Old Bus Photos

Southern Motorways – Guy GS – MXX 343 – Ex LTE GS 43

Southern Motorways - Guy GS - MXX 343 - Ex LTE GS 43
Copyright Roger Cox

Southern Motorways
1953
Guy GS
ECW B26F

Here is a picture of one of the ex LTE GS type Guy Specials operated by Basil Williams of Emsworth during the 1970s, who then traded as "Southern Motorways". In the week I "drove" a desk at London Country back then, and, to keep my hand in, I used to do a spot of driving for independents at weekends. One of these was North Downs Rural Transport, which, having taken over the business of A. T. Brady (T/A Brown Motor Services), was then based at Forest Green, Surrey. In March 1972, circumstances left North Downs with a vehicle shortage, and arrangements were made with Basil Williams to hire one of his GS buses. I travelled down to Emsworth on a Saturday with a colleague to collect the vehicle, and we were both less than impressed when the bus we were given, GS 43, MXX 343, was started up. The density of the exhaust smoke would have done credit to a Pre Dreadnought at Jutland, and, even allowing for the fact that the Perkins P6 always sounded like a bucket full of nails being shaken about, the racket from the engine was deafening. We expressed our disquietude to Mr Williams, and I remember his response to this day – "If anyone says that it’s knocking, then you can tell them that it’s just had its Annual". We set off back to Surrey in the thing, travelling hopefully rather than expecting to arrive, but our minimal optimism evaporated with each passing mile. The bus struggled painfully and overheated repeatedly up the merest of gradients, and it was on one of the recuperative rests to allow it to cool down that I took this picture. Such was the noise of the vehicle when in motion that even ancient rustics spotted walking far in front of us in the distance, whose hearing faculties must surely have diminished over the years, swung round in alarm on our approach. Eventually, after an interminable journey, we arrived back at Forest Green, and I thankfully left for my home at Farnborough. I subsequently learned that, when despatched on service on the following Monday, the GS failed totally less than a mile from the North Downs Depot. By this time, all patience had been lost, and Basil Williams was told in succinct terms to come and collect the vehicle
There is so much to tell about Mr Williams and his Hants and Sussex ventures, but I will leave that till later.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Roger Cox


22/09/11 – 06:17

At least he provided a rather nice comprehensive destination blind!

Chris Barker


22/09/11 – 14:02

Ref. the destination blind – yes, I’ve always thought that they seem very bespoke and comprehensive for a country independent. Did they get LT to make them as part of their purchase deal? Also, I’ve got a photo of a GS in Midhurst showing route 21. Did they have a large network or did they route share with Southdown/Aldershot & District?

Paul Haywood


23/09/11 – 06:23

I very much doubt that LTE made up the blinds for the Basil Williams fleet. From its inception, relations between Hants and Sussex and the surrounding major operators – Southdown, Aldershot and Distriot and London Transport – were forever fraught with deep suspicion, and no route sharing would ever have been considered. It was not until the Fowler Act that liberalised Road Service Licensing that Basil Williams was really able to operate free of constant Traffic Court battles with his neighbours. This legislation was beneficial to the industry, which hitherto was fettered by the absurdity of proving need for a service. (The subsequent ridiculous Ridley deregulation Act of 1985 was devised purely to flog off NBC and local authority public transport operations as quickly as possible, and private interest was stimulated by tearing up entirely all the public service obligations placed upon an operator by earlier legislation. Nowadays, operators can run what they like, when they like, and charge what they like for it.)
Route 21 ran Midhurst-Heyshott-Ambersham- Selham-Graffham-Petworth, but it underwent several changes throughout its existence. The best book by far on the extremely complicated Hants and Sussex saga is the one by Alan Lambert, and it is worth trying to get a copy. I have seen copies advertised on Amazon and Ebay.

MXX 343_lr_2

Above is a photo taken in the Emsworth depot on the same day that we collected GS 43. Unfortunately, the yard was deeply in shade, and I have had to "Photoshop" the picture rather heavily to make it usable. From the left may be seen GS 75 MXX 375, GS 22 MXX 322 and GS 43 MXX 343, plus another off camera to the right. It is interesting to note that 22 and 75 were withdrawn before 43, which lasted until 1974, which makes one wonder what state they were in.

Roger Cox


23/09/11 – 17:37

Fascinating, Roger – many thanks. I will certainly try to get a copy of the Hants & Sussex book as they sound to have been a really maverick outfit. However, I’m still intrigued by the high route numbers. Did they really have up to 25 routes?

Paul Haywood


24/09/11 – 07:20

Paul, over the entire lives of the Basil Williams/Hants and Sussex companies, the route numbers went up to the remarkable figure of 51, with some gaps in the sequence, but these were offset by some "A" and "B" suffixes. During WW2, in 1943, a certain Cecil Walling T/A Silver Queen Bus Service agreed to sell his business to Basil Williams. Mr Williams formed a new limited liability company called Silver Queen Motor Services Ltd. and applied, entirely reasonably, for the permit (Defence Permits replaced Road Service Licences during the war) to be transferred from Mr. Walling to his new company. Southdown objected to the transfer, and this objection was upheld, leaving Mr Williams with a new company without any business. The proposed purchase did not then proceed, and Mr Walling retained his permit until he sold out to Southdown at the end of that year. Basil Williams never forgot this episode, and in all his subsequent takeovers of other businesses he formed limited liability companies using the same company names and with the same directors, to whom all the RSLs were transferred without trouble, and then he replaced the old directors with himself and others within his empire. Thus grew the perplexing multiplicity of company names within the Hants and Sussex setup:
Hants and Sussex; Liss and District: Southsea Royal Blue; Empress Coaches Stockbridge; Triumph Coaches Southsea; Blakes Tours of Plymouth; Glider & Blue; Glider Coaches; B.S. Williams Ltd; White Heather Travel; Sunbeam Coaches Loxwood; F.H. Kilner; Southern Motorways.
Alan Lambert’s book unravels this labyrinthine tale in a masterly fashion, and is a masterpiece of its kind.

Roger Cox


24/09/11 – 11:35

Wow! I’ve just found a copy on Amazon and bought it. Many thanks for lifting the lid sufficiently for me to delve further.

Paul Haywood


25/09/11 – 07:14

Having read my copy of Alan Lambert’s ‘Hants & Dorset’ book again, I’m amazed at the bureaucracy involved with so many parties to do with route applications/transfers, increases/reductions in fares/service frequency, etc and how so much of it was tied up with petty squabbling and so little with giving good customer service. We may not be entirely happy with de-regulation, but it seems, in many ways, a better system.

Chris Hebbron


25/09/11 – 20:39

That is absolutely right ChrisH, permission had to be sought for even the most insignificant alterations, such as to change the starting point of an excursion. All these applications were then published in ‘Notices and Proceedings’ issued by the Traffic Commissioners either weekly or fortnightly, I cannot remember which, to allow any possible objections. Excursions, Tours and Express services had to be licensed in each traffic area they traversed even if they were just passing through! Most of the larger companies had specially printed ‘Notice of Objection’ forms stating their reasons and typically these would be;
1) The application would abstract traffic from existing facilities provided by ourselves
2) The application would cause unnecessary and wasteful competition
3) The application is unnecessary and undesirable in the public interest
4) Generally as may be adduced from evidence given at any public hearing held in connection with the application.
Number 3 particularly, I think is quite unbelievable but it was common practice for the larger operators to see themselves as judge of what was best for the passenger and very often this amounted to preventing people from travelling! Even the railways could object and often this resulted in a limitation on the number of vehicles which could be operated, regardless of demand. In whose interest the Traffic Commissioners operated is a matter of debate but it was by no means necessarily the travelling public!

Chris Barker


27/09/11 – 06:41

I see that three of this batch ended up in Travellers hands with predictable results..all destroyed! They are MXX 373,354 and 350. You can see pictures of their fading years here…. http://www.travellerhomes.co.uk/?p=9231
From the comments above, maybe they were not missed!

Richard Leaman


27/09/11 – 06:45

For about ten years, I handled almost all the Traffic Court work for London Country, which included acting as advocate for the company at Traffic Commissioners’ Hearings (colloquially known as Traffic Court). Many operators believed that legal representation was required to pursue a case before the Traffic Commissioners – surprisingly, even Geoffrey Hilditch seems to have held this misapprehension. I am not a lawyer, and the only occasions upon which legal representation was employed were joint applications or objections with other operators, and applications for fares increases (which consisted of putting forward loads of statistical and financial bumph proving a need for increased revenue). On all other applications/objections submitted by the company, I was the representative for the company, and usually found myself contesting with solicitors or barristers acting for opposing parties. I won far more cases than I lost, because the main factor was a knowledge of the bus industry and the relevant legislation (mainly the Road Traffic Act 1930, much of which still applied, and the Transport Act 1968). Lawyers, including QCs, didn’t have that knowledge, and their painful ignorance of the subject frequently became clear when arraigned before the Commissioner. Having said all this, I, too, believed that the legislation and procedure was absurdly outdated and loaded in favour of big operators. This was remedied by Norman Fowler’s Transport Act 1980 which deregulated coach services and changed the emphasis of Road Service Licensing in favour of applicants. This made the old practice of blocking competition by objection a thing of the past, but still laid public service obligations upon operators. This was assuredly in the interests of the public. Ridley’s 1985 Act was designed solely to destroy public ownership by privatising NBC and local authority undertakings, invariably at a fraction of the true value. Ridley’s knowledge of the industry could have been written on the back of a postage stamp, underneath the Lord’s Prayer, and he couldn’t have cared less. Total deregulation did not meet the needs of the travelling public, and left us with the overpriced monopolistic shambles that afflicts us today.

