Dan Air (London)
Here is a view of Ford R226 HDA 554D, taken at Lasham airfield on 30th August 1975. She appears to have started life with Don Everall of Wolverhampton, and has a Plaxton coach body. In this view, she has become a staff bus for the airline Dan Air London (not to be confused with a Danish company of similar name!) The company’s main seat of operations was Gatwick, but the engineering facility was at Lasham. I have a Bedford SB/Duple combination with this operator, to be submitted in the future.
Photograph and Copy contributed by Pete Davies
18/01/13 – 08:18
Ford were a late entrant (1958) and an early leaver (1985) in the PSV market. Heavyweight proponents tend to hate them but they had a very loyal following among independents; indeed there was a stage when they beat Bedford in sales. Early Thames were underpowered, but no more so than the Bedfords which they matched model for model in engine size and power output. The worst was the Thames 36 whose original 330 against the Leyland 0.400 in the Bedford VAL14 was a joke. Ford hit back with R192/R226 with a turbo-charged 360. It was fast, if lacking torque, but it had a migraine inducing scream! It morphed into the R1014/R1114 and finally the R1015/R1115 – by then a half-decent lightweight but no competition for contemporary Leylands, Volvos and DAFs. Despite my opening remarks, it is interesting to note how mainstream, if not prestigious, operators chose Fords (at times) as their minority lightweight vehicles – Sheffield United Tours, Wallace Arnold, Yelloway and Hebble (or was it Woollen) spring to mind.
PS: Don Everall was a major operator of Fords in the midlands. He would be, though. He was the area Ford PSV dealer!
18/01/13 – 08:18
The Plaxton Panorama, even in its early version, which, to me, always appeared to be two halves glued together in the middle, was an attractive vehicle. this illusion is not helped by the white waistband stopping at the vital spot! The low window bottoms and large windows gave a wonderful view for passengers. Midland Red had some later versions which looked superb in their red/black livery. Definitely a high point in coach design.
18/01/13 – 11:06
Chris, that "white" waistband is the ubiquitous ribbed metal waistband for which this version was famous or infamous – depending on your point of view.
18/01/13 – 12:22
As an aside, Don Everall also had an aviation arm operating out of both Wolverhampton and Birmingham Airports between 1946 and 1970. Operations included flight training, cargo flights, inclusive tour flights and scheduled services.
The coach was present during my many visits to Lasham in the mid 1970s to photograph Dan Air’s Comet fleet, the green being the Engineering Division’s house colours in contrast to the red and white of the airline.
18/01/13 – 12:23
Given that – for many years – I had been under the impression this was a VAM, it’s possible that the view of the "SB" mentioned in my caption might be of a different breed altogether. I can’t find the vehicle concerned in ‘Bus Lists On The Web’.
18/01/13 – 16:59
I only had the dubious pleasure of driving the R 1114 including the later model which was possibly the R1115 with the inclined engine which gave a for much easier access to the driver’s seat and better passenger access but had little effect on the noise level.
David Oldfield’s comment about a lack of torque certainly rings true but reasonably rapid progress could be made by keeping the turbo whistling, if your hearing could stand the strain, changing up late and down early was anathema to someone accustomed to the low revving engines of heavyweight chassis.
The gear change itself after very little use became very sloppy and gears could be difficult to select especially to any unsuspecting newcomer to the type, I once heard it described as stirring a bucket of treacle with a knitting needle, on early models the gear stick had a charming tendency to snap off just below floor level nearly always in a most inconvenient situation in traffic. The brakes were quite good except sometimes having to snatch when cold.
18/01/13 – 17:43
Spoken with passion by someone who knows, Dave. Southdown? You also had to lean out of the passenger door to engage 1st and 2nd with the 6 speed box.
19/01/13 – 06:18
I can remember two specific points in Ford’s history when their coaches were flavour-of-the-month in certain quarters. The first was right at the beginning, when small independents (whose owners were also drivers) were forced by economics to abandon the quiet good manners of the petrol-engined Bedford, and found the harshness of Bedford diesels too much of a culture shock. Ford’s six-cylinder diesels were preferred because they were sweeter on the ear. The second was when the later turbocharged engines made Fords the fastest coaches on the motorway. Bedfords couldn’t cope with motorways at all, and even the Leyland Leopard was still struggling with stupid gearing that couldn’t handle gradients at speed.
19/01/13 – 06:51
Again, Peter, obviously the voice of experience.
