Old Bus Photos

London Transport – AEC Regent 1 – GJ 2098 – ST 922

London Transport - AEC Regent 1 - GJ 2098 - ST 922  Copyright Chris Hebbron

London Transport
1930
AEC Regent 1
Tilling or Dodson (H27/25RO)

"John Whitaker was interested in Christopher Dodson bus bodies built for operators outside London and I mentioned that Tilling had purchased 30 Dodson-bodied AEC Regents for their Brighton operation. I’ve now found out that they were identical to the 191 AEC Regents they operated in South London, some with Tilling and some with Dodson bodies. In London, they were in the range ST837-1027. I attach a photo of the sole remaining example (ST 922 – GJ 2098), albeit it a London example, although Tilling’s livery was not that different from this example. To me, It looks odd because I only recall them with terrible body sag and this one doesn’t have it, having being completely restored! Once in London Transport’s hands, they were greatly unloved, but that’s another story!"

Photograph and Copy contributed by Chris Hebbron


13/11/11 – 10:31

Many thanks Chris for the marvellous photo of GJ 2098.
The 30 Tilling STs bodied by Dodson were built to Tilling design. Dodson design bodies were common in the "Pirate" fleets, and some Provincial municipal fleets too, notably Wolverhampton. The latter had many 6 wheel interpretations on Guy chassis and are worthy of an article in themselves!
Many of these Tilling STs were transferred to other Tilling fleets during the war, and many were rebodied and/or re-engined. Of particular interest to me are the 3 vehicles lent to BCPT (Bradford) to enable the Stanningley tram route to be abandoned in 1942. These were GJ 2027, 2055, and GK 6242. These were accompanied by some Leeds "Regents" and 3 "General" STs. Pity I cannot remember them, but I was only 2!
The body sag you refer to seems apparent on every photo I have seen, but they did "soldier on" in trying conditions. 3 more vehicles of this species are also close to my heart in the form of York-West Yorkshire ADG 1-3, which started life in the form depicted in your superb photograph.
Incidentally, Wolverhampton 6 wheelers can be seen in the You Tube reference you gave on the recent post concerning the "White Heather" coach!
Great Stuff!

John Whitaker


13/11/11 – 17:11

I’m sure that I’ve read somewhere that, of the later STL-type Tilling Regents which went to London Transport, still with three bay upstairs front windows, but inside staircases, a batch also also went to Brighton. Both deliveries had Tilling bodies, though.
The above ST sub-class were due for withdrawal on the cusp of the war. They were all withdrawn by LT, along with all other petrol-engined vehicles, when war broke out.
Several suffered from war damage and their chassis went to the Home Guard, either as armoured personnel carriers, others as complete vehicles, to become (Home) guard posts. Then they were spread around England/Wales to fill shortages. For example, ST844 spent time in Coventry, Walsall & Rhondda. ST851 went to Sunderland, then Bradford & Aberdare. The longest one away was ST1005, which left for Venture, Basingstoke in December 1941, not returning until January 1947. On return, it went into store for a few months, then was scrapped, a typical end for returnees.
I’ve always had a soft spot for them, loyal, uncomplaining servants, past their sell-by date in 1939 and kept away from the limelight thereafter! Amazingly, some lasted until late 1949, nevertheless. They were strangers to Morden, Surrey, where I lived, but I can recall travelling on a couple of stalwarts seeing out their final, challenging, stint on the Epsom Races specials. I was a mere stripling aged 11, bunking off from school!

Chris Hebbron


25/11/11 – 13:28

I only ever saw one ST, and it was 922, mouldering in Rush Green Motors’ scrapyard somewhere out in the bundu between Hertford and Ware in 1952. Its roof gave it away over the dense scrub which rimmed the yard, for it could be just glimpsed from the top deck of a London Country RT.
I made entry to the secure yard, somehow having persuaded the ruffians in their Nissen hut that I meant them no harm, (though I was quite tall for a nine-year old, and could have bruised their shins if it turned nasty). As I recall, the breakers had used ST 922 as a canteen. Its L.H. dumb-iron brass plate identified it as the very bus which Prince Marshall was to restore years later and put in to limited service in London. I kept a light bulb from its upper saloon for many years as a memento of that rare bus, the bulb, alas, now lost due to postwar parental determination to periodically cleanse bedrooms.
There was a pre-war Leyland ‘decker there, too, ex-Chesterfield Corporation, from which I took a fine iron enamelled plate mounted forward of the driver, which admonished him to ‘Pull into the Curb at Stops’. I was even then taken by the cacography. In his obedience, our luckless chauffeur might have ‘Curbed his enthusiasm at stops’, or even ‘Stopped up on to the Kerb’….. I wonder if his traffic manager was reduced to the ranks for a fine Solecism or merely scolded for Malapropism? But I digress.
The info relating to the pilfering has been concealed until today, lest it had led to a period of infant incarceration, still then common, but I surmise that the Statute of Limitations now applies – and for that matter, all the other characters of the piece must now rejoice at The Great Terminus, their days of pointless litigation at an end.

Victor Brumby


28/05/12 – 08:11

In my post of 13/11/2011, I mentioned that I thought a batch of the later Tilling (LT STL type) also went to BH&D. I’ve since found that Thos. Tilling in Brighton had quite a few early vehicles, identical to those in the above photo. In the later 1930’s, a few of the STL type were also delivered, originally with the same three–window front upstairs configuration. See HERE:
Post-war, BH&D modernised them, which included changing the three-window arrangement to the conventional two-window type.

Chris Hebbron


04/07/12 – 07:12

GN 6201_lr

In my original comment, I mentioned that 30 of this type, with Dodson bodies, served in Brighton. Here is a photo of one. It is unusual in showing the upstairs air vent, normally unseen in photos.