Roger Cox


27/09/11 – 11:15

That’s telling it as it is, Roger – but I do agree.

David Oldfield


11/05/13 – 08:59

I have a photo (provided by someone from Reading) of an open charabanc (possibly mid-late 1930s) with the words Silver Queen painted just below the windscreen. Someone has mentioned that there was a company called Cox’s Silver Coaches in Northumberland Avenue, Reading, Berkshire in existence at about that time. Would anyone know if there is a link between the charabanc and the company and if Roger Cox – a contributor to this website – is a descendent of the company?

Jim B-P


11/05/13 – 12:10

Thx, Chris B and Roger, for your comments, which passed me by until now – must’ve been away for a few days. You inner experiences are very interesting and it is definitely a pity that Norman Fowler’s ‘middle way’ didn’t remain. Your comments certainly show up the self-serving nature of the 1930 Act, especially point 3 of the Notice of Objection forms. Of course, the public was quite unaware of what was going on behind virtually closed doors.

Chris Hebbron


11/05/13 – 18:01

I have to disappoint Jim B-P, I’m afraid. I have no familial connections with the Reading area. Continuing the discussion about the 1985 Ridley Act, the big groups are now driven entirely by a lust for huge profit margins to satisfy the City. The primary objective is that of keeping the share price as high as possible. Locally, Stagecoach has left significant communities in Cambridgeshire with limited service or none at all in its pursuit of big margins. Two years ago, the Stagecoach group returned £340 million to its shareholders, with Brian Souter himself taking £51 million, and his sister, Ann Gloag, £37 million, yet the fares increases continue to pile in year upon year. Making a reasonable return is no longer the name of the game for the heavyweights, and the concept of public service has become a joke. Thankfully, some smaller operators still show how it can and should be done. Around here we have Delaine and Norfolk Green, both of whom have stepped in – Delaine in Market Deeping and Norfolk Green in Kings Lynn – where the avaricious national groups have given up their pursuit of their (many) pounds of flesh.

Roger Cox


12/05/13 – 06:58

So, Basil Williams: valiant entrepreneur battling the "big boys" in the interests of the travelling public, or under-capitalised and over-extended and out to make a name/empire for himself – what’s the verdict? To me, there seem to be a lot of parallels between Basil Williams and Julian Peddle: over the span of 20+ years I’ve experienced Julian Peddle’s operations in Burton-upon-Trent, Colchester, and Milton Keynes, and I can’t say I was impressed. It would seem to me – both from the pictures of the GSs (nicely turned out, nice livery, good destination blinds), and from Alan Lambert’s book – that Basil Williams tried to present a "big company" image (Hants & Sussex) without ever having had the resources to back it up. Some small independents did manage to do that quite successfully: off the top of my head – West Wales, South Notts, South Yorkshire, Birch (?) . . . Gosport & Fareham/Provincial was I think the last remaining passenger carrying company of a larger group that had diversified, and Jones (Aberbeeg) and Moores (Kelvedon), whilst substantial concerns, were clearly (and defiantly?) independent.

Philip Rushworth


12/05/13 – 09:30

Ah, Julian Peddle. He adopts the technique of a wholesale business in the bus industry, buying up companies for short periods of operation and then selling them on. Huntingdon can be added to Philip’s list of Mr Peddle’s "successes", and he is still buying up under the Centrebus banner. Locally, Kimes has now fallen into his clutches, and it shows. I agree that there are some parallels with Basil Williams, but, for all its undoubted faults, the old Road Service Licensing system did act as a brake upon the activities of the less dependable elements in the industry. We now have a complete free for all, with no controls whatsoever upon any buccaneers in the business. Also, unlike the rail, air and holiday industries, the bus passenger now has no protective legislation over fares and services whatsoever.

Roger Cox


13/05/13 – 07:38

I’m in complete agreement with Roger’s comments about the profiteering of the big groups. I was in Torquay at the weekend and when I left there wasn’t a convenient train up the branch to Newton Abbot so I thought I’d take the bus instead. Stagecoach, quite well presented I do admit but when I asked for a single ticket I was staggered to be charged £3.70 for a journey of less than thirty minutes! It appears to be the norm now though, TrentBarton, still technically a private concern, have become one of the most expensive bus companies in England. The tenet seems to be; we provide something akin to a taxi service, let’s charge something akin to taxi fares!

Chris Barker


14/05/13 – 11:54

Chris, I had to make an early morning journey from my village to Biggleswade last week. The vaunted "Busway" vehicle from Peterborough turned up ten minutes late and cost me £3.70 for the nine mile trip to Huntingdon. The punctual train from there to Biggleswade, some 18 miles, cost £5.90. The bus charges 39p per mile (7/10d in real money) whereas the train costs 33p per mile (6/7d). Bring back road service licensing!

Roger Cox


14/05/13 – 17:24

Come and live in Edinburgh where Lothian charge £1-50 any distance and the natives still think they are getting a raw deal!!!.

Philip Carlton


06/01/14 – 07:52

Were any of the GS type ever painted red or was there any planned use in the central area for them?

Colin Rutter


06/01/14 – 17:05

It’s reputed, Colin, that one was painted red, but never went into service. There were a couple of proposals to put them on Central Area routes, but this came to naught.
The excellent Ian’s Bus Stop website has the whole story. SEE:- www.countrybus.org/GS/GS.html

Chris Hebbron


07/01/14 – 07:02

The GS fleet of 84 vehicles was way above the actual LT Country Bus requirement in 1953 for OMO (as it then was) buses. At that time one person operated buses were restricted in law to a maximum of 20 passengers, but Traffic Commissioners were empowered to increase this limit to 26 passengers at their discretion, and the GS fleet was so configured. It was rumoured that some of the GS buses were originally intended to form the rolling stock for a reintroduced London "Inter Station" facility that had originally been run by the pre war forward control half decker Leyland Cubs, but this proposal was abandoned. Whatever the truth may have been, in the event, LT had more GS buses than it ever needed.

Roger Cox


07/01/14 – 08:44

I accept that this is purely a personal opinion, but I have always thought that the GS class vehicles were the most handsome and well proportioned buses of all the normal control "little buses" that we’ve known. The secret may possibly lie largely in the combination of the proprietary bonnet/wing assembly and the inevitably delightful ECW bodywork. Despite all this glowing admiration I’ve unfortunately never ridden on a GS !!

Chris Youhill


07/01/14 – 13:34

Oh they’re cuddly and loveable little beasts, with their clatterly, chattery Perkins engines and Chinese gearboxes – and you must put a ride on your to do list, Chris. The Mercedes-Benz Vario is the nearest modern bus but doesn’t begin to compare on character and long-lived quality.

David Oldfield


07/01/14 – 13:35

I agree with you, Chris Y, but it’s clear that LT had a lot of input into the vehicle to get it to the standard they wanted. A&D’s Dennis Falcon/Strachans, were also quite attractive, perhaps greatly aided by the livery. However, the couple of journeys I took on them indicated that they were not so refined as the GS, especially in the ‘engine noise’ department!

Chris Hebbron


08/01/14 – 07:35

They were certainly popular little buses.
The existence of so many survivors into preservation confirms their attraction – and comparative ease in restoring and saving them.
I have heard it said on the rally circuit that there were only 84 GS’s built, but there are 106 preserved !

Petras409


MXX 343_lr Vehicle reminder shot for this posting


02/02/14 – 16:37

Philip Rushworth’s comments about H&S are interesting. I understand that one of the reasons for H&S failure was because Basil Williams was quite foresighted.! He believed that there would be a large demand for buses/coaches after the war ended and ordered quite large numbers of both from Leyland and Bedford. Unluckily for him, when they were delivered up till about 1951, the price of fuel and other factors meant that demand for travel began to drop, and he was left with a lot of new vehicles with insufficient work and he had difficulty balancing the books. One result of this was that new PD1s were hired to Cardiff Corporation for I think 1 year, and many coaches were sold after a short life with H&S. H&S also suffered from the licencing system as follows: One of H&S’s companies was Triumph Coaches who successfully applied for Forces weekend leave services licences to the North of England and Plymouth. A number of Portsmouth operators ran coaches to similar destinations in competition with Triumph, without licences as ‘private hire’ including surprisingly Southdown, who did have some licences including London.

Paul Statham


06/02/14 – 16:19

I have owned GS42 since December 1973. It was the last one in service in March 72 on Route 336A. It was sold to Matthew Arnold School, Staines where I bought it. I have rallied it every year since then. I don’t know how many miles I’ve covered in it as like other LT buses of the day it doesn’t have a mileometer, but it’s never let me down (Touch Wood). Yes the engine is a bit chattery but very reliable. It always starts after sitting for a week or so without any assistance, glow plugs or easy start. The bodies are very robust with aluminium panels and frame. Very little wood and just the front bonnet and wings in steel. Rust in those parts can be a problem. Based in Surrey I’ve rallied it in Wales and Scotland and many places in between. 42mph and 18-20 mpg.
Slow but economical.

Geoff Heels


07/02/14 – 06:30

It must be a relief you never bought it from Basil Williams, Geoff!
I can recall visiting an aunt, with my mother, around 1955. She lived at Gomshall and we took a GS on the 448(?) from Guildford to get there and back. I was impressed, but disappointed it never went straight up the steep High Street!
It’s surprising that Perkins are still going vey strong internationally, albeit with an industrial bent nowadays.

