Old Bus Photos

Smiths Luxury Coaches – Leyland Titan PD1 – JUG 623

Smiths Luxury Coaches Leyland Titan PD1
Photograph taken by Stuart Wyss

Smiths Luxury Coaches (Reading) Ltd
Leyland Titan PD1
Roe H31/25R

When I started at Smiths Coaches, Reading, in May 1964 we had 4 batches of double-deckers and a solitary unroofed tree-lopper. More on the others later, but JUG 623 was one of half a dozen ex-Leeds Corporation Leyland PD1s dating from 1946 but with 1945 chassis numbers—so only just postwar. They were used on contracts carrying school kids, AWRE Aldermaston employees and the 95% Irish workforce building the Road Research Laboratory at Crowthorne. Although the Guv’nor, Alf Smith, once told me he thought the JUGs had been a "bad buy", I couldn’t have agreed less. The perfectly-proportioned Roe bodies were getting a bit rattily round the window frames but were thoroughly sound and the safety staircase was ideal for youngsters; the steering was relatively light with no hint of stiffness, and it self-centred nicely, never needing correction on uneven country roads; the vacuum brakes were gentle but well up to the job; the clutches were pretty judder-free and the driving position was very comfortable. Most of the other younger drivers disliked them: the smallish 7.4-litre engine had to be worked hard, the noise in the cab was deafening, and the heavy flywheel, unforgiving constant-mesh gearbox and hard-to-use clutch stop made gear changing a little challenging for the novice. They were geared to do about 37mph in top at 1,800rpm, so if you were in a contract convoy on a narrow road you frustrated the Reliance driver behind you.
The JUGs had illuminated "Limited Stop" boxes at the front, which helped you to fool yourself into thinking you were doing 60.
"My" bus for a long time was JUG 630, of which a photo by and by. How I wish I’d made some effort to save it from scrap.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Ian Thompson

I agree fully Ian that the honourable Mr. Smith was way off the mark altogether. As for your complimentary remarks about the PD1s, well, they could easily have been written by me to the last letter. The PD1 was a totally predictable and  wholly reliable vehicle which was a tribute to the manufacturer – in my fairly wide experience it had no vices at all. I recall when they were new – the six Samuel Ledgard ones, JUM 373 – 8, the engines did admittedly have a very heavy "diesel knock" but I think there were two reasons for this. Firstly, I imagine that poor quality fuel may well have been a factor, but more importantly the vast difference in sound effects from the silky smooth pre-war 8.6 litre engine was bound to arouse surprise. This said, however, I found that as the engines became better tuned most of the PD1s (and PS1s) began to run very smoothly and acceptably quietly. Certainly all the PD/PS1s we had at Ledgard’s ran splendidly and, despite the slightly small engines, put up a very creditable performance on our extremely busy routes. When the Firm sold to THC (West Yorkshire) in 1967 many were twenty years old and without a squeak or rattle in their bodywork, whether by Leyland (and Alexander or Salmesbury under contract) ECW or BBW.
One Saturday afternoon, at the start of a late turn, I suffered a rear puncture with one of the Mark V Regents. The fitter arrived at White Cross (Harry Ramsden’s famous fish shop) very apologetic with JUM 376 and promised to return the Regent suitably re-shod within the hour – dear old Bert knew well of my enthusiasm and was not surprised when I said "leave this one on please until the end of the night – I love it."  So I enjoyed a whole late turn listening to the glorious melodious tones of the pre-war designed gearbox and particularly quiet and powerful engine – I remain surprised though to this day that the keen management didn’t demand to know, on Monday, why I had roamed happily around all evening on a busy Saturday, or any other day, with 58 seats instead of the prescribed 65 !! Very happy days – if only I could do it all again.
By the way – this is in no way any reflection on the worthy AEC Mk V which received an unexpected Saturday evening in "watching the telly !!

