Old Bus Photos

B.O.A.C. – Leyland Atlantean – LYF 304D

B.O.A.C. - Leyland Atlantean - LYF 304D

British Overseas Airways Corporation
Leyland Atlantean PDR1/1
MCW CH38/16F

In 1940, with Britain at war and civilian air traffic barely existent, Croydon based Imperial Airways formally subsumed the privately owned (though nationally subsidised) British Airways at Heston and became BOAC, though this had been the de facto situation since September 1939. At the end of the war, with Heathrow becoming the major UK airport, the European air passenger traffic business was separated from BOAC in 1946 and named BEA. (British South American Airways, a short lived separate company formed at the same time for the South American air services, was reabsorbed into BOAC in 1949 after the disappearance of two Avro Tudor aircraft over the Atlantic.) To fulfil the road transport requirements between London and the developing Heathrow Airport, the Ministry of Supply allocated BEA and BOAC a number of Commer Q4 Commando 1½ deck observation coaches with Park Royal 20 seat bodywork that had 180 cubic ft of luggage space under the raised rear section. BOAC, operating from the former Imperial Airways building at Victoria, stayed with Commer for its replacement passenger road fleet and took Harrington bodied examples of the early petrol engined Avenger model between 1949 and 1952, though a solitary Harrington C37C bodied Leyland Royal Tiger PSU1/13 came in 1950. The TS3 two stroke powered Harrington Contender then became the favoured choice, and BOAC became the Contender’s best customer taking a total of 28, of which 19 were employed in overseas locations. (Strangely, the Harrington Contender does not appear at all on BLOTW.) The last BOAC Contenders (the figure varies between one and three) reputedly had the Rolls Royce petrol engine (again, sources vary as to whether this was the straight eight B80 or the six cylinder B60) married to a torque converter, a power train concept surely inspired by a variant of the Dennis fire engine. One wonders, however, how this layout could have been accommodated like the flat TS3 engine under the floor of the Contender.

As air travel became more popular, both BEA and BOAC turned to the double decker for the airport links. BEA, whose road operations were overseen by London Transport, took the Routemaster, but BOAC preferred the Leyland Atlantean PDR1/1, purchasing fifteen in 1966, LYF 304D to LYF 318D inclusive, with “Alexander clone” MCW bodies that seated 38 passengers upstairs and 16 downstairs; the vacated space was used for luggage. Later, in 1971, these were supplemented by six PDR2/1, GML 846J to GML 851J inclusive, with Roe CH41/24F bodies. It is thought that all these Atlanteans were operated on behalf of BOAC by Halls Bros. at Hounslow. The picture shows examples of each type at the Victoria terminal building. PDR1/1 LYF 304D was delivered in October 1966, and PDR2/1 GML 847J arrived in July 1971. The BEA and BOAC London – Heathrow road services were taken over by the new British Airways from 1974 and had ceased by 1980, by which time air passengers had become accustomed to booking in directly at Heathrow, and the central London passenger facilities had become superfluous. One of the MCW bodied vehicles, LYF 307D, has been preserved.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Roger Cox

21/01/19 – 07:18

I remember riding in these Atlanteans out from Victoria to Heathrow. The BOAC departure point was the ground floor of their headquarters, which faces Victoria coach station across the road, although given the clientele of both BOAC and long distance coach at the time probably very few transferred between the two.
There have been many memories posted on the web about the buses out to Heathrow, a significant number of which seem to mix up BEA, BOAC and British Airways, the separate London departure points (BEA moved round several time over the years), and the vehicles, inevitably sometimes calling this BOAC fleet "Routemasters". After the merger of the two airlines, although the two bus fleets were painted in a common livery, separate operations were retained, from the different London points to the different Heathrow terminals the two halves of the airline continued to use.
Did Halls actually run the BOAC fleet ? A poster elsewhere on the web says they were employed by BOAC and drove them as part of their other airport driving duties. The vehicle base was in airport property on the north side of Heathrow, where the car parks are now. I saw the preserved Atlantean had been used in a nice British Airways TV ad with a historic theme a few hears ago.
Halls did own another Atlantean fleet, Roe bodied, for US airline TWA, likewise in their colours, used from their Piccadilly terminal, and also for other independent hires, they could be seen at various points around London. Pan Am also had their own road connections, with coaches, from a point in Kensington.


21/01/19 – 07:19

That was the last type of d/d bus I rode in at the start of my journey in May 1971 to Australia where I still reside.

David Revis

22/01/19 – 07:29

The operation of a bus fleet necessitates facilities for cleaning, washing, fuelling and maintenance. It is possible, perhaps, that the driving staff were BOAC employees, but did the airline really cover all the other essential requirements itself? It is surely more likely that a specialist contractor like Halls would have been used.

