Old Bus Photos

Worthing Tramocar – Shelvoke & Drewry – PO 1748 – 7

Worthing Tramocar - Shelvoke & Drewry - PO 1748 - 7

Worthing Tramocar
Shelvoke & Drewry "Freighter"
Harrington B20R

Here is a picture (a small Box Brownie holiday snap dated 1935 from my collection), showing two Worthing Tramocars’ on the Seafront of that West Sussex town.
The rear of the two vehicles is a Shelvoke & Drewry "Freighter" chassis (No. 03:1059), with a Harrington B20R body. It was put into service in April 1930, given Fleet No.7, and had Registration Number PO 1748. It was issued Worthing Licence Plate 213.
The front one of the two is not identifiable but is one of a later delivery, again with Harrington body, this time of B26R configuration. PO 1748 was numbered B82 in the Southdown Motor Services fleet, when the company was sold to that concern for £15,750 on 1st April 1938. Southdown withdrew it in April 1941 and it passed to H. Lane & Co (dealer) of Chelsea, London SW3, it finally ending its life with Clymping Caravans, near Littlehampton Sussex, date unknown.
The Worthing Tramocar company was formed in 1924 by Walter Rowland Gates (41), a Londoner who returned to England from New Zealand, where he had operated a mineral water business. Residing at 141 Brighton Road he observed that elderly passengers were finding it difficult to board the high step platforms of the local Southdown buses, and, that no buses ran along the Sea Front. His answer was to apply for licences to run a service using vehicles designed with ‘low floors’ (nothing new in this world), and Mr Gates registered the name "Tramocar".
The new design of vehicle to operate the service was a dustcart chassis manufactured by Shelvoke & Drewry Limited of Letchworth, Hertfordshire, and know as the Freighter. A particular feature of the S&D Freighter was that its control was by a handle similar to a Tramcar control handle, hence the name ‘Tramocar’. This was situated to the left of the driver, and was used, to change speed, reverse, transmission, brake, and throttle. The handle to the right of the driver was the geared steering tiller. There was also an emergency foot brake operating on the front wheels only. The PSV Construction and Use Regulations of 1933, made this form of control illegal, and a steering wheel replaced the tiller. The first two vehicles (Register BP 9822 and PX 262 – Worthing Licence Plates 109 and 138) had specially designed bodies constructed by the Hickman Body Building Company, 8 Grove Road, Balham, London, SW12. These bodies had seating for 18 passengers in 6 rows of transverse seats. The service started running on Whit Monday 9th June 1924, and operated between 10am and 8pm, with a Single fare of 2d. There is a postcard image of a Worthing Tramocar – PX 1592, on flickr, it can be seen at www.flickr.com/ 
For readers of this website who wish to learn more of this remarkable concern I would recommend ‘An Anthology of The Worthing Tramocar’, published by The Southdown Enthusiasts’ Club in July 2002.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Stephen Howarth

22/01/13 – 14:14

Oh what a fantastic period shot – and remarkably clear at that. History coming alive.

David Oldfield

22/01/13 – 15:14

Thanks for posting this remarkable view. I have looked at the flickr reference mentioned in the posting and adjacent in the "index" is a view of Amberley Museum’s example.

BP 9822

I attach a further view of this device, during a rally in September 2009. It shows BP 9822 but the PSVC listing shows it to have started life as CV 784. The body it now carries was built in the Museum’s own workshops. I understand that the chassis was built for a dustcart.

Pete Davies

22/01/13 – 15:30

A wonderful period photo, full of action and people. How the sepia suits it and gives it the glow of a sunny day, which it appears to be, anyway. With all the flags and bunting out, what was being celebrated, I wonder.
I love the jaunty angle of the motorbike’s exhaust! It was taken some time after August 1932, when the Ford Model Y (third car along) went into production.
One thing I notice about the subject of the photo is that it has pneumatic tyres. Other photos I’ve seen always showed solid ones.
I wonder if this part of Worthing seafront is still identifiable today?

Chris Hebbron

With the aid of Google Maps, I’ve been able to pin this photo down to Marine Parade, with the side turning (where the lone lower height building by the first bus is) being West Street. The buildings and view are the same, even to there still being a shrubbery on the right! The pier’s only a few hundred yards further along.

Chris Hebbron

22/01/13 – 17:08

As it’s 1935, the flags are probably for King George V’s silver jubilee.
And in answer to the question, the buildings on Marine Parade/West Street have not changed much, (it would appear that the link to Google street view below only works for so long, if you manage to get a view please let me have a link) please be patient it takes quite a while to load the street view page – http://goo.gl/maps/EIEPr


22/01/13 – 17:09

What a gem! Those really were "the days", especially for bus enthusiasts, as there was so much variety in both chassis and body supply, which created vast permutations of possibility. Our home resorts were thriving, and this photo captures the atmosphere of the time to perfection.
Blackpool and Bournemouth Corporations also operated the S&D "Freighter", as did White Rose, at Rhyll, later Crosville, so it was a bit of a "seaside special", and they were very popular in their more common role as Dustbin carts! Tiny little wheels, solid tyred, I think, at least with the earlier models, and a tramway type "Tiller" control! Delightful is the word!

John Whitaker

23/01/13 – 07:18

My fathers uncle drove one of these S&D "Freighter" as a dustcart for Dewsbury Corporation.I remember my father telling me that they were steered by rods.I have a vague memory of riding on a Lincolnshire Road Car one at Skegness .I think that they had a Bedford front grill.I would have only been about 5 years old but I remember them being replaced by Bedford OBs with the nearside cut away.I think that one is in preservation.

Philip Carlton

23/01/13 – 07:19

Although off-piste, it’s worth recording that S&D were almost wholly devoted to mundane war work for the duration of WWII. However, despite having no previous experience, they successfully developed and built 37ft miniature submarines, called the Wellfreighter. It was built for use by the Special Operations Executive, for the clandestine insertion and re-supply of agents behind enemy lines and suchlike! Amazing!

Chris Hebbron

23/01/13 – 09:15

Amazing what people and companies turned there hand to during the war – with a good deal of success, and probably not a single degree in sight!!!

David Oldfield

23/01/13 – 10:03

………..but a great deal of accumulated knowledge and common-sense, David!

Chris Hebbron

23/01/13 – 10:04

That looks like some close parking by the c1928/30 Ford Model A Tourer squashed between the 1932 Austin 7 saloon and that Ford 8. As has been said, Worthing has not changed a great deal over the ensuing years.
The name of Shelvoke and Drewry always reminds me of an old friend who worked as a motor mechanic for our local Council for a while and that included the hated job of working on S&D dustcarts. Any job was always such a nightmare of dirt and old rubbish so they were always referred to as working on "S— and Dust"! I’m sorry it’s so blunt but it takes me back to a smile from around thirty years ago!

Richard Leaman

23/01/13 – 11:21

Am I dreaming, or did we have Seddon chassis with S & D equipment on Sheffield dust-carts at one time in the ’60s?

David Oldfield

23/01/13 – 13:19

Since we seem to be wandering off into the realms of dustcarts, now may be an appropriate time to comment on one we had in Lancaster in the late 1950’s. From what I can remember of it, it must have had an underfloor engine, because the dustbins were emptied into an area next to the driver (poor fellow!) and unloading was at the back end. It didn’t seem to last very long, and I can only assume that loading was too slow: one bin at a time rather than two at a time when loading at the back. Was it on a bus chassis, I wonder? There is certainly no mention in the Lancaster City Transport fleetlists of any single decker being rebodied after service as a dustcart, and I don’t recall any lorries of the period having underfloor engines!