Chris Hebbron


01/01/14 – 10:09

Several of these Brighton STs were later rebodied and eventually converted to open toppers. At least half a dozen later migrated to Westcliff (for the Southend seafront services) and Eastern National (for the Clacton services). I understand one eventually finished up as a tree lopper for Eastern National.

Brian Pask


17/09/14 – 15:24

Hi Chris.. Compliments on your photograph of 6201 and also your knowledge.

Sid


18/09/14 – 07:47

Thx, Sid, glad you enjoyed the posting.

Chris Hebbron


01/02/15 – 06:49

From September of 1951 to July of 1955 I commuted to school from Mill Hill to Kilburn. This was in the days of the trolley buses at least as far as Cricklewood Broadway. I cannot give the date but on the route 16 a green ST class bus suddenly appeared. It stayed around for a few weeks and then vanished again. Similarly on the route 79a a green STL appeared again for a short period. I don’t think either of the two buses made it to preservation but if anyone out there can confirm my sightings I would be very interested. The route 16 at the time was the preserve of the SRT Class and the 79a was all RTs.
All something of a mystery

Ron Sargeant


01/02/15 – 11:00

There were plenty of Country Area green STL’s, both with front and rear entrances, and, by the period you mention, Ron, post-war RT’s were rendering plenty of the older vehicles spare. The last only went in 1955. The green ST is a mystery, since very few were ever painted green and spent their lives at Watford Garage. They were all disposed of by no later that 1950. However, LT was always short of lowbridge buses then and kept its lowbridge 1930 ST’s going until 1953, both at Watford and Godstone Garages, Some found their way to Morden at times, to keep the 127 red route going. It’s possible that it was one of them found its way around your way to fill a gap or be a learner in its final months. I believe that they were unique with LT in having a sunken gangway each side upstairs. Each one was also visually unique, having been ‘played about with’ in different ways at various overhauls!

Chris Hebbron


01/02/15 – 11:02

I have very happy memories indeed of a roundtrip on GJ 2098 when it was operating a vintage service starting in Trafalgar Square. I seem to recall that it was pretty spritely and comfortable – the seat cushions gave the impression of being a foot thick and were luxurious, and they seemed to accentuate delightfully the "up and down" movement of the suspension. the driver also handled the old bus very competently indeed – a very happy hour or so to recall.

Chris Youhill


02/02/15 – 06:43

Was the upholstery a sort of grey with black swirls on. I seem to recall that that was the LGOC colour scheme (if you can call grey a colour!). Or maybe it was the standard LT stripe patterning.

Chris Hebbron


02/02/15 – 06:47

The SRT class was an unequivocal disaster, comprising pre-war STLs expensively modified to accept heavier RT type bodywork for which RT chassis were still awaited. 300 were planned, but the nonsense finished after 160 had been constructed. With the 7.7 engine and vacuum brakes the SRT wouldn’t go and, more critically, it wouldn’t stop. The first of the class entered service in April 1949, and by mid 1954, the utter folly of the programme having finally been accepted, they were gone, apart from a handful retained as Chiswick toys. Perhaps the fleeting appearance of ST and STL vehicles was dictated by SRT mechanical failures.

Roger Cox


02/02/15 – 11:37

Chris H – Yes, I’m sure that you’re right about the seating upholstery, and that’s exactly the colour scheme I remember.

Roger – As a "distant" ardent admirer of the seemingly excellent "SRT" conversions I’m surprised to hear that they were as disastrous as seems widely claimed, although I have read of this elsewhere too. I thought that the plan was an ingenious one and sensible too but of course I had no experience of driving them and only a limited number of rides.
I must say though that I’m amazed that their speed and more importantly presumably acceleration were so poor, but only to be expected by comparison with the magnificent 9.6 litre RTs.
Braking, well the vast difference between vacuum brakes and air is no secret, and different driving techniques and "expectations" are essential. I would imagine though that some kind of semi rural and light operation would have found them quite satisfactory. From an enthusiast point of view though their acoustics were a delight and the different "era" instantly apparent – and the fascinating combination of older machinery with the beautiful RT bodies made the SRTs for me a very memorable version.

Chris Youhill


03/02/15 – 05:46

Chris, as you indicate, the theory behind the SRT class appeared, on the surface, to make sense, as RT type bodywork deliveries were outstripping RT/RTL chassis supplies. Although the life extended elderly pre war fleets of ST and LT machines were largely gone by 1948, LT wanted to clear out the utilities and remaining STLs as quickly as possible to project the high quality, post war LTE image to the capital’s travelling public. The SRT seemed to meet the bill. It looked the part, and the ordinary traveller surely wouldn’t suspect that the mechanical bits under the new, modern bodywork belonged to an earlier engineering era and were upwards of ten years old. Sadly, converting STL chassis to take the half ton heavier RT body proved to be far more complicated, and hence much more costly, than anticipated. The chassis had to be remodelled quite considerably, and major components, such as the fuel tank, had to be re-sited. The result was a bus that looked very good, but performed very poorly, particularly in the braking department. The AEC 7.7 was a perfectly sound engine, but it didn’t have the decisive low speed torque of the comparable 7 litre Gardner 5LW which was still the favoured power plant for many new Bristols in the Tilling companies’ fleets. I should think that the less than lively performance could have been tolerated; the real difficulty lay with the brakes, which proved barely adequate on downhill gradients when an SRT was well loaded. There must have been rather more to the braking problem than simply the vacuum system. We have both driven heavy, vacuum braked double deckers around the Yorkshire gradients without too many frights. The Halifax Daimler CVL6/Roe ‘deckers were pretty heavy beasts, 8 tons unladen, but they stopped equally as efficiently as the air braked PD3s – as you know, the hills round Halifax make most of urban London look like a billiard table. I can only assume, since I can’t find any figures to support this, that the lining areas of the old STL brakes were rather smaller than those of post war double deckers generally. In the event, the SRTs were taken off routes that included any suggestion of a slope and relegated to flat territory. The word got around, and the Country department apparently refused to have any involvement with the things. In the meantime, RT and RTL chassis production came on stream, and the SRT class quickly surrendered its RT bodywork to new chassis and the STL underparts to the scrapyard.
Your comment about bus acoustics resonates, I’m sure, with many members of OBP. As a child up to the age of four I delighted in the contrasting sounds emitted by LT, STL and RT types in Selsdon and Croydon, and, from that age onwards, having by then moved to rural Kent, I became captivated by the marvellous melody emitted by the Maidstone and District Leyland TS8 Tigers as they climbed Chequers Hill out of Doddington. By contrast, the petrol Tigers running along the valley just purred along. In Faversham, one could find East Kent Dennis Lancets (pre war, four cylinder jobs I later discovered) with smooth running, drumming sound engines. From 1949, by now an eight year old resident in Alverstoke near Gosport, I couldn’t initially understand why the Provincial AEC Regents sounded so dramatically different from their London cousins, and became a fan instead of the stuttering new Guy Arabs on the Haslar route. Only later did I discover that these fine buses had peculiar five cylinder engines. I am rambling on a bit now. I’d better stop.

