Early interest in Buses

Early interest in Buses

I'm not sure from where I get my interest in transport - it certainly isn't a family tradition. In the late 1940s my father was a maintenance electrician with Williamson's ticket printers of Ashton under Lyne which printed tens of millions of bus tickets. He sometimes brought transport magazines home and, even before I could read, I could identify various types of buses and trucks, but it doesn't explain an interest in railways or a deep, lifelong, interest in airliners.

My earliest bus memory is riding on an Ashton Crossley Mancunian from the depot on Mossley Rd to the town centre with my mother and brother and a push chair - the push chair about twice the size and many times the weight of today's examples. The conductor got off the bus took the push chair, folded it and placed it under the stairs. At the town centre terminus he placed the pushchair on the pavement and unfolded it. As my sister, born in 1951 wasn't with us and my brother, born 1949, was using the push chair, this would place the date at somewhere in 1950 or early 1951 - when I would have been three.

I had to take the bus from home in the north of Ashton, just off the Oldham Rd, to the town centre from the autumn term in 1952 until we moved closer to school in the summer of 1953. This involved travelling on the Ashton to Rochdale route 9 which was operated by Ashton, Oldham and Rochdale and followed the route of the unsuccessful prewar trolleybus operation between Ashton and Oldham. Ashton operated their all Leyland PD2s for through running and their Massey bodied wartime Guy Arabs for the Hathershaw turnbacks. These vehicles were resplendent in Ashton's patriotic red, white and blue livery. There was great competition between small boys to stand at the front of the lower deck on the PD2s where there was a circular heater outlet which doubled as a steering wheel in their five and six year old imaginations.

Oldham's maroon and white livery was borne by their splendidly turned out all Crossley double deckers backed up by Roe bodied PD1s and PD2s. Rochdale offered something totally different. Their lined out blue and cream livery was carried by Weymann bodies on AEC Regent chassis.

Due to the timings of the school day, most of my trips were on Ashton's PD2s but, on the homeward journey if my mother had done some shopping, we'd travel home in the style provided by the workers of Southall and Addlestone.

Before we moved to Stockport in 1956 the odd Weymann bodied Daimler appeared from Rochdale but by now we lived in the town and dad had a company car so bus trips were few and far between. In the last months before the move AEC Weymann bodied Regents with the new AEC radiator and bonnet appeared with, though I didn't find this out for a couple more years, engines made in Patricroft.

Meanwhile, deep in Ashton territory, things had been changing. The utility Guy Arabs were being withdrawn. New Guy Arabs were appearing in their place, but they weren't new. I was quite an observant six year old and when the first of the "new" Arabs appeared I noticed they were in the same registration series as the old vehicles and newer buses already in service for some time had later registrations. What had happened was that the engines and chassis were far more durable than the wartime bodies with uncured wood frames so the Arabs were sent to Errwood Rd, Stockport where they received new Crossley bodies based on the Manchester post war Standard.

In 1955 the last two went across the Pennines to Leeds for new bodies by Roe and I can perfectly recall being on the swings in Ashton marketplace as an eight year old when one went past with trade plates as, presumably, it was on some kind of work out prior to being re-licensed. Two others received Park Royal style Crossley bodies.

They were all delivered in the new lighter blue and primrose scheme which I'd first seen and travelled on on an all Crossley double decker, number 8 if I recall, on the Hurst circular service at Christmas 1954. This scheme had been adopted by the new manager who had come from Great Yarmouth as a result of the introduction of spray painting and on grounds of cost. The old livery was difficult to mask and was intricately lined out. Whilst some opposed the change in the letters column of the Ashton Reporter, the appearance of the scheme certainly brightened the town.

Also in 1955 I was on Katherine St when I saw in the distance, heading towards the town, a Leyland double decker in the new colours. I assumed this to be the first of the all Leyland PD2s to be repainted but, as it drew closer, I noticed differences in the front profile and then the UTB letters of the registration as opposed to the LTC letters of the all Leyland batch.

This was one of the first, if not the first, of a batch of Crossley bodied PD2s with the 8 foot wide version of the Park Royal inspired body which had appeared in 7 foot 6 inch form on the last Arabs Crossley rebodied.

