The First PTEs - Part One - Ashton under Lyne

The First PTEs - Part One - Ashton under Lyne

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With its blind already set for the next outward journey, LTC 768 a 1950 H30/26R PD2/3 travels along Warrington Street, unrecognisable today, towards the bus station. Route 128 was originally trolleybus route 217. Haughton Green was a small village beyond Denton which lost its rural aspect in the late 1950s when Manchester built large overspill estates in the area.
The PD2 was one of a batch of 10, originally numbered 2-7, 9, 23, 25 and 76 which were renumbered 1-10 in 1960. The renumbering matched the last number of the registration with the fleet number LTC 770, originally 76, becoming number 10.
The photo was taken after the inception of SELNEC, so the coat of arms and the Gothic fleet name script are missing. The unrepaired tree damage and grubby bonnet were unusual for Ashton and is indicative of many depots' reaction to the takeover. I travelled to and from primary school many times on this and other vehicles of the batch in 1952 and 1953 on the prestige service 9 between Ashton and Rochdale. In those days the bus was resplendent in the dark blue, white and red livery.
The bus was one of only four operated by SELNEC of the eight that passed to them from Ashton and became 5406 in the fleet, being finally withdrawn in 1970 though it survived in the Mossley Rd garage yard in Ashton blue and cream well into 1974, probably as long as it would have lasted with Ashton.

XTC 854 is a Bond bodied Guy originally fleet number 39 and renumbered to 67 in 1964. One of four H32/28R Guy Arab IVs originally bought in 1956 specifically for the number 14 Ashton to Mossley service which, with its long drag up to the Hartshead area from Ashton and the even harder, sharp ascent from Mossley, gave problems to the Leylands in the fleet.
Bond was a short lived but highly reputable body builder in Wythenshawe, Manchester. Ashton was its biggest customer with rebodied and new trolleybuses as well as the Guys. With its preferred body builders Crossley and Leyland either out of or about to leave the marketplace, Bond looked set to gain Ashton's future business - as well as many other customers - but labour disputes ruined the company and Ashton had to look elsewhere.
All four passed to SELNEC - the only Guys in the fleet, though Bolton contributed some Bond bodied Leylands - and this bus became 5467. Photographed on the western edge of Ashton Bus Station the bus is devoid of any logo, crest or title to the offside observer. I've not found a confirmed withdrawal date for the batch but memory says 1971, again in blue and cream, as part of SELNEC's determination to reduce the average age of the fleet, slightly frustrated by the delay in delivery of Fleetlines and Atlanteans.

Following the demise of Bond, Ashton followed its next door neighbour, Oldham, to Crossgates, Leeds and for the next four batches of double deckers ordered 65 seat traditional bodies on PD2/40 chassis with traditional radiators. 19 NTD was number 19 in the fleet from the first batch delivered in 1960. 1965 saw a fifth batch but with the forward entrance version of the body on PD2/37 chassis.
Ashton followed Oldham in another regard in so far as, in the last days of its independence it placed the coat of arms and script on the between decks forward panels and, in Ashton's case, the legal lettering followed "upstairs".
Photographed on Portland St, Manchester, on the southern edge of Piccadilly Gardens and bus station, 19 is on former trolleybus service 218 from Stalybridge via Ashton and Ashton Old Rd.
19 became 5419 in the SELNEC fleet and was repainted in fleet colours though it didn't survive into GMT days, having a much shorter life than envisioned by either its makers or its original owner.