Pete Davies

24/01/13 – 11:15

Crosville also ran some of these engaging vehicles in Rhyl.
After the war S&D continued to produce dust carts and later fire engines. In the eighties an American firm Dempster Briothers took over the company, they were a major player in the US dustcart market and S&D built some front loading wagons using their Dumpster system they also built rear loading ones called Routechief. In the eighties Dempster pulled out and the remains of the company were bought by arch rivals Dennis.
Many second hand S&D dust carts ended up in Malta (sounds familiar!) Some of the fire appliances survive at various airports in the UK
One fire engine found fame in the TV series London’s Burning

Chris Hough

24/01/13 – 14:56

As a point of interest, the original Tramocar garage is still extant in Thorn Road (just along the seafront from this shot). It is now used as a Tyre fitters. The original S & D Freighters were later replaced, after the Southdown takeover, by Dennis Falcons with special low height Harrington bodies. I believe one of these (FUF 181?) still exists and is awaiting restoration.

Roy Nicholson

25/01/13 – 06:53

I seem to remember that S&D once built an airport bus that was used airside at Heathrow.Can anybody remember this?

Philip Carlton

25/01/13 – 12:29

Why low-height bodies, Roy?

Chris Hebbron

25/01/13 – 17:16

There’s a photo of the airport bus here: www.flickr.com/photos/

Michael Wadman

26/01/13 – 06:18

Hi Chris………..Should have said low floor rather than low height! This was to enable better access for Worthing’s elderly population. I have also made a faux pas with the garage in Thorn Road, as it now appears to have been converted into a private residence.

Roy Nicholson

26/01/13 – 06:19

The vehicles Philip Carlton remembers at Skegness were Vulcan VSDs dating from the 1920s. There were four of them – NR 6648, NR 7266, FU 5946 and FU 7549, which passed from Skegness Motor Services to Lincolnshire Roadcar in 1934. LRCC fitted the four buses concerned with Bedford petrol engines and radiators after the War and replaced them with Bedford OBs with converted Duple ‘Vista’ bodies during the late 1950s. There were four OBs concerned – HUO 692/LTA 752 ex Western National and ONO 88/89 ex Eastern National.

Michael Elliott

27/01/13 – 07:40

re Lincolnshire OB’s – LTA 752 is the survivor, now with Lodge’s Coaches in Essex – see www.lodgecoaches.co.uk/ it sold to them for a fairly high price at auction a few years ago, it had been in private preservation in Lincolnshire until about 10 years ago, then moved to the south coast (again in preservation.)
Lodges seem to have fitted a hinged door – this may have been a requirement to get PSV licensed again. In Lincolnshire service they ran without a door (and therefore presumably crew operated)


22/04/17 – 06:59


On 23.01.13 at 13.19 Peter Davis writes about a strange dustcart that he remembers from Lancaster in the 1950’s. I wonder whether it was a Dennis as in this picture?

On 23.01.13 at 7.19 Chris Hebron termed S&D’s war work ‘mundane’. Not a very flattering term for war work that included producing 56,000 sprockets and wheels for tanks, tank transporter trailers, 45,000 exhaust pipe manifolds for landing craft etc.,as listed on my website. He then credits S&D with developing the Welfreighter miniature submersible! This was designed at S.O.E. Station IX at Welwyn Garden City under Colonel Dolphin. It’s true that S&D built the craft towards the end of the war so that they were never used in active service. This reflects the quality of the engineering expertise S&D had at their Letchworth Garden City works. The somewhat eccentric design of the SD Freighter was in fact the result of some very creative thinking between Harry Shelvoke and James Drewry.

On 23.01.13 David Oldfield asked:- “Am I dreaming, or did we have Seddon chassis with S & D equipment on Sheffield dust-carts at one time in the ’60s?” As Secretary of the Shelvoke & Drewry Enthusiasts’ Club (www.shelvoke-drewry.co.uk ) I think it’s highly unlikely. A possible explanation is the confusion caused by S&D utilising modified Motor Panels cabs for their ‘N’; series of vehicles at a time when Seddon also used Motor Panels cabs. Or more likely as Seddons were more often seen as SAM’s (Seddon Allen Municipals ) with Jack Allen Colectomatic bodies based on the American Heil design.these are the dustcarts David remembers.

On 25.01.13 at 6.53 Philip Carlton starts a discussion about SD’s Airport bus. Only one was ever built. The chassis was shown at the 1980 Motor Show at Birmingham and the British Airport Authority ordered one with bodywork by Reeve Burgess. It was placed in service at Gatwick Airport on car park passenger duties but by 1983 had been relocated to Heathrow for internal staff transport. Details from David Kaye writing in Buses Extra No. 49 October 1987. This issue also carries a lot more detail about SD’s as buses.

Brian Carpenter

24/04/17 – 07:12

Thank you, Brian, for posting the photo of the Dennis dustcart. THe outline is much as I remember the one in Lancaster, but whether it was a Dennis is another matter!

Pete Davies

25/04/17 – 14:58

I’m pretty sure it must have been a Dennis if it looks much like the one Peter Davis [writing 24.04.17 at 7.12] remembers in Lancaster. It wasn’t a very clever design as the driver was situated right next to where the refuse was loaded into the vehicle. A full day’s work with the smells and the dust wouldn’t exactly make it an attractive job.


Here’s a photo of it as a demonstrator. The loaders travelled in a strange compartment at the rear of the vehicle.

Brian Carpenter


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Aldershot & District – Dennis Dominant – HOU 900 – 174

Aldershot & District - Dennis Dominant - HOU 900 - 174
Copyright Roger Cox

Aldershot & District
Dennis Dominant
Strachans B41C

The Dominant represented the initial attempt by Dennis to offer an underfloor engined single deck chassis. Like the contemporary Regal IV, Royal Tiger, Freeline and Arab UF models, the Dominant was a heavy beast, but, unlike those competitors, it never achieved quantity production. The engine was a horizontal version of the advanced 24 valve wet liner O6 diesel of 7.58 litres coupled to the Hobbs semi automatic gearbox, which used disc clutches instead of annular brake bands to engage the gears. A two speed axle was also specified. The middle section of the chassis was ‘humped’ slightly to clear the engine and gearbox, which made the design rather more difficult to body than its competitors. Only three Dominants were made, and all were shown at the 1950 Commercial Motor Show. One was displayed in left hand drive chassis form, but it is believed never to have run under its own power. The other two received Strachans bus bodies of very different character. The bus in the demonstration park had a supercharged (not turbocharged) engine, raising power from 100bhp to 130 bhp, and full air braking, and had a front entrance bus body, probably with 41 seats, of conventional appearance. The other, vacuum braked Dominant became very well known as Aldershot & District No.174, HOU 900, and its B41C body was an example of the uncertain approach to styling adopted by a number of coach builders in the early years of the underfloor engined chassis. The initial strange wing pattern was subsequently simplified to a more usual style by A&D as seen in the picture above.
The Hobbs transmission revealed early weaknesses, and it was replaced in both running Dominants by standard Dennis two plate clutches and five speed gearboxes. The demonstrator was sold to Trimdon Motor Services who registered it MUP 297 and ran it, now without the supercharger, for seven years, before selling it on to become a mobile shop. The other Dominant remained in the Aldershot & District fleet from 1951 for fourteen years, spending much of that time ploughing its way on the Aldershot – Cove group of services. It is seen here in 1961 leaving Aldershot Bus Station with Weymann L25/26R rebodied Guy Arab I of 1943 No.873, EHO 695 alongside. This Arab was one of a number of such chassis originally destined for, but ultimately not wanted by London Transport. It was initially fitted for A&D service with a Strachans L22/26R body, rebodied in 1950, and finally withdrawn in 1962.

More information about the Dominant may be found on this site:-
www.dennissociety.org.uk and a picture of the Trimdon example may be found here:- http://trimdon.com/galleries/

Photograph and Copy contributed by Roger Cox

20/01/13 – 13:38

Thank you for posting this view. It has settled a problem I’ve had for some years, in respect of my "bought" slides. Not all photographs come with an indication of where (and/or when) they were taken. I have several where this building features in the background. Clearly, it was in A&D or AV territory, but the precise location was a mystery until now!

