Fog!

Fog!

There can be few sights more incongruous than that of a half-century-old bright red Manchester Corporation Leyland PD2 making its way through lush, green Derbyshire countryside on a warm sunny day with the word FOG displayed in huge letters on its via blind. But that was one of the attractions of the June 2009 Chatsworth Preserved Bus Gathering, and not without good reason. For that bus belongs to an era when fog was a prominent and regular part of Manchester life, and I remember it well.

Although neither as famous nor as colourful as London's "pea-soupers", Manchester's November fogs were every bit as thick. As children we used to walk in front of cars, guiding them through the side streets until they reached the main road. Of course, we could hardly see the road ahead any better than the drivers could, but those streets were our playground, and we knew the colour of every front door and garden gate, and the position of every broken kerbstone. The murk was so thick that my father once walked straight into someone, said "I beg your pardon", and then realised that he was talking to a lamp post.

But for all their density, Manchester's fogs sometimes tended to be very patchy, probably owing to the varied topography of the cityscape. In the north, muscular Leyland double-deckers roared up and down hills, as the undulating moorland (then heavily disguised by cosy Victorian terraces, but now all too obvious in the greener, bleaker world that is supposed to be so much better for us) rose inexorably towards the Pennine foothills. On the other side of the city, Gardner-powered Daimlers - some with only five cylinders - purred and crooned demurely among the pancake-lands of the southern suburbs. It may have been the effect of these ups and downs on the fog that inspired that via-blind display, to explain the disruption of the bus service to would-be passengers waiting in places where there was no fog to be seen.

I remember one occasion after work in the 1960s when I was trying to get home from Cannon Street in a particularly thick one. There seemed to be no buses heading my way at all, but I noticed that across the road the 26s were coming and going every ten minutes like clockwork. So I crossed the road and boarded one. As the PD2 climbed slowly up Waterloo Road through the aptly-named Hightown, we suddenly came out of the fog into a beautifully clear evening. I alighted at Higher Crumpsall and headed for home on foot, across what should have been the Irk Valley - but there was no Irk Valley to be seen. As I descended Ash Tree Road I stopped in disbelief. Looking up, a full moon was shining out of a starry sky. Looking down, I couldn't see my feet!

But my most abiding memory of buses and fog goes back to childhood, when my parents would take me with them to visit their friends in other parts of the city. During one of these visits, in Moss Side, the fog descended. After saying our goodbyes we groped our way to the bus stop and waited. With nothing for company but a haloed mercury-vapour street lamp, we stood in the chill silence for a very long time. Now and again a sound would approach, and my father would say "This is it". Well it could have been, but it wasn't. It was just another disappointment in the shape of a car, a van or a taxi. But then I heard something different.

I've mentioned Leylands and Daimlers, but there was a third bus-presence on the streets of Manchester in those days. If Leylands were the macho boys, and Daimlers the sweet seductresses, a Crossley resembled nothing more than a kindly old granny with a smoker's cough. And that was what I had heard - a distant, wheezy chuffing sound. "This is it!" I announced. A fog light pierced the gloom, followed rapidly by a destination display beneath a pair of windows, and then the magnificence of an entire illuminated mini-world of civilisation, gently chuffing through the desert of fog.

This was indeed it. Granny Crossley had come to take us home!

Peter Williamson
05/2010


Many thanks indeed Peter for such an enjoyable and colourfully written account of the Manchester fogs. I can relate easily to your views as I have virtually identical memories that we bus crews faced in those far off days which, understandably, today's younger folks can scarcely be expected to credit.

I remember particularly one dreadful evening on the Otley to Leeds route of Samuel Ledgard when I was a conductor. The running time for a single journey was 35 minutes for the ten miles, and on that occasion I had walked the greater part of the trip just in front of the nearside mudguard and I could hardly see the rural grass verges or indeed the kerb edges when the City boundary was reached. In fact although the ex London Sutton Depot "HGF" Daimler was doing its best to behave demurely at walking pace I had some fear of being scooped up from time to time. Well, we arrived in Leeds after well over two hours in the impenetrable gloom, by which time I literally resembled a coal miner after a double shift underground - my face was totally black with the soot that the fogs contained in those pre Clean Air Act days. I hope you will all believe the following verbatim furious quote from the fur coated bejewelled "Hyacinth Bucket" type aristocrat at the head of a weary queue :-

"Well really !! - I KNOW its foggy but where on EARTH have you been ??

I was never in the habit of being rude to passengers, but the temptation was enormous to reply "We just stopped off at the Dyneley Arms for a quick one and a game of darts."

I must in conclusion say how much I enjoyed Peter's character descriptions of the three leading constituents of the Manchester fleet - I've heard all sorts said about Crossleys, particularly the twenty one post war examples in Leeds, but I have a new soft spot now for kindly "Granny Crossley."

