Midland Red (Birmingham & Midland Motor Omnibus Co)
EHA 415D has the unmistakable outline of a Midland Red D9. She has the operator’s own H72RD body, built in collaboration with Willowbrook. Does this mean one designed it and the other built it, or one built the frames and the other added the panels? We see it, newly withdrawn from service and still in full NBC livery (sorry!), in the Southsea rally on 8 June 1980.
Photograph and Copy contributed by Pete Davies
10/11/16 – 07:07
I wasn’t aware that Willowbrook had any involvement in the bodywork of the D9, but I am open to correction if evidence is offered. My understanding is that the bodies were built in the Midland Red Carlyle Works on MetSec frames, and incorporated aluminium alloy and glass fibre panelling, as employed previously in the single deck S14 design.
10/11/16 – 07:08
It’s come back! Its no good- I have lived in the Midlands in my youth, but I still cannot get fond of Midland Red. I don’t know what it is- that all over red (It was, want it?), or I can still see those single skin fibreglass domes (is that right- how much more was single skin?) or what seemed rather drab uniform interiors… or I could never get used to that sort of "Billy’s bus" front end: but steady, I’m sure they had many virtues: perhaps they were an engineer’s bus…?
10/11/16 – 09:05
Roger, The PSVC lists might be wrong: they say that the D9 has a BMMO/Willowbrook body, with H40/32RD seating, but both Jenkinson and the old "Ian Allan" BBF listings do not mention Willowbrook. BLOTW, however, mentions only Willowbrook as building the bodies. Ah, well . . .
And the ‘captcha’ code for this comment ends in D9 !!!
10/11/16 – 09:05
According to ‘Midland Red’ A history of 1940 – 1970 it states "5401-45 bodies completed by Willowbrook"
10/11/16 – 13:54
The D9 was an integral vehicle, the only double decker so constructed apart from the London Transport Routemaster, which was actually semi-integral. Production of the D9 came in several batches with the following fleet nos:-
4773 : prototype 1958
4849 – 4952 : 1958 to 1961
4945 – 5044 : 1962 to 1963
5296 – 5445 : 1963 to 1966
I confess to being previously unaware of it, though a closer look at my copy of ‘Midland Red Buses’ by M.W. Greenwood confirms that the 45 "tail end charlies" were finished off by Willowbrook, possibly in part because by this time, even before the BET sell out to NBC, BMMO in house production was winding down. Certainly, the D9 design itself owed nothing to the Willowbrook company.
10/11/16 – 14:37
I have looked at Steve Richards’ book on the D9/D10 classes, titled "More Room on Top". He states that all the D9s were built at Central Works, except some of the final batch. However by the mid-sixties there was a severe skilled labour shortage at Central Works. The emphasis there was on single-deckers construction, and the final 45 D9s had only reached the part-panelled stage. It was this group which were completed by Willowbrook. They were virtually indistinguishable from the fully Carlyle-built D9s. Steve Richards records that the side lamps were positioned slightly lower, and the small "Midland" display above the destination screens was slightly different. The first four [5401-5404] were delivered in December 1965, the rest followed in 1966, finally being completed in November that year. I would say from this account that these particular ones should be described as "BMMO/Willowbrook" rather than being attributed wholly to the Loughborough company.
10/11/16 – 14:38
Although at the time I had little interest in the detail construction of buses, I do know that when I had the pleasure to drive D9’s in service in 1967 from Redditch and Digbeth garages I found them to be far superior in steering, semi-automatic gear changing, engine power, superb disc braking and general driver friendliness than anything I had driven on BCT. One slight problem I remember them to be very light and bouncy in the ride especially when empty. I certainly class them in the 3 finest double deckers to drive in my 50yrs experience with PSV’s, with the Routemaster and Neoplan Skyliner
11/11/16 – 05:44
The erroneous idea that Willowbrook constructed, rather than merely completed, the bodies on the final 45 D9s seems to have crept into all sorts of places, even on the Coventry Corporation Transport Society webpages :- http://www.cct-society.org.uk/midland/buses_t05.htm
Here is a picture of an earlier D9 No.5002 (3002 HA) taken in Birmingham in the late 1960s, when the bus still wore the BET style livery and fleetname. Like its single deck counterpart, the S14, the suspension of the D9 was by Metalastik rubber units, though independent at the front. One curious feature of the D9 was the full hydraulic braking system in which the pump was driven from the output side of the gearbox, giving rather peculiar braking responses at low road speeds. In the Routemaster, the pump was driven at engine speeds. The prototype D9 originally had disc brakes at front and rear, but the first production batch had discs on the front only, with drum brakes on the rear wheels. Even these discs proved troublesome, and all the later D9s were equipped with drum brakes all round, the first batch being retro fitted accordingly. I note Joe’s impassioned plea concerning this operator, so I hope soon to submit a gallery of Midland Red buses to the OBP site for his enjoyment.
11/11/16 – 08:01
Apparently this vehicle sometime in the seventies carried an all over advertisement for a ‘Do It Yourself Warehouse’ which could have been called ‘Super D’. I think it was in an all over white livery.
Also just above the top front windows a strengthening bar can be seen which was added due to front dome fatigue.
11/11/16 – 08:01
This has been an interesting exchange of views! Thanks for your comments.
12/11/16 – 07:17
Attached for comparison a side image of 5395 taken in Shrewsbury bus station in 1970.
I enjoyed riding on the D9s particularly on the rural services. An unusual feature was the inward facing front nearside seats downstairs. The book ‘ More room on top ‘ is recommended although I am biased as a friend contributed a number of excellent colour photos.
12/11/16 – 07:19
I’ve seen the obvious now- that the D9 had a considerable front overhang which gives it its funny look- but as Tony says it’s an Engineer/Driver’s bus… and anything comparable with a Skyliner must be OK. We’ve been here before but compare this overhang & everything else with its contemporary the Wulfrunian and you can see how folk were thinking then, especially if rear-engine to them meant Renault 10!
16/11/16 – 14:45
It was not only D9s that were finished off by Willowbrook. S17s around the same time were and I believe both Willowbrook and Plaxton were used. Serious production difficulties caused by skilled staff shortages. Interestingly outside contractors were not used for the later S21 and S22 types but Plaxton were used for S23 by which time all production was stopping. Although every D9 appears to have been modified and allegedly no two buses were the same, the Willowbrook finished ones are identifiable by the trim above the front wheel arch. MidlandRed.net is a good source of information.