Roger Cox

23/01/19 – 06:36

An airline at its main base typically has a very large fleet of motor vehicles of all types, specialist and standard, and a Motor Transport maintenance department to suit. These would operate both airside and on the road. I would imagine the BOAC motor fleet of all types required at Heathrow would dwarf the Hall fleet, the numbers possibly into the hundreds, all of which would require the services described. Further buses were commonly owned for passenger transfer across the apron.
BOAC used to have some substantial articulated passenger trailers at Heathrow pulled by HGV tractor units which shuttled between the terminal and the aircraft. They lasted well into British Airways days. These were an interesting niche about which there is little information.


23/01/19 – 06:37

I don’t see why BOAC who had a large fleet of lorries and other vehicles as well as buses, would need a coach hire company to maintain their buses at Heathrow when they were perfectly capable of looking after their own buses at Prestwick.

Stephen Allcroft

25/01/19 – 06:55

These services must have had a road service licence, probably the old Express Licence, as they just charged fares, sold at a terminal counter, and anyone could go on them, not just air passengers. 7 shillings and 6 pence (7/6) seems to ring a bell. I don’t recall there being a published timetable (otherwise I would have taken one) but they were fairly turn up and go.
Both BOAC and successor British Airways also ran substantial fleets of regular coaches at Heathrow, Leopards and others, run both airside and landside, for trips such as shuttles to hotels, and I recall these coaches sometimes turned up on the BOAC Central London run as well. I presume the two fleets were kept separate so those used only within the airport could run on red diesel.


28/01/19 – 07:29

These were certainly operated by BOAC as I worked in the PSV section of the Metropolitan Traffic Area and, unusually, rather than use the post, on occasion a smartly uniformed BOAC employee would turn up with a batch of renewal forms. I seem to recall that the vehicle licences would have been stage, but I don’t doubt that the road service licences would have been express.
I wonder if airside lorries and coaches would have run on red diesel within the airport boundaries as ‘red diesel’ wasn’t available until later, and in any case, there was a lot of domestic air traffic.’Red diesel’ is for agricultural use.

David Wragg

31/01/19 – 06:03

Red diesel is for use by anything that does not run on a public road. Boats, trains, off-road industrial and construction vehicles and plant are allowed to use red diesel as well as agricultural use.

Philip Halstead

31/01/19 – 11:49

Linking in with Philip’s comments, West Yorkshire used red Diesel when running in overhauled engines on the two Heenan & Froude dynamometers in the engine test house at Central Works. A small brick building behind the test house housed a largish fuel tank marked ‘gas oil’ specifically for the red Diesel. The units would probably have been classed as stationary engines whilst on test.

Brendan Smith

04/03/19 – 06:30

Although I realise Roger’s posting is mainly regarding Leyland Atlanteans, perhaps I may be permitted a few words of clarification regarding the Harrington Contenders used by BOAC. Most of the Contenders were petrol powered using the Rootes "sloper" engine as featured in the contemporary Avenger chassis. In fact a number of the BOAC Contenders were in service two years before the TS3 diesel was announced. If the chassis codes are to be believed then only 6 of the fleet were TS3 powered and all of these were exported – as were many of the petrol versions. The petrol engines were front mounted but it seems likely that the TS3 versions were mid mounted in the same way as the coaches that were available for general purchase. The Rolls Royce Contenders were also mid-engine. Modifications were made to the intake system of the down draft carburettors to reduce height and a fabricated sump was made to allow the engine to sit lower in the frame. Two were built, both with B60 engines.

Nick Webster

05/03/19 – 06:51

Thanks for that clarification on the BOAC Contenders, Nick. Yours is the first definitive explanation concerning these remarkable vehicles that I have encountered. One can understand the preference for petrol engines in overseas locations, but why persist with them at home? Again, do we know where the Rolls Royce powered coaches were based, and why such idiosyncratic power trains were felt to be necessary? The expense of so adapting a mere two vehicles could not possibly have been cost effective.

