the unit used in wartime Arabs, which was sliding-mesh. The most likely explanation is that the Arab III acquired a gearbox from a defunct utility double-decker later in life.
The point about the Craven bodies on the RTs is that they were built in Sheffield, not Anglesey. It was Saunders bodies that were built in Anglesey.

Peter Williamson


17/03/16 – 15:16

Of course you are right Peter, the Cravens bodies were built in Sheffield as you say, I put it down to c-nile dementia, I’m getting old lol. The Guy JVK 653 was new in 1946 but came to Harpers as just a chassis in 1954 and a Lawton body was fitted. The gear knob was maroon and of a mushroom shape rather than a ball

Phil Burton


28/03/16 – 11:38

blind

I’m an lifelong Villa fan and have just been given a very old bus blind (shown here framed and back lit) by a mate of mine here in New Zealand – he brings in vintage stuff from the UK to sell on in this part of the world – the cloth blind has a sloping font and 7 destinations ‘FOOTBALL’ ‘WOLVES’ ‘VILLA’ ‘ALBION’ ‘TO THE SHOW’ ‘SPECIAL’ and ‘EXCURSION’. He knew, because of the sloping font, that it came off a 40’s / 50’s bus and after hunting around the internet my guess, after reading this page and in particular the post on 12/06/12 by Phil Burton, is that it came of a Harper Bros bus. Looking at the images I can find my guess is that it came off a/the Guy Arab III with Lawton bodywork.

George Shaw


HWA 714_lr Vehicle reminder shot for this posting


10/04/16 – 05:24

Homeland Tours owned a booking office in Park Lane Croydon, on the corner of Park Street in the 1950s. Their fleet of Leyland coaches were kept at the Regal Garage in the Old Kent Road. The owners of the Regal Garage sold it to new owners in 1955, and Homeland Tours were asked to vacate the premises. The Homeland Tours fleet was sold to Bourne and Balmer of Croydon, a subsidiary company of Timpsons since 1953. The two Homeland Tours Leyland Tiger Cubs with underfloor engines MBY 909, MBY 910,were kept by Bourne and Balmer, but the normal control Leyland Comets were sold to dealers. Homeland Tours became an agent for Wallace Arnold, and the Park Lane office traded under the Wallace Arnold name. The building was sold some years later, and they moved around the corner to George Street. At least one of the Leyland Comets went to work for Chiltern Queens in Oxford.

H. Daulby


 

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