Old Bus Photos

London Transport – AEC Merlin – SMM 15F – XMB 15

SMM 15F

London Transport Board
1966
AEC Merlin P2R
Strachans B46D

In the mid 1960s London Transport began moving away from its ageing bespoke designs – RT family/ RF/ RM family – and belatedly began investigating the standard offerings of the bus manufacturing industry. The ensuing saga became a sad, expensive story of incompetence, profligacy and waste, from the RC Reliances, XA Atlanteans and MB/SM Merlins/Swifts of the 1960s, and onward through the 1970s and beyond with the Daimler Fleetlines and Metro Scanias. The first London Transport Merlins (Chiswick clung to this appendage even when Southall changed the name of the AH691 engined 36 ft long version to Swift 691) had Strachans dual doorway bodies seating 25 at the rear and accommodating (exceedingly closely – I speak from personal experience) 48 standing passengers in the lower front section. These early examples of the Merlin had a low driving position that was raised on later production models. Classified XMS, fourteen of them equipped with coin operated turnstiles went into service in central London on Red Arrow service 500 in 1966 and performed that duty well. At the same time, the Country Area was pursuing a policy of adopting the Merlin for conventional one man operation as the XMB type, and had nine Strachan B45D bodied examples ready for service in the early months of 1966, but the T&GWU refused to accept them. All except XMB 1 were then repainted red, de-seated to the 25 plus 48 standing format, and used on Red Arrow services. The solitary Country Area survivor, XMB 1, which had 46 seats and then carried the registration JLA 57D, went into store, during which time it was first reclassified as XMB 15 in November 1966, and then re-registered in January 1967 as NHX 15E. In August 1967 its registration was changed yet again to SMM 15F, and it continued to spend time in store with occasional forays out and about for route surveying and training purposes. Finally, in January 1969, nearly three years after delivery, it was transferred to Tring garage where, in the following month, it carried its first fare paying passengers on the single bus allocation route 387 between Tring and Aldbury village. In 1970 it became a member of the London Country fleet, but its identity crisis was still set to continue. In mid 1971 it was reclassified MBS 15 in accordance with the rest of Merlin fleet, but in November 1973 it was sent to the by now GLC controlled London Transport who repainted it red and promptly put it into store. MBS 4, formerly XMB 4 was sent from LT to LCBS in exchange. MBS 15 saw very little, if, indeed any service use with LT thereafter, before being dumped at the old Handley Page airfield at Radlett in 1975 along with very many other unwanted LT Merlins. The following web page illustrates the chequered career of this bus:-
https://ccmv.aecsouthall.co.uk/

In the picture above, taken early in London Country days in 1970 at Tring garage, XMB 15 has lost its London Transport roundel on the front panel, but has yet to receive its LCBS “Flying Wheel” symbol. The Strachans bodies on the early Merlins proved to be of sounder construction than the Metro-Cammell examples on the later deliveries, which quickly showed evidence of structural failure in the roof section above the central doorway.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Roger Cox


10/05/19 – 06:58

Thank you Roger,
Little known about vehicle article and photograph, I just thought these were rather mundane vehicles but did travel on the Red Arrow when they were new. So which one was the model done of ?, possibly a Dinky Supertoy or a Corgi, I did have one, but in my younger days it was repainted to look like an LUT Seddon, that will start the comments flowing, methinks.

Mike Norris


10/05/19 – 07:00

Didn’t quite a lot of these end up being sold to Belfast after being stored at Radlett?

David Pomfret


11/05/19 – 07:00

Several of the Strachan bodied versions along with the regular ones ended up at Gatwick Airport. Gatwick Handling had both types but Bcal and Airtours only had the latter ones. Nearly all replaced by Leyland Nationals.

Keith Hanbury-Chatten


17/05/19 – 06:50

In fairness to LT they were far from alone in having to withdraw MCW Scanias early as they suffered badly from corrosion. The one bought by WYPTE were all withdrawn early for this reason.

Chris Hough


17/05/19 – 10:32

All MetroScanias suffered this fate but, eventually, the Metropolitan had feet of clay. It did not fail as quickly as the MetroScania but in later life there were serious corrosion problems at the back end which some operators addressed by rebuilding them. The reasons for the LT failure with "off the shelf" designs is well documented (here, as elsewhere) – a sad indictment …..