Chris Youhill


04/06/13 - 07:03

Just read Peter Williamson's article from May 2010 and it reminded me of a day in the early 1960s, a day when the Manchester Evening News published a picture in its later editions of the city centre at midday which was basically black with blurry light which emanated from vehicles and buildings with no definition.
That day we were released from grammar school in Rusholme immediately after lunch. I say "we" but the lads from Warrington, Glossop and Macclesfield were held back with the possibility of being bedded down in the gym for the night if the fog persisted.
Emerging onto Wilmslow Rd with the glow from shop lights barely penetrating the gloom, the first impression was the lack of traffic on the normally hectic thoroughfare. Gaining the bus stop for the 31/161/162, any of which would take me more than half way home, I joined a very long queue.
Given that the stop and one adjoining were served by no fewer than ten routes between them, including the very frequent 53 service, the lack of a single bus in either direction for almost quarter of an hour was both ominous and somewhat spooky.
Eventually a Northern Counties bodied Royal Tiger on the 31 bound for Bramhall emerged extremely slowly from the murk. The conductor appeared at the rear entrance to announce he had more on board than he should have and, anyway, it would be quicker to walk, wherever we were headed.
That made my mind up for me and I eventually walked to Parrs Wood, passing a number of buses which had given up the ghost. Stockport were turning the 9 and 16 round at Parrs Wood as onwards to West Didsbury and Chorlton the visibility was circa five to ten yards. In the other direction, once the climb through Heaton Mersey was started the fog evaporated so I was able to ride the last mile or so.
The irony was, if we had stayed in school, by normal release time at 4 pm the fog had cleared and buses were back running, if not to schedule, at least in adequate numbers.

Phil Blinkhorn


04/06/13 - 09:46

Love the article, Peter, which is both amusing and evocative, reminding me of London peasoupers which penetrated as far as Morden, just in Surrey (then). I can recall helping lost car drivers in the worst one of 1951/2(?) and charging sixpence for walking three-mile journeys between two main roads. Must have made at least half a crown that evening and night. Thought of making a career out of it, but the Clean Air Act put paid to that, dammit! I should add that when I was young our lampposts had 60w light bulbs, hardly any good in clear weather!

Chris Hebbron


04/06/13 - 14:32

MCTD crews were rather fond of displaying the "FOG" section of the via blind at entirely inappropriate times, although I believe that this was a punishable offence if noticed by a humourless inspector. My own favourite, seen in the city centre, was a Daimler showing the correct display "40x Fog Lane" with the destination amplified by the use of "FOG" on the via!

Neville Mercer


04/06/13 - 14:34

There are some (boring old f**ts) out here who would contend that Morden (along with Kingston, Sutton and Croydon) is still in Surrey. [They can't take the Yorkshire out of a Yorkshireman and they can't take Surrey out of its towns.]
Oh, and by the way, Sale is in Cheshire and Slough is in Bucks.!

David Oldfield


05/06/13 - 06:01

A Daimler on MCTD route 40? Now that was rarer than the incidence of FOG! Not many terminated at Fog Lane but at a pinch I suppose that Birchfields Road could have fielded one.

Orla Nutting


05/06/13 - 06:02

Mr Oldfield - but Saddleworth is now legally on the right side of the Pennines having been a late capture in the extended Wars of the Roses - and we still want Todmorden back!!
Fog Lane, by the way Neville, was not a timetabled 40x turn round - Green End Rd turn backs vastly outnumbered the Fog Lane ones. I seem to remember outbound evening Fog Lane workings were at the discretion of the loading Inspector, Green End Lane ones being timetabled and extended the extra two stops as necessary. Neither was an easy turnaround after the mid 1950s when Kingsway got busier.
The fact you saw this on a Daimler is indicative of the fact that these two turn back points were for Birchfields Rd depot vehicles on evening rush hour fill ins - I'm not sure Parrs Wod vehicles had Fog Lane on their blinds as no Parrs Wood route terminated anywhere along its length. In effect Fog Lane was a misnomer as, outbound from the city, Lane End Rd is on the side of Kingsway adjacent to the stop, Fog Lane starts on the opposite side of the road.
The outbound turn backs in the evening were an annoyance for those wishing to go to Parrs Wood, less than a mile from Green End Rd and only a few hundred yards, albeit over a relatively steep railway bridge slope, from Lane End Rd but the evening short trips evened out the loadings in Albert Sq (or Princess St where the loading point was)and were very much a Birchfields Rd turn.
In the morning the short workings were a boon for Manchester's own commuters as the 40 would often fill before leaving Parrs Wood, mainly with connecting passengers from Stockport, so the short workings were to give a decent service to Manchester ratepayers. The Fog Lane starts would be provided by extra Parrs Wood vehicles being dispatched empty non stop to Fog Lane if the Parrs Wood Inspector deemed it necessary and they would more often than not run back empty to depot after just one trip, the Green End Rd starts were a Birchfields Rd turn.
Out of interest, can anyone remember if passengers were carried between the official terminus of the 40 in Albert Sq and the loading point in Princess St either inbound or outbound?

Phil Blinkhorn


05/06/13 - 06:02

and Saddleworth, Sedbergh, Dent, Earby, Barnodswick, Gisburn, Middlesborogh ,Redcar, …. I could go on – they are all in Yorkshire David.
And one for John Whitaker – on certain very wide stretches of road in Bradford there were white fairy lights strung from the trolleybus overhead to guide the way in fog, Spring Head Road in Thornton immediately springs to mind and also oil can flares were placed in the road as well.

