Old Bus Photos

United Automobile – Bristol RELH6G – NHN 143E – 4343

United Automobile - Bristol RELH6G - NHN 143E - 4343

United Automobile Services
Bristol RELH6G

United had a small Garage at Pickering where the forecourt doubled up as a Bus Station.
Here 4343 (originally RE43) is loading for a trip along the A170 seventeen miles to Scarborough.
I expect this vehicle retained its manual gearbox which I would think could be tricky on a Stage Service. It is a good looking bus/coach – shame about the livery!

Photograph and Copy contributed by Ian Wild

12/05/20 – 06:48

Are you sure it had the manual gearbox? Crosville’s E registered RELH6Gs had semi automatic boxes. Even in bus livery, these coaches looked beautiful!

Don McKeown

13/05/20 – 07:03

Probably was semi automatic. West Yorkshire’s E registered RELH were as well. As regards manual boxes I remember some West Yorkshire drivers struggling with earlier B, C, and D registered RELL buses.

Stephen Clough

14/05/20 – 06:52

According to United Automobile Services Part Two by messrs. Townsin, Groves and Banks (Venture Publications), this batch RE41-65 were the first coaches to be delivered with semi-automatic gearboxes.

John Gibson

16/05/20 – 06:33

It might be 17 miles from Pickering to Scarborough, but three times a day (twice on Sundays) the route began in Ripon, via Thirsk, Ampleforth and Helmsley to Pickering and Scarborough, distance of some 60+ miles, some of it on minor roads. In 1976 this took around three and a half hour end to end. The route number groups with other Ripon services, but how it was crewed is a mystery to me. I guess Ripon crews were relieved for a break at Pickering, as two of the through journeys had only five minutes turn round at Scarborough. I would be very interested to know more about the operation of the 128.

Andy Buckland

17/05/20 – 06:37

Andy’s comment reminded me that in the James Herriot book "Vets might fly" James bunked off from his RAF training in Scarborough one Sunday afternoon and travelled by bus to "Darrowby" (which we now know to be Thirsk) to see his pregnant wife, Helen. He had less than an hour before he had to catch the return bus – and as I recall it, his absence without leave was never detected! I assume that this escapade, like many others, was founded in real life.

Stephen Ford

18/05/20 – 06:34

Stephen, by 1976, the date of my timetable, this would not be possible on a Sunday, with just two through journeys each way. You had to leave Scarborough at 10:45 to reach Thirsk by 13:35, returning at 18:10. Now, if in earlier years there had been a third return, as during the week, then 12:45 from Scarborough, arrive Thirsk 15:40, return at 18:27 was possible. Add a bit of poetic licence and we perhaps have the basis for the story.

Andy Buckland

20/05/20 – 07:18

I have been looking at the summer timetable for 1957, and it shows that from 7th July to 14th September, there were three journeys each way between Scarborough and Ripon on Sundays. If he left Scarborough at 10.45, he would reach Thirsk at 1.40 p.m. He could then leave Thirsk at 3.50 p.m. arriving back at Scarborough at 6.40 p.m. So yes, this journey would have been feasible as long as it was made at the height of the summer.

John Gibson

20/05/20 – 07:19

I travelled on service 128 from Helmsley to Ripon in 1976 (MWs all the way from Middlesbrough to Harrogate!!). If memory isn’t playing tricks, we had to change buses at Sproxton, west of Helmsley, and the respective buses then returned home. I can’t remember if the change was advertised in the timetable. A trip form Ross-on-Wye to Abergavenny by Red and White in 1970 (MWs again) certainly involved a change at Broad Oak even though the timetable showed the buses working through.

Phil Drake

21/05/20 – 06:56

And there we have the answer, Phil!
Certainly there is no reference to a change of vehicle at Sproxton, indeed it does not even merit entry in the timetable, but if you look at the times for Helmsley and Ampleforth, then buses would cross roughly where Sproxton is. What makes it strange is that Sproxton is only a few minutes west of Helmsley, where some journeys stood time and interchange facilities are much better. Was there perhaps some unwritten rule that Helmsley to Scarborough was dedicated to Pickering/Scarborough drivers and Ripon was “another company”

Andy Buckland

21/05/20 – 06:56

Definitely semi-auto, we had 4344 at Darlington for a while, not the fastest, comfortable for both driver and passengers it did what it was supposed to do. I used to call it the old mans bus.