Roger Cox


04/02/15 – 05:41

There was another part of the jigsaw to add to Roger’s tale and which makes the STL/SRT saga slightly more logical. LT’s 1935-40 New Works Plan exceeded the legal limit that AEC/Chiswick could legally order/produce and so outside suppliers were used . A good example was the 100 all-Leyland STD class; pseudo-STL’s. Another case was 175 STL chassis, but with Park Royal metal-framed bodies, which were already failing in 1942, when the worst bodies were scrapped and replaced by new lowbridge STL bodies under special dispensation. The rest were all but held together with strapping, post-war, and the idea was that the 15STL16 1939 STL’s would have their bodies transferred to replace the PRV bodies and be re-bodied with the RT ones. The 1939 STL’s should have been RT’s, but production was not ready in time. Nevertheless, many RT features were incorporated into these chassis, including automatic chassis lubrication, but, crucially, not the 9.6 litre engine, not quite ready for service. Thus, of the 132 of STL’s finest, very few survived in their original form and they, if memory serves, were Country Area vehicles, no doubt held onto for dear life!

Chris Hebbron


04/02/15 – 09:59

Please Roger, don’t even think of pleading "rambling on" – that post was full of absorbing and informed comment and opinion and is fascinating to read. So, in summary and the famous hindsight, it seems that the SRT scheme was a brave and expectedly fraught. venture which ought to have succeeded but was beset with undeserved problems and expense.
You are quite right about the mountains of West Yorkshire and the greater area and I suppose we drivers thought little of nothing of such terrain as most of the elderly and basic vehicles of the time did their commendable best.
The only real braking worries with the old vacuum system that I recall were occasionally with certain Leyland PD2s (but not PD1s) of both 7’6" and 8’00" girth – and even, with later employers, air braked PD3s, but that’s obviously another discussion altogether.
I hope my memory and imagination aren’t running riot, but I’m sure I recall that when the 34 RTs arrived at Samuel Ledgard and were being prepared for service there was an issue with the brake drums/shoes. Was it the case that the RTs, as opposed to Mark 3 Regents in general, had more robust brakes – hence the London drivers’ meaningful objection to the SRTs.
I believe that Ledgard fitters mentioned to me that the drums (front at least) were of a slightly larger diameter than standard and that "shims" (possibly hardwood ??) had to be inserted between the new linings and the shoes to give satisfactory results.
This was of course fifty two years ago and if I’m way off the mark I’ll gladly blush and hide for as long as necessary.

Chris Youhill


18/03/18 – 06:56

During the mid to late 1940s the 77A route, which I took from Wimbledon to Wimbledon Park (to school) or to Wimbledon Chase (to visit my grandmother) had several "odd" buses. As kids, we were thrilled when the occasional coach came along as this seemed to us to be travelling in luxury. However, the most exciting was when our bus had a staircase that was outside the bus. As young boys we, of course, always rode upstairs. Which reminds me – the conductors often referred to the upstairs as "outside". I only remember being on an outside stair bus on two or three occasions, probably in 1948, 49 or possibly 1950.

David


19/03/18 – 06:26

Referring to David’s mention of "outside", conductors in Ashton under Lyne and Manchester guards up until the late 1960s used to have phrases such as "on top" and "inside" when designating the upper and lower decks.

Phil Blinkhorn


GJ 2098_lr Vehicle reminder shot for this posting


21/04/19 – 07:29

As a schoolboy (1944-1950), I was fortunate enough to travel at 08:13 a.m. every week-day morning from Chandler’s Ford (between Southampton and Winchester in Hampshire) to Winchester on one of these marvellous ‘open staircase’ old ladies … it was one of, I think, 5, but possibly more, on ‘loan’ to Hants & Dorset … the actual vehicle I suspect was ST845 (GJ 2021), known to have been with Hants & Dorset from 1945 to 1947 … these buses were used by the Southampton Depot of Hants & Dorset, at least, as ‘relief’ buses on high density routes, as well as ‘works’ buses transporting workers to and from factories, such as Vickers Armstrong at Hursley

Doug Clews


23/04/19 – 07:28

These Tilling ST’s had rather weak bodies and were on the cusp of being withdrawn when the war broke out. Many of them were lent out all over the place during the war and many didn’t return to London Transport until 1947, usually to be scrapped straight away, such was their decrepitude by that stage. The Greater Portsmouth/Southampton area was one of several bus hotspots where buses were drafted in to cater for the increase in passengers, to supplement the shortage. In latter years, they were renowned for their very obvious waistline body sag, not evident in the two above photos, one rebuilt and the other still fairly new.!