19/01/13 – 11:38
Diesel Dave has summed up my impressions of the Ford perfectly.
In 1974 West Yorkshire PTE had taken over the coaching remains of Hanson’s of Huddersfield which it continued to run as a separate coaching unit – Metro Hanson. At Halifax, due to Geoffrey Hilditch’s legacy, we had quite a prolific coaching outfit of our own and vehicles to’d and fro’d between them both on loan on an almost daily basis.
My first experience of a Ford was when I was asked to come off my scheduled late turn to work the late night return half of a private hire, returning workers from a company called Crosrol from their annual Christmas ‘do’ at the Norfolk Gardens Hotel in Bradford to what turned out to be every remote outpost of the West Riding. Until then my driving experience had been largely on PD2/PD3’s, Mk. V’s and Fleetlines with occasionally the odd Leopard and Reliance. My coach for the evening was a Hanson Ford R1114 (no. 74), and I was given a very brief practice spin in it by Inspector Gordon Smith (who I don’t think had ever driven one either) before being sent off on my way.
It was simply awful – like driving a massively extended and overbodied Ford Cortina. Everything felt puny and delicate. The gears were hard to find, and never seemed to be in the same place twice. The lever felt like it would break off if any force was applied. It had to be revved flat out all the time to get anywhere, and on our local hills – and I think I must have been required to climb every one off them that night – I found myself down into bottom gear most of the time, despite I think having six to choose from. The whole thing was a complete nightmare, driving around remote country lanes on the moors above Huddersfield – an area that I had no knowledge of at the time, and being given directions by people who were all inebriated or who kept disappearing to the back or falling asleep at crucial moments, and all this in dense fog and lightly flurrying snow! I arrived back at two o’clock in the morning and was never so glad to finish a duty as I was that night.
On another occasion, upon reporting for an early turn on the very busy and quite mountainous Halifax-Sowerby local stage route, and having missed the first two trips due to a chronic Monday morning vehicle shortage, my conductor and I were allocated another Hanson Ford which was deemed to be available until dinnertime. This one was slightly older (no. 67) and had even less power and fewer gears. The Sowerby route is about 3 to 4 miles comprised entirely of steep hills with stops every few yards, and heavy loadings, and the experience was like one’s worst bus driving nightmare. Horrible things!
19/01/13 – 13:01
Thx Dave/John Stringer for such graphic driving descriptions on experiences which have clearly scarred you for life!
19/01/13 – 14:38
Had a bad morning. 3yr old Skoda Octavia bonnet unable to unlock and a mechanic and I have spent hours getting it open. Needs new lock, cable and handle, yet this is a common problem on VW group cars and there is no easy fix. Going to be expensive even given the reduction in labour for my contribution.
Given all of that, John’s graphic description has restored my sense of humour and made me chuckle. It would make a good short comedy drama for TV if wrapped around a back story of the works "do".
19/01/13 – 14:43
There are comments above regarding lack of power and sloppy gearing on Ford coaches "of a certain age". Here’s a question for you.
In my student days in Birmingham in the mid 1960’s, we would normally use Flight’s Coaches for assorted team and club outings. Principal, in his wisdom, always went to Bowen’s, however.
I have distinct memories of one coach we used on a trip to Alsager College. It wasn’t of the Bedford SB layout, as the door was forward of the front axle. It had a vertical front engine, and the driver had to reach behind him for the gearstick. I didn’t manage to get a photo of it, though it would have been in black and white, and they’ve all gone!
Any thoughts, please, on whether it would have been a Ford or a Bedford, and what model?
19/01/13 – 16:47
Listening to this lightweight and heavyweight discussion and John Stringer driving up to Sowerby (were they repairing the gas main- they usually were?) and considering the level of expertise we have on this site, can I ask what the financial considerations were? We read here of small stage-carriage operators buying- new- a couple of PD’s or a CVD6… or a Regal…what were the financial parameters of bus purchase? Presumably the big operators had their own big deals or tenders, but if I were running a fleet of 6, and decided to buy new, how would I balance quality and cost, and who- chassis and body- with? Presumably you reckoned to get what you paid for, but what would be your best deal? On this site, sounds as if Leyland was playing safe, with AEC not far behind and Daimler for the more prestige minded?