Chris Hebbron


07/02/14 – 06:31

Didn’t Southdown take over Triumph in the early 60′s and continue to use their livery on some coaches?

Paragon


 

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Air Ministry – Bedford SB – 29 AC 83

Air Ministry - Bedford SB - 29 AC 83
Photograph by ‘Bournefree’ – Flikr

Air Ministry
1954
Bedford SB
Mulliner C29F

The Bedford SB was the successor to the ubiquitous OB. Launched at the 1950 Commercial Motor Show, it had big shoes to fill. It was Bedford’s largest PSV chassis yet, some 17’ 2” long, and possessed a four-speed synchromesh gearbox.  Common at the time, but disappearing fast, it had vacuum brakes and a six-cylinder 4.9 litre petrol engine, developing 115bhp, more than the OB, but still modest for a much larger, heavier, vehicle.
It became a big seller in India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand and Africa, as well as in the UK. The largest fleet of SB buses in the world belonged to New Zealand Railways Road Services, with 1280 SB buses, built between 1954 and 1981.
It proved versatile, too, being used as a basis for specialised vehicles, such as mobile libraries, even cinemas, plus civil defence control units.
The SB chassis, with all its variants, was the longest-produced PSV chassis Bedford’s built, maybe ever built, production not finally ceasing until 1987, 37 years in total.
Bedford’s commercial products were well regarded at the time by the Armed Forces and the SB chassis found favour, too. Willowbrook and Strachans built many of the bodies for military Bedfords, but here is a rarer example, sporting a Mulliner body, in the long-obsolete RAF blue-grey. It looks new here, with no roundels or insignia. Note the minute sidelights and the surprising amount of chrome ‘bling’ around the front of an otherwise utilitarian vehicle!
I recall these vehicles in my RAF National Service days, but their use was usually confined to ferrying personnel from married quarters to camp, RAF family events and sports-minded airmen to sports events on Wednesday afternoons and Saturdays. I was neither married (no money) nor sport-minded (no talent)! 
The usual mode of travel for us airmen was the rather less comfortable Bedford RL 3-tonners, sitting on fold-up longitudinal benches in the back! However, my sole trip in an SB, from RAF Stafford to RAF Wellesbourne Mountford, showed them to still posses some of the OB’s character – whining gearbox, plus under-powered, but willing, engine, even when lightly loaded. Strangely, though, I can’t recall anything of the interior, not even the seat coverings! Maybe someone can enlighten me?

Photograph and Copy contributed by Chriis Hebbron


18/09/11 – 11:30

This picture brought back many memories to me (not all pleasant) of my service in the RAF. Being one of the last National Servicemen; I reported to RAF Cardington (now a housing estate) on the 14th of August 1960.
After basic training at RAF Bridgenorth I was posted to RAF Wheeton for driver training and then ended up at a Thor missile base at RAF Hemswell in Lincolnshire.
Upon reporting to the motor transport safety officer (actually a corporal) he noted that I had served an apprenticeship at Vauxhall Motors. As this was the company that built Bedford buses he ordered me to jump into a handy SB and drive it around the airfield perimeter road. Although I had never driven a bus before I completed this task with ease.
Then he asked first for my RAF driving license and then if I had any interest in sport. I gave him the license and answered ‘no’ to his question. He then produced a rubber stamp and endorsed my license with the words "qualified bus driver".
That afternoon I collected a happy crowd of footballers and supporters from the camp gates and wondered if they would be quite so happy if they knew it was my first trip on the road behind the wheel of a bus! Luckily all went well and I continued to enjoy many happy hours behind the wheel of these and many other interesting vehicles.

John Barringer


19/09/11 – 07:05

I don’t know how to thank Chris H and John enough for this contribution as it details my own very happy experience considerably. I was on National Service from October 1954 -56 and these superb vehicles were entering RAF service in considerable numbers. I have been unsuccessfully seeking photos of them, and of their glorious OWB RAF predecessors, for decades and what a magnificent picture this is.
I joined up like John at RAF Cardington and was transported from Bedford station in an OWB – my delight at this conveyance was dispelled in seconds by a vicious "official" who left us in no doubt about the doom which was to be our fate for the next two years.
After radar training at No. 2 E & W School at Yatesbury in Wiltshire I was posted to RAF Patrington near Hull, where my long acquaintance with both types of Bedford was a daily delight. The Domestic Site was approximately five miles from the Technical Radar Site at Holmpton near Withernsea and all shift changes (24 hour operation) were "by Bedford."
The "PSV" fleet usually used consisted of two new SBs and a magnificent "War hero" OWB, the latter normally being expertly and lovingly driven by Sam, a civilian employee from Patrington village, who wore a chauffeur’s hat for the purpose. Chris H was treated to luxury indeed when he travelled in the "RL" three tonners of which we had a couple, but we normally screamed merrily and delightfully along the country roads in a "QL" with similar seating. The fabulous sounds emitted by the latter were a real joy to me, except when it was being "flown" by a twelve year regular SAC who was just finishing his time with us after several years assisting the population explosion in Hong Kong – or so he constantly and graphically boasted – but his driving was dangerous and abominable beyond description.
Enough digressing, sorry, and now to return to our "PSV" trio. My joy at the picture above will be apparent when I say that the bus is from the same batch as our first one at Patrington, so I doubt if I’ll ever see a more pertinent photo now. The vehicle was 29 AC 52 and its slightly newer twin was 30 AC 52. The OWB was 00 AC 62.
The interiors of the Mulliner bodies I can remember with utter clarity. They seated thirty passengers on very tidy and comfortable seats upholstered in attractive mid blue leatherette type material – the seats had "quick release" wing nut mountings for rapid conversion to ambulance use, for which purpose longitudinal rails were fitted in the ceilings – the ceilings being in pleasing cream gloss paint. Double hinged doors in the back of the bus enabled stretchers to be loaded and I seem to recall that either eight or sixteen could be accommodated.
As you entered the bus there was on one of the step risers the inevitable RAF descriptive brass plate describing the vehicle :- COACH SERVICE CONVERTIBLE TO AMBULANCE, BEDFORD 4 x 2, MULLINERS LTD. The wording may not be spot on, but near enough.

Chris Youhill


19/09/11 – 07:08

A nice shot, although I would query the seating configuration given in the heading (C29F) – most of these were B36F and weren’t anywhere near as rare as the text seems to imply. As well as the large number used by all three armed forces SB/Mulliner buses were also supplied to other government agencies such as the UKAEA. Some went to civilian owners after demobilisation and seemed to be particularly popular with operators on both sides of the Welsh border ranging from Mid-Wales Motorways to Primrose of Leominster. There was also an "airside" version with perimeter seating which was used at Heathrow and other airports. Can anybody come up with an estimate of how many of this design were produced in total?

Neville Mercer


19/09/11 – 07:10

I believe Mulliner became Marshall but were they always based at Cambridge Airfield – or was that just Marshall?

David Oldfield


19/09/11 – 11:28

I could be wrong, but I think that Mulliner was a Birmingham area company, and that it was only the "basic bus" part of the business which was sold to Marshall – Mulliner also made specialist bodywork for cars (as hearses etc), ambulances, and the fire brigade sector. Their last attempt to gain a foothold in the mainstream PSV market came in 1958 when they produced a pair of futuristic coach bodies on Guy Warrior chassis, one of which was exhibited at that year’s Commercial Motor Show. "Spot On" later produced a 1/42 scale diecast model of this vehicle – the only coach in their range which made Dinky Toy’s choices of a Maudslay/Whitson observation coach, a Duple Roadmaster, and a BOAC Commer-Harrington Contender look relatively sane!

Neville Mercer


20/10/11 – 08:25

I’ve just realised that its 57 years today since, at Her Majesty’s command, I joined the RAF and reported to the still famous RAF Cardington with its airship hangars. In a little over three months I was to become an almost daily commuter on the beautiful Bedford SB/Mulliners – in some ways it seems like yesterday, and in others like centuries ago !!

Chris Youhill


21/10/11 – 06:42

I am just a shade too young to have been "eligible" for National Service, Chris, but I attended RAF Cardington as an ATC Cadet for one week’s Summer Camp in 1956. My main memories are, of course, the massive airship hangers, and also the flights we were given in de Havilland Chipmunks. Cardington has no airstrip, and we were flown from the football field. Bouncing over the rough surface at speed with every appearance until the last minute of taking off through the goalposts is an experience not easily forgotten.

Roger Cox


22/10/11 – 17:41

The Spot-on Mulliner coach was a luxury version which was cat no 165

Roger Broughton


23/10/11 – 11:41

Well, fancy that Roger C – so the expertise gained during the Dambuster raids had peace time benefits too eh ??

Chris Youhill


24/10/11 – 07:38

Thank goodness, Roger C, you didn’t score an own goal!

Chris Hebbron


24/10/11 – 07:41

For all you ex RAF types who seem to have many memories of both Bedford SB’s and RAF Cardington, I have just uploaded a video onto Youtube showing Cardington Camp as it now is. It is titled RAF Cardington 2011. You will hardly recognize the old place now!

John Barringer


24/10/11 – 11:59

Wonderful little film John, thank you very much. Incidentally I made that famous inward journey in a wartime RAF Bedford OWB bus, and you had the first letter right, but it was TERROR rather than trepidation. A week later the outward trip was in a brand new Bedford SB/Duple luxury coach of Worthingtons Tours – new bulging kitbags in the boot – to Number 11 School of Recruit Training, Hednesford – what a civilised sounding name for the Staffordshire hilltop Hell hole !!
Incidentally, what sort of vehicle was the film made in, as it made some rather pleasing transmission noises as you went along ??

