Old Bus Photos

Smiths Luxury Coaches – AEC Regent III – NTG 137

Smiths Luxury Coaches - AEC Regent III - NTG 137
Copyright S Fitton

Smiths Luxury Coaches (Reading) Ltd
AEC Regent III 9613S
Weymann Orion H30/26R

Quite awhile ago on the ‘Q&As’ page there was a question titled ‘Ex Rhondda Regents’ which questioned the number of AEC Regents that joined the fleet of Smiths Luxury Coaches from the Rhondda. The question was answered but as usual the thread took on a different direction as to whether they had an AEC or Crossley gearbox, this resulted in the contribution by David Beilby of the above vehicle.

David also provided the following copy, NTG 137 was formerly Rhondda 284 and is seen here in April 1968. The hidden connection to the ‘ex Rhondda Regents’ question is that it was working the somewhat ill-fated Crossley Omnibus Society Grand Southern tour over the Easter Weekend. Ill-fated as the Society’s ex-Oldham Crossley 368, which was due to work the first leg from Manchester to Reading, had a differential failure at Stone in Staffordshire (the upside of that is that it was fitted with a reconditioned differential afterwards by Oldham Corporation).
I wasn’t on the tour but Stan Fitton, the Secretary of the Society and tour organiser, was and this photo is one of his taken on this fascinating tour which involved visits to the Bournemouth and Reading trolleybus systems and Provincial (Gosport and Fareham) NTG 137 provided the transport for most of the tour. If anyone can tell me where this photograph was taken I would be very grateful as I’ve no idea. The fairground ride in the background may provide a clue and I think it’s safe to assume the bus didn’t reach this location through the arched bridge behind. Unfortunately in the strip of negatives containing the above shot the previous photo is of Oldham 368 at Manchester Victoria and the one after is in Weymouth. So it’s somewhere between Manchester and Weymouth!

Well that narrows it down a bit David.

The ‘Ex Rhondda Regents’ question can be read here.

Photograph and part copy contributed by David Beilby

05/02/11 – 09:30

I can shed no light on the mystery location, but NTG 137 brings back memories.
My original question was poorly worded: I probably gave the impression that both the ex-South Wales Regent Vs and the ex-Rhondda Regent IIIs were spongy to drive. The Vs WERE, but the IIIs were nice and crisp.
I’m also grateful for the clarifications about Crossley’s role in AEC gearbox design and production.

Ian Thompson

26/03/11 – 07:30

I started at Smiths in 1968 aged 15 as an apprentice coachbuilder and left in 1978. I have many happy memories of my time there in particular the many characters that worked there. Alf Smith the Guvnor as we had to call him was a true gent, he lent me 20 quid from his wallet to buy a Lambretta which I had to pay back at 10 bob a week. I would love to hear from anybody else that worked there.

Barry Armstrong

28/03/11 – 10:30

Barry, I left Smiths in 68, so we may or may not have overlapped, but I’m equally keen to meet other ex-Smiths folk. You’re right about the Guvnor: until you got to know him he seemed a bit remote in his smart clothes, sweeping into the yard in his Jaguar, but he was really a very kind, decent man. A pal of mine is scanning hundreds of photos he took in the 50s and 60s, including many of Smiths Coaches. What we haven’t got are pictures of the characters, in all their variety!

Ian Thompson

21/07/12 – 17:11

I was on that ‘ill-fated’ tour but it was a long time ago and the old memory ain’t what it was. As I recall, after we broke down at Stone we had a long wait until a very comfortable coach arrived from Reading. This got us to Reading in the wee small hours and we changed onto the Regent III. All I can remember is that it was damned cold and I couldn’t sleep – unlike some! I don’t think we stopped again until we got to Weymouth, where we stopped for brekky. After that the stops (as I recall) were Gosport and Fareham, Portsmouth Corporation and Bournemouth, where we had a somewhat shortened trolleybus ride to that originally planned. Then it was back to Reading, where Stan Fitton canvassed b&b places, starting off with us youngsters, and had the job of convincing sundry landladies were were not Aldermaston Marchers. I think some of the oldsters had to kip on benches in Reading pubs, but again, memory fades. So I guess the answer is likely to be Weymouth or Bournemouth, but I honestly don’t know.