Chris Hebbron


 

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Hastings Tramways – Guy BTX – DY 4965 – 3 – ‘Happy Harold’

Hastings Tramways – Guy BTX – DY 4965 – 3 – ‘Happy Harold’
Copyright Keith Harwood

Hastings Tramways
1928
Guy BTX
Dodson O30/27R

Recent correspondence about Dodson bodies and John Whitaker’s comment that Hastings Tramways were users of them brought this picture to mind. It is a 1928 Guy BT with 56-seat Dodson body. Thanks to Keith Harwood for his kind permission to use it, and to Chris Youhill for the information that the bus was known as ‘Happy Harold’ and for reminding me that it was fitted in 1960 with a Commer TS3 diesel engine.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Roy Burke

———

15/02/11 – 15:19

These Guy trolleys were the only open top trolleybuses as opposed to later conversions built. They were part of Hastings initial fleet which contained both double and single deck trolleys You Tube has a clip from a Guy Motors film about the opening of the Hastings system available to watch.

Chris Hough

———

16/02/11 – 06:11

Must be (have been?) fun up there when it dewired….?

Joe

———

05/04/11 – 05:32

Yes, I agree about de-wiring. I have been upstairs on that vehicle and all the mechanism is within easy reach. It looks very easy to bang your head on when it’s not in use. I tried to imagine being an upstairs passenger during any operation. Also, sitting upstairs on Hastings seafront must have been bracing. Not only that, by the sides upstairs are very low and I think having small children up there could be interesting!!

Richard J. Porter

———

21/04/11 – 06:13

The Commer TS3 engine is a story in itself. Although it might be assumed that the TS stood for two-stroke, which the engine undoubtedly was, it actually stood for Tilling-Stevens. It was an opposed-piston engine. The bore ran right through the engine and the pistons heads met in the centre, with a crankshaft at each side, which joined at one end to form a single drive shaft. Its post-war development was hindered through lack of finance and, towards the end, most of the parts were being made by hand by TS engineers. I believe it had three cylinders, the rough equivalent of a six cylinder four-stroke engine. At Rootes Group takeover, the engine obviously showed enough promise for development to continue, with the engines eventually being used widely in Commer and Karrier commercial vehicles right through to the 1960’s. The sporty roar from these vehicles was always very distinctive. How sporty the performance actually was, I am unaware, the same with the fuel consumption. I assume the vehicles measured up to rivals well enough, as did the engine, or it would not have continued in production.

Chris Hebbron

———

21/04/11 – 11:55

Is it my imagination from the mists of time or was it actually the case that the Commer two stroke engine could, on occasion, start up and run backwards ?? I seem to remember that this could occur if the engine had previously stopped at a certain point in the combustion process. This seems a far fetched theory but I seem to recall that it was in fact true.

Chris Youhill

———

28/04/11 – 06:38

The Commer two stroke was (in) famous for decoking itself when working hard uphill, sending large showers of sparks out of the exhaust. I remember several drivers of Commer two-stroke wagons telling me tales of car drivers flagging them down, when night trunking, to tell them their wagon was ‘on fire’ when it was actually decoking itself. The Perkins R6 engine as fitted to some 1950’s Dodge wagons (of Hell Drivers film fame) were renowned for running backwards and when this happened the rack fell off the governor and the engine raced away and couldn’t be stopped! This engine was not as successful as the P6 version which was a popular choice to convert many petrol engined coaches and lorries of the ’40s and ’50s before chassis manufacturers offered diesel options in their lighter chassis.
Perhaps Chris is thinking about the R6 in his posting above.

Eric

———

06/05/11 – 07:11

Interesting comments from Chris and Eric about engines running backwards. When I worked for West Yorkshire Road Car, Johnnie Berry, a fitter with more than a passing interest in buses, told of a similar experience. He had taken a spare bus up to Harrogate bus station from the depot, as a driver had reported his bus (a Bristol K5G) would not restart at the terminus, due to a flat battery. The driver had however, managed to bump start the bus in order to get back to the bus station. As the affected vehicle pulled in to the ‘layover’ area at the top of the bus station, Johnnie was waiting to take it back for attention. However, the driver – probably out of habit – then proceeded stop the engine. Johnnie shouted at him to leave it running, and the engine, just on the point of stopping, fortunately fired back into life. It was only when Johnnie came to move off that he noticed something was amiss, as the bus attempted to go backwards! Undaunted he tried again with the same result. Putting it in reverse allowed the gentle beast to move forwards, and then Johnnie realised that the Gardner 5LW was running backwards! He said the driver must just have caught the engine ‘on the rock’ as it was about to stop. Johnnie felt that the well-balanced nature of Gardner engines may have ‘helped’ with the ‘rock’ encountered, and was no doubt relieved that his strange experience wasn’t the result of someone putting something in his tea!

Brendan Smith

———

13/05/11 – 06:40

Eric, comments of the Perkins R6 running backwards reminded me. my Father had dodge trucks in the 1960!s which would run backwards you had to be quick to stop it, one way that did work for him was to put a load of rag up the exhaust pipe to starve it of air. I am now a retired auto engineer. Just looked at my niece’s Renault 1.9 turbo diesel wrecked engine, speed went to max no way could it be stopped. Mechanic said the turbo goes and it runs off the oil in the sump. I can understand that they say it is a common fault. I just wonder if like the Perkins the engines happen to run backwards. Mechanics may not now remember Perkins engines. Just a thought.

Clifford Warren (bunny)

———

14/05/11 – 07:32

Can be a couple of reasons why engines of the era of Happy Harold’s run away or run backwards.
Firstly most engines of that era had oil bath air cleaners, if that was overfilled with oil the engine could draw the oil in with it’s charge of air and burn it as fuel. Or you cleaned the wire gauze in the filter with paraffin or petrol and forgot to substitute oil before you fired up the engine.
I believe that the fuel pumps fitted to very early TS3’s had an inline fuel pump that had symmetrical lobes on its camshaft, the cam profile meant that the injector timing was the same in both directions so if the engine got to the point of stall it was feasible to ‘catch’ and run the other way. It is to be hope your inlet manifold melted with the exhaust gases before you reversed your tipper truck over the quarry edge isn’t it!.