Chris Youhill


25/10/11 – 06:50

Thank you for your kind words Chris concerning my film. You were lucky to leave Cardington Camp in the luxury of a coach! Were were marched across the fields at the rear of the camp to the now defunct Cardington village railway station. There we caught an ancient steam hauled train pulling clerestory roofed carriages adorned with dusty blue moquette seating and oval Victorian pictures of Bournemouth in its heyday. It took eight hours to reach Bridgenorth, another RAF hellhole but this time in Shropshire. I knew we were in trouble when I saw the inmates polishing the trees.
The car used for filming was my wife’s ancient Suzuki Ignis and yes the gears do whine that maybe has something to do with 70 000 miles plus on the clock. It can’t compare, however, with a TD1 in full chat!

John Barringer


25/10/11 – 10:57

Thanks indeed John for those further poignant and amusing views. I’m sure that my school friend Keith and I travelled from Bedford to Cardington in that very same ancient train. At least we were spared the polishing of trees at Hednesford, as nothing grew up there in November and December – ever since 1954 I’ve had a close affinity with the musical classic "In the steppes of Central Asia." Your good lady’s car makes most appealing sounds and, while I agree that it must come a close second to the TD1, there is a definite resemblance to the lovely effect used by the BBC in olden days when vehicles in radio plays were moving off – happy times now gone.

Chris Youhill


26/10/11 – 05:56

Ah yes – the BBC sound effects of a bus moving off. If memory serves me right, I read many years ago that the standard recording used by the BBC in the fifties / sixties was actually of a London Transport STD class of the Leyland TD7 utility version. From the crew’s viewpoint, this was the most unpopular of the various utility types that London Transport received during the war years. But I doubt that the BBC recording department were aware of that fact, and presumably just asked for a bus and driver they could use. I wonder if this recording is still available now?

Michael Hampton


26/10/11 – 15:29

Nobody travels in buses to school in plays any more. They are all running Millie to school etc etc in their MPV/4×4′s!

Chris Hebbron


27/10/11 – 07:19

Although I didn’t serve in the Forces (although I did spend eight years with the ATC), I did enter another example of a parallel universe in 1960 when I joined London Transport in a clerical capacity. The absurdities of this organisation astonished me, especially the endless compilation of useless statistics and percentages. As an example – one had to explain why accidents to dogs had increased by 100% from one accounting period to the next. Answer – two dogs had been run over instead of one.

Roger Cox


29/10/11 – 07:20

Michael’s comment about BBC sound effects puzzles me, because my recollection of BBC broadcasts during that period was that the standard bus sound effect was an RT, although I didn’t realise that at the time. Having only met Leylands, Daimlers and Bristols in the real world, I was intrigued as to how something that sounded to my childish ears like the engine of a tractor married to the gearbox of a vintage Bentley could possibly be a bus. It wasn’t until I spent a few weeks in RT-land in 1965 that all became clear. There was definitely no clutch judder, which there presumably would have been on a TD7.

Peter Williamson


02/11/11 – 07:04

Michael Hampton

Peter, thanks for your comment on the BBC recording. I only vaguely remember it myself, probably in Hancock’s Half Hour or similar. At that time I would not have known the difference between any of the bus types discussed here! However Buses Illustrated ran a series on the London STD class in the mid- to late sixties. The statement that the BBC recording was of an LT STD class TD7 was made either in the article itself, or in correspondence in later issues responding to that series. It may be that the BBC also used an RT recording at times, but my impression from the information in BI was that it was usually the TD7 which was brought on.

Michael Hampton


02/11/11 – 09:34

My observations – as a radio addict – are that the most common recording star was an RT (preselector) type of vehicle or something akin to a petrol Bedford SB. When they do the school bus/local bus on the Archers (they were doing it quite a bit a year or two back) I could not identify what they used. [Having driven most of what might be expected on rural/school routes, I think I should have recognised it - but do they make do with running a BBC van around the car park these days?] Whatever happened to Commers or Dennis Lancet IIIs?

David Oldfield


07/11/11 – 07:45

David, I think I know the Archers recording you are referring to – the one where Will first met Nic on the bus? It must have been some sort of archive recording, as it was clearly underfloor-engined and semi-automatic. Someone elsewhere has suggested an AEC Reliance.
There seems to be a general problem with recordings of rear-engined buses, possibly in that the sounds are not recognisable out of context. So much so that even in British films and TV programmes, a recording that gives the impression of the engine being closer to the camera is often preferred. Most bizarrely I’ve seen a Bristol VR accelerating past the camera with a recording of what sounded like a Ford Transit! That may be why Hollywood seems to prefer rear views of buses accelerating away from the camera, which works much better (especially with a Detroit 2-stroke!).

Peter Williamson


24/11/11 – 14:30

I stumbled across this thread whilst Googling for the body builder of the RAF coaches.
As an ex-Brat (RAF Boy Entrant) I too have fond memories of these Mulliner bodied SBs, both in the UK and on detachment to Nicosia where they had cut away rear ends to prevent them grounding on some of the narrow mountain roads where the bends were lined with rocks.
Back in the late ’50s when EOKA were active, the road through the mountains from Kyrenia to Nicosia was one that I recall as "interesting". A couple of times we managed to hit the rocks with the back end so I guess our rear wheels must have been rather close to the edge!
From memory almost every UK RAF flying station had at least one Mulliner/SB and some had two. They were also to be found at RAF stations throughout the Middle East (Cyprus, Aden, El Adem, Arabian Peninsular etc.) as well as at civil Ministry of Aviation establishments such as Farnbrough and Pershore.
A photo (my copyright) of a Pershore operated example can be found at http://www.transportphotos.com/road/photo/JM12052 This differed from the RAF variant in that is did not have the rear doors but did have extra side mouldings below the windows as well as a destination display box.
Another variant with full height opening windows (suggesting an export to a hot climate) can be found at http://www.transportphotos.com/ This one was photographed at the Royal Group of Docks awaiting export in 1951.
Am I right in thinking that some police forces also used this combination?

Bob Hobbs


23/04/12 – 05:55

Like many of you above I’m also an ex serviceman but Royal Navy. My first memory of these buses were three Bedfords, 2 x SBs and 1 x OWB in use at at HMS Mercury in 1958. I also subsequently came across and travelled daily on RN SBs in Malta during 1960 and 1961. For many years I have been attempting to establish the roof livery of the Malta based RN SBs? Was it dark blue as in the UK or a different colour? Despite in-depth research, no RN vehicle records appear to have been retained by MoD(N) or can be found elsewhere? Any help would be much appreciated?

Mac Head


21/05/12 – 17:47

41AC54

I attach a view of a more modern version of the SB. 41AC54 was on duty at one of the early open days at RAF Fairford, on a sunny 16 August 1981. A few minutes earlier, I’d photographed a USAF International, of typical American "School Bus" outline (only in blue rather than "School Bus" yellow). Note the incredibly high level of security we had to endure in those far off days (Ha Ha!)

Pete Davies


23/10/12 – 07:59

In reply to Mac Head I would imagine the roof livery to be white (to reflect the heat from the sun). This is my recollection of the SB at Kai Tak.

Phil Robbins


23/10/12 – 11:12

Finally, without any prompting, Phil has come up with recollections the same as myself – a white roof. All ex servicemen I had previously questioned appeared to think they were painted the same colour as the bodywork.

Mac Head


29/10/12 – 06:58

Reply to Mac Head, if you go onto airliners.net and key in Bristol Britannia on the search box a list of Brits will come up. On the first page scroll down to the 12th photo which should be xm 489. Now click on the white xm 489 text to the right of the photo and 4 images will appear, the last one will show what appears to be an R.A.F SB coach with a white roof at the side of the Brit. hope this is of help to you.

Phil Robbins


05/02/13 – 06:56

Ahh the RAF Bus!
My first ever trip in a RAF service vehicle was a Bedford SB (of the same type as the one seen in the picture at Fairford) in April 1979 when I was, with many other recruits picked up at Newark train station and then taken to my basic recruit training at RAF Swinderby situated on the A46 between Newark and Lincoln.
I seem to remember it was rather utilitarian, matt green and looking a bit run down, with green leathercloth seats, I remember they had taken out the two rear rows to allow room for all our baggage. My next personal encounter with one of these buses was a LHD version in Germany in 1981/82. Again tatty overall matt green but with RAF blue grey insides, this vehicle was used to take us Squadron Erks onto Harrier Force field deployments, which lasted until such time you were trained to drive, or became the designated passenger in one of the Squadron "Luxury?" Bedford RL trucks, (or as my Sargeant called them, " A Four and a half litre drophead coupe, with a capacious boot!") I remember these trucks were also RAF blue inside with a plate giving instructions on preparing the vehicle for air transport in Argosy aircraft! (By then long out of service).
I remember these SB’s were replaced in the early to mid eighties with Wadham Stringer bodied Bedford buses and plain looking 36ft long Marshall bodied buses, Leopards I think but I may be wrong on this. They were painted in various strange light blues whites and greens. I understand this was because a camouflage green bus was seen as an easy spot for a terrorist ambush by the IRA, and making them look like a civvie vehicle would reduce this risk.