19/01/13 – 16:48
In answer to your question David yes my Ford driving experience was indeed with Southdown, as you so rightly say 1st and 2nd gears were a long way from the drivers seat the gear lever could be adjusted to a more upright position to make it easier to reach but this brought the hazard of when selecting 1/3/5th gears of trapping your knuckles against the dashboard at least on the Duple Dominant.
This did as Chris says scar you for life and certainly put me off lightweight chassis.
20/01/13 – 04:59
No Joe. AEC, Bristol, Leyland in that order – Daimler not a real contender for coaching. Bedford, Ford and Commer were bought on cost grounds by independents who wanted something new to attract punters which could be exchanged after three years. Heavyweights only make sense either for big groups or for independents with high mileage or quality needs – 24/7 express operation (literally in some cases) or touring (especially abroad)
20/01/13 – 05:01
Pete, with regard to your Bedford-or-Ford question, the description fits both. The Bedford VAL and Thames 36, both 52 seaters, were introduced in 1963. (However it’s unlikely to have been a VAL or you would have noticed the extra wheels!) In 1966 the shorter (usually 45 seat) Bedford VAM and Ford R192 were introduced, and the Thames 36 was renamed Ford R226.
I suggest you have a look at www.sct61.org.uk. Click on Photo Index, and under Chassis builders you’ll find a Bedford index and a Ford index. Each index is displayed in order of date new, so you can easily find the mid-sixties coaches, and you may see something that rings a bell. However, the VAM and R192 used the same bodies, so this is unlikely to help you to identify the chassis make.
20/01/13 – 09:27
Thank you, Peter. Most certainly not a VAL!
20/01/13 – 10:35
I have read all these very accurate views and experiences with interest and with a slight shudder as I had hoped to wipe from my memory experiences with the beastly Thames/Fords in the 1960s. Wallace Arnold dabbled with them for a few seasons – new ones mainly on hire from the dealer Stanley Hughes. Then came worst disaster – WA took over Evan Evans of London and dozens (or so it seemed) two or three year old Strachans bodied affairs in appealing all over black arrived in Leeds. For a bit of cheery relief they had black leather seats (almost bus like) and dismal purple fluorescent lights. Reasonably powerful they were, but hideously badly behaved with snatching brakes and those famous gear levers wagging about all over – it was preferable to press gang a passenger, if possible, to locate the device while you concentrated on the traffic (Yes, I am being sarcastic but only just) Then there was the handbrake ratchet lever – a sort of sharp tin can opener affair which would dig into the soft flesh of your palm when squeezed if you weren’t careful.
Just to balance the discussion though, I did later go on a week’s holiday, as a passenger, from Leeds to the Isle of Wight in one of the latest large Ford coaches of Heap’s Tours (Trimdon Motor Services) and I have to say that it was perfectly civilised and comfortable to ride in.
The memory though of the ex Evan Evans "prison vans" will never ever fade!!
20/01/13 – 12:24
Would this be one of the Heap’s Ford types you enjoyed taking a tour in, Chris Y? SEE HERE: www.flickr.com/photos/
21/01/13 – 05:50
John, I drove the Sowerby route quite often in my Traffic Clerk days at HPTD, but always in a sturdy, sure footed PD2. The prospect of attempting this in a flimsy Ford appals me. It’s like trying to fly the Atlantic in a Microlight.
21/01/13 – 14:20
Yes indeed Chris, that is exactly like the coach in which I had a perfectly acceptable week’s holiday to the Isle of Wight – but naturally as I wasn’t driving it I couldn’t comment on that aspect. However, perhaps Ford had "got it right" by that late stage in production.
21/01/13 – 16:00
Better, Chris, not right…..
22/01/13 – 06:45
Indeed David – a concise and accurate description of the situation – thank you.
22/01/13 – 11:09
I am again fascinated to read of the dreadful quality and driving comfort that Ford and others had in their 1970/80’s vehicles. Just what were the engineers thinking of? If I had been in some way involved in designing a chassis then surely there were minimum requirements as regards brakes, steering, handling and not least how difficult it would be to drive. If I had come up with a design and it was built as a prototype then just getting in it and driving the thing would tell me and others whether I had come up with a gem or maybe should get a job mixing cement instead.
As for the tales of those awful Fords then had I been an operator I should have been beating a path to the manufacturer and demanding that the Boss drove the thing 25 miles up and down hills, traffic, motorways etc. then explain to me why he thought his miserable rubbish was acceptable!