Brian Wainwright

08/06/14 – 07:29

The location is the old Westham Coach Park in Weymouth, as confrimed by the ‘Wild Mouse’ in the background, and by my wife, who grew up just along from the coach park in Abbotsbury Road, and as a girl used to cut through it.

Les Ronan


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Smiths Luxury Coaches – Dennis Lancet J3 – KXX 329

Smiths Luxury Coaches - Dennis Lancet J3 - KXX 329
Photograph by Graham Low

Smiths Luxury Coaches (Reading) Ltd
Dennis Lancet J3
Duple C35F

I read with great interest Frank and Derrick’s notes on the Dennises run by Prestwells of Woodhouse Eaves. Unfortunately I’ve no info that might help, but here’s a Dennis Lancet J3 of about 1950 run by Smith’s of Reading until about 1964. The photo is by Graham Low, who incidentally contributed many of the illustrations to Paul Lacey’s book "Thames Valley 1946-1960".
Having always found buses more interesting than coaches I regrettably never noted the registrations of Smith’s Lancets, many of which had been bought in from other operators. By the mid sixties they were relegated to occasional contract duties, their place in the front shed having been usurped by nice AEC Reliances and horrible Super Vega-bodied Bedford SBs. 
For single-deck runs on the AWRE Aldermaston contract the office would say "Take one of the spare Bedfords" but I occasionally managed to persuade them to let me take a Lancet, and what a pleasure it always was!—though the other younger drivers didn’t agree.
In Classic Bus Aug-Sept 1999 there’s an amusing account of the challenges posed by the Dennis Lancet. You don’t sit over the pedals, but more behind them as in a car. The bonnet is admittedly high, but visibility is still good. First and second gears are to the right, third and fourth to the left, and for fifth leave the lever in fourth position but push it left towards the engine against a stiffish spring and then forward. Ease off the throttle and as the revs die back fifth engages itself noiselessly, and to return to fourth release the throttle for a moment, give her 44% more revs and again the take-up is smooth and silent. In contrast to this luxury the rest of the box (sliding mesh for all except fourth) is fairly unforgiving.
The Dennis O6 engine, direct-injection with 4 valves per cylinder, is quiet, practically vibration-less and very free-revving, but not a low-revs slogger, so hill-start clutch control can be tricky.
The steering seems rather low-geared, but is light, extremely positive and—unlike that of some AEC Reliances—dead stable. The brakes are perfectly adequate. The whole vehicle inspires confidence in the driver, and I don’t think the passengers ever complained either.
One Smith’s Lancet J3 registration KJH 900 was bought for trolleybus towing by the very active preservationist Tony Belton. I’ve heard it may survive somewhere. It has come to light whilst doing this posting that the above vehicle was in fact KXX 329 and came from Clarkes Luxury Coaches, London E16, in about 1951-2

Photograph and Copy contributed by Ian Thompson


It’s interesting that Dennis were never mainstream but always managed to have a mainstream following – even in the ’50s.
Considerable numbers of Lancet IIIs had full and productive lives with Yorkshire Traction and East Kent – let alone with their biggest fan, Aldershot and District.
Was I dreaming – or did Smith’s eventually become Horseman Coaches of Reading?

David Oldfield


Yes, David; Smith’s did become Horseman. The old blue and orange livery gave way to white. I’m hoping to get more details of the takeover soon. The Lancet J3 was so well made that I’m sure many of them would have had even fuller lives had one-man operation not demanded front entrance and so the disappearance of the halfcab. Interesting that the underfloor Lancet attracted so few customers and that A&D in particular turned their backs on it. I’ve never driven one, but 3 possible explanations come to mind:
a) Did the 8-litre version of the Dennis O6 engine work less well lying down than standing up? Piston wear problems? Only a guess…
b) Was the sound of the mid-mounted engine too subdued for the driver to judge revs accurately enough for clean gear changing?
c) Were the mechanical losses incurred by the double-reduction rear axle reflected in noticeably higher fuel consumption?