John Wake

31/08/20 – 06:27

Regarding the operation of the Ripon to Scarborough service, I lived in Ripon in the late 1960s, and at that time the buses definitely worked through on the whole route, but the drivers did not. When opposing vehicles met, usually in the middle of nowhere, they stopped and the drivers changed over, returning whence they had come from. I presume that with three services each way on weekdays, a Scarborough based vehicle would spend alternate nights at Ripon garage, and vice versa. Obvious the drivers would get back home at the end of their shifts.

Chris Appleby

03/09/20 – 06:18

Where the garage was may be seen here: https://www.google.co.uk/maps/
It would appear that the property was modified to become the carpet showroom it is in the photograph.
I have a snapshot photograph I took on Sunday 23 July 1972 which has four single deckers parked within. //www.ipernity.com/

David Slater


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United Automobile – Leyland Leopard – 7462 PT – W 5 ?

7462 PT

United Automobile Services
Leyland Leopard L2
Plaxton C43F

Established in the early 1920‘s, Wilkinson Motor Services were an independent based in the Durham Mining Village of Sedgefield. They had a well-maintained fleet of quality vehicles, which to the best of my knowledge were all single deck, and mostly AEC and Leyland with a couple of Bedford’s thrown in for good measure. Their livery was red and cream, with cream being the dominant colour. Other than that, I don’ t know a great deal about them. Wilkinson became part of United in 1967; when United gained control of the independent, their usual practice was that any none standard BTH vehicles acquired in the process either became part of the Durham District fleet, or were disposed of as quickly as possible, however, this was not the case with Wilkinson’s fleet. The vehicles were repainted and numbered with a ‘W’ prefix, however, this was 1967, and the new Government were about to start the formation of NBC, and is probably the reason the Wilkinson fleet survived into the new era. As we know the newly created NBC, promptly set about destroying, sorry, ‘redistributing’ long established fleets, and scattering them all over the place. The Wilkinson depot closed, but this is one of four C43F Plaxton bodied Leyland Leopard L2 coaches, 7462&3 PT from 1962 and 3564&5 UP from 1963; which stayed with United, but I’m not entirely sure where the remainder of the fleet ended up. Both Wilkinson and United, had very high standards, but for some reason ‘unless its just happened’ this one has some damage around the grill, and one of the foglights.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Ronnie Hoye

22/12/14 – 07:43

The 30ft model is in my top 5 good looking coaches of all time.

Andy Fisher

23/12/14 – 09:38

I completely agree as long as you mean the 1963/64 version with the improved back end. If you saw this Wilkinsons machine from behind I think that you’d be hard pushed to describe it as a classic! Nearly 50 years on I still remain undecided about the Ogle design which replaced this model in 1965. In some liveries it looked quite futuristic and imaginative, in others weird for the sake of it. I always thought that the ex-Wilkinson coaches looked very nice in the olive green and cream United livery. Wilky’s livery was a bit bland.

Neville Mercer

24/12/14 – 06:12

Another non standard United batch were the nine Leyland Royal Tigers which looked simply glorious in the olive green and cream livery – mind you, it would be a sorry vehicle which couldn’t look good in those classic colours !!