Sadly it mirrors a lot of the industry problems that destroyed so much of the vehicle manufacturing base in the UK at that time. Think BLMC and Talbot for cars…I toured the factories in period and the quality was just laughable with some terrible management and Union problems. No wonder it all collapsed.
Now in comparison to your many frightening experiences, I had a coach touring holiday through Italy, Austria and Switzerland in September 1986 and it was a Swiss registered Mercedes 0303 with standard bodywork. I clearly recall the smooth, quiet and most impressive sounding engine just purring away with seemingly endless supplies of torque as it waffled its way up over Passes and bowled quietly along the autobahns. It rode superbly and I clearly recall telling everybody when I got back that it was like gliding along on a magic carpet flying gently over the countryside. It had powerful air conditioning and when we stopped, getting out was like entering an oven as the heat hit us.
So if Mercedes could do all that in 1986, what in the world was happening to PSV/PCV back then and having ridden on several current VOLVO/Wright’s, what is happening now? We have improved on those Fords but are still way short of that 27 year old 0303!
22/01/13 – 12:31
You are so right, Richard. I recall my boss having a Talbot Tagora in the early 1980’s, as bland as the current Renault Laguna and poorly designed. He always had problems with the heating/ventilation system. I still see the occasional UK Merc O300 now, even after all these years.
22/01/13 – 12:32
Well we did have AEC and Bristol – and even Leyland – and, as we have done so often, squandered our heritage.
Today’s Setras and VanHool integrals are unassailable – although please note that the most popular VanHools are DAF powered (this engine traces its ancestry back to the Leyland 0.600 (built under licence). Also, Leyland Motors still exists and produces RHD DAF models and the delivery model – although no longer PSVs – in the traditional Leyland Motors factory. These same engines go in the VanHools and VDL models.
ZF Reliances, particularly the later 691/760 versions with dry-liner engines, and RELHs kept the flag flying admirably. Leyland were let down by poor motorway performance – too big a gap between 3rd & 4th gears. All three were let down by appalling management and lack of investment from BRITISH LEYLAND who, at a stroke made the well loved and respected Leyland name into a joke, a sign of dire quality and even a swear word.
As for Ford and Bedford; buses were always a side-line to the "trucks", were based on the trucks and made few concessions to purely passenger led requirements. This commonality made them cheap (economies of scale – also see BLMC and the bottom line with cars, bottom being an operative word) which made them attractive to independents who could afford no better.
At the risk of being political, the other factor was the good baroness Thatcher. She was the first, but no means only, politician to export our industry and expertise on purely economic grounds – if someone can produce it cheaper, even if we have designed a winner, let them! This continues, even today. British made Hondas, Toyotas and Nissans are highly regarded for their quality of build. So were Coventry built Peugeots, but received wisdom is that the quality went through the floor as soon as production was moved to a cheaper eastern European facility. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
22/01/13 – 14:09
Too much emphasis on paper qualifications. One of the best fitters I ever knew could barely read or write ‘to be fair he was probably dyslexic but that was unheard of in those days’ but the point is that these days he would in all likelihood be given a job sweeping the floor, providing of course no machinery was involved. I seem to recall a story that one of the finest engines ever produced ‘the Jaguar XK’ was designed on the back of a cigarette packet during the war whilst Bill Lyons was fire watching, but unlike many of todays university graduates he was a very hands on designer who could actually do the job, what’s more he was prepared to seek the advice of, and listen to others who could. As I’ve said before, aerodynamically a Bumble Bee cant fly, but no one ever thought to tell the bee.
22/01/13 – 15:11
Couldn’t agree more Ronnie. I was told that the Neoplan Skyliner used fag-packet technology as well…..
22/01/13 – 15:28
Well said, Mr Oldfield, about British winners and foreign copies being cheaper. It reminds me of a "Two Ronnies" item where a survey had shown Britain made the best lovers, but the Japanese made them smaller and cheaper. Yes, well!!!
22/01/13 – 17:07
When I was at school doing O levels in the early 1960s we were jokingly told that in the future even dustmen would need degrees.
There’s far too much emphasis on paper qualifications and book learning. No-one wants to get their hands dirty and Britain has for the most part become a nation of shopping malls, call centres, financial institutions and museums, mainly due to Thatcher’s dual track hatred of unions and manufacturing industry.
Yet there are still centres of excellence both in research and manufacturing, though sadly most export their products, be they ideas, inventions or components to other countries to capitalise on or have to export their profits to foreign owners.