Ian Thompson


Getting very technical here, Ian, but everything you say makes sense. The AH590 was not the AV590 and the vertical and horizontal 0.600 were not strictly the same engine. Dennis were always small and probably didn’t have the money to throw at solving problems of turning an engine on its side. [Even Volvo had to use government money. They piggy-backed development of B58 with horizontal engine on a government contract for military vehicles with similar layout. Otherwise Volvo may have been in with horizontal engines later than they were.] I’m no expert on early Dennises, but it was reported that the 06 was very smooth. As for the fuel consumption, if all else were right, people would perhaps have persevered. I heard that K4 Lances suffered twisted chassis at A&D, but I don’t know whether this was universal.
At least they gave the general populous a Lodekker.

David Oldfield


Only very few horizontal O6 Dennis engines were 8 litres and with this engine there were reported problems of bearing failures from Glentons. The engine power was increased from the vertical engine by increasing the allowable revs and I am thinking that Glentons (on tour work) probably used this to advantage for long periods. The 7.6 litre horizontal engine does not seem to carry this stigma.
All the horizontal engines differed from the vertical models – an oil way was drilled up the connecting rod to supply extra oil to the piston bores. I have often wondered if this was excessive and it robbed the bearing supply.

Nick Webster


18/03/11 – 16:13

I was based at RAF White Waltham, 1963 – 1967, and regularly used Smiths of Reading for Wednesday afternoon football fixtures. More importantly, Smiths had a daily contract to ferry our lovely WRAF personnel from RAF Shinfield Park where they were billeted, to RAF White Waltham, where they worked. The usual driver for this daily run was a veritable Mr Banks, who was 70 at the time, drove like a mad thing, and read my wife’s (to be) newspaper whilst driving if she sat near the front. Rumour has it that other, younger drivers were terrified of standing in for Mr Banks if he was away, as he would seek feedback on their behaviour and driving on his return.
Sorry, this isn’t a technical item, but it might add a bit of whimsical history.
Now, if anyone has a photograph of Mr Banks, with or without coach and WRAF beauties, that would be worth seeing.

Doug Adams


26/04/11 – 07:19

I left school in 1955, and started work at Smith Coaches in the engine shop with Bill Collins, and after coming out of the Army in 1964 I returned, passed my PSV and worked with them until 1970. Having driven all types of buses "AEC/Leyland and ex London RT’s", working in the garage with Nobby Early, Coaches on Contract duties, and Coastal Services, Continental Tours with Eric Mills, I now find it hard to believe that the largest one man operator, with a fleet of approx 120 vehicles I now find little trace that they ever existed. Mr Alf Smith was once Mayor of Reading

Pete Brant


27/04/11 – 07:13

Good to read Pete Brant’s comment. I’m glad to say, Pete, that some of the old hands are still around. Sadly, it was Charlie Heath’s recent funeral that brought some of us together: I met Bunny Austin, Pete Smyth, Ron Shackleford (still working part-time for Horseman, Jim Foster and (though I didn’t get a chance to talk to him) Bert Newman. I think we ought to have annual reunions! Very few Smith’s buses have survived: Ron S.’s Reliance, under cover at a museum east of Reading, is the only one I know of. I heard the other day that Dennis Lancet KJH 900, used for years as a towing wagon for preserved trolleybuses, hasn’t made it.
So the vehicles have all but gone and Rose Kiln Lane depot is built over, but–thank Heaven–some familiar faces are still around and Graham Low of Wokingham has plenty of photographs that he very foresightfully took in the 50s and 60s. Bunny Austin too has a collection of on-tour photos and apparently Jim Foster even has some cine-film.

Ian Thompson


27/04/11 – 07:19

Hi Ian I also remembered the Rhonda Regents,the only vehicle you could bring up Southampton Street in top gear, due to low ratio gearbox, also was fitted with exhaust brake. Do you remember the old "ex Leeds Leyland JUG" we used on the Crowthorn Road Reserch contract during the construction.