Andrew

———

18/05/11 – 06:38

I remember riding on the top deck of "Happy Harold" when it was running off the overhead as a child in the late fifties and feeling somewhat nervous about the close proximity of everything above. It was nevertheless a memorable experience, and I also rode on it when in summer service soon after the TS2 engine was fitted, chosen because of its relatively quiet performance I recall so as not to detract too much from the experience of riding on a trolleybus. Although I felt a little safer upstairs with the poles no longer doing the job for which they were intended and the rasp of that engine made it clear it was no longer a trolleybus. However, it is still a joy to see it from time to time, and those who work on it to keep it operational are to be congratulated on their efforts. Interestingly I believe the vehicle is owned by Hastings Council which virtually takes its ownership status back to its pre M&D days.

Doug

———

18/05/11 – 10:17

Its most interesting to hear, Doug, that Happy Harold is owned by the Municipal Authority. It takes me back to my childhood and teenage holiday years, when there was a magical anomaly to the sleek and luxuriously appointed modern trolleybuses having the fleetname "Hastings Tramways Company." Another delightful feature of the system was the modest humble description, on the destination blinds, of the majestic promenade of Hastings and St.Leonards as "FRONT."

Chris Youhill

———

18/05/11 – 11:12

Indeed Chris. I was trying to think of some witty comment regarding the destination "Front" carried on the "front" of the bus. The only one I could come up with was Mitchell’s of Stornoway, some of whose dark blue Bedford SBs would show the destination "Back" (on the front!) – Back being a fairly large village, and terminus for one or two short workings on the route to North Tolsta.

Stephen Ford

———

08/06/11 – 09:45

I had experience of riding on vehicles with the Two Stroke engines both buses in the form of Maidstone and District’s ‘Contenders’ which were Harrington integral vehicles with Commer two stroke engines and on Northfleet U.D.C. Karrier refuse vehicles (of which two had such engines).
The notable thing about the buses apart from the screaming noise already mentioned, was the vibration of the engine on tick over. Every seat in the Contenders used to vibrate when the vehicle was standing still with the engine running (incidentally Paragon Kits of Northampton do a nice 1/76 Resin kit of an M. & D. Contender.
Despite the sounds and the vibration, the engines were very powerful and the Contenders had a good acceleration and hill climbing ability (from my recollection superior to the AEC Reliances which they worked alongside on M. & D. routes). The same was true of the refuse vehicles whose performance was far superior to the newer and smaller Perkins engined model.

Gordon Mackley

———

30/09/11 – 18:37

Stephen, reference your comments about destinations, the trolleybuses of Maidstone showed "LOOSE", for such a wire bound vehicle it was indeed not the case! I credit the recollection of this to a book I cannot accurately recall, perhaps Trolleybus Trails by J. Joyce. Incidentally Happy Harold is still going strong thanks to the efforts of a small group and attends regularly events around the Hastings area.

Paul Baker

———

01/10/11 – 06:41

Referring to the Commer two stroke engine problems reminds me that in May 1963, our local coalman took deliver of a brand new Commer lorry (66 SHY) fitted with a TS2 engine. It was his first new purchase having relied on pre War Ford V8 petrol engined lorries which were by then falling apart with rust. The Commer looked splendid in bright red, black and gold but, misery began from almost the first day as it proved a real misery to start in the morning. Every day he ran the battery flat before resorting to the trusty old Ford being brought out to tow the Commer up and down the road until it eventually fired up after which in frustration he revved the poor thing to death!
He sold it after only a year for a Thames Trader which ran "like a watch"!

Richard Leaman

———

26/02/12 – 16:02

It is not commonly known that the Rootes Group were developing a 4-cylinder version of the TS3, the TS4. It was scrapped when Chrysler took over, because it conflicted with a prior agreement with Cummins/Perkins. The TS4 engine, it is said, was far superior in most respects. A few examples survive, despite attempts to have them all destroyed, along with all other evidence. This story is to be found at this link: http://www.commer.org.nz/ Another sad story, with an ending similar to that of the BAC’s TSR2 plane.

Chris Hebbron

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27/02/12 – 13:47

If, like me, you are fascinated by Dodson bodies of this period, have a look at the same era for Wolverhampton Corporation. I only have books, so cannot submit photos, but they had variants of the Hastings open top Guys, with top covers, and with/without open/enclosed stairs, and also Guy CX motorbus versions with normal bonnets.
An absolutely fascinating array of vintage shapes and sizes which were a "bit different", even at the time!

John Whitaker

———

01/03/12 – 07:51

I remember Southdown’s Commer Avengers in the late 60’s and early 70’s I drove one of the Harrington bodied examples on a Sunday evening relief to London from Eastbourne in really heavy traffic a journey that took almost 4 hours to cover the 60 odd miles. After suitable refreshment the return journey, running empty at about 22.30, took about 1 3/4 hours with the engine thoroughly decoking itself at full throttle on the Caterham by-pass with what looked like a blowlamp for an exhaust with an impressive soundtrack.

Diesel Dave

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01/03/12 – 09:17

I’ve never seen W’hampton Dodson’s, John and there are no photos of them on the web, but it is useful to know that they were somewhat similar to ‘Happy Harold’. The later Brighton ones were similar to the Tilling ST’s in London. Their finest hour was still the one produced for the Sunbeam Sikh and I know that you’re aware of that post. I wonder how Phil Dodson got on with his investigations? He’s not been back yet.

Another evocative, post, Dave, which brings to mind the expression, ‘Went like a rocket! Clearly the local constabulary wouldn’t have stood a chance of catching you up! Two-strokes usually had the repuation of being all noise and no go, but these wonderful engines were not in that league. I had one ride in a Commer lorry when hitch-hiking when in the RAF and was impressed.