Chris Youhill

I’m glad that you liked the PD1s, Chris! On the topic of combustion noise I’d like to add that–probably because of their numerous visits to the workshop over their 24-year life–no two Smith’s JUG-registered PD1s sounded the same, though when you took your foot off the throttle and the pneumatic governor butterfly closed you had blissful combustion silence and a lovely high-pitched whistle. Nor was there any engine vibration at all. I still wish that Leyland had given them a five-speed box…

Ian Thompson

What a fine idea Ian – a five speed gearbox would have been quite an asset. Two things spring to mind though – five speed (or four speed plus overdrive) were fairly uncommon in PD1 days, and although I’m not an engineer it is possible that there may have been torque difficulties ?? By the way, I’m just wiping the egg off my face after enthusing about the beautiful tones of the PREWAR designed gearbox – the identical symphony led me to believe that this was the case. I’ve just consulted "The Leyland Bus" by Doug Jack and find that the box was actually developed for the new model. The high pitched whistle which you remember was magical wasn’t it ?? In the few weeks while I was waiting to upgrade my single deck licence a really splendid mature driver at our depot gave me constant instruction on his theory that the whistle was a completely reliable aid to immaculate gear changing – I was taught to recognise from the downward change of note as the engine slowed so as to be able to quietly engage the next gear "like putting a knife into butter." Despite this one to one tuition I kept telling him that I was still terrified of making a hash of it. The Ministry examiner at the time was a most frightening man to the extent that if "her indoors" had not boiled his eggs to perfection that morning, then failure for even tinkling a gear was a certainty. I can still remember dear Norman’s constant reassurances – "Oh I’m sure you’re worrying unduly." – He was right, bless him, and I’ll never forget the kindness of such genuine guys – the World is short of them !!

Chris Youhill

This reminds me of very youthful travel on Yorkshire Traction. Unlike the Doncaster Daimler CVD6’s which had a certain style (changing down for deceleration on a bend with a pre-selector was interesting: it sometimes felt as if the engine was trying to get upstairs) the Tracky Leylands  struggled: they were driven with short bursts of "acceleration" and would then see how far they could get before the next one. On the only hills- railway bridges- it was an early lesson in how far you could labour a diesel engine without stalling or changing down. I only remember that they had early HE registrations and one may have been no 722. Were they PD1’s? The idea of five speeds is amazing: one seemed too much.


My word Joe, what a commendable memory you have !! The first postwar Leylands for "Tracky" were five handsome PD1s with Roe bodies. They were numbers 722 – 726, AHE 159 – 163.

Chris Youhill

One of Tracky’s PD1/Roe still exists AHE163 The bus is privately owned and lives in the Lincolnshire Vintage Vehicle Museum. There are several shots of it on the Society web site here.

Chris Hough

The Smiths buses would come to our school and take the kids doing their swimming lessons for the test- whatever it was called -probably "Swimming Proficiency"- from memory they were all a sort of battleship grey- extremely drab looking. I think by my time they were AEC Regent IIIs from Oxford (COMS) plus a solitary RT- RT45 as the AWRE bought their own fleet of Regent Vs so the Smith’s fleet was reduced, accordingly. I didn’t go swimming, so I never travelled on these buses. When I was younger I can remember that on our bus route- Emmer Green-Chalgrove Way- which usually had the RCT PRV Regent IIIs- I was always pleased if I saw No 1 or No 100 (kids are sometimes easily pleased!) from time to time a Smith’s utility Bedford OB would arrive with "Relief" showing as its destination. As kids we found these buses definitely infra dig and felt cheated of the upper deck! That was my experience of Smith’s other than the odd trip out on one of their many Bedford coaches.

