Old Bus Photos

Ellen Smith’s Tours – Leyland Worldmaster – SDK 442

Ellen Smith’s Tours – Leyland Worldmaster – SDK 442
Copyright John Stringer

Ellen Smith’s Tours (Rochdale)
Leyland Royal Tiger Worldmaster
Plaxton Consort Mk.II C41C

In the mid 1950’s Leyland abandoned their heavyweight underfloor-engined Royal Tiger model in favour of the very much lighter Tiger Cub. Most export customers however required something rather more substantial, so the opportunity was taken to revamp the old Royal Tiger into a longer and even heavier duty chassis to meet their needs. So was born the Royal Tiger Worldmaster. Where the old model had only a manual gearbox option, the new one had only Pneumo-Cyclic transmission as standard.
It, along with its integral equivalent the Olympic II, went on to be – undoubtedly in my mind – the most successful model Leyland ever built.
Some home market customers still looked towards something with more clout than the Tiger Cub, and a 30ft. version to suit home market requirements was introduced – the RT3/1 bus and RT3/2 coach.
Glasgow bought a large batch of the bus version in 1956, and my own local operator – Halifax Corporation – took nine in 1958, but here climbing Bradford Road out of Stump Cross near my then home is SDK 442, a 1958 Plaxton Consort-bodied RT3/2 coach of Ellen Smith’s Tours, of Rochdale.
One of two with Smith’s, it was later rebodied with a Plaxton Panorama Elite body – surviving until the company eventually sold out, and now preserved.

Photograph and Copy contributed by John Stringer

10/08/12 – 07:13

Very nice, John! I have read somewhere – but can’t lay my hands on it at present – that the "leaping tiger" logo of the Royal Tiger was based on the Ellen Smith logo which, in turn, had been inspired by a picture on a card such as used to be included in cigarette packets.

Pete Davies

10/08/12 – 07:14

A superb vehicle owned by a superb operator which offered a quality friendly service of excursions and tours from my childhood home town of Rochdale. Every other Saturday during the rugby season I would travel on an Ellen Smiths coach to Rochdale Hornets away games. Each coach had a dedicated driver who took pride in the appearance of his own vehicle. While SDK 442 was around at that time we usually travelled by one of the later Harrington Cavalier bodied 36ft Leopards but I did travel on SDK after it was rebodied.
I believe Ellen Smiths had dispensation from Leyland to use their ‘pouncing tiger’ badge as it’s fleet logo which can just be seen on the photo on the side of the coach. Perhaps someone can confirm or otherwise.

Philip Halstead

Further to my earlier post, I have found my source and can answer Philip thus, and I quote from Eric Ogden’s history of the operator, page 9:
"The striking Leaping Tiger crest applied to the sides of the coaches, first in a triangle and then in a circle, appeared in the 1930s on the Leyland Tigers. It is said that the first hand-painted image was copied from a cigarette card. This skilful freehand painting was carried out by Jack Mills who was trained as a professional painter. The design was used by Leyland as the badge for the Royal Tiger coach from 1949. The same design was used as the sign for the Royal Tiger pub in Leyland."
I hope this helps!

Pete Davies

10/08/12 – 10:47

Is this the Tiger in question www.flickr.com/photos/

John Darwent

10/08/12 – 13:47

Yes, John D, that is the tiger. It always faces "forward" on the side of the vehicle. That on the Leyland badge goes to the viewer’s right which suggests to me that they used the one from the offside of an Ellen Smith coach.

Pete Davies

Yes that’s the Tiger logo and thanks for clarifying the tie up with the Leyland badge.
To conclude the Ellen Smiths story, Harry Smith sold out to Rossendale Transport on retirement and the new owners ran the business as a separate entity for some years. The red and white livery and name were retained. I left the area shortly after and am not sure if the name still survives.

Philip Halstead

11/08/12 – 07:35

Mention of Harry Smith reminded me when I drove for Stanley Gath Coaches of Dewsbury. We frequently went on hire to Ellen Smith. We were given a reporting time by Harry who was quite pedantic about this time. If we were due to report say at 8 a.m. he told us we were not to arrive before the stated time or else. As we had come via the M62 we often had to sit and wait just up the road and then arrive as if we had come nonstop. I was always interested in the withdrawn vehicles that were dumped at the back of the garage.

Philip Carlton

12/08/12 – 07:23

Just a point to ponder. Was there something in the water in Rochdale. Not one, not two but three top notch operators. Yelloway, Ellen Smith and the Corporation.