23/01/13 – 06:56
Chris H…One of the more memorable factory tours was the Talbot plant at Ryton and that was truly an eye opener. Anybody seeing just how thoroughly badly the Horizon and Alpine models were made could never have bought one. The body assembly plant was next to a large "car park" where all the reject bodies were pushed in order to have good bits hacked off of them..literally..with hammers, chisels etc.
Ten paintwork…a flash over of primer and another of colour…that’s it..nothing else. As for under sealant, they had a young apprentice with a spray gun who just made a black arc of seal under each wing but didn’t bend down to do it. Then the chrome door trims..bashed on using a lump of 3×2 wrapped in an offcut of tyre tread fixed on with gaffer tape. A family friend had an Alpine (WWS 801T) which lasted nearly three years then an MOT killed it!
So it seems that if I were going to buy a bus or coach today, I think Mercedes would be my first choice and I hope their standards are as they were 27 years ago…because their cars wobbled badly in the build quality stakes between 1997 to 2009.
23/01/13 – 07:15
I have a degree from a Conservatoire (Music College) which is practically based – I chose that route deliberately. Polytechnics and Technical Schools performed the same function for science and technology. President Blair set the ball rolling for Degrees for All. Poppycock. The Germans, who won the peace, kept and enhanced their technical education – we just export ours. As a retired teacher I can assure you that a Masters’ Degree (which is the direction things are going) is not required to be a good teacher; neither is it required to be a good nurse. There is a "salt of the earth" coach driver I had the privilege to work with who is a qualified coach-builder and just very good with anything practical. I envy him these skills which would never qualify for a degree!
23/01/13 – 13:12
I didn’t mention, Richard, the Talbot Horizones the sales reps got and which were replaced after six months, due to total inadequacy in all aspects. As for degrees, they didn’t want to take them, but we wanted them to have further education. Two apprenticeships and one to college gave them a good start and well-paid jobs at 30. Me? After two ‘O’ Levels (could try harder!) it was National Service, then I took a Limited Competition Exam for the Civil Service and was sent to GPO Telephones, later BT, with a successful career. The problem is that exams are less challenging today and some degrees are of limited benefit. None of my family ever felt they were disadvantaged by not going to Uni, but social and career mobility nowadays is far more limiting without a degree than was the earlier case. However, lack or skilled artisans and Uni costs mean the wheel is turning again.
23/01/13 – 15:40
I’m afraid some degrees are not worth the paper they’re written on – and there is no substitute for practical experience and hours in the job.
24/01/13 – 07:08
I left school in 1960 with three A levels, which, at that time, gave one access to very many employment opportunities that nowadays require a degree. Later, by then a middle manager in NBC, I did an extra mural in Transport Studies at London University (four years and a thesis) and then applied successfully to go on to do a Masters at Southampton. There then arose a vacancy within our NBC company for which I was successful, but the nature of the post precluded the not insignificant periods of educational leave that would have been essential to my proposed MSc. I chose the job, and in the light of the devastation wrought by Thatcher and Ridley some years later, I have never regretted that decision. My subsequent promotions before the NBC sell off all went towards my final salary pension. The letters ‘MSc’ might have inflated the ego a bit, but they wouldn’t have paid the bills in retirement. We all know people with practical or self educated knowledge who can compare favourably with those of ‘higher education’. Very often, these qualifications are just used by employer interview panels as a lazy way of cutting down the number of applicants to a short list, and many capable people never get the chance to show their worth.
24/01/13 – 11:02
Not only that Roger but they also rely on psychometric testing which may have merits when interpreted by an expert psychologist in parallel with a face to face interview. However laziness and expense kick in, no expert interprets and reference is made to the handbook that is sold with the package to interpret written results and that often overrides whatever attributes are found (or not) at interview.
This works both ways with good candidates being discarded and poor candidates being accepted on the basis of the tests.
Having been on both sides of the table at interviews over 40 odd years, my view is that employer interview skills have declined significantly and this shows in the quality of, particularly, junior management and so called customer relations.
24/01/13 – 14:09
Richard comments above about the situation at Ryton. It can’t have been much different at Longbridge. One of my colleagues, an Ulsterman, had an aunt who bought a Mini (BLMC era, rather than BMW). She found the driver’s side door leaked. Took it back to the dealer. Dealer replaced door. No better. Dealer called out someone from Longbridge who had a close look at it, and declared there was noting wrong with the new door. Probably nothing wrong with the old door either. The rest of it was out of line!