Pete Brant


01/05/11 – 09:25

Smiths Luxury Coaches JUG 624

Smiths Luxury Coaches JDP 519

A couple of photos in connection with Pete Brant’s comment on Smith’s of Reading. JUG 624 (1946 Leeds PD1 but with 1945 chassis number) stands in St Mary’s Butts and JDP 519 (new to Smiths in 1953) which I used a lot when not on double-deck contracts, is in the yard, with one of the prewar London RTs in the background. Two JUGs (the numbers escape me) were always used on the "Paddy Run" to Crowthorne and were white with dust inside from the clothes of the always good-humoured Irish labourers, who’d regale each other with wonderful tales in the tradition of the roving story-tellers of rural Ireland. There was a stop on the way back at the Jack of Both Sides at Cemetery Junction, but in the n/s mirror you could always see a handful of thirsty chaps leaping off the platform well before you reached the pub. I worked this enjoyable run quite a lot, mostly with the late Mike Dare, who co-founded the Sandtoft Trolleybus Museum.
You mention the good hill-climbing of the Rhondda Regent IIIs, Pete. I wonder whether that was also because of the 9.6-litre engine and lightweight bodywork?
Len Ledger was the driver and guardian of London RT FXT 229, and you had to be on your best behaviour to be allowed to drive it!

Ian Thompson


04/05/11 – 07:10

So many wonderful memories Ian, on many occasions I was privileged to drive Lens RT with the coconut matting on the cab floor for those dirty people that didn’t remove their shoes before entering the cab. I was so sorry to hear of Charlie Heaths passing, glad to hear Ron Shack is still doing a bit, Tell him "Herman the German was asking after him. Do you know if Mick Smith "the Govenor’s Son" is still with us,? I last saw Keith Aplin at Horsemans a few days before he retired.

Pete Brant


KXX 329_lr Vehicle reminder shot for this posting


17/05/11 – 11:18

It was wonderful to read your comments about Smith Coaches. My father is Jim Avenell who is still with us at 80yrs young. I spent my childhood either down the yard or out in the coach with my father during the early to mid sixties and in the social club between runs lol, I was always there. Saturday mornings would be spent emptying the ash trays and polishing them with Duraglit while dad was on the wash in his wellies doing the outside, we’d then go up to the canteen for a cuppa and I would sit in ore listening to all the guys talking and joking around, the room full of smoke from woodbines and parkdrive, plenty of tea. Then back down to the wash and polish the body trims, oh I loved it.
We used to keep a pony on the grass behind the social club and people would feed it beer and crisps through the window, never forgetting the Christmas parties for us kids, Happy days sitting up front going to Harwell sitting in the shed on site, or going to Abingdon cattle market. One day we bought a dozen chicken and brought them back to Reading in the boot lol Oh so many stories. I have amassed a couple of hundred photos over the years and always looking for more or any thing related. Some of the guys I remember were great, guys like Robby Curtis, Ron Shack of course, Dave doe, Jack Pit, Reggy Summerfield,Grover,Steel,Kenny Haywood,Punchy Parsons,Chris Denton,Mick Goslin, Pete Fisher, Morri Hood, Ceral Gollop, Ropper, Dave Reed, Gorge Forman, Alf, Michal and Jacky Smith. Im sure I could think of more. So many good memories and all that’s left is the row of conifers that lined the wash.
I myself later drove for Horsemans briefly before getting my class one HGV, Later to become an HGV driving assessor, so I guess you could say its in the blood and the seeds where sown down at Smiths Luxury Coaches.

