Early Post-War Bus Bodies

Early Post-War Bus Bodies

It is fascinating how wide spread were bodies that I thought were in the minority in the early post-war boom. Roberts was one of these. They have featured on your site a number of times - but not yet a Sheffield Regent III. The Nottingham Regent IIIs are the only 8' wide examples that I have seen.

Windover is another example - apparently in existence from 1760 but only evident from 1946 to 1954. They built a lot of coaches for BET, e.g. AEC for Sheffield United Tours, Leyland for Yorkshire Traction Company and Bristol for North Western Road Car Company. The half-cab Huntingdon was, by all reports, a very luxurious beast - superior even to Duple, the then yard stick. Unfortunately they fell apart, prey to the post war disease of green wood affecting the quality and life of the structure. Most happy customers went on to buy Regal IV and Royal Tiger on what might have been luxurious but also arguably the most ugly of early underfloor coach bodies - and there were quite a few of them! The Guy Arab on this site (here) looks fine with its low bonnet line and is apart from six that were briefly owned by Northern General the only one I've ever seen with a Windover body. Of course Roberts could make an article in itself, along with Cravens, Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon and Metro-Cammell.

They were all railway carriage builders, all but Roberts built first generation British Railways diesel multiple units and Metro-Cammell built a high proportion of London Transport Tube and Underground trains. Buses were all a sideline for these companies even though Metro-Cammell's bus business grew to be so big as to be equally important and they became - by volume - the biggest British bus builder right up to the end in 1989.

Roberts built trams, including Sheffield's last trams. BRCW faded away after the 1962 Rolls-Royce DMUs and their most interesting buses must be the London Transport AEC Qs that they built in the '30s. Sheffield Transport bought locally from Roberts (Wakefield) and Cravens (Sheffield) from the '30s until 1950 but Cravens faded away after building diesel multiple units for British Railways in the mid '50s. Interestingly, at that time they were owned by the John Brown group who bought East Lancashire Coach builders who recommenced bus building in Sheffield under the name Neepsend (the name of an area of the town). Many sources say that Neepsend was a subsidiary of East Lancs but it would be more true to say that Neepsend, formerly Cravens, through their owners owned East Lancs.

History repeated itself recently when East Lancs, owned by Darwen Engineering, bought Optare but then decided to use the Optare name. Metro-Cammell's history is better known, first buying out the strike bound Weymann and then being split up after being hit as collateral damage in the privatisation of the British bus industry. The train division was sold and re-emerged as GEC Alstom the respected builder of modern trains and underground stock - including Eurostar. The bus division hoped to link up with Leyland Bus and could have formed a formidable and successful company. The government refused permission and the division collapsed - its designs being sold to Optare. Thus history went on, in a remote and convoluted way to link Metro-Cammell, Weymann, Roe, East Lancs, Cravens, Optare and even, tenuously, Leyland!

David Oldfield
11/2009

 


 

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