Chris Youhill

26/12/14 – 06:47

I wonder if I may offer a few corrections and clarifications to Ronnie’s caption above.
Firstly, Sedgefield was never a mining village; it is situated just outside and to the South East of the edge of the Durham coalfield. Having said that, the closest pits – at Fishburn (closed 1973) and Bishop Middleham (closed 1936) were both only 3 miles away. Sedgefield’s background, though, is purely agricultural.
You’re quite correct, Ronnie, that the fleet was always single-deck although the services, unusually for this part of the county, didn’t pass under any low bridges. There is a mystery surrounding one particular bus (16, UP5438), however, inasmuch as, although this was an all-Leyland Lion which served Wilkie’s for 19 years between 1931 and 1950, an official Leyland photograph exists (and is shown in the Cardno/Hillerby history of Wilkinson’s Motor Services) of a Leyland Titan, apparently in the livery of a Welsh operator (Vanguard) but clearly displaying the same registration number! The distribution of AECs and Bedfords over the years was equal (8 of each) but the fleet, from 1930 onwards, was predominantly Leyland. At the time of the sale to United, however, the fleet was 7 AECs, 6 Leylands and 1 Bedford with 3 Leylands on order.
Wilkie’s ceased to exist on 26 February 1967 but your suggestion that, when United acquired non-BTH standard vehicles from an acquired independent, they were either disposed of quickly or transferred into the Durham District Services fleet is misleading. During the relatively short life of the DDS, United acquired the services of eight independents; of these, Wilkinson’s was the last. Of the others – Heather Motor Services of Robin Hood’s Bay, W.C.Radley & Son (‘Dauntless Motor Service’) of Eldon Lane (a village near Bishop Auckland), James & Mosley of Croft Spa, M Hardy of Darlington, Scott’s Greys of Darlington, Forge Valley Motors of Scarborough and Norfolk’s Motor Service of New Ridley – only Radley’s vehicles were acquired but, of the five owned, four were promptly offered for resale and only one (a Bedford SB) was taken into the fleet; it was never allocated a fleetnumber, however, never actually operated by United and sold within about four months of the takeover. Thus, no acquired vehicles were transferred to the DDS fleet although the DDS company was itself formed from the acquisition of three independents – Darlington Triumph, ABC Motor Service and the Express Omnibus Company.
The entire Wilkie’s fleet of 14 buses (two of which had originated with Scurr’s of Stillington) and coaches was taken into the United fleet as well as the 3 additional vehicles which were on order at the time of takeover and entered the United fleet between June and August of 1967; they were allocated the fleetnumbers W1-W17 rather than being given the appropriate code for their chassis type. The fleetnumber for 7462UP is correct; it was originally Wilkie’s 62, became United W5 on takeover and eventually became 4002 in the January 1969 renumbering, at which time the 17 ex-Wilkinson’s buses were all still operated.
"The Wilkinson depot closed". Well, yes it did, but not for some years after the United takeover. The ‘depot’ at Sedgefield was actually two quite separate premises about half a mile apart. These were the Parkside garage – where W5 is photographed – on the outskirts of the village prior to its recent expansion, where the majority of the fleet was garaged and major servicing carried out, and North End, closer to the centre of the village with garaging for four buses as well as being the location of the offices, crew room and even a small filling station and car repair facility. Sedgefield depot didn’t close until November 1984. Parkside garage was demolished and developed many years ago and, today, it’s impossible to imagine that it was once a bus garage. The premises at 46 North End, however, although now the base of Wright Construction, are little changed and immediately recognisable. Shamefully, although I lived a hundred yards or so further up North End for over 30 years until a few months ago, I never photographed it in its days as a bus garage!

Alan R Hall

25/09/16 – 05:43

As a former YTC mechanic and a summertime week-end PSV driver I well remember smashing my less than a year old ‘gold 21st present watch’ whilst attempting to select gears on 1235 fleet no Leyland Leopard on the Doncaster Barnsley service. Leyland (in their wisdom) had decided to introduce a hydraulic clutch system into their early leopards using a completely new clutch pressure plate. Why? Nobody knows. The old tiger’s clutch was always good enough, and had served the 0600 engine well since c1949. Probably some ‘Whizz Kid’s’ idea straight from some venerable seat of learning. Anyway he cost me a new watch. £35 as I recall a heap of money at the time and almost three weeks wages.

Mr Anon


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United Automobile – Bristol SU – AHN 901B – S1

United Automobile - Bristol SU - AHN 901B - S1

United Automobile Services
Bristol SUL4A

The Bristol SU series had a limited following amongst THC Companies. This example is in Ripon Bus Station in July 1968 about to set out on the lengthy run to Masham. I would imagine the Albion 4cyl engine would be quite noisy although probably not as bad as the Gardner 4LK as fitted to the earlier SC series.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Ian Wild

24/11/14 – 06:44

The SU series had the same gearbox as the earlier SC model and thus parts of the sound were similar on both models. Yes, the Albion Engine was noisy! The interior of the bus version was unusual in having inward facing seats over all four wheels. The Western National coach versions had normal forward facing seats throughout.
I remember riding on one or two of these buses on Ripon Market Day services, and I also once spent a day riding on Western National SU’s on various routes centred on Bridport. However I was most familiar with West Yorkshire’s SU models, working from Grassington outstation on service 72 between Grassington and Ilkley, which covered several miles of single-track roads around Appletreewick, and also passed through the narrow arch at Bolton Abbey.
I was lucky enough to ride on an SU at this years Kingsbridge Running Day, which brought back happy memories.