Though Ashton's fleet was relatively small, never exceeding 50 vehicles, it moved with the times. In 1966 it took eight Atlanteans bodied by Roe and followed these with a batch of PDR1A/1 Atlanteans in 1969 bodied by Northern Counties to H43/28D fitted for OMO.
The last of these was PTF 861G, fleet number 61 which was delivered after the inauguration of SELNEC in basic Ashton colours with SELNEC Southern legal lettering. Taken on Penny Meadow, Ashton, the birthplace of actress Amanda Barrie, 61 is already grubby though it has reflective number plates, legalised just before delivery. Eventually becoming 5461 and gaining SELNEC livery the bus survived until 1982 by which time it was part of the GMT fleet.
After the formation of SELNEC, a number of outstanding orders from the constituent Corporations were delivered in SELNEC livery, some had details amended by the new operator prior top delivery, others were - colour scheme apart - to the standard specified by the departments which ordered them. Ashton had a repeat batch of Northern Counties bodied Atlanteans to the same specification as the 1969 batch on order for 1970. Five were ordered but only four were delivered these being VTE 162H to VTE 165H and these appeared as 5462-5465. A further order to the same specification was placed for 1971 but this and the last one of the 1970 order were cancelled with Northern Counties and the six PDR1A/1 chassis received newly designed Northern Counties bodies to SELNEC's new standard design, serving as single doorway prototypes. Originally numbered EX1-EX6, they later became 5466-5471 having the Manchester registrations PNF 941J-PNF 946J.

The last bus built to Ashton's specifications, VTE 165H is a Northern Counties bodied H43/28D PDR1A/1 Atlantean delivered in 1970. Numbered 5465 I suspect it is turning close to the bus station. The all Leyland double decker in the background is a bit of a mystery. It isn't ex Ashton as it has sliding vents rather than half drop windows. Is it a canteen as the earlier facilities opposite the fire station closed when the new bus station opened and I have a nagging feeling it was a while before facilities opened at the new site.

Copy by Phil Blinkhorn - Photographs by Roger Cox


Click here to view Part Two - SHMD Board


03/08/13 - 07:15

One note regarding SELNEC fleet numbers. Only one Ashton bus carried its SELNEC fleet number on the blue livery and this was the last repaint into the blue livery, PD2 5436. Buses were only renumbered on repaint and of the SELNEC constituents Ashton was unique in this regard.
A couple of minor points. Oldham changed their livery but continued hand painting into GMT days. I believe the only municipal spray facilities were those in Manchester and Rochdale and brush painting remained the norm elsewhere.
There is also a typo in the SELNEC number of the first vehicle featured which was allocated the number 5408. Ironically the bus that would have been 5406 was the only one of the batch to gain orange livery, but this had been cut down as a towing vehicle just before the formation of SELNEC. It was preserved for a time, as also was sister 7. It's a real shame the latter didn't survive as they looked magnificent in original livery.

David Beilby

03/08/13 - 07:17

I was a member of a group who tried to preserve one of the Leyland bodied PD2s.This was on a farm somewhere in darkest Lancashire.We went one Saturday and after a long time using a farm tractor we managed to get the bus to start .The leader of the group the late John Leadbeater drove lorrys for a company in Batley West Yorkshire and he was given permission to park the bus at the depot Alas shortly afterwards before any serious work could be carried out John had to leave and so the bus had to go too.I think efforts were made to find another home but this was fruitless and so the bus went to PVS at Barnsley.I cannot remember the bus registration but I do recall Downing Street on the destination blind.

Philip Carlton

03/08/13 - 07:18

For clarification does the reference to 'George Hilditch' refer to G G Hilditch, who held various posts in the 'municipal bus industry', latterly being the General Manager at Leicester City Transport, and who generally titled himself as Geoffrey Hilditch?

Michael Elliott

03/08/13 - 08:00

Thanks for your comments David. Re painting, Manchester and Rochdale certainly had spray booths and as far as I remember, so did North Western. I'm surprised about Oldham as I understood the dreadful pommard and cream was sprayed. Before I write the piece on Salford can anyone confirm the simplification of the livery to a single cream stripe and overall green was to, as I've understood it for years, allow simple spraying.

Phil Blinkhorn

03/08/13 - 09:43

Michael, you've picked up an error missed by three of us who read the proof!