Chris Hebbron

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01/03/12 – 15:29

Chris, if you type "Guy Motors" into Google, a site comes up with the company history, and there are 2 or 3 photos of the 6 wheel era in Wolverhampton.

John Whitaker

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09/04/12 – 06:56

Reverting to the stories of engines running backwards above, it is certainly not unknown for Gardners to do this. During my time at Crosville I recall we had a Scottish Bus Group coach which managed to do this on the quayside at Holyhead. As the governor doesn’t work in reverse, and apparently nobody could figure how to turn the fuel off in time, it literally "ran away" until it blew itself to bits -very expensive!

David Jones

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DY 4965_lr Vehicle reminder shot for this posting

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02/01/13 – 15:41

hh01

hh02

Here are two views of Happy Harold operating on Hastings seafront in October 2012 during ‘Hastings Week’, an event to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings with many events taking place.

Terry Blackman


 

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Westminster Omnibus – Sunbeam Sikh – JJ 9215

1933 Sunbeam Sikh with 64-seat Christopher Dodson bodywork, owned by Westminster Omnibus Co.
Photograph by ‘unknown’ if you took this photo please go to the copyright page.

Westminster Omnibus Co
1933
Sunbeam Sikh
Christopher Dodson (H36/28R)

In 1928, Sunbeam designed two prototype passenger chassis, a three-axle sixty-seven seat double-decker bus and a two-axle single-decker bus or coach. Two model names, ‘Sikh’ and ‘Pathan’, were adopted for them. They both had Sunbeam engines, but, despite their quality and reliability, very few were produced.
Here is a rare example of a Sikh, however, dating to 1933. It had a very handsome 64-seat body by that doomed London bodybuilder, Christopher Dodson, doomed because it concentrated business almost solely on London independents, due to disappear from 1933, when London Transport took them all over. You will notice the bizarre open cab with storm apron and protective cowling, insisted upon by Westminster’s managing director, who felt that enclosed cabs were unhealthy! The Westminster Omnibus Co. was taken over by LPTB in 1934, but the bus was barely operated by LPTB, as SM1, before being withdrawn from Sunbeam Rad Badge 2service.
In 1931, a Sikh chassis was modified as a trolleybus, which was an immediate success, creating a whole new passenger market which the bus chassis never penetrated.
To the right is the cheery radiator badge which Sunbeam used on their vehicles, which would have looked nice on the Sikh’s chrome one.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Chris Hebbron


Fascinating stuff!!
Dodson did, though build for operators outside London, albeit in small numbers.
Wolverhampton`s Guys come to mind.
Thanks.

Me again. I really enjoyed this post about Sunbeam. Was the open cab not something to do with London Police regulations at the time, where glass screens were deemed dangerous? Not sure, just asking!

John Whitaker


The LGOC had fought and won the windscreen battle in about 1931. It produced its prototype, it with a windscreen, but with an outside staircase, and ran it about a bit with a windscreen, the first. There was not fuss;maybe the notoriously conservative Metropolitan Police Commissioners didn’t notice! It then produced the first 49 production ones and the MPC DID notice, banning further production with windscreens, but not insisting that those already produced be converted. After about 12-18 months, the MPC, presumably being convinced that they weren’t a safety hazard, relented and windscreens were fitted retrospectively to later ones, which, after the first 150, then sported inside staircases, but were not objected to! Even in the mid-30’s the MPC stopped a production run of Central Area (red) single-deck Q’s with open front entrances in front of the front wheels, after an initial run of them was on the road! There was worry about passengers falling out and going under the wheels. I’m not sure that this was ever a problem, although it was resolved years later with knifejack doors.

Chris Hebbron


You are right, John, that Dodson did work other than for London ‘Independents’ (I actually feel that that were more against ‘The Combine’ the LGOC/Underground Group and therefore supported the ‘little feller’!). You mention work they did for Wolverhampton Corporation Guys, but, by coincidence, only today did I discover that Dodson bodied some thirty-odd AEC Regents delivered to Brighton, Hove & District in 1935. They were part of Thos. Tilling group, which, with its London roots, would have been well aware of Dodson’s existence. I’d love to see a photo of these buses to see the design of bodywork. Must start ferreting!

Chris Hebbron


Apropos the MPC and their regulations I was always under the impression that STL/STDs had no cab door was due these being declared verboten by the MPC. However the Sunbeam clearly has a door to its cab

Chris Hough


London Transport inherited quite a few buses with cab (half) doors and left them in situ, Chris.
I think the lack of doors in their own designs was more a case of being able to store buses in their garages closer to each other without doors. When RT1 came along, they’d got around the problem by having a sliding door inside of the bodywork line. With it, deservedly, came more comfort for drivers. STL’s did have concertina-type blinds to fill the entry gap, but they could only be used to protect the empty cab from the worst elements; you couldn’t drive with one down as it impaired vision. You’d have needed to be observant, and lucky, to ever see one down, though!

Chris Hebbron


Chris. It would be great to see a picture of the Brighton Tilling Regents with Dodson body. Dodson built some of the ST bodies for Tilling to Tilling design, I believe, but not the STL batch as far as I know. Dodson would make an interesting article in its own right if it could be researched. Small numbers of bodies were built for several municipalities as well as Wolverhampton, including Derby, Leeds. Another article would be the Pirates in London, with complete fleet lists. Dodson were by no means the only builders here, as Birch, Strachan and Brown etc. were also involved. Must get down to some homework!

John Whitaker


Yes, John, please do!
Meanwhile, I will do some digging to see if I can trace photos of any of the BH&D Dodson-bodies AEC Regents.

Chris Hebbron


Chris. The complete registration for Westminster Sunbeam Sikh (H36/28R) in photo (taken at Edmonton) is JJ 9215. It was licensed to run on London Routes 76 & 73, entering service FEB 1933 as the largest running London bus at the time. It was the last bus design by Dodson Ltd. before exiting the business in April, 1933. The Dodson family originally made horse buses from the mid 1800’s until motorized buses came about after 1900. I’m related to the family and researching the business so I really enjoy finding posts and photographs like this!