Pete Davies

20/01/13 – 14:11

Thanks for the links Roger. The original wing embellishments were rather odd – those sort of things did not really belong on coaches of the new underfloor-engined era, but the front one being the ‘wrong way round’ was plain silly. Many coachbuilders and operators of the time must have been really confused as to what to do with this new layout of vehicle. However once A&D had modified it in the fashion depicted on this photo I think it looked rather nice, with its gently curved lower windscreen line just taking the edge of any tendency to boxiness. The A&D livery of the period was just superb and enhanced any vehicle.
The Arab looks really fine too. Weymann bodies looked great on any type of chassis. Many operators who rebodied their utilities after the war also converted them to the low-bonnetted Arab III layout, but I always felt – purely from an enthusiast/aesthetic perspective – that the Arab II’s original tall bonnet looked far more balanced, and in keeping with its rugged, no-nonsense nature.

John Stringer

20/01/13 – 14:51

The bus station at Aldershot was opened in August 1933, and I believe that it was the only company owned bus station within the BET group. Sadly, it has now gone. The site is now occupied by residential development, and the replacement bus station is an austere affair near the railway station entrance.

Roger Cox

20/01/13 – 15:31

Omnibus Stations Ltd, a company jointly owned by North Western and Ribble owned Lower Mosley St Bus Station Manchester, also long gone.

Phil Blinkhorn

20/01/13 – 16:26

The Wilts and Dorset bus station in Endless Street, Salisbury is up for sale. When it is gone all the services using it will be decanted onto the surrounding streets to join the local services in an already congested City centre. Is this progress? No,it’s called asset stripping. Sorry to go off topic. I’m a great Dennis fan and on a sunny summer afternoon I sometimes cut my grass with my 1960’s Dennis lawnmower.


20/01/13 – 17:56

I know it’s off topic, unless the lawnmowers were scale model prototypes for buses, dustcarts or fire appliances, but I’d no idea they were still being made as recently as the 60’s. I saw one at Amberley on one occasion, several years ago.
To be fair, Paragon, I visit Salisbury every couple of months or so, to exercise my "dodders’ pass". Salisbury Bus Station is in dire need of fairly extensive refurbishment, at least. Is it purely asset stripping, or is it another of those odd instances where the site is sold and then leased back? Is the aim to clog Blue Boar Row, Endless Street and New Canal even more than they are already as a permanent feature, so even more shoppers will be discouraged from visiting, and go out of town or use mail order/internet shopping instead? You’re right. It is NOT progress!

Pete Davies

21/01/13 – 06:12

………with supercharger, no doubt, Paragon!

Chris Hebbron

21/01/13 – 06:13

Paragon, Is it a petrol mower?

21/01/13 – 06:14

Pete, the Dennis lawnmower business was sold off by Hestair, which also disposed of the Mercury truck business. However, Dennis lawnmowers are still made, albeit by the Derby firm of Howardson. See http://www.dennisuk.com/history/

Roger Cox

21/01/13 – 06:16

With reference to Roger’s comment (20/01) about BET-owned bus stations . . . how about: Cleckheaton, Dewsbury, Batley – YWD (or corporation?; Newcastle Worswick Street, Northern; Scarborough Westwood, and Bridlington, EYMS; Skelhorne Street (Liverpool) and Carlisle, Ribble; Ammanford, James; Haverfordwest, Western Welsh; and this is now getting too far south for clear recollection – didn’t Southdown own a bus station at either Lewes or Uckfield? (one of the few instances of Southdown using their own premises – on the grounds that they’d already paid road tax to use the public roads, so why pay again to provide their own terminal facilities off-road). And then again what is a bus station – didn’t BMMO use its Stourbridge garage as a "bus station" of sorts?

Philip Rushworth

Oops, I forgot! Didn’t M&D own two bus stations in Maidstone until the early ’70s?

21/01/13 – 06:18

As has been mentioned, body builders weren’t quite sure what to do with the new-fangled underfloor-engined chassis. A few builders seem to have noticed that, unlike half cabs where the front and rear were very different, it was possible here to build in features which emphasised the symmetry of the new shape. A flat side view of this Dominant in its original form would show this symmetry in the ‘wings’, and perhaps something similar was attempted in the mouldings above, but they didn’t quite have the nerve to carry it through. The whole idea was, of course, a big mistake, because a bus/coach is not a static object but something that moves FORWARD!

Peter Williamson

21/01/13 – 14:25

The BET Group North Western Road Car Co also owned many of its bus stations – Macclesfield, Oldham, Altrincham, and Northwich for sure. This was fairly common practice among area agreement companies of any size. More interesting perhaps (to me at least!) are the independent operators who had their own bus stations – Birch Brothers’ Rushden facility springs to mind along with Blair & Palmer’s East Tower Street premises in Carlisle.

Neville Mercer

21/01/13 – 14:26

Yes it is a petrol mower. The engine was made by another great British engineering company now long gone, Villiers of Wolverhampton. I use a modern Dennis on our bowling green, superb quality but unfortunately powered by a trouble-free Japanese engine, just like my car. Where did we go wrong? No. Don’t lets get started on that.


22/01/13 – 06:52

Villiers was a long established company in small engines for motor-cycles and lawnmowers. In the early 1980s, they produced a 2-stroke engine for lawnmowers with Mountfields. Unfortunately, this was a disaster and led to the demise of the company.

Jim Hepburn

22/01/13 – 11:07

Mention of Villiers reminds me of a Fanny Barnett motorbike I had, briefly, in the 1950’s. It was a distress purchase from a friend, when my trusty Ariel broke down, and was soon sold on. A similar distress purchase was a Wartburg, also briefly owned. I was not a lover of two-strokes, although, of course, I exclude the Commer TS3 engine!

Chris Hebbron

22/01/13 – 12:26

Chris, my dad and I drove a 1967 Wartburg Knight from Stockport to Rome and back in the summer of 1967 with my mum and two sisters.
Fuelling was a two stage process which we thought might cause problems once we left French and German speaking countries. The first fuel stop in Italy at Aosta we were approached by a typically dressed Italian widow, all in black. I handed her a note in Italian stating what we needed. Her reply was "Awight Duck, nah problem I’ll get ma son ta fill y’ap all cushty".
Turns out that, though she was Italian, she’d lived in London from 1920 to 1965.
The Wartburg was faultless, its 998cc engine tackling Alpine passes with 5 adults on board as brilliantly as it managed the autobahns and the Autostrada del Sole.

Phil Blinkhorn

22/01/13 – 14:11

I know others who share the positive view of the old Wartburg. I also know people who swore by – not at – their Comecon Skodas. As a dyed in the wool VW person (from Beetle onward) I am a very happy modern Skoda (VW in sheeps clothing) owner – despite recent comments by Phil. Just bought a new one at the weekend – so haven’t worn it out yet!

David Oldfield

22/01/13 – 17:04

Wife had a fourth hand Comecon Skoda in the late 1970s. Rubbish body ended up 50 shades of mustard but the engine and transmission were fantastic as, I’m told, were their PSVs which I have ridden on from time to time over the last 40 odd years.
BTW my latest Skoda troubles with the bonnet lock follow on from a leaking water pump and damaged timing belt at 38,000 miles. Have had partial compensation from Skoda but they are hardly my favourite people at present.

Phil Blinkhorn

23/01/13 – 15:49

There was a lot of snobbery about Comecon products fostered by the likes of Clarkson and Co. who rarely have to pay for their motoring. Saab won the Monte Carlo Rally using a 3 cylinder 2 stroke engine just like the Wartburg. My daughter had a Comecon Skoda for a couple of years. I had to replace the water pump but other than that it was totally reliable. She then wanted a more fashionable Seat-disaster. For nearly 40 years I have ridden East German MZ motorcycles, I’m on my second one now. Practical, easy to maintain – just like we used to make in this country.