26/01/13 – 06:35
Roger, I got my three A levels in 1963, and there were various ‘A-level entry’ jobs which I quite fancied. But the culture was that anyone with the ability to get to university must do so, and so I was persuaded, against my own judgement, to stay on at school for another year to improve my grades. I got a place at university, but was only there for a year – not interested in what I was doing, so didn’t do it. This was in the days of student grants, so it was the taxpayer’s money I had wasted.
Later in life, I worked for a guy who was very prejudiced against anyone without a degree. He asked me which university I went to, so I told him, and we got on very well. I dread to think what would have happened if I’d told him the full story!
26/01/13 – 08:23
Ah, that good old standby of being economical with the truth, eh, Peter?
26/01/13 – 11:50
I left school with nine GCE "O" levels and was urged by the family to aim for the highest in life. However, all I ever wanted to do, from infancy, was to be involved in every aspect of the practical side of the bus industry – this wasn’t just a whim, but a desire that I couldn’t quell, and didn’t wish to quell. So it was that I secretly left my promising (I suppose) clerical job in fire insurance and became a conductor with my favourite Company, Samuel Ledgard. Its necessary here to clarify something that I suppose older people may have forgotten, and younger folk can’t imagine. Until the 1950s bus work was a respectable job but there were few if any people employed who were perhaps capable of what the majority would consider to be "better things." So it was that in the refined little town of Ilkley my startling move caused quite a sensation and much actual hostility. Kinder friends gave genuinely meant advice and the father of one of my best friends begged "When are you going to get a proper job ??" Others, however, openly sneered and scoffed but I rode the storm with a clear conscience. Some people, quite likely secretly bored to tears with their "proper" careers, probably quietly envied my contentment and I’m sure that more than a few did.
Well, times and the Industry have changed out of all recognition nowadays, and the range of qualific ations and possible capabilities of the road staff has become enormous and varied. Having said that you may ask me "Would you pursue the same path if you were aged twenty today ??" My answer would be the most emphatic "NO WAY !!" The prospect of turning up for work wondering which of a hundred or so characterless Wright bodied fully automatic Volvos I might have the pleasure of "steering" would have no appeal at all, nor would the ordeal of issuing, as the stationary minutes ticked by, complex flimsy paper discount travel tickets from a computer masquerading as a ticket machine. Single doorway buses with any hope of passenger flow impeded by emigrarion sized luggage laden buggies would drive me to despair too, as would those passengers ("customers" in modern marketing spin) who insist on standing near the door, blocking all movement, even though there are empty seats everywhere.
I was so fortunate to enjoy my forty four years working on such a variety of fascinating and interesting vehicles, with logical fare structures and so forth. I don’t envy the present day drivers one little bit, but I have absolutely no regrets about the way I earned my living during all those halcyon years. Perhaps Mr. Sinatra’s famous song sums up my outlook on the matter – "I did it my way."
26/01/13 – 13:58
And with your way with words, Chris Y, two of your ‘O’ Levels must have been English Language and English Lit.!
It’s nice to find someone who ploughed his own furrow and never regretted doing so. You were, perhaps, not only lucky with timing, but also with your geographical location, so much more interesting and challenging than a predominately semi-level urban area like London.
26/01/13 – 14:58
Yes, well said Chris ! I am pleased that you followed your dream and managed to derive such obvious happiness and fulfilment from your long and eventful bus driving career. Do keep sharing your fascinating memories with us all.
I am probably half a generation behind you – a mere whippersnapper of 61 – but I too, though now semi-retired and working only part-time, will have clocked up 40 years in the industry in a couple of weeks’ time. Would I recommend it to anyone now contemplating a career move ? Like you, DEFINITELY NOT ! Would I do the same again if the clocks could be turned back and knowing what I know now ? Do you know, despite being a lifelong and devoted bus enthusiast, I don’t think I would to be honest. Fortunately that’s not going to happen, so I won’t have to decide !
26/01/13 – 15:45
In my years of working on buses in the Newcastle area I found I was working alongside tradesmen who had all the skills required to build a house, ship or tank from scratch, everyone you would need to start a very good garage, repair your watch, TV, washing machine Etc Etc. The North East was full of highly skilled workmen who worked in industries such as ship or house building where nothing was ever long term as regards employment, as a result many skilled workers frequently found themselves between jobs and turned to bus work as a stop gap. However, quite a few of them discovered that they liked the job and stayed on. When I first started at Percy Main in 1967 it was still a good job, we had a well maintained and interesting fleet, and you still had a certain amount of respect from the travelling public, but to my mind that all changed when OPO came in, mainly because one person sitting at the front of a bus is out of touch with what’s going on behind him, but its a completely different story with a coach. Speaking for myself, if I were starting all over again, bus work would not be my first choice of career.