Phil Dodson


I’m sure it’s true what they say – history begins on your birthday.
I’m a child of the fifties and although I stretch it to post-war forties, it really all starts for me in 1952 with two of my favourite batches of buses, the STD PD2s and Regent IIIs, delivered in 1952.
I then began to back track – through the excellent British Buses since 1900 and John Aldridge. Sunbeam attracted my attention because they were MOTORbuses and John Aldridge implies that the quality of build was so high that they were too good and therefore too expensive for the general market. Likewise with Dodson bodies. No PSV historian is ignorant of the name, but few of us will have had first hand experience of their products.
When some of us are in our wheelchairs going misty eyed about AEC, Leyland, Roe, Weymann – or whoever – what will that mean to our grandsons and granddaughters? Food for thought – or is just too depressing?

David Oldfield


How wonderful that a modern Dodson is researching the business!. I do hope the findings become available, as I have recently come across several instances of Dodson bodywork outside London.
Cedes Stoll tracklesses.
Peterborough and District Leylands.
Derby Guy Invincibles?
Some of the ancestor fleets of EYMS in Hull
Wolverhampton Corpn. (plenty there)
Many more mid 1920s on Dennis 4 ton and Leyland G series type vehicles. Leeds Corporation.
There must be many more out there…feel like searching and telling everyone?

John Whitaker


I’d say, Phil, that we are as delighted to find a member of the Dodson family as you are to find the posting. Maybe you could post a potted history of this well-regarded company, with a couple of photos, for us all to enjoy. If the above photo was the last Dodson design, the company went out on a real high – it is very attractive. Did the company come to a complete halt in 1933, or did it have other irons in the fire which kept it going?
[Thx for the full registration – now updated].

Chris Hebbron


Just thought of 2 more Dodson customers.
Hastings Tramways
West Bridgford UDC (1914 Dennis)
There has to be many more.

John Whitaker


On the Dodson theme, Portsmouth Corporation started it’s motorbus fleet with 10 Thornycroft J’s in 1919, which had locally built Wadham bodies. But in 1926/27, these were rebodied by the Corporation, using ex-LGOC B-type bodies, built by Dodson. They also bought a complete B-type, with a Dodson body (this did not last long).
On withdrawal by c.1929/30, one of the Thornycrofts (No.10, BK 2977) with it’s Dodson body was preserved, and is fortunately still with us. It is located at the Milestones Museum in Basingstoke, and looks extremely attractive in a contemporary setting of a street scene with other Thornycroft commercial vehicles of that era.

Michael Hampton


Re the Dodson theme, the preserved Portsmouth Thronycroft J at Basingstoke is registered BK 2986 (not BK 2977). Apologies for error in my memory of the batch, which was 1-10 (BK 2977-BK 2986).

Michael Hampton


Chris. Christopher Dodson retired and closed up the business in 1933 due to LPTB Act which took away his "Independent" bus operator customers. The LGOC had hindered bus competition and his business for years which is why he was so devoted to supporting the needs of independent operators and against "The Combine" group as you mentioned.
Dodson Ltd. also built trolleybus bodies from 1912-1933, mainly for Keighley, Wolverhampton and Derby. Christopher’s brothers also started a bus service on the Isle of Wight in 1921, Dodson & Campbell Ltd, which became Dodson Bros Ltd/Vectis Bus Co. in 1923. Christopher was also a director in that company which merged with Southern Railway in 1929 to become Southern Vectis. All their buses had Dodson built bodies of course up until 1932 when they retired and sold their interest in the company.

John interestingly mentioned that Hastings Tramways was a Dodson customer. Dodson built 8 trolleybuses for Hastings in 1928, one of which,(DY 4965), still survives today. Restored and known as "Happy Harold" it has been fitted with a diesel engine to run as a bus. There is a short 1928 film clip of when the 8 Hastings trolleybuses were put into service that can be watched at this You Tube link.
"Happy Harold" is the trolleybus observed on right side from :18 to :43 seconds into the film clip.

Phil Dodson


Thanks Phil for the Utube film!!! How about that!!!
Please inform us all when you have completed your investigations. I would love to know of all the Dodson bodies, wherever they went. They had a very distinctive air about them, and the Sikh was by no means the only modernity item produced. Wolverhampton,s 1929 batch of Guy BTX had a much more modern body style, as did some other London Pirates. There was a Maudslay 4 wheel double decker with one of them if I remember, dated 1932/3

John Whitaker


29/08/12 – 10:33

Fascinating thread. I wonder if anyone has information regarding the Westminster livery carried on the Sunbeam Sikh? Was it red/cream?

Colin James


29/08/12 – 12:15

Maybe, if Phil Dodson sees this, he could tell us. Looking at this vehicle again, it’s got to be one of my favourite buses ever. What a shame that Dodson packed up and never built any more of them.
Could someone with DVLA access give the subsequent history of the vehicle?

Chris Hebbron


29/08/12 – 14:54

Didn’t it pass to Derby Corporation for a short time, or was that another one?

John Whitaker


30/08/12 – 07:03

The PSVC lists JJ 9215 as withdrawn by London Transport in 1934; to G J Dawson, SW9 (dealer) 5/35; Wigan & District Subsistence Production Society, Wigan, 1/37; G Pudifer, Liverpool, 9/39; J Routledge, Seaforth, Liverpool (dealer) 11/39, and scrapped.
According to Blacker, Lunn, & Westgate (London’s Buses Volume One – The Independent Era 1922-1934) Westminster’s livery was red and cream. The absence of a windscreen was apparently a peculiarity of one of the managing director, Mr Rich, who thought that windscreens were unsafe and that the draughts they created were bad for drivers’ health. JJ 9215 was reported to be a smooth runner but had a tendency to boil quickly.
There was a second Sikh built in 1931 with an older style of Dodson body for the Sphere Omnibus Co, but it did not enter service with them, although it was successfully submitted to the Police for testing. It became UK 7456 and was demonstrated by Sunbeam to Mansfield District, Midland General, and Derby, Birmingham, and Northampton Corporations, and was scrapped in 1940. Presumably this is the vehicle to which John refers.