HOU 900_lr Vehicle reminder shot for this posting

06/03/13 – 06:57

A slightly late comment on Roger’s excellent article and the mention of the "hump" in the chassis rails – which was actually on the nearside only, over the engine and certainly no higher than the raised sections over front and rear axle. The contemporary press were most unforgiving and scathing with their comments about the uneven surface. Strangely, other manufacturers with even worse "humps" escaped such criticism. I have always thought that quite possibly the press were encouraged by the likes of AEC and Leyland who were marketing their chassis (Regal IV, Royal Tiger) with the expectation that the provided outriggers would be used as pick up points for the vertical body frames and floor. The truth was of course that many body builders simply ignored the top level of the chassis and used substantial cross bearers as a foundation for floor and body where required. Certainly though, this issue pointed the way to the later dead flat chassis on Reliance, Tiger Cub and Lancet UF, to name but three.

Nick Webster

06/03/13 – 16:44

Thanks for your very informative comment, Nick. I am sure that you are right in your suspicions that the ‘big two’ massaged the publicity machine of the commercial press to wound the sales of the Dominant. During WW2, notwithstanding the supreme peril of the nation, Rolls Royce, with its eye on post war dominance, tried every trick to get the Napier Sabre aero engine cancelled, and much of the unbalanced criticism of that engine that still holds sway today derives from that campaign. Dennis engineering was of a high order, but the trouble with the Dominant (and the later Lancet UF) was the dependence upon the old ‘O’ type gearbox once the Hobbs transmission had proved to be unreliable. That gearbox, with its sliding mesh engagement for indirect gears, and the preselective overdrive that required familiarity for successful operation, together with the wrong way round ‘right to left’ gate, required some skill in use when located halfway along the length of an underfloor engined chassis. If Dennis had equipped the Lancet UF from the outset with a straightforward constant mesh five speed gearbox as it did with the Loline, then the sales might well have been more of a challenge to AEC and Leyland.

Roger Cox

06/03/13 – 18:13

Roger, without wanting to drift too far off topic, there may well be truth in what you say about Rolls Royce but there is no doubt that the 24 cylinder H block Sabre suffered from complexity and poor quality control from the start which, had it emerged through a time of peace would have been solved.
In time of war where reliability was all,it was too unreliable compared to the less powerful Merlin and probably too complex for the Erks to deal with as the war moved swiftly forward through Europe with minimal facilities at the forward bases where the Typhoons and Tempests found themselves in the ground attack role, the Sabre, for all its power being uncompetitive in dog fights above 21,000 feet. Post war there was little for the Sabre to power as air forces turned to jet and turboprop power.

Phil Blinkhorn

08/03/13 – 07:30

Phil, the legend of the Sabre’s ‘unreliability’ dies hard. The most convincing and clearly documented assessment of this engine may be found in the book "The Power to Fly" by the extraordinary author LJK Setright. This site, as you rightly point out, is not the forum for aero engine debates, but the facts about this remarkable engine show the traditional, Derby briefed view to be highly jaundiced. To quote Setright: "..when properly maintained instead of being criminally bodged (a reference to the widespread practice of tampering with the automatic boost control by mechanics at several airfields to achieve even higher outputs and thus airspeeds) it was exemplary in its reliability". Production of Typhoons totalled 3300, and that of Tempest V/VIs reached 942. Engine production would have well exceeded the 4242 airframe total. Those figures could not have been achieved by an untrustworthy piece of engineering. It’s high time that the Derby manipulated Sabre legend was despatched once and for all. Meanwhile, back at OBP…..

Roger Cox


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Dan Air – Ford R226 – HDA 554D

Dan Air - Ford R226 - HDA 554D
Copyright Pete Davies

Dan Air (London)
Ford R226
Plaxton C52F

Here is a view of Ford R226 HDA 554D, taken at Lasham airfield on 30th August 1975. She appears to have started life with Don Everall of Wolverhampton, and has a Plaxton coach body. In this view, she has become a staff bus for the airline Dan Air London (not to be confused with a Danish company of similar name!) The company’s main seat of operations was Gatwick, but the engineering facility was at Lasham. I have a Bedford SB/Duple combination with this operator, to be submitted in the future.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Pete Davies

18/01/13 – 08:18

Ford were a late entrant (1958) and an early leaver (1985) in the PSV market. Heavyweight proponents tend to hate them but they had a very loyal following among independents; indeed there was a stage when they beat Bedford in sales. Early Thames were underpowered, but no more so than the Bedfords which they matched model for model in engine size and power output. The worst was the Thames 36 whose original 330 against the Leyland 0.400 in the Bedford VAL14 was a joke. Ford hit back with R192/R226 with a turbo-charged 360. It was fast, if lacking torque, but it had a migraine inducing scream! It morphed into the R1014/R1114 and finally the R1015/R1115 – by then a half-decent lightweight but no competition for contemporary Leylands, Volvos and DAFs. Despite my opening remarks, it is interesting to note how mainstream, if not prestigious, operators chose Fords (at times) as their minority lightweight vehicles – Sheffield United Tours, Wallace Arnold, Yelloway and Hebble (or was it Woollen) spring to mind.

David Oldfield

PS: Don Everall was a major operator of Fords in the midlands. He would be, though. He was the area Ford PSV dealer!

18/01/13 – 08:18

The Plaxton Panorama, even in its early version, which, to me, always appeared to be two halves glued together in the middle, was an attractive vehicle. this illusion is not helped by the white waistband stopping at the vital spot! The low window bottoms and large windows gave a wonderful view for passengers. Midland Red had some later versions which looked superb in their red/black livery. Definitely a high point in coach design.

Chris Hebbron

18/01/13 – 11:06

Chris, that "white" waistband is the ubiquitous ribbed metal waistband for which this version was famous or infamous – depending on your point of view.

David Oldfield

18/01/13 – 12:22

As an aside, Don Everall also had an aviation arm operating out of both Wolverhampton and Birmingham Airports between 1946 and 1970. Operations included flight training, cargo flights, inclusive tour flights and scheduled services.
The coach was present during my many visits to Lasham in the mid 1970s to photograph Dan Air’s Comet fleet, the green being the Engineering Division’s house colours in contrast to the red and white of the airline.

Phil Blinkhorn

18/01/13 – 12:23

Given that – for many years – I had been under the impression this was a VAM, it’s possible that the view of the "SB" mentioned in my caption might be of a different breed altogether. I can’t find the vehicle concerned in ‘Bus Lists On The Web’.

Pete Davies

18/01/13 – 16:59

I only had the dubious pleasure of driving the R 1114 including the later model which was possibly the R1115 with the inclined engine which gave a for much easier access to the driver’s seat and better passenger access but had little effect on the noise level.
David Oldfield’s comment about a lack of torque certainly rings true but reasonably rapid progress could be made by keeping the turbo whistling, if your hearing could stand the strain, changing up late and down early was anathema to someone accustomed to the low revving engines of heavyweight chassis.
The gear change itself after very little use became very sloppy and gears could be difficult to select especially to any unsuspecting newcomer to the type, I once heard it described as stirring a bucket of treacle with a knitting needle, on early models the gear stick had a charming tendency to snap off just below floor level nearly always in a most inconvenient situation in traffic. The brakes were quite good except sometimes having to snatch when cold.

Diesel Dave

18/01/13 – 17:43

Spoken with passion by someone who knows, Dave. Southdown? You also had to lean out of the passenger door to engage 1st and 2nd with the 6 speed box.

David Oldfield

19/01/13 – 06:18

I can remember two specific points in Ford’s history when their coaches were flavour-of-the-month in certain quarters. The first was right at the beginning, when small independents (whose owners were also drivers) were forced by economics to abandon the quiet good manners of the petrol-engined Bedford, and found the harshness of Bedford diesels too much of a culture shock. Ford’s six-cylinder diesels were preferred because they were sweeter on the ear. The second was when the later turbocharged engines made Fords the fastest coaches on the motorway. Bedfords couldn’t cope with motorways at all, and even the Leyland Leopard was still struggling with stupid gearing that couldn’t handle gradients at speed.