Paul Avenell


17/06/11 – 09:00

Response to Paul Avenell.
Paul does your great collection of photographs contain any of the veritable Mr Banks? When your Dad was approx. 30, Mr B. was 70 (but still driving for Smiths), perhaps he might remember him. In any case, very best wishes,

Doug Adams


24/02/12 – 07:15

9797 DP a Val 14 Duple is still with us!



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Smiths Luxury Coaches – Leyland Titan TD7 – EDK 648

Smiths Luxury Coaches - Leyland Titan TD7 - EDK 648
Photograph taken by Stuart Wyss

Smiths Luxury Coaches (Reading) Ltd
Leyland Titan TD7
English Electric H30/26R

Once again I am most grateful to Stuart Wyss for this photo.
Peter Greave’s recent comment on that handsome Rochdale Regent III and Chris Youhill’s mention of the Leyland 8.6-litre engine prompted me to send this English Electric-bodied Leyland TD7 of 1940, which I guess must have been Rochdale Corporation no 170. It had gone from Smith’s by 1964, and most probably by 1960. Another double decker that migrated south to spend its final years as a contract bus. If I find more info, I’ll put it up: even better, OBP friends may be able to shed more light.


Photograph and Copy contributed by Ian Thompson

15/02/11 – 15:10

I was delighted to find this picture of a 1940 Rochdale TD7 with English Electric body.
After my article on EEC bodies, I was hoping to see as many as possible of the 1937 re-design. There were far fewer EEC bodies built after this date, Southend, Bradford and Barrow being the only ones I could bring to mind, but there were others, including Rochdale. Any more?
This delivery in 1940 must have been among the last genuine EEC bodies built, and it clearly illustrates the design difference from the pre-1937 style. Again, I wonder why it was not more successful.

John Whitaker

16/02/11 – 06:07

A lot of later English Electric bodies were to customer’s design, Manchester’s notably, as a lot of others were just one-offs. The bodies I can find photographs of built to the final style were for Ashton, Salford, Barrow, Rochdale and Glasgow (although the latter appears to have more than a bit of Weymann styling). In addition lowbridge bodies were built for Central SMT and Newcastle.
Some operators seemed to stick with more traditional designs – as far as I can tell Preston did but there are only photographs of the interiors of the last batches.

David Beilby

16/02/11 – 17:39

I really appreciate your info. re. EEC bodies, and will check out those you mention at Ashton, Salford and Glasgow. Southend’s were to lowbridge layout. Rochdale, Barrow, and Bradford I know about, I am aware of Preston building to operators own style, such as Manchester c.1940/1, but had no idea that SMT and Newcastle had lowbridge bodies by EEC.

John Whitaker

I now live in Sutton on Sea on the Lincolnshire coast following living in Reading for a period of 60years.
I remember Smith’s Coaches for the many journey’s I was able to enjoy.
I can remember that on a Saturday morning the Coaches would all be ready to travel being parked in Mill Lane and all up Southampton street to destinations all along the South coast.
Smith’s did a great service to all those people who wished either to journey for a week’s holiday, or for a good day out. of recent I have stayed at the Premier Inn now situated at what was Mill Lane in Reading , so it does bring back very fond memories.

Dennis Hall

01/05/12 – 19:43

Smiths of Reading purchased EDK 645/6/7/8/9 (RCT 167/8/9/70/1) with EE bodies and EDK 650/2/3 (RCT 172/4/5) with ECW bodies via W. North. They arrived at Smiths between July and September 1956 and departed during 1959 and 1960.

Mac Head

01/05/12 – 20:53

Recently I had a long and fascinating talk with Jim Foster, a Smith’s driver from 1962 till 1973. We went through some of my photos (taken by Graham Low and Stuart Wyss) and some of Jim’s own, and watched a black and white film of drivers building the Rose Kiln Lane garage after the war, with commentary by Mrs Jackie Mills, the Guv’nor’s daughter. Also in the film are stills of Dennises and Bedfords lined up in Mill Lane ready to leave with excursion passengers bound for Southsea and who knows where else.
Jim mentioned that Smiths themselves built some bodies, but I wonder whether they were extensive rebuilds of some of the bodies that came off the prewar Leyland Cheetahs. The nice straight waistrail and window spacing are clues. Apologies to Doug Adams—I didn’t reply to his January comment—but John Whitehead and I continue to glean morsels of Smith’s history. More when available.