Phil Blinkhorn

05/08/13 - 08:13

One point not made in the text but highlighted by the last two pictures is that the Smallshaw Circular and the Hurst Circular followed the same route but in opposite directions.
The routes involved some long flat stretches and some steady but fairly easy climbs. Heavily loaded at peak periods as Smallshaw and Hurst contained 1920s council houses where many workers from the town and Manchester resided, the routes passed the depot and were the nominated running in turns for new and off maintenance vehicles as no part of the routes was more than ten minutes drive from the depot.

Phil Blinkhorn

05/08/13 - 08:13

I was at first surprised to read that Ashton's Guys were purchased to cope with hills that Leylands were having difficulty with, since Gardner's 8.4 litres were never a match for Leyland's 9.8. But then I remembered once reading something similar about Northern General using 5HLW-powered Guy single deckers on their hilliest routes. This cannot be about performance, so I can only assume it's something to do with Gardners staying cool when other engines get all hot and bothered.
Whatever the reason, they sounded very nice, and I also liked the Bond bodies very much. In retrospect they remind me of earlier de-Manchesterised Crossley bodies, as shown at this link.

Peter Williamson

05/08/13 - 10:41

Peter, you may well be right regarding the cooling. I had cousins of a similar age who lived in Hazelhurst overlooking the route and I spent many weekend and summer holiday days with them. Before the Guys arrived I recall seeing overheated Leylands pulled in on the Mossley side of the Gorsey Lane, Mossley Rd junction eventually being "refreshed" by the staff of the adjacent motor repair garage.
In addition to regular traffic Hartshead Pike, for which the stop was at the highest point on the route, was a great draw for people at weekends and during the summer so loads were often heavy. As I recall the Guys were the only type that didn't appear on the 1 and 3 Circulars during their initial running in.

Phil Blinkhorn

28/08/13 - 06:00

I recall the "mystery bus" in the background of the photo of 5465. It was an ex Bolton all-Leyland PD2 which was converted to a mobile church. It spent quite some time in Ashton.

John Hibbert

28/08/13 - 12:32

Thanks for clearing that up John

Phil Blinkhorn

29/08/13 - 06:40

I am a native of Rochdale and discovered the buses of Ashton Corporation when I started to attend Secondary School (Rochdale Technical) which was in Rochdale town centre.
I always remember the destination blinds of Ashton buses which were 'economical' with their text. Buses arrived in Rochdale showing 'Rochdale via Oldham'. On departing they would show 'Via Oldham Ashton'. The 'Via Oldham' being the same words displayed in both directions. The conductor would only have to make a minimal number of turns of the destination blind winder making Rochdale disappear and Ashton show up.
In Phil's article there are two photos illustrating another example of the sharing of destination blind text in the word 'Circular' which was shared as 'Hurst Circular' on one hand and 'Circular Smallshaw' on the other.
No doubt there were various other examples on the Ashton blinds. Another operator serving Rochdale that used this method of using shared text was Hebble.

David Slater

29/08/13 - 10:41

The practice of saving space on blinds in this manner was not uncommon. Manchester, for instance, did something similar on the via blinds using 5 lines to cover 6 points. Thus, a outward journey of service #40 would show 'Victoria Park, Birch Park, Kingsway' and inward would show 'Kingsway, Birch Park, Victoria Park'.

Orla Nutting


I wonder if this mobile church was ex-Bolton 408 (DBN 311) which was sold to "Gospel Bus, Norley, Frodsham" in March 1966, and is now preserved.
For a while this owner had ex-Aldershot & District AEC Reliance/Weymann 370 (XHO 370), which I photographed in a field in Frodsham on 30/12/1986.
It later moved to Northern Ireland and later to preservation in A&D livery, having been exchanged for a single-deck Atlantean TBK 197K, ex-Portsmouth. See it at this link.