Peter Williamson

19/01/13 – 06:51

Again, Peter, obviously the voice of experience.

David Oldfield

19/01/13 – 11:38

Diesel Dave has summed up my impressions of the Ford perfectly.
In 1974 West Yorkshire PTE had taken over the coaching remains of Hanson’s of Huddersfield which it continued to run as a separate coaching unit – Metro Hanson. At Halifax, due to Geoffrey Hilditch’s legacy, we had quite a prolific coaching outfit of our own and vehicles to’d and fro’d between them both on loan on an almost daily basis.
My first experience of a Ford was when I was asked to come off my scheduled late turn to work the late night return half of a private hire, returning workers from a company called Crosrol from their annual Christmas ‘do’ at the Norfolk Gardens Hotel in Bradford to what turned out to be every remote outpost of the West Riding. Until then my driving experience had been largely on PD2/PD3’s, Mk. V’s and Fleetlines with occasionally the odd Leopard and Reliance. My coach for the evening was a Hanson Ford R1114 (no. 74), and I was given a very brief practice spin in it by Inspector Gordon Smith (who I don’t think had ever driven one either) before being sent off on my way.
It was simply awful – like driving a massively extended and overbodied Ford Cortina. Everything felt puny and delicate. The gears were hard to find, and never seemed to be in the same place twice. The lever felt like it would break off if any force was applied. It had to be revved flat out all the time to get anywhere, and on our local hills – and I think I must have been required to climb every one off them that night – I found myself down into bottom gear most of the time, despite I think having six to choose from. The whole thing was a complete nightmare, driving around remote country lanes on the moors above Huddersfield – an area that I had no knowledge of at the time, and being given directions by people who were all inebriated or who kept disappearing to the back or falling asleep at crucial moments, and all this in dense fog and lightly flurrying snow! I arrived back at two o’clock in the morning and was never so glad to finish a duty as I was that night.
On another occasion, upon reporting for an early turn on the very busy and quite mountainous Halifax-Sowerby local stage route, and having missed the first two trips due to a chronic Monday morning vehicle shortage, my conductor and I were allocated another Hanson Ford which was deemed to be available until dinnertime. This one was slightly older (no. 67) and had even less power and fewer gears. The Sowerby route is about 3 to 4 miles comprised entirely of steep hills with stops every few yards, and heavy loadings, and the experience was like one’s worst bus driving nightmare. Horrible things!

John Stringer

19/01/13 – 13:01

Thx Dave/John Stringer for such graphic driving descriptions on experiences which have clearly scarred you for life!

Chris Hebbron

19/01/13 – 14:38

Had a bad morning. 3yr old Skoda Octavia bonnet unable to unlock and a mechanic and I have spent hours getting it open. Needs new lock, cable and handle, yet this is a common problem on VW group cars and there is no easy fix. Going to be expensive even given the reduction in labour for my contribution.
Given all of that, John’s graphic description has restored my sense of humour and made me chuckle. It would make a good short comedy drama for TV if wrapped around a back story of the works "do".

Phil Blinkhorn

19/01/13 – 14:43

There are comments above regarding lack of power and sloppy gearing on Ford coaches "of a certain age". Here’s a question for you.
In my student days in Birmingham in the mid 1960’s, we would normally use Flight’s Coaches for assorted team and club outings. Principal, in his wisdom, always went to Bowen’s, however.
I have distinct memories of one coach we used on a trip to Alsager College. It wasn’t of the Bedford SB layout, as the door was forward of the front axle. It had a vertical front engine, and the driver had to reach behind him for the gearstick. I didn’t manage to get a photo of it, though it would have been in black and white, and they’ve all gone!
Any thoughts, please, on whether it would have been a Ford or a Bedford, and what model?

Pete Davies

19/01/13 – 16:47

Listening to this lightweight and heavyweight discussion and John Stringer driving up to Sowerby (were they repairing the gas main- they usually were?) and considering the level of expertise we have on this site, can I ask what the financial considerations were? We read here of small stage-carriage operators buying- new- a couple of PD’s or a CVD6… or a Regal…what were the financial parameters of bus purchase? Presumably the big operators had their own big deals or tenders, but if I were running a fleet of 6, and decided to buy new, how would I balance quality and cost, and who- chassis and body- with? Presumably you reckoned to get what you paid for, but what would be your best deal? On this site, sounds as if Leyland was playing safe, with AEC not far behind and Daimler for the more prestige minded?


19/01/13 – 16:48

In answer to your question David yes my Ford driving experience was indeed with Southdown, as you so rightly say 1st and 2nd gears were a long way from the drivers seat the gear lever could be adjusted to a more upright position to make it easier to reach but this brought the hazard of when selecting 1/3/5th gears of trapping your knuckles against the dashboard at least on the Duple Dominant.
This did as Chris says scar you for life and certainly put me off lightweight chassis.

Diesel Dave

20/01/13 – 04:59

No Joe. AEC, Bristol, Leyland in that order – Daimler not a real contender for coaching. Bedford, Ford and Commer were bought on cost grounds by independents who wanted something new to attract punters which could be exchanged after three years. Heavyweights only make sense either for big groups or for independents with high mileage or quality needs – 24/7 express operation (literally in some cases) or touring (especially abroad)

David Oldfield

20/01/13 – 05:01

Pete, with regard to your Bedford-or-Ford question, the description fits both. The Bedford VAL and Thames 36, both 52 seaters, were introduced in 1963. (However it’s unlikely to have been a VAL or you would have noticed the extra wheels!) In 1966 the shorter (usually 45 seat) Bedford VAM and Ford R192 were introduced, and the Thames 36 was renamed Ford R226.
I suggest you have a look at www.sct61.org.uk. Click on Photo Index, and under Chassis builders you’ll find a Bedford index and a Ford index. Each index is displayed in order of date new, so you can easily find the mid-sixties coaches, and you may see something that rings a bell. However, the VAM and R192 used the same bodies, so this is unlikely to help you to identify the chassis make.

Peter Williamson

20/01/13 – 09:27

Thank you, Peter. Most certainly not a VAL!

Pete Davies

20/01/13 – 10:35

I have read all these very accurate views and experiences with interest and with a slight shudder as I had hoped to wipe from my memory experiences with the beastly Thames/Fords in the 1960s. Wallace Arnold dabbled with them for a few seasons – new ones mainly on hire from the dealer Stanley Hughes. Then came worst disaster – WA took over Evan Evans of London and dozens (or so it seemed) two or three year old Strachans bodied affairs in appealing all over black arrived in Leeds. For a bit of cheery relief they had black leather seats (almost bus like) and dismal purple fluorescent lights. Reasonably powerful they were, but hideously badly behaved with snatching brakes and those famous gear levers wagging about all over – it was preferable to press gang a passenger, if possible, to locate the device while you concentrated on the traffic (Yes, I am being sarcastic but only just) Then there was the handbrake ratchet lever – a sort of sharp tin can opener affair which would dig into the soft flesh of your palm when squeezed if you weren’t careful.
Just to balance the discussion though, I did later go on a week’s holiday, as a passenger, from Leeds to the Isle of Wight in one of the latest large Ford coaches of Heap’s Tours (Trimdon Motor Services) and I have to say that it was perfectly civilised and comfortable to ride in.
The memory though of the ex Evan Evans "prison vans" will never ever fade!!

Chris Youhill

20/01/13 – 12:24

Would this be one of the Heap’s Ford types you enjoyed taking a tour in, Chris Y? SEE HERE: www.flickr.com/photos/

Chris Hebbron

21/01/13 – 05:50

John, I drove the Sowerby route quite often in my Traffic Clerk days at HPTD, but always in a sturdy, sure footed PD2. The prospect of attempting this in a flimsy Ford appals me. It’s like trying to fly the Atlantic in a Microlight.