Steve Murray


05/02/13 – 09:30

Your assumption is right, Steve. I recall that (verified as February 1972) the IRA blew up a coach carrying soldiers on the M62 motorway, killing 9 of them, plus 2 civilians.
However, it was a civilian one and it would appear that it was specially commissioned to carry British Army and RAF personnel on leave with their families to several bases – including Catterick in North Yorkshire – during strike action on the trains. From this atrocity, I imagine that the MoD decided, poste haste, to (re)paint their own passenger vehicles in various colours for some years. My recollection was that they were keen on pastel shades. although pink was never used, to the troops’ relief, I suspect!

As for the Bedford RL’s description of being a " A four and a half litre drophead coupe, with a capacious boot!", in my time it was the ubiquitous (to RAF only)Standard Vanguard pickup seen HERE: www.flickr.com/photos/  As they rotted with the same speed as the Alfa Sud, it’s amazing one has survived!

Chris Hebbron


05/02/13 – 10:10

Trivia from the "pen" of a crinkly. I know a lovely lady in Woking who recently retired as a physiotherapist at Headley Court. She was actually a squaddie who survived that M62 coach bombing. I think it influenced her choice of subsequent career.

David Oldfield


05/02/13 – 13:52

During my time in the RAF (1954 – 6) the Service had large numbers of Standard Vanguard cars and vans, as well as the pickups. In view of the atrociously high fuel consumption and excessively luxurious ride of these vehicles it seems the strangest imaginable choice when, presumably, economic operation was desirable.

Chris Youhill


06/02/13 – 07:11

The mention of the M62 coach bombing reminds me that this Sunday[10/2/2013] there is to be a memorial service at Hartshead Moor Motorway Services for the victims. There has been a plaque there since 1975 and there is an annual service on the Sunday nearest to the actual date.

Philip Carlton


06/02/13 – 07:13

My family had the estate car version of the Phase 2 Vanguard. As Chris Y says, heavy on fuel, but very comfortable. It carried all our camping gear for a family of 5 and gave several years’ good service. It certainly didn’t suffer the ravages of the rust worm that Chris H mentions – perhaps this was due to the fact that the bodywork was provided by a proper coachbuilder, Mulliners.

Alan Murray-Rust


07/02/13 – 06:36

And with mention of Mulliner’s, Alan, our meanderings come the full circle!

Chris Hebbron


19/04/13 – 07:20

Just stumbled on this site looking at other Bedford buses. I have owned a Mulliner bodied one for around 20 years now. I also converted it to live in and have lived in it all this time. I have converted it to lpg and it runs lovely on it. Here is a link to a picture.

Pete


19/04/13 – 11:02

Thx for the posting, Pete. Your photo shows how sound these vehicles were – sixty years old and still going strong! Hopefully, you’ll find it a good resting place if you need to dispose of it at some time.
Any idea of the original registration?

Chris Hebbron


26/04/13 – 07:41

The registration number carried will have been its original one, there was large batch of Government owned buses with RGX registrations-in fact all the London registration series RGX was allocated to the government starting in May 1955.

David Hick


26/04/13 – 08:50

Thx for the info, David, which I didn’t know.

Chris Hebbron


25/06/13 – 07:39

I am most interested in the site, I was at Bridgnorth after square bashing I went to Wheeton on a driving course .. Austin 1 tonners and light cars Vanguards I recall 1960/1..I was posted to Goldsborough .. wonderful posting 5 miles North of Whitby, At this time I was taking Bomb disposal crews to Fylingdales on York moors in 3 ton RL Bedfords.. They were un-suitable and we were allocated a coach.. cant remember number and I too was given a run to Middleton St George now Tyne Tees airport.. I passed and had 1629 endorsed and away I went.I remember the very light steering semophor indicators later fitted with flashing indicators.., they were really great runners.. Happy days Geoffrey Pallett ex SAC 5131 bomb disposal sqn 19 61 /3..now 72 yrs old and still have hair. location Tamworth Staffs……bye..

Geoffrey Pallett


05/08/13 – 08:08

In reply to Chris .. the reg. is original and is RGX 323 and is still carried on the vehicle. I am hoping to take it out on a run to Aberystwyth on the 15th Aug for the weekend.

Anon


06/08/13 – 06:08

Good luck – hope it runs well. Let’s see a photo after the event.

Chris Hebbron


21/08/13 – 06:29

Well the wheels haven’t turned yet .. I am low on funds so wasn’t able to go. Its about 50p per mile on LPG have been busy repainting it though so will be looking good for when I eventually get it out on the road again.

Pete


21/08/13 – 06:29

I have only just found this very interesting site and would like to add something of my time in the RAF.As most writers I started at Cardington then on to Padgate for square bashing then Weeton for driver training. Although I was called up for National Service I signed on for 4 years. I was posted to 2 Motor Transport Squadron at Lichfield in Staffordshire. 2 MT was the long distance heavy vehicle section of the RAF. Also at Lichfield was 99 Maintenance Unit, responsible for collecting new vehicles from the manufactures for onward transmission to stations all over the World. If 99 MU were short of drivers we at 2 MT helped out by going to the manufacturers to collect vehicles. This was my first introduction to the Bedford S.B. Coach which we collected from Mulliners of Birmingham. Along with the Bedford R.L. The Standard Vanguards we collected from Coventry and Land Rovers from Birmingham.These were good days out as we were normally given a rail pass if there was only a few of us going and a bus from the nearest station to the manufacturer.
Because on 2 MT Squadron we only had lorries and no coaches it wasn’t until I was posted to Seletar in Singapore that I caught up with the Mulliner Bedford again. It was a very nice vehicle to drive so smooth and quiet with the petrol engine. We had, at Seletar, another type of Bedford S.B which was not as bulbous at the front and looked flimsy against the Mulliner, but I cannot remember the name of the body builder, perhaps someone will know and enlighten me. We also had, which I loved driving was the Commer Commando deck and a half airport coach the same as B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. were using at the time.

Brian Blackburn


22/08/13 – 17:37

Like Brian my RAF career followed almost the exact pattern. Induction Cardington – where I also did my square bashing, then Weeton and (via Martlesham Heath) Lichfield but to 5003(AC)Sqdn. Also like Brian I did 4 years because the trade of ‘Dispatch Rider’ was unavailable. I recently looked over a fine preserved example of the Commer Commando at the Elvington Air Museum www.yorkshireairmuseum.org/exhibits/  and, with further ‘googling’ – on Reg No – you can find more information/photos of this vehicle.

Nigel Edwards


23/08/13 – 15:33

Brian,
The less bulbous fronted Bedfords were most likely bodied by Strachens

Roger Broughton


13/11/13 – 16:58

Funny what you come across when idling over the keys on one’s computer, my mind was taken back to the summer of 1956 when I became a guest at the behest of the government of the day’s two year National Service scheme.
It must have been on arrival at Bedford station (via Devon, London St.Pancras and Bedford) when I first encountered things RAF, for there waiting for me and similar such lambs to the slaughter, was this blue RAF bus.
Welcome to the RAF. Having no idea what sort of a bus it was, a bus was just a bus. (profanity I hear some cry)
Here started my two year journey not knowing what lay ahead, suffice to say Cardington, Padgate Hereford and 16 MU Stafford, was to be my lot.
BTW, our intake left Cardington en route for Padgate from the RAF’s own station within the confines of Cardington camp.
It would be so inviting to just keep reminiscing but I’ve already catalogued my two years in the RAF elsewhere on the ‘Net.
Suffice to say at 16 MU Stafford, which was a huge complex spreading for miles around, RAF transport played a key role for the transporting of personnel to their place of work. Bedford three tonners was our mode of vehicle plying back and forth in all directions.
The ubiquitous covered Bedford wagon were a familiar site, I remember one particular journey one evening at the finish of work of being picked up in an absolute pea soup of a 50′s fog. Hanging on to that rope strap like grim death.
The aristocrat of the MT fleet as already mentioned was the sumptuous Standard Vanguard, oh how I used to lust for just a ride in one, alas I didn’t have a drivers licence at that time.
Imagine my joy when on one journey hitch-hiking home, a spanking new Vanguard stopped to give me a lift, at one stage of the journey (Bristol-Devon) the driver asked if I would relieve him to Exeter. I was pained to tell him I had no licence.
As I write, I have to pinch myself when recalling those times, did they really happen?
I suppose most on this thread are already aware that a simple Google search will reveal hundreds of national serviceman’s tales. Just type, RAF National Service stories.
Hope I don’t get told off for being off topic.

Mr Anon


14/11/13 – 11:38

I apologise for the anonymity of the immediate above comment for it was not my intention, but when I clicked on ‘Submit Comment’ I somehow thought my comment would reappear for preview editing.
I was taken aback when the screen cleared, I thought my work had disappeared into the ether as so often is the case. Later,I was rather astonished to see my post had been published – for which I thank you.
I lived in Devon at the time of the above memories, later moving to the midlands where I have remained to this day. In fact I’m only a stones throw from Stafford where I served most of my national service.
Now and again I still go over to Stafford on a pilgrimage, in fact only recently, on family business, I diverted to look up the site (16MU was spread out into several sites some miles apart) where I spent some of my time, I pulled up only to find the site under lock and key and seemingly abandoned but intact,
I stared hard and long at the guardroom where we had to do piquet duty armed with a baton. I well remember one patrol at 4.00am in below freezing temperature, a cloak of frost cloying to our greatcoats – roll on demob! As for the rest of the site (of what I could see) it was still very recognisable.
To the left of the guardroom is the tarmacked area where we assembled for inspection before commencing work each day, I got nabbed on a charge of ‘get yer ‘air cut, take that man’s name sergeant. My sentence of three day confined to barracks included a lost weekend. Grrr!
I digress, I’m pinching myself again. I feel a reminiscence coming on, I’d better stop here.