Don McKeown

24/11/14 – 06:44

The geographical area covered by United was vast, and obviously not every type of vehicle would be based at every depot. If any of the depots which ran services into Newcastle had any, they must have been used for local services as I cant ever remember seeing any of this type in the City.

Ronnie Hoye

24/11/14 – 09:42

Don I was at Ilkley depot in 1960/1 and worked on the Grassington service (which was 75 in those days). It was a lovely route as you say, but roadwise dreadful with dry stone walls, no kerbs or verges, Bolton Abbey Arch, Barden bridge, and hordes of motorists and others towing large caravans – many such drivers seemingly with not the vaguest idea of the dimensions of their vehicles. The famous West Yorkshire Bristol L/ECW saloon SG 103, converted by the Company to forward entrance OPO, was the basic performer on the full length weekday journeys on the route for many years. Very happy days indeed !!

Chris Youhill

24/11/14 – 17:04

Chris, many years later I would be a regular driver on what was by this time the 76 running between Skipton and Grassington via Bolton Abbey, covering the one time Ribble route from Skipton to Bolton Abbey and part of the original West Yorkshire route. Sadly by this time Leyland Nationals were in use on the service, but the scenery and the roads and bridges were still the same. Happy days indeed!

Don McKeown

24/11/14 – 17:05

The Bristol SU was noisy. The afternoon school special to Eldwick from Bingley Secondary Modern & Technical School was operated by a bus from the Keighley-Bingley via Morton service. Invariably this would be a Bristol SUL – from KSMA 1-4 or SMP 17. My over-riding memory of them is that the ride was hard and the engine extremely noisy. Mind you, what I’d give to ride on one today!

Kevin Hey

25/11/14 – 07:12

Don, not to digress too far, but during my time at Ilkley service 76 was my all time favourite – five hours a round trip – Skipton, Ilkley, Harrogate, Wetherby, Tadcaster – shared by Skipton, Ilkley, Harrogate and Wetherby depots. There was, however, one phenomenal outing for Grassington crews who used the Skipton depot bus for one round trip with, I think, a 71 from Skipton to Grassington before and after – or maybe they rode passenger to and from Grassington – its a long time ago now !!

SG 103

Picture here of dear old SG 103 – a rare treat for passengers to share first hand the glorious symphony of the Gardner 5LW, and no excess fare either !! Apologies for diverging from the United topic, but this is in a similar vein I feel.

Chris Youhill

25/11/14 – 07:13

417 EDV

Western/Southern National were by far the biggest users of the SU, taking 133 of the 181 built. By contrast, 323 examples of the SC4LK were produced, but none of these went to Southern/Western National. I drove the ex Western National SUL4A buses 318/347/355/417 EDV and the coach bodied 269 KTA when they were owned by Tillingbourne of Chilworth, near Guildford, between 1972 and 1975. As I (now somewhat shakily) recall, the gearbox was certainly a David Brown unit, but the gear selector positions were more logical than those of the SC4LK, examples of which I also drove for Tillingbourne. Some sources say that this was a synchromesh gearbox. It was not; it was constant mesh. The four cylinder Albion engine of 4.1 litres was effectively 2/3 of the Leyland six cylinder O375 engine as used in the Tiger Cub, and it was not noted for its reliability in the contemporary Nimbus. It developed 72 bhp at 2,200 rpm, rather more than the 57 bhp at 2,100 rpm of the 3.8 litres Gardner 4LK in the SC, and the SU was decidedly more lively in performance than its lightweight Bristol forebear. It also felt more solid than the Nimbus, and was quite pleasant to drive. A rather careworn 417 EDV is shown on the rural road between Colgate and Roffey Corner, near Horsham, very shortly before it was withdrawn in June 1975. The windscreen of the coach bodywork on 269 KTA had a distinct "vee" shape, and this gave severe reflection problems in the cab from the saloon lighting during hours of darkness. Sister vehicle 270 KTA has been preserved as shown in this link:- //upload.wikimedia.org/_Western_National_420_270KTA

Roger Cox

25/11/14 – 08:51

Ah, Roffey Corner, Roger; shades of Basil Williams’ Hants and Sussex empire!