We moved to Heaton Moor, Stockport in June 1956. Mauldeth Rd/Didsbury Rd junction and the triangle formed with Thornhill Rd was a hundred yards from home and was the terminus for the 26 from Mile End, and the short working on half of the route 9 services from Reddish Houldsworth Square, except at peak periods when both were extended to Parrs Wood across the Manchester boundary.

In those days Stockport had a number of pre war all Leyland TD double deckers, some all Crossley double deckers of a similar vintage, a large collection of post war Crossley double deckers, two batches of all Leyland PD2s and a number of Massey utility bodied Guy Arabs which Stockport managed to have modernised rather than rebodied and kept them in service until 1964, most managing 20 years work. Not all wartime wood frames were poor. There were also the two batches of Leyland TS7/TS8 single deckers with English Electric centre entrance bodies from 1936/7. These were complete with a broad brown streamline stripe, masses of polished interior woodwork and art deco interior lamps. Their main stage carriage duty was the 75 between Offerton and Green End via the town centre but, by the mid 1950s, their major employment was as rush hour duplicates, on works services and numerous school trips to swimming baths, football fields, not to mention the "Burnage Bus" which daily transported Catholic children to and from St Winifred's school providing a link to Green End on the Manchester boundary at Burnage.

Stockport had not received any new vehicles since the 1951 deliveries of all Leyland and all Crossley double deckers and it was to be two more years before any more buses arrived. The vehicles in the fleet were always pristine, fares were low although the Suez crisis added a halfpenny at weekends and outside rush hours on weekdays for a period and the undertaking regularly made a profit at a time when neighbouring operations were starting to struggle.

Most Stockport vehicles ran in regular service until the end of their useful lives, often well over 20 years, as they were always well maintained. Two of the TS8s were converted with chair lifts and other facilities for the handicapped for service with the County Borough Welfare Deparment when they were withdrawn in the early 1960s and ran for many more years in an off white livery with the brown stripe replaced with light green, becoming the "pets" of the maintenance staff. One is now in preservation.

The other operators along Mauldeth and Didsbury roads at the time were Manchester, which shared the 16 Stepping Hill to Chorlton service using Northern Counties bodied PD2s of 1953 vintage with the odd post war Standard MCW bodied PD1 standing in. By 1958 the MCW Standards no longer appeared - though they still had years of life ahead of then on other services - and the NCME PD2s were sometimes displaced by 1956 MCW Orion bodied PD2s and eventually their Burlingham bodied cousins. MCTD also operated early morning workmen's trips with MCW PD1s and all Crossley DD42s on the 9x/18 which originated at Parrs Wood as the 9x, travelled via Heaton Moor to Wellington Rd North Heaton Chapel and then became the 18 into Manchester.

North Western operated the 80 from Mersey Square to Altrincham and in 1956 this was the preserve of the massive looking Bristol K5Gs of 1938/9 vintage as rebodied by Willowbrook in 1951/2. These noisy and intensely vibrating machines were joined by 1956 MCW Orion bodied "tin front" PD2s. These had platform doors but were fairly miserable vehicles to look at and ride on, particularly as, like all NWRCC double deckers, they had lowbridge bodies and these were to lightweight construction giving little benefit over the K5Gs in terms of noise and vibration.

In 1958 I went to grammar school which meant travelling daily to Manchester. This broadened my bus horizons and I came into contact with Buses Illustrated for the first time which answered many questions and gave me some technical insight.

In the next article I'll talk about the journey to school, the ways of getting there and the vast variety of buses available to see and travel on.

Phil Blinkhorn

04/11/12 - 10:30

What a fascinating article from Mr Blinkhorn. I note that it's intended to have a follow-up, and I'm sure that readers will be awaiting its publication eagerly. My own first stirrings of any interest in transport were - my parents used to tell me - in my pushchair days in the late 1940's, when I could detect the noise and smell of a steam roller before they could, and urge them to better efforts so I could see the beast. They were, of course, STEAM rollers in those days, not those with infernal combustion engines. As with Phil, I later developed an interest in most other forms of transport.