Dave Farrier

29/08/13 - 19:14

Manchester via blinds came in 3 varieties until 1958: totally informative with 3 waypoints listed, the partially informative such as Limited Stop and All Night Service (which to the initiated indicated that double fare was in operation) or the confusingly hopeless where a blank portion of the blind was shown and, of course, the equally opaque use of the word FOG, meant to show the bus was running off the time table due to fog somewhere (normally in the suburbs) but which meant nothing to the intending passenger. The 1958 opening of the Kingsway extension and the use of the road to bypass the log jam that was Cheadle village led to route 1, which always showed Limited Stop, being split into the 161 and 162. This created a new subset on Parrs Wood depot via blinds which could then be set to show Limited Stop via Cheadle for the former or Limited Stop via Kingsway for the latter.
There was some intelligent use of the via blinds for football specials with destinations of Old Trafford and Maine Rd, both of which appeared on the destination blinds for service buses, the latter being a short working point on the 123 when it was converted from the 213 trolleybus service, rather than Moss Lane East which had been the trolleybus short working. The football specials had special fares and would, even when not full, ignore ordinary passengers at bus stops. The destination blind would thus be set to Football Match and the via blind would show either Old Trafford or City Ground (strangely not Maine Rd!)
Orla's explanation of the use of the blinds when 3 waypoints were shown is as the system was supposed to be used but there is a mass of photo evidence to show many crews couldn't be bothered about turning the blind handle even one revolution and the blinds are often seen as set in reverse direction to the service.

Phil Blinkhorn

12/05/14 - 09:01

The Guy Arab IVs were withdrawn in 1970.
The 4th photo, of No.61 is on Warrington Street, not on Penny Meadow.
The 5th photo, shows VTE 165H turning from Warrington Street into the bus station.
The Guys were not the only type that didn't appear on circulars 1 and 3 on initial running in turns. The front entrance PD2s, the Roe bodied Atlanteans and single deckPanther Cubs did not.

Dave Ward

13/05/14 - 08:50

Thanks Dave for your clarification re the withdrawal date for the Guys. Your comment re the running in turns surprises me, apart from the Panther Cubs perhaps, as the Guys were such a notable exception to the norm and, apart from my own information, I've seen the same statements about running in turns elsewhere. Thanks also for correcting the location of photo #4.

Phil Blinkhorn

14/05/14 - 06:11

Besides being parked in the Mossley Road depot on delivery, the first time I saw the front entry PD2s in service was on the 127 Haughton Green and 30 Edgeley services. They very rarely ventured on to the circular services. And if they did, were replaced assoon as a rear platform PD2became available The Roe bodied Atlanteans were known as "trolleybus replacement vehicles" and entered service on the 218/219 from new. They did not appear on the circulars until one man operation commenced. The Letters of their registration numbers was YTE, the same as the trolleybuses that they replaced. The Panther Cubs were used on the 4 to Park Bridge and the 2 Gambrel Bank Circular and after one man operation commenced were the normal Sunday vehicle on the 14 Mossley service.

Dave Ward

14/05/14 - 08:29

The Panther Cubs appeared on the 5 (Droylsden to Smallshaw) service when new and I rode on them from Droylsden to Ashton as part of a more convoluted route home from school occasionally.