26/01/13 – 18:05
Chris. You’ve got me wishing I did the same!
I would have been VERY content, driving a Bradford "Regen" up and down the Allerton (31), Thornton (7) and Duckworth Lane (8) routes for the whole of my working career!
What a privilege that would have been…..
A perfect Utopia akin to your life with the "HGF"s etc!
27/01/13 – 07:35
I don’t know whether I dare join in at this point. I only ever wanted to be a musician or a teacher from the age of 8. I became both and don’t regret either. I was, however, ALWAYS interested in buses, coaches and the industry – so I don’t regret the money I spent putting myself through training and subsequently Driver CPC. It has repaid me with the pleasure of driving – and as an advanced motorist driving is always a pleasure that I have taken a pride in – proper buses and coaches. Some modern coaches are magnificent, but nothing beats a manual shift. Epicyclic is acceptable and half-cab is preferable. Big and torquey is always best. Oh well, I am a boring old f**t and now getting free prescriptions!
27/01/13 – 11:41
Thanks everyone for such enlightening views on career choices – and if those choices couldn’t be realised some regrets – while there are just a few people in life who seem, incredibly, to have the ability to fit forty eight hours assorted activities into every twenty four hour day most of us have to choose one main path or another, for better or for worse !!
Chris H – yes, those two subjects were indeed among my GCE passes, made easy by my love of both. Also, as you rightly say, this particular area was a gem in those days, with fascinating transport conurbations on all sides, with rural beauty and two lovely coasts easily accessible.
John S – I know how you feel about turning back the clock but there, with respect, we differ a little and I would do exactly the same again, perhaps with a little "fine tuning."
John W – I share your dream of spending my working days on AEC Regents and did so on many varieties of them, but to roar up and down the Bradford urban mountains in the much maligned rasping powerful Mark Vs would have been a dream indeed. Much of the criticism of those fine vehicles certainly arose from disinterested driving and they were nowhere near as bad as the wild exaggerations would have us believe. Also the superb Bradford livery made them surely among the most attractive "Orion" style buses to be seen anywhere
David – what a coincidence indeed as, if I’d had the opportunity, music might well have been my second choice, classical organ in particular. To this day the gorgeous sound of a cathedral organ, with or without substantial choral contribution, can reduce me to tears and I’m not afraid to say so.
28/01/13 – 07:16
Ah but is it really a coincidence, Chris? Isn’t there a connection between a cathedral organ at the end of Boellman’s Gothic Suite and a Bradford Regent V climbing out of Bingley? As a kid I wanted to be a bus driver, but unlike you I didn’t have the courage of my convictions and toed the line. I ended up designing computer software, but I also became a church organist. And recently I’ve been musing on the possibility of using music software to simulate a Guy Arab!
28/01/13 – 08:37
So we could discuss my new digital organ, Peter? I think I would prefer a piece of music based on the sounds of a Guy Arab to the latest piece based on bird droppings falling on oversized manuscript paper placed on the ground in Liverpool (I think). Likewise the Regent III and Regent V with hardened gearwheels or the whine of the back-end of an RE at speed.
29/01/13 – 06:25
Chris Y comments on the number of people who insist on standing by the door when there are empty seats. In my student days in Birmingham, deliveries of Fleetlines were in full swing. Older buses allowed standing downstairs, but it wasn’t allowed on the Fleetlines. Keeping with Birmingham, how did they (and, I think, Glasgow) get away with having the legal lettering abbreviated to just the name of the operator and the name of the Manager, when almost everyone else had to include the address?
31/10/13 – 07:20
For the record, the body is a Panorama1. The Panorama2 didn’t have the ribbed metal trim and usually but not always had sliding windows instead of forced air vents. In my time in the industry, I have driven Ford R series coaches, and preferred them to Bedfords. The gears were ‘there somewhere’ and the driver usually knew when something was wrong, because he was sat next to the engine. I recall an ex Salopia of Whitchurch Ford MAW 345P, and I drove it from Northampton to London. Two weeks later, I was summoned into the Bosses office. He had my tacho disc for that day in his hand. He demanded to know how I’d managed 120km/h in a fully laden Ford. When set up properly, they were quite nippy, but no match for the Volvos that everyone started buying. Those were the days!