Roger Cox

21/01/13 – 14:20

Yes indeed Chris, that is exactly like the coach in which I had a perfectly acceptable week’s holiday to the Isle of Wight – but naturally as I wasn’t driving it I couldn’t comment on that aspect. However, perhaps Ford had "got it right" by that late stage in production.

Chris Youhill

21/01/13 – 16:00

Better, Chris, not right…..

David Oldfield

22/01/13 – 06:45

Indeed David – a concise and accurate description of the situation – thank you.

Chris Youhill

22/01/13 – 11:09

I am again fascinated to read of the dreadful quality and driving comfort that Ford and others had in their 1970/80’s vehicles. Just what were the engineers thinking of? If I had been in some way involved in designing a chassis then surely there were minimum requirements as regards brakes, steering, handling and not least how difficult it would be to drive. If I had come up with a design and it was built as a prototype then just getting in it and driving the thing would tell me and others whether I had come up with a gem or maybe should get a job mixing cement instead.
As for the tales of those awful Fords then had I been an operator I should have been beating a path to the manufacturer and demanding that the Boss drove the thing 25 miles up and down hills, traffic, motorways etc. then explain to me why he thought his miserable rubbish was acceptable!
Sadly it mirrors a lot of the industry problems that destroyed so much of the vehicle manufacturing base in the UK at that time. Think BLMC and Talbot for cars…I toured the factories in period and the quality was just laughable with some terrible management and Union problems. No wonder it all collapsed.
Now in comparison to your many frightening experiences, I had a coach touring holiday through Italy, Austria and Switzerland in September 1986 and it was a Swiss registered Mercedes 0303 with standard bodywork. I clearly recall the smooth, quiet and most impressive sounding engine just purring away with seemingly endless supplies of torque as it waffled its way up over Passes and bowled quietly along the autobahns. It rode superbly and I clearly recall telling everybody when I got back that it was like gliding along on a magic carpet flying gently over the countryside. It had powerful air conditioning and when we stopped, getting out was like entering an oven as the heat hit us.
So if Mercedes could do all that in 1986, what in the world was happening to PSV/PCV back then and having ridden on several current VOLVO/Wright’s, what is happening now? We have improved on those Fords but are still way short of that 27 year old 0303!

Richard Leaman

22/01/13 – 12:31

You are so right, Richard. I recall my boss having a Talbot Tagora in the early 1980’s, as bland as the current Renault Laguna and poorly designed. He always had problems with the heating/ventilation system. I still see the occasional UK Merc O300 now, even after all these years.

Chris Hebbron

22/01/13 – 12:32

Well we did have AEC and Bristol – and even Leyland – and, as we have done so often, squandered our heritage.
Today’s Setras and VanHool integrals are unassailable – although please note that the most popular VanHools are DAF powered (this engine traces its ancestry back to the Leyland 0.600 (built under licence). Also, Leyland Motors still exists and produces RHD DAF models and the delivery model – although no longer PSVs – in the traditional Leyland Motors factory. These same engines go in the VanHools and VDL models.
ZF Reliances, particularly the later 691/760 versions with dry-liner engines, and RELHs kept the flag flying admirably. Leyland were let down by poor motorway performance – too big a gap between 3rd & 4th gears. All three were let down by appalling management and lack of investment from BRITISH LEYLAND who, at a stroke made the well loved and respected Leyland name into a joke, a sign of dire quality and even a swear word.
As for Ford and Bedford; buses were always a side-line to the "trucks", were based on the trucks and made few concessions to purely passenger led requirements. This commonality made them cheap (economies of scale – also see BLMC and the bottom line with cars, bottom being an operative word) which made them attractive to independents who could afford no better.
At the risk of being political, the other factor was the good baroness Thatcher. She was the first, but no means only, politician to export our industry and expertise on purely economic grounds – if someone can produce it cheaper, even if we have designed a winner, let them! This continues, even today. British made Hondas, Toyotas and Nissans are highly regarded for their quality of build. So were Coventry built Peugeots, but received wisdom is that the quality went through the floor as soon as production was moved to a cheaper eastern European facility. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

David Oldfield

22/01/13 – 14:09

Too much emphasis on paper qualifications. One of the best fitters I ever knew could barely read or write ‘to be fair he was probably dyslexic but that was unheard of in those days’ but the point is that these days he would in all likelihood be given a job sweeping the floor, providing of course no machinery was involved. I seem to recall a story that one of the finest engines ever produced ‘the Jaguar XK’ was designed on the back of a cigarette packet during the war whilst Bill Lyons was fire watching, but unlike many of todays university graduates he was a very hands on designer who could actually do the job, what’s more he was prepared to seek the advice of, and listen to others who could. As I’ve said before, aerodynamically a Bumble Bee cant fly, but no one ever thought to tell the bee.

Ronnie Hoye

22/01/13 – 15:11

Couldn’t agree more Ronnie. I was told that the Neoplan Skyliner used fag-packet technology as well…..

David Oldfield

22/01/13 – 15:28

Well said, Mr Oldfield, about British winners and foreign copies being cheaper. It reminds me of a "Two Ronnies" item where a survey had shown Britain made the best lovers, but the Japanese made them smaller and cheaper. Yes, well!!!


22/01/13 – 17:07

When I was at school doing O levels in the early 1960s we were jokingly told that in the future even dustmen would need degrees.
There’s far too much emphasis on paper qualifications and book learning. No-one wants to get their hands dirty and Britain has for the most part become a nation of shopping malls, call centres, financial institutions and museums, mainly due to Thatcher’s dual track hatred of unions and manufacturing industry.
Yet there are still centres of excellence both in research and manufacturing, though sadly most export their products, be they ideas, inventions or components to other countries to capitalise on or have to export their profits to foreign owners.

Phil Blinkhorn

23/01/13 – 06:56

Chris H…One of the more memorable factory tours was the Talbot plant at Ryton and that was truly an eye opener. Anybody seeing just how thoroughly badly the Horizon and Alpine models were made could never have bought one. The body assembly plant was next to a large "car park" where all the reject bodies were pushed in order to have good bits hacked off of them..literally..with hammers, chisels etc.
Ten paintwork…a flash over of primer and another of colour…that’s it..nothing else. As for under sealant, they had a young apprentice with a spray gun who just made a black arc of seal under each wing but didn’t bend down to do it. Then the chrome door trims..bashed on using a lump of 3×2 wrapped in an offcut of tyre tread fixed on with gaffer tape. A family friend had an Alpine (WWS 801T) which lasted nearly three years then an MOT killed it!
So it seems that if I were going to buy a bus or coach today, I think Mercedes would be my first choice and I hope their standards are as they were 27 years ago…because their cars wobbled badly in the build quality stakes between 1997 to 2009.

Richard Leaman

23/01/13 – 07:15

I have a degree from a Conservatoire (Music College) which is practically based – I chose that route deliberately. Polytechnics and Technical Schools performed the same function for science and technology. President Blair set the ball rolling for Degrees for All. Poppycock. The Germans, who won the peace, kept and enhanced their technical education – we just export ours. As a retired teacher I can assure you that a Masters’ Degree (which is the direction things are going) is not required to be a good teacher; neither is it required to be a good nurse. There is a "salt of the earth" coach driver I had the privilege to work with who is a qualified coach-builder and just very good with anything practical. I envy him these skills which would never qualify for a degree!

David Oldfield

23/01/13 – 13:12

I didn’t mention, Richard, the Talbot Horizones the sales reps got and which were replaced after six months, due to total inadequacy in all aspects. As for degrees, they didn’t want to take them, but we wanted them to have further education. Two apprenticeships and one to college gave them a good start and well-paid jobs at 30. Me? After two ‘O’ Levels (could try harder!) it was National Service, then I took a Limited Competition Exam for the Civil Service and was sent to GPO Telephones, later BT, with a successful career. The problem is that exams are less challenging today and some degrees are of limited benefit. None of my family ever felt they were disadvantaged by not going to Uni, but social and career mobility nowadays is far more limiting without a degree than was the earlier case. However, lack or skilled artisans and Uni costs mean the wheel is turning again.