David Beilby

15/05/14 - 07:45

David. The 5 Droylsden service was the first to be converted to omo in 1967, which is the year the Panther Cubs were delivered. They were E registered, meaning they were registered prior to 1st August. 1967 is also the year of the creation of route 2 Gambrel Bank Circular, which was single deck operated from the outset by the Panther Cubs. Only one vehicle was required. As I recall,the service was not an all day service, which enabled the same vehicle to operate the equally infrequent 4 to Park Bridge. Whilst not doubting that the Panther Cubs appeared on the 5, the first of the 1966 Atlanteans had been fitted for omo in 1967 for service 5, which was Ashton's first omo service of that era.
The first new vehicles would usually appear on 3, Hurst Circular, appearing on 1, Smallshaw Circular the following day. Two vehicles were required for each circular route. I recall that when I first moved to Ashton that two of the 1955 (UTB) PD2s at that time the newest Leylands in the fleet) would be on one circular with two of the 1950 (LTC), PD2s on the other. This then changed every other day, with the vehicle type changing circular. eg: UTBs on Hurst Circular and LTBs on Smallshaw Circular on a Monday with Tuesday finding a pair of UTBs on the Smallshaw and a pair of LTCs on the Hurst, then Wednesday as Monday. When the first Roe PD2/40s were delivered in 1960, this arrangement continued with a pair of them alternating every other day with a pair of the UTB batch Crossley PD2/12s. From 1962, with the delivery of the second batch of the RoePD2/40s, this practice continued, but both circulars had RoePD2/40s operating them. However, as I already mentioned, this practice ceased with the delivery of the front entry Roe PD2/37 in 1965, these vehicles not entering service and saw little use on the circulars.
I have a theory regarding new vehicles and their initial entry to service on the circular routes and why this practice changed in 1965. It possibly had nothing to do with running in turns.
T.P. O'Donnell became General Manager at Ashton in 1954. When I returned to live in Ashton in 1957, O'Donnell lived just four houses from where my family lived on Broadoak Road. He left Ashton for Northampton in either 1963 or 1964. 1964 was the year the last Roe PD2/40 rear platform were delivered and the last to enter service on the Smallshaw and Hurst Circulars. Was it O'Donnell who insisted that at least two of his newest buses operated past his house every day, a practice that started from his arrival in 1954 and ended when he left in 1963/4? We shall probably never know, but it is a possibility.

Dave Ward

15/05/14 - 17:43

Dave may well have a point about Mr O'Donnell and the use of new vehicles on the circulars. This could be amplified by the fact that the first vehicle in the peacock livery, a GTJ registered Crossley, appeared on both routes just prior to Christmas 1954 on what had been Leyland territory for some while. Mr O'D showing off to the neighbours?
After he left things may well have changed but I rode on 45 on the 1 and 42 on the 3 when a few days old in 1965. This may have been a case of depot staff following tradition, at this remove we will probably never know.

Phil Blinkhorn

21/06/14 - 15:28

I suspect the photo of LTC 768 showing "Haughton Green 128" shouldn't take long to put a date to. I spent the first 44 years of my life domiciled in Haughton Green, and seem to remember the 128 variation only being introduced in the late 60s, towards the end of both Ashton Corpy's separate existence, and of the bus pictured. Technically, trolleybus 217 - and who'd have thought a "rural village" could justify the investment of trolleys instead of motorbuses - became motorbus 127 in 1960, when buses simply ran up Two Trees Lane and turned right onto Haughton Green road, before turning round opposite the Jolly Hatters and returning whence it came. The council "overspill" estate necessitated the introduction of circulars, with the 127 continuing clockwise round the estate, and anti-clockwise journeys introduced as 128s. Around 1980, Greater Manchester Transport renumbered them 347/348 respectively, and de-reg resulted in the 348 being dropped in favour of a "frequent intervals" 347 as it is now.
Interesting to note also that the front entrance PD2s were initially allocated to 127s in favour of Ashton locals. By SELNEC days, when "standard" Fleetlines stuck rigidly to buses heading North out of the bus Station, and the 127/128 never seeing anything newer than the EXx Atlanteans until the arrival of the superb Scanias for the Trans-Lancs Express.

Phil Longdon

21/11/14 - 06:30

I was brought up in Ashton in the 60's and lived in Cedar Street, Kenworthy Avenue (Hurst) and latterly Willshaw Lane.
My earliest memory was the number 7 running along Curzon Road and Kings Road operated by old wartime Guys, rebodied by Roe in the fifties, until replaced by the all Leyland Titans.
We moved to Hurst so used the Circulars or the 7 to get into town. The Roe bodied PD2s with rear entrances were the usual vehicles but I do recall catching, only once, a forward entrance version. The number 5 initially had the single deckers in use and later the Trolley Bus replacement Atlanteans.
The number 2 started after we moved to Willshaw Lane. A variety of vehicles were used on this including the Guy Arab/Bond vehicles, all Leyland PD2s, PD2/Roes and the two single deckers.
I own the surviving PD2/Roe rear entrance vehicle no. 39, which has been stored securely under cover for a number of years, and I am hoping to start its restoration shortly.