17/05/15 – 06:21
Have just discovered your Web pages whilst researching some facts for my own auto biography being written for the Wythall Museum Newsletter.
I find the preceding debate so interesting and concurrent with my own experiences which cover a forty nine year career from 1965 Conducting to General Managership except with the derogatory remarks about Fords which I found to be perfectly willing steeds on tours throughout Great Britain and Europe when driven sympathetically and not flogged by drivers prejudiced by upbringings on heavyweight chassis. The other point that I do agree with is the downturn in the economics of the industry which prompted the introduction of OPO but also management by university qualified accountants who are ignorant of which end of a bus the driver sits at (and I have had to work with several of them) and who prompted the change from PSV to PCV dropping the word SERVICE from the title.
31/10/15 – 06:51
I’ve just stumbled into the middle of this discussion, and it seems that I must have driven different Ford R1114s and Leopards than most other contributors.
I learnt to drive on a R1114 with Salopia of Whitchurch and spent a few years driving UUX 363S around North Shropshire during the week and up and down the country on feeders at weekend.
At Shearings we had nothing but R1114s and later, after the merger with Smiths Happiways, went onto all kinds of vehicles before settling on Volvos with Van Hool bodies.
Out of season, I drove for G&B Coaches in Crewe doing schools and college work, again on (much older) R1114s As for my personal choice of vehicle, if I were going anywhere long-distance up the motorway or into Europe on tour with a load of passengers, I would take the oldest Volvo in the yard before I would take anything else.
That is, except for one run that I regularly did. In the summer Shearings did a run on Sunday evening from Wigan to Glasgow, Falkirk and Edinburgh and then back empty, non-stop. And for that trip, I’d scour the yard to see if there was a Leyland Tiger stuck up a corner anywhere. Raw and untamed they were, but they had that much power that they would rev out on the speed limiter in 5th gear, never mind 6th, and would go for ever. Sailing up Shap at 04:00 in the morning in 6th gear making a Tiger roar is something I won’t ever forget.
But for local work, private hires, schools contracts, urban work, there was nothing better than an R1114 and I never ever experienced a minute’s difficulty with any one of them. As for stirring the gear lever around, I agree that it might have been unnerving for a beginner but anyone who had driven one regularly would have a good idea where the gears might be, and slide it easily, diagonally if necessary.
DAFs had a dreadful gearbox where you needed to pump the clutch, or even double-declutch to get it to go in smoothly without grinding, and I always forgot, especially when I had the company’s chairman on board once.
But as for the worst coach ever, someone mentioned the Mercedes 0303. When I was in Bulgaria I once drove a clone of this coach made by Iran National and that was pretty miserable, but it was miles better and streets ahead of the Mercedes 0303 clone that was made in Yugoslavia in the early 90s. Shearings had 4 (or was it 6?) on trial and I had one of them for 4 weeks. And to give you some idea of what I thought about it, when I returned home, I went round to G&B Coaches, took the oldest Ford R1114 out of the yard, and went for a drive around for an hour in order to relax. Those Yugoslavian 0303 clones were the worst coaches ever to hit the British highways, I’ll promise you that.
31/10/15 – 08:22
Welcome aboard, Eric! Yugo 0303 was the Sanso, was it not?
02/11/15 – 06:46
I seem to recall that the Yugoslavian Merc O303 was sold by Ensign as the "Charisma".
There was another vehicle from that part of the world that was offered on the British market around the same time, the TAZ Dubrava. I’m not sure if that was a clone or an original, but I do recall seeing one at the coach rally in Southampton at that time, and talking to one of the local operators who seemed to be quite enthusiastic about the idea of purchasing one. I don’t think he did, possibly a good decision. They all seemed to fade (rust?) from the scene quite quickly.
04/11/15 – 06:41
Nitpick alert! I’ve just noticed that two years ago Stemax1960 said "For the record, this is a Panorama1." Actually I don’t think it is. When first introduced, this model was simply called Panorama, and the more basic version was called Vam or Val when fitted to a Bedford chassis, and had no name at all on Fords. The two models were renamed Panorama1 and Panorama2 for the 1966 Commercial Motor Show, at which point the latter became available on heavyweight chassis for the first time. The badge on this one seems to say just Panorama, so it must be earlier.