Pete Davies

04/11/12 - 16:23

Wonderful article Phil. It really could describe my own start-up of transport interest, although I was on the other side of that great divide, the Pennines!
I think the great variation in livery and type must have played the most significant part in awakening my interest, as each town or district could be defined in terms of bus/tram colour or type.
The "flavour" of home town Bradford was so different to Leeds, or Halifax, and then we had West Yorkshire red too!
Bradford, in my early childhood, also had 2 shades of blue as it was changing from its pre-war dark shade, to "new blue", as inspired by the 1942 Southend trolleybus loans.
I also think some of my interest was "Dad" inspired, as I can remember waiting at the trolleybus stop as a 6 year old, and him asking me "Will it be a dark blue or a light blue one?"
He also took some interest in the trolleybus numbers, and told me, as a boy, he used to paint BCT tram numbers onto cocoa tins when a lad, and push them around the yard with a pal, which probably accounts for my other fascination with tram and bus modelling.
Looking forward to your promised "follow-up"

John Whitaker

05/11/12 - 07:14

Thanks Pete and John. It's true that local and regional bus companies added both colour and individuality to different areas of the UK and, in some places were a source of local pride and the liveries were a major draw for many young enthusiasts.
All that is now long gone - or perhaps not. Some area individuality is creeping back in but, without a break up of the monoliths currently in place, it will be a long time before we see the variety on offer in the mid twentieth century.
I have a number of follow on articles covering the period 1958-1969 which I will be offering for publication here over the winter months.

Phil Blinkhorn

05/11/12 - 07:16

For someone like myself of 1946 vintage, Newcastle in the 50's and early 60's was a place full of glorious bus liveries. Newcastle Corporation were by then the yellow and cream that most of us are familiar with, but Northern general and its subsidiaries had another four different liveries between them, then you had Arstrongs - OK - United - Venture - Primrose and Wright Bros, not forgetting the shared routes with Cumberland - Ribble and S.M.T, all of whom operated from bus stations in the City. Within a ten mile radious you had South Shields and Sunderland corporation and several more independents too numerous to mention, but they all had their own distinctive colours. But thats all from a time when buses were still classified as 'Public service' rather than passenger carrying vehicles.

Ronnie Hoye

05/11/12 - 07:17

I think that I have always had an interest nay obscession with buses all my life. We lived on Green Lane Dewsbury and our local route was Yorkshire Woollen service 12 from Dewsbury to North Park Street. I can remember watching Guy Arabs still with Utility bodywork. My father was an enthusiast and at the time worked for YWD as a coachpainter and signwriter. My great grandfather was a tram driver and one of the first bus drivers for YWD. So I suppose it must be in the blood. I myself have been bus driving for 38 years currently with Lothian Buses in Edinburgh.

Philip Carlton

05/11/12 - 09:46

I can remember the old trams in Sheffield but my early interest was on tram replacement routes to visit relatives at Intake and Lodge Moor. My memories are mainly of Regent III/Regent V Orions hauling up City Road and Duke Street or Manchester Road or Crimcar Lane - giving beautiful musical effects in third gear. The Woodthorpe and Stradbroke routes would yield PD2s - especially my favourite 656-667. Home would provide Roe and Weymann Regent IIIs - including OWE(Roe) favourites - from the Lowdges/Greenhill/Bradway and Holmesfield group. Perhaps it was my preference for AEC,but it came as a shock later in life to realise that Sheffield's split between AEC and Leyland was not 50/50 but more 33/67. Even later in life a friend of mine who was both PSV journalist and operator put it succinctly: AECs - thoroughbreds, full of character and quality but occasionally temperamental; Leylands dependable, reliable plodders. [.....but then they needed to be with heavy steering, bad driving positions and sometimes suspect braking.] Leyland engines were always superb; most AECs were but the wet-liners let the side down - especially when high speed long distance travel became the norm.

David Oldfield

25/11/12 - 08:15

In the text I mention that Ashton's change of livery was made by the new General Manager who had come from Gt Yarmouth, which I always believed to have been the case.
I've just been doing some research for a future article and Heaps and Eyre, in the Manchester Trolleybus, state that Terence O'Donnell, the man in question, came from Mexborough and Swinton.
Anyone know which is correct or did he have spells at both concerns?
Also, in the same book it is stated that Sunbeam trolley 64 was rebodied by Bond and painted in the new scheme, plus a red band which was not accepted, and delivered in 1954, yet in The Colours of Greater Manchester Eyre and Greaves state the new scheme appeared in 1955.
I can confirm that Crossley number 8 was definitely in the new scheme at Christmas 1954.

Phil Blinkhorn



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