Ian Thompson

08/06/12 – 06:42

Thanks for uploading the photo. I am looking for more photos of the Smiths Bedford OB’s if anybody has any. I am working on EDP 757 and would love to see anything on these vehicles in service. Keep up the great site

Chris Whitehead

12/09/13 – 08:30

Just found the Smiths website. I have pictures no one has seen, taken when I worked at Smiths in the 1962 era., and I plan to put them out for every one to share some time. I was known as the man with the camera. I then went on Horsemans a few times, and HGV driving also became a Driving Instructor with Beeline and HGV instructor as well, as they say watch this space.

Dave Doe

13/09/13 – 06:30

We’ll look forward to seeing your photos, Dave.

Chris Hebbron

13/09/13 – 16:30

Looking forward very much to seeing Dave Doe’s photos. If I remember right, Dave used to keep a camera just behind the windscreen of his coach and never missed a good shot. Welcome to the fold!

Ian Thompson

03/10/15 – 12:31

MCY 406
MCY 406 after hitting Vastern Road Bridge. (Picture Dave Doe)

NUR 17
Myself with NUR 17 prior to Abergavenny or a night. (Picture Dave Doe

I am sorry about delay in sending any pictures of Smiths Coaches promised in 2013, but I lost the email. I am enclosing a couple of pictures from my vast library of employment pictures. My collection consists of numerous staff pictures and vehicles and unusual pictures never seen before.
I enjoyed my time at Smiths, with many laughs and incidents. I will try and send others.

David Doe

07/10/15 – 07:01

MCY 406

Here is a picture of MCY 406 before it entered into its argument with the bridge.

Roger Cox

17/11/15 – 11:04

Dave: Good to see your photos of those two Smith’s vehicles. Looking forward to seeing plenty more when you can dig them out, and to hearing a few anecdotes too!
Roger: Thanks for the pre-decapitation picture of MCY 406. Confession: although I’m usually sorry to see any vehicle come to grief, I never had any affection for those Regent Vs; they seemed inferior to the ex-Leeds PD1s, the ex-Oxford and ex-Rhondda Regent IIIs, the ex-London RTs, the Lancet IIIs and the quaint collection of heavy single-deck chassis bearing rebuilt Alexander bodywork from Leyland Cheetahs.

Ian Thompson

18/11/15 – 07:25

Ian, my sole driving experiences with Regent Vs took place with the Halifax examples, and it would be an understatement to say that I was unimpressed. How AEC, having made the highly civilised Regent III, could then substitute it with so uncouth a beast as the Regent V baffles me to this day. I’ve sometimes suspected that the crash gearbox versions of the Regent III were just as rough and raucous as the synchromesh V, though your comment suggests that this was not the case. I suppose that the Monocontrol Vs were smoother and quieter runners than the synchromesh ones. Perhaps someone could confirm.

Roger Cox

21/01/16 – 07:30

Hi I worked in the body shop 1968 to 1978. I actually built a new roof for that double decker with Les Cooper.

Barry Armstrong

01/05/18 – 05:58

Does Barry Armstrong have any info. on how much rebuilding was found to be required on the early RTs bought by Smiths in the late ’50s. There’s a picture of one (FXT 283),taken in 1963,that appears to have had its upper-deck windows replaced.

John Hardman

03/05/18 – 06:20

I’ve just seen Roger Cox’s query from 18/11/15 – 07:25 about AEC Regent Vs. The early D2RA version, with A218 engine and Monocontrol transmission, was every bit as civilised as a Regent III, if not more so in some cases, at least from a passenger point of view. The later 2D2RA, with AV590 engine, sounded more like a Routemaster being driven in semi-automatic mode.

Peter Williamson

22/08/20 – 05:35

One of the ex-Rochdale TD7s, EDK 650 with ECW body, was later with Marchwood Motorways, still in Smiths blue and orange livery, and was used for at least a couple of years from about 1959 or 1960 transporting pupils from the Marchwood/Hythe/Fawley area to Totton Grammar School. I never managed to get a photo of it. I wonder whether anyone else did?

John Livermore


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