Ian


14/11/13 – 13:37

I did my post-graduate teaching year at Padgate College – on the site of RAF Padgate. For a year my regular transport included four car DMUs from Manchester to Liverpool (via Warrington) with Albion 0900 engines and SELNEC (ex Leigh Corporation) East Lancs/Renowns on the Warrington to Leigh (via Padgate/Fearnhead) service. [Apart from the modern central buildings and halls of residence, the college made much use of the ex RAF buildings for teaching space.] It was also said that part of the nearby M62 was laid along the track of a runway.

David Oldfield


14/11/13 – 16:48

I hate to disillusion you, David, but the M62 story is an urban myth! The motorway does cross the site of the former RAF Burtonwood, at a similar angle to that followed by the old main runway, but only similar, with its path crossing the runway at a shallow angle to the west of its centre point. Burtonwood was chosen for closure by the USAF because of mining subsidence problems that were making the runway increasingly difficult to maintain to Ministry standards. After its closure in 1960/61 the runway remained in place (albeit unusable) until the motorway project started. The runway was then removed and the scrap concrete used to stabilise the ground along the intended track of the M62. I suspect that’s where the myth came from. Interestingly (although still well off topic!) a similar inaccurate story is told about the old RN Air Station at Stretton (to the south of Warrington) and the M56 motorway. Yes, I used to be a plane-spotter…

Neville Mercer


15/11/13 – 17:55

To those who were associated in anyway with RAF Padgate.
Google Search…. Last Parade AT Padgate 1957.
I bade my farewell to RAF Training Camp Padgate in early September 1956, having no inkling whatever the camp was to close within 6 months.
Why is when you are young, you assume everything around you is permanent for ever?
I think there is something sound in the advice – never go back.

Ian


16/11/13 – 08:38

Did RAF Padgate become the Police Training Centre, Bruche which I attended in 1966 and 1968?
Oh the joy of those cross country runs and drill instruction by the former guardsman Sergeant Crompton from Rochdale.

Paragon


16/11/13 – 09:59

Whilst the area around Warrington became heavily militarised from the outbreak of WW2, Bruche was originally built in the early 1940s as a camp for munitions workers from Risley. Handed to the US military instead, it was opened as a Police Training Centre in 1946. Padgate camp was on a different site
The "urban myth" about the M62 is widespread but I hadn’t heard the one about the M56 before. However the M62 DOES cover part of the width of the old main runway along a good part of its length, though the evidence that was once there is now covered by Junction 8. Photo proof can be found at www.chroma.to/photos/4052586. During construction of the M62 a number of aviation societies’ members took photos of the work along the line of the runway and these have appeared in various publications. After "closure" by the USAF in 1959 the Burtonwood site was passed back to the UK MOD in 1965. In the interim various uses had been made of the site by the RAF and Air Training Corps – including gliding by yours truly – but the withdrawal in 1966 of France from NATO military support led to the US Army taking over the site as a forward supply depot. This led to visits by US Army helicopters which used to park in front of the control tower. This eventually stopped sometime in the 1980s as they were visible from the M62 and were cited as being a distraction to drivers, the flights then transferring to Liverpool Airport. There were persistent rumours of nuclear shells being stored on the site. What is true is the site had the largest single roof building in Europe as its main warehouse. The site was used by the TA, Emergency Planners and other military units and cadet forces until the 1980s. During the first Gulf War the site was used by the US Army for its intended purpose as a supply depot, playing a major role, particularly in the build up in the autumn of 1990. In June 1994 the site was declared surplus to requirements and after 52 years since the first Americans arrived, the site was closed.

Phil Blinkhorn


16/11/13 – 11:15

Interesting stuff, Phil. My comments about the alignment of the runway not quite matching the alignment of the M62 still stand, however. The urban myth would have us believe that they were identical. I passed the base a couple of times each month in the late 50s/early 60s en route from my home in mid-Cheshire to my gran’s house in St Helens (with a change of bus in Warrington). Depending on where we were meeting her we’d use either Crosville’s 140 via Bold Heath or the St Helens/Ribble Warrington-Southport service.
I’ve also seen 1959 quoted as a closure date, but I can show you records of "fixed-wing" USAF movements through the base as late as the end of 1961. Also during 1961 Burtonwood was briefly used as a commercial airport when a dodgy airline called Overseas Aviation began a scheduled service from Prestwick in Ayrshire to Burtonwood and Gatwick using four-engined Canadair C-4 airliners. It lasted for a matter of weeks despite very low fares compared to those of BEA on the Glasgow/Manchester/London corridor. Overseas went broke soon after the service ended.
As regards the US military helicopter visitors, the last I’ve seen a record of took place in 1982. Throughout the mid-1960s this was a monthly operation with US top brass arriving at Manchester Airport from West Germany aboard a military variant of the Beech King Air then transferring to a Choctaw or Huskie helicopter (specially positioned from Lakenheath or Mildenhall) for the final few miles to the base. There must have been a cheaper way!
I can also remember a yellow-painted Piper J3 Cub being based there at some point in the 1980s, but I can’t find a reference. It was apparently owned by one of the military commanders and took off from one of the old taxiways on an "unlicensed aerodrome" basis. Getting back to the buses, a building on the base was used by preservationists back in the 1970s, forming the nucleus of the collection later assembled as the St Helens Transport Museum. I’m a bit vague on details as I was living in Pennsylvania at the time. Can anyone else enlighten us?

Neville Mercer


16/11/13 – 15:27

Neville, have a look at the photo taken after the motorway was opened which clearly shows the runway paralleling the motorway and the road occupying part of the north side of the runway. The alignment with the northern side of the runway runs towards the runway south edge at a slight angle for around 900 yards before the motorway deviates to the north a tad when it occupies more of the runway space. The Highways Agency and its predecessors have had subsidence problems on the carriageway in the early days even though the trouble spots on the runway were well known and remedial work was implemented before construction. I used the road at least 3 times a week from its opening until 1986 and there was, and still is, evidence of patching and dishing along the stretch.
1959 was the official closure as an in service US Air Force base. T-29/C-131 Samaritans and the odd C-47 did use the runway into the early 1960s though most of the flights after 1959 went into Speke. In addition the US Army helicopter movements, latterly operated by UH-1 Iroquois, ex Manchester eventually moved to Liverpool and my log books show my last sighting in 1982 on the way to a niece’s christening, which means it was a Sunday. In addition I have numerous sightings of HC-47 Chinooks on the ground in the mid 1970s.
Of course BOAC ran a weekly London-Manchester-Prestwick-New York Stratocruiser flight in the mid 1960s but runway problems at Ringway meant the flight operated via Burtonwood if the weather was at all less than perfect. The Strat would have fitted in nicely with any C/KC-97s on the ground.
The Overseas Aviation (C I) Airways service was not scheduled to stop at Burtonwood and any visit must have been on some form of diversion. The most authoritative version of the airline’s history appears in the 1976 publication British Independent Airlines since 1946 by A C Merton-Jones published by LAAS and the Merseyside Aviation Society. Much is made of the idea of the walk on service, the fact that passenger rights were only held between Prestwick and Manchester and Prestwick and Gatwick and no rights were held for Manchester and Gatwick and vice versa. Manchester was regularly overflown as often the crew outnumbered the passengers. Only 12 flights were flown in total by unpressurised C-4 North Stars, all Canadian registered, between July 31 and August 11 when the service ceased with fewer than 100 passengers carried in total. No mention is made of Burtonwood in the narrative something MAS, especially Ken Ellis, with full access to Burtonwood movements of the time, would surely have picked up on. Also, as Overseas had a fairly intensive inclusive tour operation at Manchester using both the C-4s and ex BOAC Argonauts, it would have made little sense to use Burtonwood with no equipment there and a journey at least twice as long into Manchester. By the end of August the company had ceased flying and it was wound up in October 1961.
There was a yellow American registered Cub based there and, back on topic, sometime in the late 1970s/early 1980s a yellow open top double decker could be glimpsed when the gliders were about, presumably somehow connected. If memory serves this was an early Lodekka.

Phil Blinkhorn


17/11/13 – 06:44

29 AC 78

Attached is a n/s print of a sister SB 29 AC 78 taken at Aden Oil Refinery on an outing from the local RAF base at Khormaksar. It is in the same digital series as Chris Hebbron’s. Mulliner bodied versions were quite common with the RAF in the Middle East, where I spent my two years at Her Majesty’s pleasure. But it really turned out to be a Cook’s Tour in the end with leave spent in Cyprus and East Africa.

David Allen


17/11/13 – 08:40

Thx for that post, David. Quite a coincidence to take a photo so close to the one I posted. And nice to see one on active service (all side windows open, but not the windscreen, I notice) with folk milling around.

Chris Hebbron


17/11/13 – 09:42

Thanks for the definitive info on this, Phil. It’s been a long time since the events and my memory may have gotten crossed wires. The Overseas machines I saw on their way in and out of Burtonwood must have been either on diversion or doing charter flights in connection with the USAF withdrawal from the base. It’s worth noting that all of Overseas C-4s remained in the basic livery of their previous owners, Trans-Canada Airlines. The fact that they couldn’t afford to repaint them might have given their bankers pause for thought. It was the biggest UK airline collapse until the failure of British Eagle in 1968.