Nick Ratnieks

Nick: I don’t think Smith’s ever regularly ran buses in battleship grey. I can only ever remember blue and deep orange (their normal livery for both buses and coaches) and from about 1966-7 onwards an uninspiring overall red for the ex-Rhondda Regent IIIs and ex-South Wales Regent Vs. The OFC-registered 1949 Oxford Regent III-Weymanns (of which a photo soon) were always in blue and orange—at least in my day.
Despite their poorish visibility and mediocre steering I too had a soft spot for the musical little Bedford OBs, the last of which must have gone by about 1967, but as for the SBs, and in particular the Super Vega-bodied ones—well, I’d better shut up before I lose a lot of friends.

Ian Thompson

I remember those JUG Leylands very well as I took my test on JUG 628 in May 1965 at Smiths Coaches of Reading, I started on a Monday and spent two days driving around the city, then on Weds as I arrived at 8am I was called into the time box at the depot entrance and told that a test was available at 10 30am that morning, in those days the ministry boys came to your depot and Smiths had a man licenced to undertake tests, my instructor felt I was ready so I was told to go and have a cup of tea and read the Highway Code. At 10 20am I reported back to the time box and was told not to mess it up as they were short of drivers and if I passed they had a job needing covering so of I went and at 11 30am I returned with a little bit of paper in my hand saying I had passed, my first job of the day was to Savill Gardens near Egham Surrey I had no idea where it was but off I went and found it first time during the journey the teacher remarked what a smooth journey it was and had I been driving long I replied about two hours to which she burst out laughing, I was not joking, My first coach was ORD 250 a Bedford SB/Duple C41F. And yes those old Leylands of Smiths were ………. to drive and don’t let anyone kid you otherwise, its a pity modern bus operators don’t keep one so that some of their so called drivers can spend a week on one and then they might learn how to drive those tin boxes they call buses properly I think those VOSA boys today will go mad when they read this who cares I’m now retired.

Alan Kinge

21/07/11 – 07:39

Back in 1961 I was employed as a summer hand driver at the Crosville depot Pwllheli. My first trip as a driver, a newly qualified one at that, was to drive the 10:45 summer through service from Pwllheli to Barmouth using a rather tired Leland PD1 decker, possibly one carrying the fleet number DTE 547, usually allocated to the Nefyn outstation. When I climbed into the hot cab a feeling of great trepidation and apprehension descended upon the greenhorn driver, the road from Maentwrog to Barmouth is pretty grim today but it was horrendous back in the late 50’s early 60’s. All bends and sharp turns, narrow with loads of jagged rocks jutting out ready to rip the guts out of nearside panels. It was a heavily loaded service, not with through passengers but with short hop passengers, they were on and off more or less between every stage. Relatively few folk were car owners in those days. The small less than 8 litre power plant was less than adequate on the pull, but down hill progress was good. The ECW body work creaked and groaned and there was a decided fore and aft lurching of the body as well as a gentle sway. Noise levels in the cab were tolerably acceptable, though not as pleasing as what pervaded in the cab of a PD2. The trip went well and I managed to return to base with the decker intact and scratch free. The Traffic Inspector D.S.Davies walked round the vehicle and gave me the thumbs up. Confession did manage a small scrape to a lower nearside panel on the following day.

Evan Herbert

14/02/17 – 05:44

Ian Thompson. You may well be right about the colour of the Smith’s buses. I can see them in my memory as grey but I could be mixing up the colour with some industrial buses that chugged around. The buses pulled up every week to take those doing their swimming lessons off to the Arthur Hill Swimming Pool. Our classroom looked out on to the Hemdean Road- the buses were visible to all in the class- but my memory may be failing me!

Nick Ratnieks

17/02/17 – 06:40

I remember watching Tomorrows World on BBC 1 in the early seventies and seeing one of this batch being `re righted` using the newly developed air bag technique.
As a very keen enthusiast of the Lincoln Corporation PD1/Roe examples I was horrified to see it on its side !
I did manage to acquire Yorkshire Traction 726 much later however.

Steve Milner


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Old Bus Photos from Saturday 25th April 2009 to Wednesday 23rd September 2020