Roger Cox

06/03/19 – 15:33

I made an embarrassing error in my previous post – there were in fact three B60 Rolls Royce Contenders for BOAC, not two as stated. They were JSD 851, KAG 783 and LCS 638, delivered in 1956, 57 and 58 respectively. All went to Prestwick airport, at that time an important hub in trans-Atlantic flight. There they stayed until individually returned to London during 1964-65. After a few months, LCS 638, the first to return was sent out for further use in Karachi. It is known that at least one Commer based coach was also in use there but whether this replaced or supplemented is not known. Never heard of again of course. The other two saw only months of service (or perhaps just stored) before they were disposed via dealer Four Point Garages, Feltham to A. C. Pond Coaches of Roydon. Both were scrapped before the end of three years. They were incidentally, together with an unknown number of the Commers, six inches narrower than the standard 8 ft. coach. I was fortunate enough to obtain drawings from Kirkstall axles, Leeds before they closed down.
In considering the logic of such vehicles, one has to remember that in the 1950s air travel was promoted in rivalry to travel by Luxury Liner and the then necessary coach transfer was no time to let the side down. Furthermore, although diesels reigned supreme in the service bus, many coach operators for private hire insisted on smooth petrol vehicles even after rationing, rising prices and supply problems resulting from the 1956 Suez crisis. For Harrington, even selling as they did to the "top" end of the market, the reason for using a Rolls Royce engine is slightly more prosaic: there was probably a sale on. In the mid 50s Rolls Royce were attempting to increase sales their "B" range of engines and made them available to a wider market. For Harrington this was a last determined attempt to make the various versions of the Contender attractive to all levels of their customers. It is generally considered that Suez killed the Rolls Royce Contender. Indeed, by 1958 the whole integral coach project was scrapped in favour of a new lightweight body later known as the Crusader which was intended to suit the most popular chassis of the day.

Nick Webster


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London Transport – AEC Regal IV – MLL 971 – RF 334

London Transport - AEC Regal IV - MLL 971 - RF 334

London Transport
AEC Regal IV

Here is another of the Uxbridge allocated RF buses, seen in the summer sun of 1971, the year in which UX garage saw the welcome return of these stalwart performers, having lost them previously in 1962 in favour of RT double deckers. RF 334, MLL 971 stands at Heathrow Central on route 223, in the close company of RT 4182, LYF 241, on route 140. I know not the identity of the bohemian gentleman who seems to be reflecting upon the sanity of someone wishing to photograph a bus. Tillingbourne operated five ex London Country RF buses between 1971 and 1973, RFs 233, 254, 595, 680 and 699, and these I drove at weekends. Acceleration from rest in second gear was rather sedate, and the cab was a bit restricted (the RF was 7ft 6ins wide) but the vehicle felt like a true thoroughbred. The RT and RM families suffered the derating of their engines to 115 bhp, but I believe that the RF retained full engine power, which, in the case of the 9.6 litre horizontal A219, was 120 bhp.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Roger Cox

11/12/14 – 06:39

I was once told by the owner of a preserved RF that, according to the drawings in his possession, they are actually only 7ft 4ins wide.

Peter Williamson


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Tyneside – Leyland Titan – GTY 163 – 39

Tyneside - Leyland Titan - GTY 163 - 39

Tyneside Omnibus Company
Leyland Titan PD2/12
MCW H32/26R

GTY 169; 39, one that Chris Youhill will no doubt recognise, but not in this livery. It was one of nine H32/26R MCW Orion bodied Leyland PD2/12’s delivered to Tyneside in 1954, GTY 169/177 numbered 39/47. Shortly after they were delivered, the number plates were moved from the radiator to the front panel under the windscreen, so the photo must be 1954. They remained in service until 1966, and all of them had a second life.
39 – Samuel Ledgard
40 – Wells of Hatfield, Peverel
43/44 – Paton Brothers, Renfrew
41/2/5/6&7 remained with the NGT Group.

GTY 175

Four of them became Driver Training vehicles.

GTY 177

But 47 was turned over to the engineering department. It was cut down, and at first it became a mobile workshop/towing vehicle, it later became a ’tree lopper’ and was still around in 1980.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Ronnie Hoye

23/06/14 – 11:17

Thx, Ronnie, for the interesting photos showing the story of their lives.
I’m intrigued about tree-lopping. This always seemed to be done by bus companies originally, witness the number of tree-loppers around in past times, but I don’t know who does it now, if anyone at all, by the looks of some deckers’ front domes! Was there originally any statutory requirement for bus companies to do this and what is the current situation?

Chris Hebbron

23/06/14 – 16:30

About twenty years ago Luton & District did it, under contract, for Buckinghamshire C C. I believe this is where tree lopping ended up but with cut backs (pun not intended) money dried up in local authorities and I suspect this is the reason for the dire condition of buses now – because no-one takes responsibility. I think it still lies with local authorities but an operator friend of mine said that anyone was entitled to cut back trees overhanging the public highway – even when they were growing on private property, often behind fence or boundary lines. He always carried a pair of strong cutters on his coach. [He operated new, expensive, coaches in a rural area.]