Chris Hebbron

23/01/13 – 15:40

I’m afraid some degrees are not worth the paper they’re written on – and there is no substitute for practical experience and hours in the job.

David Oldfield

24/01/13 – 07:08

I left school in 1960 with three A levels, which, at that time, gave one access to very many employment opportunities that nowadays require a degree. Later, by then a middle manager in NBC, I did an extra mural in Transport Studies at London University (four years and a thesis) and then applied successfully to go on to do a Masters at Southampton. There then arose a vacancy within our NBC company for which I was successful, but the nature of the post precluded the not insignificant periods of educational leave that would have been essential to my proposed MSc. I chose the job, and in the light of the devastation wrought by Thatcher and Ridley some years later, I have never regretted that decision. My subsequent promotions before the NBC sell off all went towards my final salary pension. The letters ‘MSc’ might have inflated the ego a bit, but they wouldn’t have paid the bills in retirement. We all know people with practical or self educated knowledge who can compare favourably with those of ‘higher education’. Very often, these qualifications are just used by employer interview panels as a lazy way of cutting down the number of applicants to a short list, and many capable people never get the chance to show their worth.

Roger Cox

24/01/13 – 11:02

Not only that Roger but they also rely on psychometric testing which may have merits when interpreted by an expert psychologist in parallel with a face to face interview. However laziness and expense kick in, no expert interprets and reference is made to the handbook that is sold with the package to interpret written results and that often overrides whatever attributes are found (or not) at interview.
This works both ways with good candidates being discarded and poor candidates being accepted on the basis of the tests.
Having been on both sides of the table at interviews over 40 odd years, my view is that employer interview skills have declined significantly and this shows in the quality of, particularly, junior management and so called customer relations.

Phil Blinkhorn

24/01/13 – 14:09

Richard comments above about the situation at Ryton. It can’t have been much different at Longbridge. One of my colleagues, an Ulsterman, had an aunt who bought a Mini (BLMC era, rather than BMW). She found the driver’s side door leaked. Took it back to the dealer. Dealer replaced door. No better. Dealer called out someone from Longbridge who had a close look at it, and declared there was noting wrong with the new door. Probably nothing wrong with the old door either. The rest of it was out of line!

Pete Davies

26/01/13 – 06:35

Roger, I got my three A levels in 1963, and there were various ‘A-level entry’ jobs which I quite fancied. But the culture was that anyone with the ability to get to university must do so, and so I was persuaded, against my own judgement, to stay on at school for another year to improve my grades. I got a place at university, but was only there for a year – not interested in what I was doing, so didn’t do it. This was in the days of student grants, so it was the taxpayer’s money I had wasted.
Later in life, I worked for a guy who was very prejudiced against anyone without a degree. He asked me which university I went to, so I told him, and we got on very well. I dread to think what would have happened if I’d told him the full story!

Peter Williamson

26/01/13 – 08:23

Ah, that good old standby of being economical with the truth, eh, Peter?

Chris Hebbron

26/01/13 – 11:50

I left school with nine GCE "O" levels and was urged by the family to aim for the highest in life. However, all I ever wanted to do, from infancy, was to be involved in every aspect of the practical side of the bus industry – this wasn’t just a whim, but a desire that I couldn’t quell, and didn’t wish to quell. So it was that I secretly left my promising (I suppose) clerical job in fire insurance and became a conductor with my favourite Company, Samuel Ledgard. Its necessary here to clarify something that I suppose older people may have forgotten, and younger folk can’t imagine. Until the 1950s bus work was a respectable job but there were few if any people employed who were perhaps capable of what the majority would consider to be "better things." So it was that in the refined little town of Ilkley my startling move caused quite a sensation and much actual hostility. Kinder friends gave genuinely meant advice and the father of one of my best friends begged "When are you going to get a proper job ??" Others, however, openly sneered and scoffed but I rode the storm with a clear conscience. Some people, quite likely secretly bored to tears with their "proper" careers, probably quietly envied my contentment and I’m sure that more than a few did.
Well, times and the Industry have changed out of all recognition nowadays, and the range of qualific ations and possible capabilities of the road staff has become enormous and varied. Having said that you may ask me "Would you pursue the same path if you were aged twenty today ??" My answer would be the most emphatic "NO WAY !!" The prospect of turning up for work wondering which of a hundred or so characterless Wright bodied fully automatic Volvos I might have the pleasure of "steering" would have no appeal at all, nor would the ordeal of issuing, as the stationary minutes ticked by, complex flimsy paper discount travel tickets from a computer masquerading as a ticket machine. Single doorway buses with any hope of passenger flow impeded by emigrarion sized luggage laden buggies would drive me to despair too, as would those passengers ("customers" in modern marketing spin) who insist on standing near the door, blocking all movement, even though there are empty seats everywhere.
I was so fortunate to enjoy my forty four years working on such a variety of fascinating and interesting vehicles, with logical fare structures and so forth. I don’t envy the present day drivers one little bit, but I have absolutely no regrets about the way I earned my living during all those halcyon years. Perhaps Mr. Sinatra’s famous song sums up my outlook on the matter – "I did it my way."

Chris Youhill

26/01/13 – 13:58

And with your way with words, Chris Y, two of your ‘O’ Levels must have been English Language and English Lit.!
It’s nice to find someone who ploughed his own furrow and never regretted doing so. You were, perhaps, not only lucky with timing, but also with your geographical location, so much more interesting and challenging than a predominately semi-level urban area like London.

Chris Hebbron

26/01/13 – 14:58

Yes, well said Chris ! I am pleased that you followed your dream and managed to derive such obvious happiness and fulfilment from your long and eventful bus driving career. Do keep sharing your fascinating memories with us all.
I am probably half a generation behind you – a mere whippersnapper of 61 – but I too, though now semi-retired and working only part-time, will have clocked up 40 years in the industry in a couple of weeks’ time. Would I recommend it to anyone now contemplating a career move ? Like you, DEFINITELY NOT ! Would I do the same again if the clocks could be turned back and knowing what I know now ? Do you know, despite being a lifelong and devoted bus enthusiast, I don’t think I would to be honest. Fortunately that’s not going to happen, so I won’t have to decide !

John Stringer

26/01/13 – 15:45

In my years of working on buses in the Newcastle area I found I was working alongside tradesmen who had all the skills required to build a house, ship or tank from scratch, everyone you would need to start a very good garage, repair your watch, TV, washing machine Etc Etc. The North East was full of highly skilled workmen who worked in industries such as ship or house building where nothing was ever long term as regards employment, as a result many skilled workers frequently found themselves between jobs and turned to bus work as a stop gap. However, quite a few of them discovered that they liked the job and stayed on. When I first started at Percy Main in 1967 it was still a good job, we had a well maintained and interesting fleet, and you still had a certain amount of respect from the travelling public, but to my mind that all changed when OPO came in, mainly because one person sitting at the front of a bus is out of touch with what’s going on behind him, but its a completely different story with a coach. Speaking for myself, if I were starting all over again, bus work would not be my first choice of career.

Ronnie Hoye

26/01/13 – 18:05

Chris. You’ve got me wishing I did the same!
I would have been VERY content, driving a Bradford "Regen" up and down the Allerton (31), Thornton (7) and Duckworth Lane (8) routes for the whole of my working career!
What a privilege that would have been…..
A perfect Utopia akin to your life with the "HGF"s etc!

John Whitaker

27/01/13 – 07:35

I don’t know whether I dare join in at this point. I only ever wanted to be a musician or a teacher from the age of 8. I became both and don’t regret either. I was, however, ALWAYS interested in buses, coaches and the industry – so I don’t regret the money I spent putting myself through training and subsequently Driver CPC. It has repaid me with the pleasure of driving – and as an advanced motorist driving is always a pleasure that I have taken a pride in – proper buses and coaches. Some modern coaches are magnificent, but nothing beats a manual shift. Epicyclic is acceptable and half-cab is preferable. Big and torquey is always best. Oh well, I am a boring old f**t and now getting free prescriptions!