David Wilson

16/11/15 - 06:26

Just revisited this page after quite a while:-
PD2 no.8 survived longer than the other three because it became a driver trainer.
Route 5 was the first "one man" route (to use contemporary description!) and was initially operated by the two Panther Cubs. I lived at the village store in Littlemoss at the time and as a young boy was greatly impressed with their "luxury" compared to the PD2/3s of the 1-10 batch which had been the regular performers. Prior to the permitting of double deck one person operation, the 1966 Atlanteans were later used in a cunning scheme where the top decks were closed off by way of a wooden panel at the bottom of the stairs making a single decker for legal purposes - the panel being easily removable to return the bus to its full capacity. Route 5 needed two vehicles for its regular timetable, which would have made it the ideal choice for the conversion.
Another feature of the route which I recall is that for several weeks prior to their withdrawal in December 1966 the last two utility Guys, 72 and 74, were the regular all day performers in place of the usual PD2s, having been "spare" buses for some time.

John Hibbert

06/03/16 - 06:37

A couple of points from the excellent Ashton article. Regarding the appearances of newer/recently overhauled buses on the 1 and 3 Circulars I was always led to believe that this was in part due to the fact that quite a number of Ashton councillors lived on the routes. This bolstered by the fact that Mr O Donnell also lived on Broadoak Road makes sense. The practice continued under Mr Griffiths tenure.

As for those 4 Bond bodied Guy Arab IVs as a lad I remember them appearing on an evening peak trip from Guide Bridge into Ashton and then right through onto the 7 route to Hazelhurst. I frequently caught them home to the top of Hazelhurst after trainspotting trips to Guide Bridge station. I cannot recall what route number they displayed. A photo of 67 on Kings Road returning to Ashton after one of these trips is attached. This was taken after the formation of SELNEC as it has lost the coat of arms.
I also have vivid memories of the Crossley re-bodied Austerity Arabs on the 7 running past our house with bonnet side panels resting on the nearside wings for extra cooling in summer.This seems to contradict the idea of them being used on the 14 because they ran cooler than the Leylands. I was once told that the Leylands struggled up out of Brookbottom if they had to stop halfway up. This was because of the difficulty of starting in 1st gear and making the change to 2nd on the hill without losing momentum.
A final memory is that no. 5 out of the LTC batch of Leylands was converted to a run around/tow wagon and spent much of its time in the bus station with compressed air bottles to rescue ailing Atlanteans suffering with air system problems.

Steve Hyde

07/03/16 - 06:15

A new entry in the comments area prompts a new study of previous ones! Dave Ward and Phil Blinkhorn wondered a while back about a Manager's insistence that his newest buses should be on the route passing his house (or not, as the case may be!)
There was a vaguely similar situation in Southampton a few years back, involving a bus stop and a disabled parking bay. One of the Transport Department's Inspectors lived at the house in question, and he wanted a stop outside his house, for ease of getting to and from work. His wife had what was then an orange badge, and there was no parking facility at the property. The lady went out to work, and used the car to go to and from her work, so the bay was vacant during the day, when the buses were running, but occupied in the evening, when they were not.
In those days, rules on the issue of parking bays, and who was allowed to use them was far more 'regulated' than it is now. It might seem strange, but this arrangement worked. It shouldn't have of course but that's like the bumble bee and the laws of physics and aerodynamics. Theoretically, the bee can't fly but nobody's told it, so it does!

Pete Davies

19/04/16 - 06:20

I drove buses from Ashton depot for over 10 yrs, the bus pictured in selnec colours number 5465 on the hurst circular route had quite a chequered history. It constantly had braking issues when carrying heavy loads down hill. As I was a union rep, eventually we refused to drive it and it was black listed. Many years later and living in N. Wales a driver with GMT was suing them after getting injured when the brakes failed on 5465 and wanted me to give evidence for him.

Larry Smith



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