David Oldfield

24/06/14 – 07:42

David, I think you’re correct: where trees over-grow private or public land then the owner or any member of the public has the right to cut back over-hanging branches to the boundary . . . as long as they offer any severed wood back to land-owner on who’s land the tree stood.
According to James Freeman’s history of King Alfred Motor Services the company were, after a rather too enthusiastic/dramatic session, prohibited from lopping trees in Winchester by the local authority – after which the tree-lopping vehicle was lain up within the depot.
Within my locality of the old Aireborough UDC there is evidence of tree-lopping, but I’ve never seen anybody doing any . . . and I can’t believe First or Centrebus/Yorkshire Tiger would bother to keep the resources themselves.

Philip Rushworth

24/06/14 – 07:45

The current legislation concerning the obstruction of the public highway by trees may be found in the Highways Act 1980. The responsibilities lie with the Highway Authorities, but there may often be a delay in the carrying out of remedial action. Clearances should be 2.4m over a footpath and 5.3m over a roadway. Even trees covered by a preservation order are required to comply, but only the very minimum amount of pruning is acceptable in such cases. In the past, many, if not most of the larger operators kept their own tree cutting vehicles to minimise the expensive damage to roof domes, but, in the aggressively profit driven bus industry of modern times, this "avoidable cost" has long since been expunged from the P/L account. The big groups of today seem to have no pride in fleet presentation.

Roger Cox

24/06/14 – 13:49

And, Roger, there’s the ever-present "Safety Elf", who says it isn’t safe for company staff to do the work, even without the operator’s legal advisers who worry about being prosecuted by the trees’ owners!

Pete Davies

26/06/14 – 14:10

Most modern double deckers now have tree guards on the nearside (or on both sides) to protect the front windows and bodywork from damage by trees.
There are now vastly more trees near roads (and railways) and little attempt seems to be made to keep them cut back.

Geoff Kerr

27/06/14 – 07:05

Geoff. This was the problem which Network Rail had with the big storms last Winter. Trees on embankments were falling like mad and trains were having to move slowly to avoid accidents causing chaos. In steam days, trees were cleared to avoid sparks setting light to them.
And grass verges seem to be getting overgrown now. The other day, on a bypass, foliage was brushing the side of my car and I was 12" away from the kerb!

Chris Hebbron

27/06/14 – 13:32

There is another aspect of overhanging trees and bushes not being cut back by anyone (owners, local authorities, highway agency of bus companies). That is the fact that at road junctions, road signs and / or traffic lights are being hidden from view until the motorist is nearly on them. If driving on an unfamiliar road, and looking for directions, this can be particularly hazardous. Sometimes I wish I had access to a certain company’s Guy Arab tree-loppers, and take a crew along some of our main roads. (I refer to Southdown 460/461 – the only way this modern day comment can count as being relevant to this site!).

Michael Hampton

28/06/14 – 14:22

Yes, Michael, the Guy Arab tree loppers. I also recall they had a Queen Mary one and a Bristol VR the latter in yellow with blue trimmings (genuine Freudian slip, this!). Sad that Portsmouth Corporation never had need of one. Wonder what they would have converted if they had? I’d have wanted one of their TSM’s!

Chris Hebbron

28/06/14 – 14:59

Chris – Your dreams have come true. Portsmouth Corporation did have a TSM tree lopper. 80 RV 1143. The vehicle was stolen from Eastney depot, and driven through the Fareham Railway arch. I have vague recollections of it attending to the trees in Stubbington Avenue around 1950.

Pat Jennings

29/06/14 – 07:15

Now THAT really is news to me, Pat – wishful thinking come true! I wonder if any photos exist of it in that state. My post of one of CPPTD’s TSM’s, in the second photo, shows 80 in original condition.

Chris Hebbron

17/12/15 – 07:41

Reading the various comments about tree lopping brings to mind an incident I became involved in on the A591 alongside Thirlmere lake about 1975 a section of road very much in the news at present where 9 landslides occurred as a result of the very heavy rain. I was a haulage contractor at the time operating a Foden S80 cabbed 8 wheel bulk animal feed blower which had a high box body with catwalk down the middle. Early one morning travelling through the Lakes to a farm in the Ulverston area I was flagged down by a Ribble driver and an inspector parked hard against the tree covered mountainside. They asked if they could climb on top of my lorry and try and cut off a broken low hanging branch that had been striking double deckers on the 555 service. They had thought they could stand on the roof of the Marshall bodied Leopard they had and cut the branch off but found they could not scramble onto the smooth curved roof from the high roadside embankment. Elf n Safety at its best !! However I took the bushman saw they had and knowing where to tread on top of my load was soon able to reach the branch and quickly cut it off. Just another episode of driving lorries and buses through the lakes.

Gerald Walker


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Old Bus Photos from Saturday 25th April 2009 to Wednesday 19th June 2019