David Oldfield


18/06/19 – 07:49

Surprisingly, when the Docklands Light Railway had a strike last year, 40-year old Metropolitan MD60 turned up on the replacement service. No corrosion apparent. So there’s a bit of life left in the design in London yet.

Bill


19/06/19 – 05:38

Bill, There are very few Metropolitans on the road now, because of the dreaded ‘metal moth’. MD60 is only in circulation thanks to a very lengthy (and no doubt costly) rebuild by the guys at Bus Works Blackpool and owners EnsignBus. See reference to it here: http://ensignvintagebuses.blogspot.com

Petras409


26/06/19 – 09:45

Leicester Trust have one on the road as well.

Roger Burdett


17/07/19 – 07:04

Sister vehicle XMS6 (JLA 56D) finished up with The Violet Bus Service at Blackrock, County Louth but none of the Strachans bodied Merlins ended up with Citybus/Ulsterbus in Northern Ireland.

Bill Headley


 

Quick links to the  -  Comments Page  -  Contact Page  -  Home Page

 


 

Maidstone & District – Leyland Panther – LKT 132F – 3132

Maidstone & District - Leyland Panther - LKT 132F - 3132

Maidstone & District
1968
Leyland Panther PSUR1/1R
Strachans B48F

LKT 132F is a Leyland Panther PSUR1/1R new to Maidstone & District in 1968. It has a Strachan B48F body, somewhat unusual for a BET firm, and we see it in the Netley rally on 14 July 1996 so the body at least is more or less ‘home’ as Strachans later products were built just along the road in Hamble. The Parish Council calls it Hamble Le Rice now, and it’s nothing to do with puddings. In this sense, it means ‘rich’.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Pete Davies


20/11/16 – 15:48

Yes its a standard BET front, but the livery does a great deal to hide the uneven window and panel spacing layout. Just by example if you were to look at Liverpool 1097 currently in the heading on the ‘other’ bus blog page, it shows how neat this one really is. Its a pity we don’t have sound on here as Panther exhausts were in a class of their own.

Mike Norris


21/11/16 – 07:54

Mike there is a section on here for bus noises. To be found at the ‘More pages’ tab top right in the menu, then select ‘Old Bus Sounds’.

Stephen Howarth


05/11/17 – 07:30

With reference to 3251 (ex SO251) as I knew it when I drove it. This was always a delightful vehicle to drive and was usually requested by our depot engineer – Ernie Marks – at Gravesend. I remember using it on many runs to High Halstow, Cliffe and also Meopham & Harvel. I have a photo slide of it taken when I used it.
With reference to S1-S5 or 3701-5, again when I drove all of them, these would often tread there way onto the 122 London to Brighton run and I had the pleasure of driving them between Gravesend and Tunbridge Wells. The only problem I found was the bodywork rattle caused by over-inflated tyres, something which Tunbridge Wells was usually in favour of. Hence, all vehicles from both garages had bodies that were shaken to pieces – sometimes almost literally!

Freddy Weston


09/11/17 – 07:14

Although my memory is not so good nowadays, I have to hand a fleet allocation list for 1st October 1971. From that it looks as if Freddy’s and Ernie Marks’ favourite Reliance 3251 had left the fleet by then. 3701-6 are shown as allocated to Tonbridge and 3125 was allocated to Maidstone. With regard to comments about high tyre pressures, it is relevant that M&D had three tyre mileage contractors in 1970. I think Gravesend and possibly Borough Green were covered by Michelin who would only have used radial ply tyres which have more flexible walls. The Tunbridge Wells district (inc Tonbridge, Hawkhurst and Edenbridge) was covered by Firestone with cross ply tyres which may have felt harder. Dunlop was the third contractor. This made it a bit difficult when vehicles were re-allocated across contracts! Around 1971, Dunlop were contracted to cover the whole fleet using a new centralised tyre workshop for fitting new and re-grooving tyres. Mobile inspectors examined the fleet regularly for pressure and tread depth. Each depot had a supply of wheel assemblies with fit tyres for failures in service. An interesting aspect of this was that quite a few vehicles were found to be fitted with wheels of the incorrect offset, so a supply of new wheels had to be bought to facilitate a sorting out!