David Oldfield

12/08/12 – 14:43

David, probably a matter of what wasn’t in the water. The stuff down here in Hampshire is nothing like the real stuff off the Pennines!

Pete Davies

12/08/12 – 17:38

It’s that Legionella bacteria what gives Pennines water its bite!

Chris Hebbron

13/08/12 – 08:44

Did Legionella give rise to one of Harrington’s biggest mistakes?

David Oldfield

13/08/12 – 08:45

The Ellen Smith name still survives. The coaches are now all black with an orange and white tigers head and large stylised tiger stripes. The tiger theme is used in marketing with their loyalty card and a range of excursions. There is a picture on Flickr of one of their coaches at: www.flickr.com/photos/ 

David Slater

13/08/12 – 11:29

…..and the Ellen Smith Flickr group has pictures of this vehicle with it’s Elite body (as a museum exhibit) and also of ODK, rebodied in the sixties as a Panorama, in service.

David Oldfield

14/08/12 – 06:47

Nice one, David O!
Was Ellen Smith the name of the woman who started up the company, or what is the origin of this name?

Chris Hebbron

15/08/12 – 08:04

Yes, Mrs Smith’s first name was Ellen and she seems to have founded this element of the family’s interests.

Pete Davies

10/10/12 – 13:30

Philip, just read your comments about the late Harry Smith.
You mention Stanley Gath. You might remember Stanley invited a group of Ellen Smith drivers to a "Yorkshire Coach Drivers" social evening in Ravensthorpe near Dewsbury (1966). We hired a coach from a Mr. Norman Fletcher (Harry would’t let us have one) and drove across to Ravensthorpe and as I remember we had a very enjoyable night.
The outcome of this though was that for the next four years we at Ellen Smith decided to hold our own "Lancashire Coach Drivers" social evening at the end of the season. All due to Stanley Gaths hospitality in the first place.

Douglas Neal

25/10/12 – 07:10

Harry did not sell out he died Eric sold to Rossendale

Smiths Driver

11/09/13 – 08:30

My name is Helen Morris and Eric Smith was my grandad. Its great to see that people are still interested in Ellen Smith. To answer some of your questions:
1. the company was founded by Eric’s grandmother Ellen Smith using money from taking in washing/sewing.
2. Originally the company owned trucks that delivered goods during the week and could be converted for passengers at the weekend.
3. Eric worked for the family business for most of his life up to the late 90’s when he retired due to ill health, specifically lung cancer. He died in October 2000.
4. I was always told that the tigers were hand painted on by my uncle Jack Mills based on a picture on a cigarette pack.
I hope this helps.

Helen Morris

12/09/13 – 08:30

Thank you Helen, for adding to the information we hold. Do you have a photo of any older company buses that you think we’d like to see?

Chris Hebbron

25/09/13 – 18:23

Chris, here’s one of Ellen Smith’s early vehicles:- www.flickr.com/photos/ There are more if you follow through on Ellen 137’s photostream.

David Williamson

04/11/13 – 16:55

Having worked for the Accountants of Ellen Smiths the books were always spot on and Eric and Harry were controlled by I think it was Margery !! I have in my possession the original cast iron company seal of Ellen Smith (Tours) Limited which was being discarded when the Company was taken over. If anyone wants this piece of history please let me know through the site.

P Curran

05/11/13 – 10:17

I would suggest the Manchester Museum of Transport would be a good home for the seal. They even have an Ellen Smith’s coach – the one above no less with its later body! I can help arrange if necessary.

David Beilby

06/04/14 – 08:17

Two points, the Halifax Worldmasters were incredibly slow vehicles, all the more surprising given the engine size. I would prefer to wait 5 minutes extra and catch the Hebble and still be in Northowram quicker than a Worldmaster. Also they had awful tin can Weymann bodies, so I really hated them!
Second, does anyone know why Ripponden & District (coaches) and Ellen Smith both had the same, or similar, logo’s of the Tiger?


SDK 442_lr Vehicle reminder shot for this posting

01/06/16 – 12:09

I remember both these coaches parked up at the side of the office back in the mid 70s. They were in a far sorrier state. I played in them quite a few times. There were always feral cats giving birth to kittens. As I got older, early teens I was paid by the drivers to clean the coaches when they came back. Good happy years they used to take me everywhere.
So glad to see them in lovely working condition. Thanks for reminding me.

Vincent Tolan


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