David Oldfield

27/01/13 – 11:41

Thanks everyone for such enlightening views on career choices – and if those choices couldn’t be realised some regrets – while there are just a few people in life who seem, incredibly, to have the ability to fit forty eight hours assorted activities into every twenty four hour day most of us have to choose one main path or another, for better or for worse !!
Chris H – yes, those two subjects were indeed among my GCE passes, made easy by my love of both. Also, as you rightly say, this particular area was a gem in those days, with fascinating transport conurbations on all sides, with rural beauty and two lovely coasts easily accessible.
John S – I know how you feel about turning back the clock but there, with respect, we differ a little and I would do exactly the same again, perhaps with a little "fine tuning."
John W – I share your dream of spending my working days on AEC Regents and did so on many varieties of them, but to roar up and down the Bradford urban mountains in the much maligned rasping powerful Mark Vs would have been a dream indeed. Much of the criticism of those fine vehicles certainly arose from disinterested driving and they were nowhere near as bad as the wild exaggerations would have us believe. Also the superb Bradford livery made them surely among the most attractive "Orion" style buses to be seen anywhere
David – what a coincidence indeed as, if I’d had the opportunity, music might well have been my second choice, classical organ in particular. To this day the gorgeous sound of a cathedral organ, with or without substantial choral contribution, can reduce me to tears and I’m not afraid to say so.

Chris Youhill

28/01/13 – 07:16

Ah but is it really a coincidence, Chris? Isn’t there a connection between a cathedral organ at the end of Boellman’s Gothic Suite and a Bradford Regent V climbing out of Bingley? As a kid I wanted to be a bus driver, but unlike you I didn’t have the courage of my convictions and toed the line. I ended up designing computer software, but I also became a church organist. And recently I’ve been musing on the possibility of using music software to simulate a Guy Arab!

Peter Williamson

28/01/13 – 08:37

So we could discuss my new digital organ, Peter? I think I would prefer a piece of music based on the sounds of a Guy Arab to the latest piece based on bird droppings falling on oversized manuscript paper placed on the ground in Liverpool (I think). Likewise the Regent III and Regent V with hardened gearwheels or the whine of the back-end of an RE at speed.

David Oldfield

29/01/13 – 06:25

Chris Y comments on the number of people who insist on standing by the door when there are empty seats. In my student days in Birmingham, deliveries of Fleetlines were in full swing. Older buses allowed standing downstairs, but it wasn’t allowed on the Fleetlines. Keeping with Birmingham, how did they (and, I think, Glasgow) get away with having the legal lettering abbreviated to just the name of the operator and the name of the Manager, when almost everyone else had to include the address?

Pete Davies

31/10/13 – 07:20

For the record, the body is a Panorama1. The Panorama2 didn’t have the ribbed metal trim and usually but not always had sliding windows instead of forced air vents. In my time in the industry, I have driven Ford R series coaches, and preferred them to Bedfords. The gears were ‘there somewhere’ and the driver usually knew when something was wrong, because he was sat next to the engine. I recall an ex Salopia of Whitchurch Ford MAW 345P, and I drove it from Northampton to London. Two weeks later, I was summoned into the Bosses office. He had my tacho disc for that day in his hand. He demanded to know how I’d managed 120km/h in a fully laden Ford. When set up properly, they were quite nippy, but no match for the Volvos that everyone started buying. Those were the days!


17/05/15 – 06:21

Have just discovered your Web pages whilst researching some facts for my own auto biography being written for the Wythall Museum Newsletter.
I find the preceding debate so interesting and concurrent with my own experiences which cover a forty nine year career from 1965 Conducting to General Managership except with the derogatory remarks about Fords which I found to be perfectly willing steeds on tours throughout Great Britain and Europe when driven sympathetically and not flogged by drivers prejudiced by upbringings on heavyweight chassis. The other point that I do agree with is the downturn in the economics of the industry which prompted the introduction of OPO but also management by university qualified accountants who are ignorant of which end of a bus the driver sits at (and I have had to work with several of them) and who prompted the change from PSV to PCV dropping the word SERVICE from the title.

Tony Morgan

31/10/15 – 06:51

I’ve just stumbled into the middle of this discussion, and it seems that I must have driven different Ford R1114s and Leopards than most other contributors.
I learnt to drive on a R1114 with Salopia of Whitchurch and spent a few years driving UUX 363S around North Shropshire during the week and up and down the country on feeders at weekend.
At Shearings we had nothing but R1114s and later, after the merger with Smiths Happiways, went onto all kinds of vehicles before settling on Volvos with Van Hool bodies.
Out of season, I drove for G&B Coaches in Crewe doing schools and college work, again on (much older) R1114s As for my personal choice of vehicle, if I were going anywhere long-distance up the motorway or into Europe on tour with a load of passengers, I would take the oldest Volvo in the yard before I would take anything else.
That is, except for one run that I regularly did. In the summer Shearings did a run on Sunday evening from Wigan to Glasgow, Falkirk and Edinburgh and then back empty, non-stop. And for that trip, I’d scour the yard to see if there was a Leyland Tiger stuck up a corner anywhere. Raw and untamed they were, but they had that much power that they would rev out on the speed limiter in 5th gear, never mind 6th, and would go for ever. Sailing up Shap at 04:00 in the morning in 6th gear making a Tiger roar is something I won’t ever forget.
But for local work, private hires, schools contracts, urban work, there was nothing better than an R1114 and I never ever experienced a minute’s difficulty with any one of them. As for stirring the gear lever around, I agree that it might have been unnerving for a beginner but anyone who had driven one regularly would have a good idea where the gears might be, and slide it easily, diagonally if necessary.
DAFs had a dreadful gearbox where you needed to pump the clutch, or even double-declutch to get it to go in smoothly without grinding, and I always forgot, especially when I had the company’s chairman on board once.
But as for the worst coach ever, someone mentioned the Mercedes 0303. When I was in Bulgaria I once drove a clone of this coach made by Iran National and that was pretty miserable, but it was miles better and streets ahead of the Mercedes 0303 clone that was made in Yugoslavia in the early 90s. Shearings had 4 (or was it 6?) on trial and I had one of them for 4 weeks. And to give you some idea of what I thought about it, when I returned home, I went round to G&B Coaches, took the oldest Ford R1114 out of the yard, and went for a drive around for an hour in order to relax. Those Yugoslavian 0303 clones were the worst coaches ever to hit the British highways, I’ll promise you that.

Eric Hall

31/10/15 – 08:22

Welcome aboard, Eric! Yugo 0303 was the Sanso, was it not?

Pete Davies

02/11/15 – 06:46

I seem to recall that the Yugoslavian Merc O303 was sold by Ensign as the "Charisma".
There was another vehicle from that part of the world that was offered on the British market around the same time, the TAZ Dubrava. I’m not sure if that was a clone or an original, but I do recall seeing one at the coach rally in Southampton at that time, and talking to one of the local operators who seemed to be quite enthusiastic about the idea of purchasing one. I don’t think he did, possibly a good decision. They all seemed to fade (rust?) from the scene quite quickly.

Nigel Frampton

HDA 554D_lr Vehicle reminder shot for this posting

04/11/15 – 06:41

Nitpick alert! I’ve just noticed that two years ago Stemax1960 said "For the record, this is a Panorama1." Actually I don’t think it is. When first introduced, this model was simply called Panorama, and the more basic version was called Vam or Val when fitted to a Bedford chassis, and had no name at all on Fords. The two models were renamed Panorama1 and Panorama2 for the 1966 Commercial Motor Show, at which point the latter became available on heavyweight chassis for the first time. The badge on this one seems to say just Panorama, so it must be earlier.

Peter Williamson


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