Geoff Pullin

PS – I meant to add that Panthers 3131 and 3135 were delicensed for repair of fire damage and 3127 for major body repairs! Engine compartment fires were a bit endemic for Panthers and also Reliances at the time. As I have said elsewhere, M&D found that the Willowbrook bodied Panthers were better than the Strachans bodies which suffered a lot of panel movement and aluminium dust permeating the insides. They were strengthened by a scheme devised by Wiollowbrook!


 

Quick links to the  -  Comments Page  -  Contact Page  -  Home Page

 


 

Aldershot & District – Dennis Falcon P5 – POR 428 – 282

Aldershot & District - Dennis Falcon P5 - POR 428 - 282

Aldershot & District Traction Co
1956
Dennis Falcon P5
Strachans B30F

In the 1930s, Dennis manufactured a bewildering choice of small buses for lightly trafficked routes – Dart, Pike, Arrow Minor, Ace and Mace. These were all replaced in 1938 by a single model, the Falcon, available in normal or forward control, with the engine options of Dennis 3.77 side valve petrol or Gardner 4LK or Perkins P6 diesel. By the onset of WW2 only around 50 had been produced. Aldershot & District took delivery of nine petrol engined Falcons with four speed gearboxes and Strachans B20F bodywork in 1939, but they saw little use before being stored for the duration of the conflict. They were placed back in service after the war but, being petrol powered, all were withdrawn by 1951. It may seem rather surprising that Aldershot & District did not consider converting these little buses to diesel power, but they had been stored in the open in the Aldershot sports field for much of the war, and the bodywork had suffered quite severely. Instead, in 1949/50, the company took delivery of fifteen new Falcons of almost identical appearance to the earlier batch, though these were of the P3 type with Gardner 4LK engines and five speed gearboxes, and the B20F bodies were built by Dennis. In 1951/2 they were reseated to B24F. Withdrawal took place between 1956 and 1960. No less than 15 more Falcons, now of the upgraded and longer P5 variety but still with 4LK engines and five speed gearboxes, arrived in 1954, and a further 8 came two years later, all with Strachans B30F bodywork. These buses marked the end of an era, as they were the last Dennis single deckers and the final Strachans bodies to be bought by Aldershot & District. The last of the batch, POR 428, fleet no. 282, was withdrawn by the Aldershot company in 1967, and, along with many of its fellows, was sold to the Isle of Man. In 1997 it was rescued and returned to the mainland, where the next thirteen years were taken up with its restoration; see-: www.adbig.co.uk/282.html  
In the picture above 282 is seen in 1961 at Petersfield Station, awaiting departure on the very rural route 53 to Alton. A Dennis Loline I arriving from Guildford on route 24 pulls in behind.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Roger Cox


26/04/15 – 11:10

If I remember rightly, these buses were a ‘challenge’ to drive. The driver’s signalling window was higher than the driver’s elbow level, being closer to his shoulder level, so requiring an upward angle for his arm. I think only his hand could actually reach out, because the driver’s seat was so far inboard.
And the raked steering wheel was not positioned on the centre line of the driver’s seat either. So he was always steering through a bit of an angle – a bit like riding a horse side-saddle!

Petras409


27/04/15 – 07:47

Obviously from an era when pride in the fleet was something to be encouraged. Today’s attitude seems to be that pride is an unnecessary outdated luxury, which is an expensive time consuming drain on recourses.

Ronnie Hoye


27/04/15 – 07:48

Quite a few types of normal control buses seem to have had the steering column positioned further towards the centre of the vehicle than forward control machines. I have never driven a Falcon, but this was certainly true of the Bedford OB, the Leyland Comet and the Guy GS. In my experience of all these other examples, the bodywork tapered inwards towards the front of the vehicle allowing reasonable access to the signalling window. The Strachans body design on these Falcons retained parallel sides right up to the bonnet, and I can well appreciate the difficulty of actually extending one’s signalling arm to as mentioned by Petras 409. I agree also, that the signalling window was set absurdly high for practical use, the saloon window level being set at a higher level than that of the exactly contemporary GS, which was a delightful little bus to drive. Strachans didn’t take ergonomics into account when designing these Falcon bodies.

Roger Cox


 

Quick links to the  -  Comments Page  -  Contact Page  -  Home Page

 


 

All rights to the design and layout of this website are reserved     Old Bus Photos does not set or use Cookies but Google Analytics will set four see this

Old Bus Photos from Saturday 25th April 2009 to Sunday 25th August 2019