Neville Mercer


17/11/13 – 14:16

It’s most likely Neville, that the C-4s were Manchester diversions as there is no record of any US forces charters in the airline’s history and by the time the C-4s were delivered in the summer of 1961 the "evacuation" of USAF personnel was over and the Army had not really arrived. They may also have carried out crew training as the North Star had some significant differences to the Argonaut which were also in the fleet. The reason the aircraft weren’t painted is that the Air Registration Board issued temporary CofA certificates based on the Canadian Airworthiness certificates until October 1961 to allow the aircraft to be used. Thus the retention of the Canadian registrations. There were many mechanical differences and differences in overhaul requirements as well and these eventually were the straws which broke the camel’s financial back. I well remember being able to read off the registrations of the North Stars under the wings at home in Stockport. I last saw a North Star (RCAF) at the museum in Rockcliffe, Ontario in 2009, awaiting restoration. You might be interested to look at www.forgottenairfields.com/. Scroll down to the 1955 map and look at site A. Look at the runway and taxiway layout. Then scroll down to look at a photo showing site A at Burtonwood, the "M62" and the vestiges of the start of the cross runway and the taxiway. You will see the motorway coincides with the main runway. Further down are two August 1997 photos confirming the motorway pretty much follows the runway alignment.

Phil Blinkhorn


17/11/13 – 16:58

I’m not an aircraft authority at all, but wasn’t it a Canadair "Argonaut" which crashed on a filling station in Stockport in the mid 1960s ?? It had run out of fuel on approach to Ringway – or rather it actually hadn’t but as far as I remember the pilot had made a mistake in the tank switching. It was an awful disaster because it broke in two upon crashing, but didn’t catch fire for a good few minutes and even then didn’t ignite the filling station. Its possible they could all have got out, as those in the smaller front half did, if they hadn’t been too stunned to act quickly I suppose.

Chris Youhill


18/11/13 – 05:20

Chris, it was a British Midland Argonaut. There was a complex cross feed arrangement between the tanks and it had been known for many years that this could lead to errors, and indeed had previously done so without fatal consequences. I have a very close relationship to the disaster. That morning I had organised a hiking trip to Kinder Scout. We used one of Bullock’s Fodens as usual and one of our pick up points was on Hopes Carr at 10.05.
We picked up our four passengers and headed out along Wellington Rd South to pick up in Hazel Grove and were bemused to see a large number of ambulances heading to Stockport as we neared Stepping Hill. The aircraft hit Hopes Carr at 10.09. Some of us wouldn’t miss Pick of the Pops so we got news of the crash on transistor radios when we got to Hayfield. As this was years before mobile phones we had to drop our passengers back at Hopes Carr. This was possibly the first TV broadcast air disaster in the UK with Granada broadcasting live. On return that evening the site was swarming with spectators, (estimates say up to 10,000 people visited during the day) overwhelming the Police and was complete with burger vans and ice cream sellers. Amazingly we were able to put our passengers down within 50 yards of the crash site.
As to the survivability the AIB’s post mortem reports concluded most of the passengers in the front died of deceleration effects before the fire, though, being tightly held by a shoulder harness, the pilot survived. The passengers in the rear had massive leg and torso crush injuries, some fatal others not, which prevented their escape. A motor cycle policeman was first on the scene and tried to enter the aircraft before the fire took hold. For many years there was a story that his boots had sparked the fire but this was never proved. He and some passers by did manage to extract 12 people alive before the fire took hold. Newspaper reports of the time said the pilot had chosen to put the aircraft down in Hopes Carr as the only spot of green in an urban landscape. This was nonsense as the aircraft had just flown over the vast playing fields and parkland in and surrounding Stockport’s Vernon Park.

A couple more points Chris. It wasn’t a filling station but a repair garage and electricity sub station that were hit with most of the fuselage landing on open ground to the rear of the garage with the tail neatly adjoining the pavement on Hopes Carr, having missed the factory opposite. The fuselage was seemingly not split on landing, rather the pictures of the tail section broken off from the rest of the wreckage was the result of the fire, though the cockpit may have broken before the fire. Many of the reports generated by last year’s 45th anniversary have been the result of distorted memories. Had the split been evident when the first rescuers arrived they could have gained access that way rather than by the over wing exits. As I already had started an interest in aircraft accidents – especially the human factor issues – I visited the site the evening after the crash (Monday) and again later and watched the removal of the tail section. I knew one of the AIB inspectors and he, as everyone involved, was deeply upset by the spectator aspect which reared its ugly head some years later with the BEA Trident crash at Staines.

Phil Blinkhorn


18/11/13 – 09:29

Thank you indeed Phil for that most interesting but very sad account of the disaster. Just goes to show what 45 years can do to the memory of one like me from "Over the Pennines." I do seem to recall though that the Captain was called Harry Marlowe, but even that may be wrong ?? I wasn’t in the area at the time of this incident, although I regularly did the Manchester Airport Wallace Arnold service from Yorkshire – there was no M 62 at that time and it was an interesting route via Bradford and Huddersfield – a tortuous slog up the A 62 behind all those slow lorries, and then Ashton, Guide Bridge, Bredbury and Romiley (seemingly very refined) and into the Airport along a rural country road. How security has changed nowadays – the public were allowed onto the roofs of the projecting bays to watch aircraft movements and we drivers could use the Crew Buffet near the Apron where we indulged in superb cream coffee alongside Captains and Air Hostesses. My favourite planes at the time were the handsome blue and grey BEA Vanguards, very refined and elegant. The most terrifying take off I ever witnessed from the roof was an Air France Caravelle which seemed to hurtle upwards with impressive power at about 45 degrees, making me think that I was very glad I was not on board and would gladly forego the South of France for a week at New Brighton !! A confession now – although I am pretty interested in aircraft I am utterly terrified of the things and nothing, but nothing, will ever drag me onto one.
I am so grateful for the Channel Tunnel as I can now reach Belgium and France from Leeds in well under six hours comfortably, a real boon, and doesn’t break the bank either.

Chris Youhill


18/11/13 – 10:45

Chris, It was Captain Marlow who was totally exonerated.
I spent many a day crossing the Pennines in summer and winter for work. The company I worked for thought that my patch, which was the whole of the North of England and parts of Wales and the Midlands, could be adequately covered in an 1100cc Vauxhall Viva and were annoyed when the engine died at 56000 miles after 18 months! No doubt we could exchange some great stories about the old routes across the Pennines.
As far as aviation goes I got the bug as a child but was 15 before my first flight courtesy of the ATC. The Vanguard was an interesting aircraft to fly in as it had an distinct vibration which rippled down the cabin in the climb. I did many trips to and from London with BEA for £2.10.6d each way student standby, double the return price on North Western. Today I still fly regularly long and short haul and early next year my wife and I will be off around the world. So far we have booked over 70 hours in the air for the trip and we still have sectors to book in New Zealand – as well as driving from Cairns to Sydney and Los Angeles to Orlando. Both flying and driving are very run of the mill today and, in some ways, not half as challenging as crossing Woodhead in the snow on a January morning, before dawn, with the headlights diminishing as slush hit the glass and having to be in Hull for a 9.00 appointment!
I’d like to take this opportunity of thanking Peter and all the other regulars here for their interest and patience when I, and many others, wander miles off topic and when we commit the odd blooper due to either failing memory or misinformation. The manners and patience here are an example to many other interest forums and are to be commended.

Phil Blinkhorn


18/11/13 – 12:15

You’re very welcome, Phil. The vast majority of people who post on this forum are polite, friendly and encouraging (not to mention extremely knowledgeable). They are the sort of people one would be happy to have as a friend in the "real world". [In fact, I find it sad that we can't meet - at least occasionally.] Those who don’t fit that profile generally self edit themselves elsewhere. [As someone who believes Christmas begins at mid-night of the 24th Decemeber, can I prematurely wish you all good health and happy posting in the new year, when it arrives (only six weeks).]
PS: How many of us, in ignorance, have walked passed each other on New Years’ day each year at Winchester?

David Oldfield


18/11/13 – 17:50

Well David, I did the next best thing last year. I was at the Kingsbridge running day in September 2012, and after travelling out to the village of East Allington on a Bristol L5G, there was a pause for a few minutes before the return trip. I got talking to a couple of enthusiasts of a certain vintage, and with Yorkshire accents. After establishing that they had never heard of old-bus-photos, I enquired whether any of them knew of a chap called Chris Youhill. "Oh we all know Chris…" So there you are, Chris – fame at last!

Stephen Ford


19/11/13 – 05:45

Perhaps we ought to wear OBP badges at Winchester and see how many of us have turned up…..

David Oldfield


19/11/13 – 10:41

David – you and I have met, albeit by prior arrangement of course, at Wisley Airfield on one of the Cobham April days – we had a most enjoyable chat indeed about things automobile and musical.
Phil – I’m sure that you needn’t worry about, as you say, "wandering miles off topic" as such postings are always full of evidence of much diligent and fascinating research which we all appreciate and learn from !!
Stephen – well how interesting, and I wonder who the two Yorkshire chaps were – although I rather fear that my notoriety rather than fame my have prompted their comments !!

Chris Youhill


19/11/13 – 12:03

I wholeheartedly agree with the last several comments: wearing an OBP badge at events would allow us to put faces to names and to exchange information, and–as a serial off-topic wanderer–I’d like to add my thanks to Peter for so generously tolerating deviation and for running such a good-natured forum.

Ian Thompson


19/11/13 – 13:57

…..and I agree with all of Ian’s last comments…..