Michael Wadman


31/08/12 – 07:35

Thanks muchly, Michael, for answering the queries Colin, John and I raised and even more!

Chris Hebbron


31/08/12 – 09:37

So sad, the number of manufacturers (vis Gilford and Dodson) who failed through no fault of their own, but rather because their customer base simple dried up or disappeared. What price a Euro 5 Gilford with Dodson body?

David Oldfield


31/08/12 – 09:38

Yes Michael, many thanks for the info on the 2 Sikhs.
There is something truly magnificent about the "big buses" of this era, and I am reminded of that marvellous machine introduced by Wolverhampton Corporation in (1929?). Again, with a Dodson body, but a 6 wheeled petrol electric Tilling Stevens. I only have a photo in a book; otherwise I would post it !

John Whitaker


31/08/12 – 16:02

The Westminster Omnibus Co. Sunbeam Sikh SM1 was withdrawn by the LPTB on 10 July 1934. This site gives a wealth of detail about the bus models of the Sunbeam company:- www.historywebsite.co.uk/Museum  In all its product ranges, bicycles, motorcycles, cars and buses, the Sunbeam company was synonymous with exceptionally high quality in keeping with the principles of the founder, John Marston, and almost all components were produced in house. This was reflected in the retail prices, and, in the depressed markets of the inter war years, sales were limited. The various parts of the Sunbeam group fell into different hands, though the name lived on for some models of motorcycle, motor scooter, car, and, of course, trolleybus. At least the trolley manufacture, ultimately part of Guy, remained in Wolverhampton to the end.

Roger Cox


16/12/13 – 07:23

Re John W/Michael W’s post on 29/8/12, I’ve found other, slightly conflicting info on the Derby Corporation Sikh. No. 44 was an ex-Sunbeam demonstrator, registration UK 7456 (chassis K10123) which dated from 1929. Its Dodson body seating was a smaller H35/32R, presumably to an earlier style, since the Westminster one was larger and the 1933 style. It went into service with Derby in 1933 and was also withdrawn in 1939.

Chris Hebbron


16/12/13 – 09:25

Thanks Chris for the TSM and Sunbeam detail which I have noted. You are correct in saying the Derby Sunbeam was of the earlier Dodson body style. I have seen a photo but cannot remember where it was. In "Looking at Buses" by G. Hilditch (I Think!)
Loads of Senior Moments!
I am now following Thornycroft. Have you seen the magnificent 6 wheeler photo on the Thornycroft site, with a camel roof body, which is a bit "Hall Lewis" looking. Also, trying to unearth photos of the 4 wheel BC Boadicea model as supplied to Southampton etc. This explosion of competition from 1929 to 1932 provides enough material for someone to write a book.
It would need someone a lot more technical than me though, a mere ageing enthusiast!

John Whitaker


17/12/13 – 06:51

The engine of the Sikh was an advanced and powerful overhead valve unit of 7.98 litres, developing 142 bhp at 2,400 rpm., which drove via a friction clutch into a four speed gearbox. The same engine was fitted to the more successful Pathan single deck model. Such a powerful engine must have given the Sikh and the Pathan remarkable road performances by any standard, certainly well above the norm for the early 1930s, though probably at a cost in fuel consumption. The Westminster Sikh weighed 7 tons 5cwt 3qtr, which seems remarkably light, and entered service in London in the week commencing 20th February 1933; the absence of a windscreen was entirely due to the rigid opinions of the Westminster company’s managing director, as the Met Police had capitulated on cab windscreens by this time. Only three Sikhs were made, the Westminster one being the second in production. In view of the imminent introduction of the London Passenger Transport Act on 1st July 1933, it is surprising that Westminster should have purchased such an expensive piece of capital equipment at so late a date. Almost inevitably, the solitary Sikh SM 1 did not survive long in the standardised world of the LPTB, being withdrawn in 1934 and disposed of on 16 May 1935. Its subsequent fate is unclear. As Michael Wadman and Chris Hebbron state above, the very first Sikh was cleared by the Met Police for use by the Sphere Omnibus Company on routes 73 and 76, but it never entered service, becoming instead a Sunbeam demonstrator and vanishing in the early years of WW2. The third Sikh was converted to a trolleybus, and opened up a much more successful market, though the original Sunbeam Company was not to see much of the benefit. In 1934, STD (for Sunbeam Talbot Darracq as then was) went into receivership, and the Rootes group picked up most of the assets.

Roger Cox


18/12/13 – 06:21

John, the best source of information on Thornycroft is the volume published in 2001 in the Ian Allen Transport Library (ISBN 0 7110 28141) written by the ever dependable Alan Townsin, who once worked for the firm himself. Details and photos of the bus models are there aplenty. Unfortunately, the book has no photos of a Southampton BC Forward, but there is a picture of Southampton’s rare HC six wheeler and another of a Daring. A picture of a United BC Forward may be found on this site under ‘Best Bits – A United Line Up’.

Roger Cox


18/12/13 – 14:14

Thanks Roger. Will look up the Thornycroft book, especially with the HC 6 wheeler being there! I remember them having English Electric bodies very similar to the Pompey Karriers.
Fascinating era to study!

John Whitaker


 J 9215_lrVehicle reminder shot for this posting


06/12/14 – 06:49

Sunbeam Sikhs are rare: photos even rarer! The link below shows a 1931 Midland District Sikh of 1931. What a dramatic difference is demonstrated by a mere two-year gap! http://midlandgeneralomnibus.weebly.com/mansfield-district-buses.html

Chris Hebbron


 

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