Fascinating Aspects of Scheduling at Samuel Ledgard

Fascinating Aspects of Scheduling at Samuel Ledgard

Have you ever wondered how the buses and the crews reached their home depots at night?? Well usually there was no problem as the service timetable worked out suitably, but occasionally some interesting little tricks had to be devised and could be incorporated into the duties at any available time of the day.
Take for example the 05:50 from Otley to Leeds where the corrective measure was taken at the earliest possible opportunity. If this bus had stayed on the service timings all day it would have ended up at Armley Depot at night. So, on arriving in Leeds at 06:25, the bus stood for thirty minutes instead of the usual ten, being replaced on the 06:35 departure from Cookridge Street by the Armley machine fresh from the garage, and leaving for Otley at 06:55. A little later the Armley machine would provide a useful duplicate between Otley and Newall, chiefly for Prince Henry's Grammar School, in its twenty minutes layover time between 08:30 and 08:50. Later still at 22:10 the same bus would convey Otley Depot administrative paperwork to Armley for prompt attention next morning.
Turning now to the 06:05 from Burley in Wharfedale to Leeds via Guiseley which was an Ilkley Depot duty and ran private to Burley at 05:55 - we never understood why passengers could not be carried on that stretch (although the odd "stowaway" was not unknown!!). However the rest day for that duty was Tuesday, when it was staffed by Otley Depot. The vehicle logistics question was solved quite easily - on Monday evenings the 20:00 from King Street to Ilkley, which on other days ran in to Ilkley Depot, was simply taken by the finishing crew to Otley Depot ready for Tuesday morning - to the relief of the night cleaner at Ilkley who's work was reduced by 20% for a once weekly treat.
Certainly the most ambitious of these remedial measures involved buses from Otley and Armley Depots on the Leeds - Guiseley - Ilkley service. The route basically required four buses on a two hour round trip, one vehicle from Armley and three from Otley. The Leeds Depot bus left King Street at 06:00 and remained on that timing until 14:53 when it was taken to Ilkley Garage. There the crew had a half hour break before taking over an Otley Depot bus at 15:25 for a trip to Leeds and return for 17:23 when the vehicle was handed to a fresh late turn Otley crew. Meanwhile another Otley crew collected the Armley bus from Little Lane Depot and worked a very busy duplicate journey at 16:22 to Leeds and back. This arrangement was very pleasing to me and other enthusiasts as it enabled us to work on a large variety of Armley buses over the years. After an hour's break at Ilkley from 17:23 to 18:23 the Leeds staff reclaimed their vehicle for the 18:25 to Leeds, the bus being now in the right place on the service to run in to Armley at night. As a happy reminder of the days when passengers were legion it is good to remember the scene at the wooden GPO parcels office in King Street in the weekday evening peak. At 17:20 two Hebble buses would leave for Halifax and Burnley/Rochdale, making room for a most impressive Ledgard quartet - all well loaded - which departed thus :- 17:27 to Rawdon Co-op, 17:28 to Guiseley White Cross, 17:29 (Armley "borrowed" bus) to Ilkley and 17:30 to Ilkley. Oh to see such a splendid procession now!!
The service from Ilkley to Otley was, of course, jointly operated with West Yorkshire and consequently the Ledgard bus stood at various times for seventy minutes in Ilkley. On Wednesdays and Saturdays this provided the means for operating the Middleton Hospital visitors' journeys very economically indeed - imagine nowadays reversing with almost a full load onto the narrow Northern end of the Toll Bridge on the outward trips!! The only "sleeping out" arrangement that I can recall involved the last "B & B" departure from Bradford which terminated in Otley at 22:55. The crew would leave the vehicle in the bus station and travel home on the last journey at 23:00 (22:30 from Harrogate). The bus was re-fuelled and cleaned by the Otley night staff and parked near the Bradford stand ready for the 07:00 journey next morning, the crew for which travelled from "Wool City" on the first departure arriving in Otley at 06:55.
Economy in operation was always taken seriously at Ledgard's and so one notable apparent exception puzzles me to this day. The Weston Estate service was extended from its original terminus at Bickerton Way (where reversing was needed) right round the newly built and heavily populated Meagill Rise to a new turning point in a narrow slip road which was frequently obstructed by parked cars (reasonably so to be fair as the householders had nowhere else to park). The location was within but a few yards of re-joining Weston Drive and presented what would appear an ideal opportunity to operate as a circular loop at the outer end of the route with quite a saving in fuel over a year. I imagine that the possibility of overloading occurring from the combination of outward and newly joining passengers may well have been the reason for this caution, and the "loop" measure was not adopted till many years later when "another operator" took over the route.
In closing, two observations on the change in public standards over recent years spring to mind. Firstly, can anyone imagine today that buses could be left parked all day and by night in Otley Bus Station without fear of damage or theft. Or that the entire cash takings at Ilkley Depot, inside the relevant Setright machine boxes, travelled to Otley to be counted under the steps of the 19:40 and 23:25 buses from Ilkley - passengers galore AND open platforms!! Makes you think doesn't it??