David Oldfield


20/11/13 – 05:29

And so do I David – the site is the most commendable and greatly appreciated of Forums (Fori ??) and the amount of work that Peter puts in is staggering !!

Chris Youhill


29 AC 83_lr Vehicle reminder shot for this posting


31/12/13 – 07:12

This is the identical model to the coach I drove (27 AC 58) during my service at RAF College Cranwell in the 50′s. One of the jobs I was given was taking the College band to Scarborough for their annual fortnight gig, which just happened to be my home town.

Robert Robinson


 

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Pennine Motor Services – Leyland Leopard – 240 CWY

Pennine Motor Services - Leyland Leopard - 240 CWY
Copyright Roger Cox

Pennine Motor Services
1963
Leyland Leopard L2
Roe B49F

In the 1970s, when I was a manager at London Country, to keep my hand in I used to undertake weekend driving jobs for independent operators. One of these was Tillingbourne, then owned by Trevor Brown, who also dealt in second hand buses and coaches. As well as driving buses on normal service, I would undertake collections and deliveries of vehicles to/from his dealer’s stock. One such trip was the collection of 240 CWY, a Leyland Leopard L2 with Roe B49F body from Pennine of Gargrave (aka Simpson of Gargrave) in August 1975. The picture was taken during a stop "somewhere in England" en route between Yorkshire and Gomshall, Surrey. This Leopard was an early example dating from May 1963, and the Leylands of that vintage always had heavy controls, but I found this Leopard rather nicer to drive than the Halifax examples with very stiff gear change linkage that I had experienced some ten years earlier. 240 CWY served in the Tillingbourne fleet for two years before being sold in October 1977, reputedly to Berresford of Cheddleton, though I cannot find any record of it being run by that operator.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Roger Cox

———

15/09/11 – 09:25

What an attractive machine this was, and made even more so by Pennine’s stunning livery. I once rode on this vehicle all the way from Skipton (where I’d arrived from Manchester on a Ribble "White Lady" Atlantean) to Lancaster. One of the great bus rides of the day, but sadly no longer available. The last Pennine bus I travelled on was last October between Skipton and Nelson where I connected with a Transdev ‘decker to Manchester. Still a double-deck coach on the Manchester service (although no longer running through to Skipton), still the same lovely Pennine colour scheme, but the Pennine vehicle was a Dennis Dart. Profoundly not the same as the vehicle above!

Neville Mercer

———

16/09/11 – 09:28

Neville I believe they have a 100% Dart fleet at the moment. I went for a trip on one of them to Burnley and back a few weeks ago. Nice to see them soldiering on, despite competition from Transdev, perhaps 3 journeys per hour from Skipton to Burnley aren’t really needed!

Dave Towers

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16/10/11 – 06:42

240 CWY did reach Berresfords at Cheddleton by very early 1978. It was never operated by them but parked up at the back of the garage where it remained basically complete until the site was cleared in the Summer of 1987.

Tim Machin

———

17/10/11 – 07:39

Their wonderful livery is still well-suited to their Dennis Darts, I’m glad to say. See this link http://busestractionengines.blogspot.com/2011/09/pennine-motor-services.html

Chris Hebbron

———

07/03/12 – 08:36

Hello Roger
Is it possible that the Halifax examples were quite a bit newer when you drove them and would therefore not be as worn? – on saying that I drove PJX 232 which was a ‘B’ fleet vehicle and was allocated to ‘out of town routes’ and the gears were quite easy to select. driving PJX 35 from the ‘A’ fleet was quite different – the gear selection was some what stiffer.

Richard McAllister

———

17/04/12 – 14:06

240 CWY had a cousin in the fleet, LWU 499D.
I have vague (and only vague) recollection that what is generally known as Simpsons had members of the Windle family on the operating discs in the 60′s. At what point, does anyone, know, did the Simpsons become involved, and are they related to the Windles?

Pete Davies

———

25/06/12 – 09:00

I enquired above if anyone knew if there was indeed a link between the Simpsons and the Windles, and what that relationship was. I have now managed to obtain a copy of the history of Pennine, published in 2000, which indicates they were in-laws.
Peter has views of MTC 757 and MTD 235 coming in a few weeks, when he’s worked his way through the pile of contributions from others.
Happy viewing!

Pete Davies

———

25/06/12 – 17:09

Am I alone in seeing a resemblance between the front end of this vehicle and that of the Aldershot & District coaches (bodied by Roe’s sister company Park Royal) which used to operate their London services? Could it be that it was assembled from Park Royal components and "badged" as Roe so as not to offend the sensibilities of good Yorkshire folk? The only other "Roe" examples of this styling that spring to mind are the service buses produced for Leeds. Any former Roe employees from the 1960s out there?

Neville Mercer

———

26/06/12 – 06:39

Neville, no you’re not alone but it’s hardly surprising since Roe built Park Royal designs on Park Royal frames almost from their take-over. Lincoln had Tiger Cubs which could easily have been PRV/Monocoaches at sight. Until 1968 Roe built all composite bodies to their classic design but also helped Park Royal, out when there were capacity problems, by building their metal framed designs. Don’t think we’re actually that sensitive in Yorkshire. Sheffield had lots of Park Royals from 1963 to the PTE take-over in 1974 and the 1963/4 Regent Vs were almost identical and contemporaneous with the Tracky PD3As of 1965.

David Oldfield

———

26/06/12 – 06:39

Hasn’t it got the traditional Roe raised waistrail? and wouldn’t that indicate composite construction? Whereas, I’m assuming, the A&D/EKRCC/Birch coaches built by Park Royal would have been of BET-standard steel-framed construction. That aside, the window length was longer, the rear window a curved two-piece structure, and the rear roof dome a different shape. There is some resemblance around the front windscreen though – perhaps Roe did take some inspiration in certain ways, although I’ve just realised that this style of Roe body probably pre-dated the Park Royal (semi) coaches and that any influence might have been in the other direction . . . suitably updated and lengthened.

Philip Rushworth

———

26/06/12 – 06:40

If this http://www.flickr.com/ is the body that Neville has in mind, I don’t think it’s the same one, though it does seem to have the same windscreen.

Peter Williamson

———

26/06/12 – 11:35

Yes Peter, that’s the one. It was the front-end part of the design I had in mind. Didn’t Great Yarmouth have something similar on Daimler Freelines in the early 60s? This raises another question – why were Gt Yarmouth buying Freelines so late in the production run and a decade after most other UK operators had given the design a distinct thumbs down?

Coming to David’s point, the reason I suggested the "badge engineering" part is that it certainly happened in Lancashire – I’m thinking of Darwen Corporation’s insistence on having AEC designs badged as "Crossleys". I would never disparage Yorkshire folk, despite the unfortunate events of 500 years ago. In my ideal version of reality Lancs and Yorks would combine to form a new Pennine nation. We are the salt of the earth!

Neville Mercer

———

26/06/12 – 14:13

I think the answer to your question can be summed up in one word – Hilditch.
Geoffrey Hilditch had firm ideas on what he wanted in a bus and since in those days Leyland had a rather ‘take it or leave it’ attitude, he would go elsewhere if he thought he could manipulate them into producing what he wanted.
So at Great Yarmouth, wanting trusty Gardner engines in his single deckers to match his double deckers, he got Daimler to revive the Freeline. At Halifax he had Dennis remodel the Loline to meet his needs – with disastrous consequences as it turned out – and then went to his old employer (briefly) from his home town and got them to design the Pennine RU (also a disaster). Later at Leicester, disenchanted with British Leyland and the Metropolitans, and really wanting a Fleetline replacement, persuaded Dennis to produce the Dominator.
The last Great Yarmouth Freelines had more of an Alexander type windscreen, similar to the ones Roe had used on their (and others’) Fleetlines, and on the later Doncaster Royal Tiger Cubs.

John Stringer

P.S. A new Pennine Nation eh ? Hmmm………maybe, but there would need to be an East Pennine and a West Pennine I feel.

———

26/06/12 – 17:50

Yes, but Yorkshire born and bred – and proud of it – I did my degree and first jobs on t’other side. I’d be easy with Pennine Nation. [We have divisions and had Ridings and even Sussex has an East and a West.] We have more in common than not.

David Oldfield

———

27/06/12 – 07:12

Thanks for that explanation John. I’d forgotten that "Gortonian" was GM at Gt Yarmouth. One of Britain’s truly memorable bus fleet managers unlike say Edgeley Cox of Walsall who I always thought was just plain barmy! On an even more flippant note, despite the Pennine/Skipton connection I would suggest that the capital of our new Pennine Nation should be in Todmorden – part of the town used to be in Lancashire after all.

Neville Mercer

———

27/06/12 – 07:12

478 FCG_lr

Neville’s point about the resemblance between the Pennine Roe body and the Park Royal coaches of Aldershot and District may be seen in this view of A&D Reliance 478, 478 FCG, with C49F body delivered in 1963. These fifteen vehicles were of the 4MU4RA type with the AH470 7.685 litre engine coupled to a six speed constant mesh gearbox. It would appear that the windscreens are identical, but the waistrail level and driver’s side window are set at a lower level on the Park Royal. This picture was taken in Farnborough, where I then lived, in August 1969, by which time the magnificently florid traditional Aldershot and District fleetname had been replaced by the simpler style shown.

Roger Cox

———

27/06/12 – 13:36

I think the A & D coaches (and livery) looked better than the East Kent – good in itself – but I still prefer the 2U3RA, despite its troublesome AH590 engine.

David Oldfield


 

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