To Birmingham - and beyond

To Birmingham - and beyond

I blame my dad.

He just happened to be an inspector with Potteries Motor Traction in Stoke-on-Trent when I was growing up, and as a result of my going with him to work when he was on late turn (to collect his pay) I saw just about every new bus PMT had delivered between 1962 and 1965. This turned me into a bus nut.

I blame my dad's brother - my Uncle Jack.

He went to live and work in Birmingham, which meant for us - given no alternative means of transport - a substantial bus ride from the Potteries to see him.

But most of all, I blame myself. Even at such a tender age, I was so ingrained with all things bus related that I can remember a great deal of the trip we took in 1964 to see my Uncle Jack.

So my dad and I set off one bright morning to visit Uncle Jack in Castle Bromwich. The trip from our home in Bradwell, near Newcastle-under-Lyme, to Hanley (by Service 46 to Blurton) was fairly uneventful - except it took place in one of PMT's wonderful lowbridge Daimler CVG5s with NCME body, known as 'Jumpers' by the PMT crew - something to do with the manual clutch I think. Would that one of those had been saved for posterity. Top deck of course; Dad was a 40 a day man. Hanley was our destination, and being on the top deck I had the delight of passing Waterloo Road Halt railway staion, looking sharp left to see if a train was emerging from the tunnel on the soon-to-be-closed Potteries Loop Line. Not today though; the highlights of the day were to come.

Getting off at Stafford Street, the short walk took us to Hanley Bus Station, the hub of services to all parts of the Potteries and beyond. Standerwick's 'Gay Hostess' Atlanteans stopped here en route to London, but they were not for us; in those pre-National Express days the various companies ran their own express services. In those days PMT had two - the X1, which ran to Manchester, and the next stage of our journey - the X2 to Birmingham ('via the M6 motorway', as the publicity posters said; it was the latest thing even though it didn't extend much beyond Cannock then). When our ride came, I couldn't believe my luck as the X2 drew into its stand - PMT's state of the art, a brand new Alexander bodied Daimler Fleetline. I hadn't long since seen my first one in the aforementioned trips with Dad to Stoke garage, with the smell of new paint and the manufacturer's brown paper covering still in the lower deck aisle. This one, though, was stripped and ready for action, and took us swiftly through the City, onto the M6, then A5 and A34 to Birmingham.

Arrival was at Digbeth coach station. Now having just closed, the sight and smell of the old Digbeth is still in recent memory; what it didn't have recently though was all the red buses with 'BMMO' on the front - I didn't know what that stood for until years later. Also, my first and only encounter with an Alexander bodied Scout coach, the only one I ever saw, and numerous C5 coaches plying Midland Red's route to London and back. Dad swiftly dragged me away - I'd have stayed there all day - to the stand for the final stage of our journey to Castle Bromwich, a D9 double decker which was by then becoming the staple transport of Midland Red, much as the similar-looking Routemaster was to London. We passed hordes of D9s and other BMMO beasts, as well as an equal horde of Birmingham Corporation double deckers - my memory is hazy as to their make, but with the benefit of hindsight I'm fairly sure they were Guys. What intrigued me was their extra destination blind which read 'To City' or 'From City' - you'd think they'd know which way they were going.

After spending what was left of the daylight hours with Uncle Jack and Auntie Nora, we made our way back; another D9 to Brum where our Fleetline awaited. The old Bull Ring shopping centre was then newly opened and Dad pointed it out to me, the bull logo and the words picked out in blue neon, as we passed on Birmingham's urban major road system - itself fairly new then.

Back in Hanley, another sight which at this distance still arouses the emotions; Dad pointed out PMT's prototype Daimler Roadliner, SN1000 (6000 EH) which was parked up in Stafford Street. Even on my trips to Stoke I hadn't seen it, but I had seen plenty of pictures in the PMT House Magazine that Dad brought home from work. PMT were trumpeting it then as the future; barely ten years later, I saw the last ones of a once strong fleet pensioned off at Cheadle garage, surplus to requirements as an increasing burden on the repair crews. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Home by one of PMT's ubiquitous Atlanteans, and I was asleep long before we arrived back in Bradwell. By most standards an ordinary day, but one I shall remember for the rest of my life.

Mel Harwood



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