Old Bus Photos

Stratford Blue – Leyland Tiger Cub – 2745 AC – 44

Stratford Blue - Leyland Tiger Cub -2745 AC - 44
Copyright Roger Cox

Stratford-upon-Avon Blue Motors Ltd
Leyland Tiger Cub PSUC1/1
Willowbrook B45F

In his comment upon Michael Bishop’s posting of the Isle of Man Road Services Leyland Tiger Cub with a Willowbrook DP41F, Ian Wild refers to the very similar Stratford Blue Leyland PSUC1/1 Tiger Cubs. Pictured in August 1970, this is No.44, 2745 AC, the one with the Willowbrook B45F body – the other four had DP41 seating configuration – and, I think, it is our first picture on the site of a Stratford Blue bus. The early history of the company is rather complicated, but by 1931 it was operating as a Balfour Beatty group business with second hand vehicles, as Balfour Beatty refused to finance new purchases. In 1935 the BET group assumed control, with management passing to BMMO, a situation that continued until the BET sold out to NBC in 1969. NBC set about absorbing its newly acquired smaller operators into the bigger neighbouring companies. From 1st January 1971, Midland Red assumed full control of Stratford Blue, and buses were progressively repainted into the BMMO overall red livery.
Here is a link to read the full history of Stratford Blue.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Roger Cox

15/07/12 – 08:08

What a beautiful glossy finish. You don’t see that very often – and you rarely saw it in NBC days. It seems strange to me that some operators manage to keep this sort of finish and others can’t. It can’t simply be the difference between whether vehicles are hand or machine washed.

David Oldfield

15/07/12 – 12:44

On that point, David, when I was with Tynemouth and Wakefields, prior to NBC all Northern group buses were hand painted, this involved several coats of primer and paint followed by a final coat of varnish, the drawback was cost and the fact that the whole process took about 10 days, these days much of what you see is just stuck on graphics. cost effective, but no where near as good a finish.

Ronnie Hoye

15/07/12 – 12:44

A very nice photo of a small’ish concern who always took a pride in their vehicles and ploughed their own furrow, in spite of being a BMMO subsidiary for some 40-odd years. They were great advocates of Tilling-Stevens B10’s before the war and I recall visiting an aunt around 1949-50 and seeing these strange-sounding antiques. I didn’t fully appreciate them, truth be told.
Later, they were equally keen Leyland users, of which the above is a good example. Peter Gould’s website contains a potted history, taken from the book "Stratford-upon-Avon Blue Motor Services Remembered", by David Harvey. 

Chris Hebbron

16/07/12 – 06:28

I can’t help thinking that the picture gives a good impression of how Samuel Ledgard’s fleet would have looked if they had taken similar vehicles.

Chris Barker

16/07/12 – 06:29

It certainly does look in remarkably good fettle for an 11 year old bus – one could easily believe that the photo was taken to mark its first day in service.
As Chris states, despite being under the wing of Midland Red, they went their own way – especially regarding vehicle policy. Their BET Federation style PS1’s and Tiger Cubs, and the Northern Counties rebodied PS2’s were more reminiscent of Yorkshire Traction – a company about as far removed from Stratford Blue as I can imagine.
I’ve heard it said that the BET Group retained some smaller outfits such as Stratford Blue, Hebble and Mexborough & Swinton in order to allow junior managers to gain experience and prove themselves on a small scale before being let loose with a larger company.

John Stringer

16/07/12 – 12:18

You’re right in what you say, John, whenever United ‘Tilling Group’ took over a company everything was changed to a standard procedure, where as Northern General ‘BET’ allowed companies to retain their name, different livery, and a certain amount of independence, in some cases this even went as far as vehicle spec, take the PD3’s for example ‘livery apart’ although outwardly the Orion bodied examples all looked the same, but the Percy Main vehicles were totally different from the rest inside, and the Sunderland District ones were Burlingham bodied. This all changed with NBC, the ‘Corporate Image Brigade’ stepped in, the names went one by one, and some splendid liveries were cast aside to be replaced by drab poppy red or vomit green dependant on where you live

Ronnie Hoye

16/07/12 – 18:20

Only one word to say about the photo – stunning, absolutely stunning! That’s three, but who’s counting. As others have said, a beautiful livery – strange how something as basic as blue and cream can look beautiful, but it did – immaculately presented on a classic design. In addition ‘Stratford-upon-Avon Blue Motors’ has such a wonderful ring from a more elegant age.
And Ronnie, I agree with every word you say about Northern Group liveries. I was sad when Gateshead adopted green and cream in 1964 thereby making them look the same as Tyneside; I may have been in a minority in loving the old maroon/brown and cream but I thought it was really smart and it was distinctive.
In mentioning the end of separate liveries with inception of NBC you might also have mentioned the revolting yellow which got slapped all over buses based in Tyne and Wear soon afterwards; strange how Newcastle Corporation’s yellow and cream looked really smart and yet Tyne and Wear’s didn’t seem to look good on anything!

Alan Hall

17/07/12 – 06:55

Another well-kept vehicle in a small fleet despite, as others have said, being a division of Midland Red for so many years. Looking closely at the picture reminds me that Stratford Blue were among a very small number of (usually small) operators who used the service number box to display the name.