Chris Youhill

22/09/13 - 17:12

Chris has given all of us a great insight to bus service operations which I have found of great interest and enjoyment. As a resident of Burley-in -Wharfedale and a pupil at Prince Henry's Grammar School, Otley I used the "Sammy" buses on a regular basis and I got to know the Otley and Ilkley buses well, so the "strangers" were always spotted. Just as Chris enjoyed the change of bus, so did people like me. The article brings back very many fond memories of this time in the fifties/early sixties. Many thanks Chris for such a lovely article.

Richard Fieldhouse

22/09/13 - 17:13

Many thanks, Chris, for this fascinating glimpse into an often neglected aspect of bus operation - particularly of "Sammies". Back in the days when every fare was important, every effort was made to grab as many riders as possible and these clever and money-saving schedules helped maximise income. It's ironic to think that, in those perhaps more socialist, union-influenced days, operators were extremely savvy in ways they could maximise income, whereas in today's more laissez-faire, de-restricted atmosphere, income is almost secondary to subsidy and the levels of service reflect this.

Paul Haywood

23/09/13 - 06:08

Thank you indeed Richard and Paul for your appreciative views of what is to me a most intriguing part of bus operation. I should have mentioned of course that this article was based on the Monday to Friday situation at Otley and Ilkley depots. Naturally the Saturday and Sunday rotas, due to the simpler demands and frequencies, were less complex. I imagine that similar "crafty tactics" were in force at Armley and Bradford depots too, although at Yeadon Moorfield the vehicles' return to their proper home at night was ensured simply by the frequency and nature of the two Otley - Horsforth services.

Chris Youhill

23/09/13 - 06:09

Very interesting Chris.
Could you please explain to a local lad (not as local as Richard) the route to Middleton Hospital and why in particular it required a reverse at the toll bridge.

Gordon Green

23/09/13 - 10:21

Well Gordon I'll certainly try to explain this challenging oddity on the Middleton Hospital service. The crux of the matter lay in the very limited visiting hours for the Hospital, and in the long and difficult journeys made by many of the visitors. Visiting times were 1400 - 1600 on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays only - therefore it was an enormous help to those travelling from the east direction to leave their long distance buses at the Toll Bridge and to walk across to the Hospital (north) end. This brings us to the difficult reversing performance from a very narrow country road onto an even narrower "fluted stone" entrance to the bridge - with an upward slope to add to the fun. It was a very difficult job dimension wise and the absolute limit was definitely reached with 27 ft x 8 ft double deckers. Then, as is widely known, with manual transmission especially, reversing while loaded involves an amount of "jigging up and down" to add to the precision required. Of course having accomplished the turn we were then faced with more waiting passengers than we should take, but we never left anyone - how could you really ?? This brings us now to the ascent of Carter's Lane to the Hospital - the last few yards were of a really terrific gradient, culminating in the final thrill of the trip in the form of a steeply curved steep entry to the Grounds (still there actually on the demolished site) where platform and rear offside grounding had to be carefully avoided. It is a real tribute to the moderate engine capacity of the 7.4 litre Leylands and 7.7 litre AECs, and to the Ledgard maintenance, that the often very overloaded vehicles managed the ascent with 100% reliability - always of course in first gear in the end.
One other real hazard on the outward journeys from Ilkley concerned the cables for the suspension footbridge near the Lido - the cables were anchored at the nearside of the road and it was critically essential to pull over to the right to avoid an accident to the top deck of the bus. It may be wondered why the return journeys to Ilkley were direct - obviously the passengers had achieved their visiting hours target and therefore there was no justification for the Toll Bridge reversing and traffic disruption. Oh, if only a photo had been taken of the Toll Bridge reverse - I remember well my terror of the moment when, as a very new driver, I had to face it with an audience of bemused passengers.

Chris Youhill



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