Chris Hebbron

25/11/14 – 17:40

The service from Grassington to Ilkley is now run by Pride of the Dales using Optare Solos which fit through the Bolton Abbey arch comfortably.
Grassington depot is now a postal sorting office and the car park boasts a small bus station.
Some 30 years ago I was travelling between Appletreewick and Grassington when I met a WYRCC RESL on a school journey coming the other way we passed with inches to spare in a passing place, I never knew until then how many rivets ECW put in a bus!
Even further back in the mists of time in the sixties I once caught the bus from Grassington to Kettlewell on this occasion the bus was packed as it was market day. The bus was a LS and carried a very vintage guard presumably from Grassington depot. Happy days.

Chris Hough

26/11/14 – 17:07

Many of the Western and Southern National SUs worked on Guernsey for a number of years following withdrawal on the mainland.

Chris Hough

26/11/14 – 18:00

Has a known SU fan I’m glad so many are preserved including one in Colin Billington’s collection which is preserved in Guernsey Delta Tours livery. One of my pictures of this can be seen at https://www.flickr.com/photos/one although I prefer SUS and one of these is shown at https://www.flickr.com/photos/two

Ken Jones

27/11/14 – 15:05

The SU was designed to meet a requirement for small buses at the start of the 1960s by Western/Southern National to replace rebodied pre-war Bristol L types. Unfortunately, by that time all the other Tilling companies with such a requirement (Lincolnshire, Crosville and Eastern Counties, which had not generally rebodied their pre-war saloons) had re-equipped with the Bristol SC4LK in the mid 1950s. As a result, Western/Southern National took 133 out of the 181 SUs built, and the balance went in only small numbers (often 5 or 6) to other Tilling Group companies. Of these, West Yorkshire had the largest number, taking 18, but these were then scattered around the depots – for example the allocation on 1 January 1965, the first day that all 18 were in service, was Grassington (1); Harrogate (2); Ilkley (1); Keighley (2); Malton (2); Pateley Bridge (2); Skipton (1) and York (1 + 6 York-West Yorkshire). This guaranteed that the type was regarded as an "oddity" at every depot, and we all know what drivers think of oddities…. I know that at York, drivers admitted to using the (fairly inadequate) brakes more than necessary so that they were able to book it off after the morning peak, for the brakes to be adjusted. The Western/Southern National drivers HAD to accept them, by virtue of the quantity in the fleet, and so no doubt they learned how best to drive them, and how to get the best out of them.
As one of the small, elite band of SU owners and drivers in 2014 I can confirm that on the level (and downhill!) they have a respectable turn of speed. On a suitable road or Motorway a steady 50-55 mph can be maintained all day long, making long distance rallying enjoyable. Hills are more of a problem; the small engine itself isn’t the whole story, though, as the David Brown gearbox has an unfortunately large gap between 3rd and 4th gear, which guarantees that once down to 3rd gear it remains in that, at 25 mph, until the top of the hill is reached!
Like Ken I am an unashamed SU fan and wouldn’t change mine for anything else.

Trevor Leach

27/11/14 – 16:13

862 RAE

Ken says he prefers the shorter SUS model. The Bristol Omnibus Co. had nine of them – in three batches, and here is their former 301 (862 RAE), a SUS4A with ECW B30F body, one of three new in 1962. Withdrawn in 1971 it passed to North’s, the dealer, of Sherburn-in-Elmet in Yorkshire at whose premises it is pictured here in 1972. It then saw service with Primrose Valley Coaches of Filey and later Phillips of Shiptonthorpe with whom it lasted until around 1983. It then passed to a Barnsley breaker, but was reprieved and after a few more owners it was last reported as preserved by Mike Ellis of Stroud – 301’s original allocation when new.

John Stringer

28/11/14 – 06:36

Thanks for the SUS pictures [Trevor hope you and your wife are well]- I don’t know if 862 RAE has been out recently – I last saw it in 2012. There’s an article from a few years ago [with pictures] at www.focustransport.org.uk/

Ken Jones

15/07/21 – 06:45

I always loved United Autos buses, moving to Leeds in 1962 didn’t dampen my ardour, in fact it increased. On my visits to Middlesbrough from where I had moved, I was in awe of their vehicles and you can imagine my glee when I used often to travel on a United vehicle in the shape of the X99 service to get there from Leeds.

David Walton


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