Pete Davies

17/07/12 – 06:56

I may be mistaken, but I think Stratford Blue were wound up after pay/conditions were brought into line with BMMO – there was a strike about this issue. Why the company couldn’t have been allowed to continue with staff on an equal footing with the parent escapes me, but then around this time NBC was intent on wrapping-up its smaller operations – were there administrative costs, such as posting of accounts, involved in running subsidiary companies?
Whatever, it was a shame to have lost a "blue company" – although NBC’s (lack of!) policy on corporate blue liveries would have seen to that in due course anyway. Red "Statford Blue"?: reminds me of when Western National was split by NBC and Bob Montgomery had those members of his new North Devon operation – trading as Red Bus [sic] – which were still in Leaf Green lettered as "This is a RED BUS" (as opposed to the "RED BUS" fleetnames on the red members of the fleet). "This is still a STRATFORD BLUE bus" (on Poppy Red vehicles) doesn’t have the same ring though. Although with NBCs policy of shortening fleetnames – Cheltenham District/Cheltenham, Bath Services/Bath, Maidstone & District/Maidstone (on coaches), Mansfield District/Mansfield – red "Stratford" buses wouldn’t have been so silly.
Back to the bus though – the whole thing’s just right isn’t it? livery, vehicle design/proportions . . . and a nice linen destination blind – class.
But does anybody know why Stratford Blue was "allowed" to pursue a Leyland-based vehicle buying policy? One assumes that the Directors were all senior BMMO officers, so why didn’t they insist on purchase of BMMO products? Was it because the Leyland purchases by Stratford Blue provided a bench-mark against which BMMO products could be judged, as I’ve read? – but then they weren’t being operated over comparable routes and BMMO operated Leyland vehicles in its own fleet anyway; or was it because BMMO couldn’t meet its own requirements from internal production and Stratford Blue had, of necessity, to look elsewhere?

Philip Rushworth

17/07/12 – 06:57

Alan, I prefer not to think about the NBC version of T&W yellow, and the PTE went on a very expensive experiment with various layouts of Newcastle Corporation’s original livery only to end up with something not a million miles from where they started, in fact I would be surprised if most of the population of Newcastle knew the difference.

Ronnie Hoye

17/07/12 – 08:19

…..but just be thankful that you didn’t end up with something like South Yorkshire’s "Coffee and cream"! Even when the coffee was strengthened, it wasn’t a patch on Sheffield’s cream with blue livery and it only became vaguely bearable with the eventual addition a red.

David Oldfield

17/07/12 – 12:41

Yes, the right combination/shade of blue and white/cream do make a very attractive buss. My Western Travel post shows a dual-purpose Gloucester Bristol RELH6L in similar guise, although their bog-standard all-over blue with thin white stripe between decks looked uninspiring.

Chris Hebbron

17/07/12 – 12:41

Chris B – how right you are with the Ledgard comparison – in fact there was once an edition of an Ian Allan publication which featured a Stratford PD2 and I for one had to glance again quickly, thinking that it was a Ledgard view. I can’t just recall whether it was a "Buses Illustrated" or one of the annuals.

Chris Youhill

28/07/12 – 08:36

A lovely picture but it would be a mistake to think this is representative of how Stratford Blue buses looked in their later years – what it does show is No. 44 fresh from the paint shop in the blue and white livery that replaced the earlier blue and cream from 1969 onwards. In their later years the Tiger Cubs were unreliable, unloved and often unkempt, and consideration was given to replacing them with used buses from elsewhere, but it never happened. There were 14 Tiger Cubs in the fleet, with Willowbrook, Park Royal and Marshall bodies. They all passed to Midland Red on 1 January 1971 but were withdrawn by May, despite two of them having been repainted red – mostly replaced by the newly delivered Ford R192s. As to Stratford Blue’s quasi-autonomous existence the answer probably lay with BET headquarters rather than with Midland Red, but it has never been fully explained and probably never will be. Although Stratford Blue bought Leylands almost exclusively from 1948 to 197 (82 in total), Midland Red bought more in 1952/53 alone, with their 100 LD8-class Titan PD2s. Final comment on this photo is that Warwick was rarely seen as a destination on a Stratford Blue bus – the hourly 90A from Stratford to Leamington passed through the town, but very few journeys finished there. This was most likely a schools journey.

Bob Telfer

28/12/12 – 13:48

Stratford Blue

Just to say Kineton depot of Stratford Blue used white ticket rolls as did Stratford unless on local service then we had to change to pink.

Bill Floyd

29/12/12 – 18:13

I may be imagining this, but there looks to me to be a conductor on board who is in the process of winding the destination blind – this would explain the ‘unlikely’ destination and the fact that it appears badly set. The ‘PAYE’ sign doesn’t look to be illuminated.

David Call

20/07/14 – 07:15

Just to say Leyland Cub fleet number 44 reg no 2745 AC finished its days in the brook through bridge on Kineton to Radway Rd driver they say lost control DD number 31 turned over on Bourdon Hill towards Stratford this was a converted SD.

Bill Floyd

2745 AC_lr Vehicle reminder shot for this posting

09/06/17 – 06:27

I am trying to find out when Stratford Blue re-livered/painted their Leyland PD double deckers and included the newer Stratford Blue logo.
I believe that originally the mudguards were black and at this time were re-painted blue, also the roof colour changed.
I think it was in the early 1960’s but can’t find anything definite about it in the various books published on SB.
Hope that you can help or point me in the right direction please.

Paul Meers


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