Gordon


05/06/13 - 08:33

When I started using the 40 in 1963 the inbound buses proceeded straight to Princess Street - I don't believe they even stopped in Albert Square. Heading for Exchange or Victoria stations as I was I know the technique was usually to try to jump off at the John Dalton Street corner as it slowed for the zebra crossing there.
That is if our 40x from MGS wasn't a Royal Exchange one. There was usually one in the evening and more unusually (and I don't know how we found out about it) one ran in from Exchange Gardens through Piccadilly in the morning at the tail end of the rush hour. I can't remember what it came in as.

David Beilby


05/06/13 - 08:34

Yes, it was a Birchfields Rd bus! Incidentally, this is a demonstration of the expertise available on this site - I very much doubt that any other source (outside of the Manchester Transport Museum!) could have correctly pinpointed the garage allocation of the vehicle involved in this vignette 50 years after the event. I would add, though, that - certainly in 1962-63 - there were always quite a few vehicles during the evening peak showing the Fog Lane destination. But I only ever saw one with the added via blind.

Neville Mercer


05/06/13 - 10:57

A couple of points:
The destination FOG LANE is correct. Fog Lane did extend over Kingsway in those days. Lane End Rd is immediately opposite the western side of Fog Lane but the eastern side of Fog Lane commenced about 40 yards south of Lane End Rd and connected with Burnage Lane by the side of the then Bull Inn. Buses used to turn off Kingsway up this short stretch of Fog Lane and complete a loop back to Kingsway via Burnage Lane and Lane End Rd. This manoeuvre was also used by MCTD buses coming up Kingsway from Birchfields Rd on works services for Hans Renolds (never called Renolds Chains in those days, colloquially) before parking up northbound on the short stretch of Burnage Lane and by SCTD buses on works services which used come down Burnage Lane and loop around Lane End Rd and Fog Lane before parking up southbound on Burnage Lane.
The 40 did not stop in Albert Square inbound. The terminus was Princess Street (along with the 89 and 42). The penultimate stop was in Mount Street, just before Albert Sq, outside the Quaker Hall. Of course, outbound it did not pass through Albert Square but continued out of town via Princess Street and eventually connected with it's inbound route at the junction with Grosvesnor Street.

Orla Nutting


05/06/13 - 18:09

Orla, Both my 1960 and 1972 A-Z Manchester clearly show Lane End Rd starting at the Stockport boundary, crossing Burnage Lane and terminating at Kingsway. The eastern side of Fog Lane to which you refer is also shown but is unnamed. I don't ever remember a street sign on that stretch, it being to the best of my knowledge an un-named thoroughfare. It looks like it is just another of those odd historical quirks, Fog Lane having crossed a major thoroughfare, being at 45 degrees to the axis of the rest of the lane and running for around 50 yards.
Just another interesting bit of history which seems to have been sanitized by modern planning.
I mentioned the difficulty of turning because some drivers used the dual carriageway layout to do a U-turn on Kingsway - as they did at Green End Rd, rather than the route you described. This was especially frequent in the 1950s.
Also equally as quirky, given that off loading didn't occur in Albert Sq, was the Albert Sq destination displayed on the 40 and not changed when it became the 50. Princess St would have been more accurate but non specific, give its length.

Phil Blinkhorn


06/06/13 - 06:02

The geographical inaccuracy wasn't confined to the 40. The Saddleworth services (10/13/14) actually terminated in Lever Street but always showed Stevenson Square. Part of this will have been to economise on blinds by making one terminus name serve for several services. As it was some Manchester depots had to have odd and even buses on different services as a universal blind would have been too long.

David Beilby


06/06/13 - 06:03

Sorry to have to correct you but that short stretch did have a street sign proclaiming it to be Fog Lane until it disappeared as a through road after the Bull Inn was demolished. If it is any help the 1848 Tithe Map of Heaton Mersey shows it as Fog Lane too, the boundary then including the Bull Inn in a very narrow strip of Heaton Mersey, the only land on the western side of Burnage Lane to be designated thus.
I can't explain why the destination of the 40 was always shown as Albert Square but it was common for all the buses that terminated in Princess Street (85, 89 and 133) to show Albert Square except the 42 which showed Royal Exchange (but didn't terminate there!). So far as I know no bus route that went into the square terminated there with the possible exception of the 35X rush hour service. Nevertheless you'll be pleased to know that Albert Square does not figure as the destination of most route 50 buses .... it now terminates at Salford Quays.

Orla Nutting


06/06/13 - 07:30

I particularly remember one instance when I had gone to Leeds for day release to study for Institute of Transport exams. A thick fog had dropped during the afternoon when we were in class. The classes were in Woodhouse Lane so I had to find my way to Vicar Lane bus station for the service 31 to Keighley. The driver had adjusted the fog light to focus on the kerb edge and this combined with the conductor hopping on and off to assist at junctions. It eventually got us to Keighley.

Anyway, here are two fog pictures, taken in 1964, showing West Yorkshire LL5Gs, one at Harrogate and the other on Keighley service 13 crossing the swing bridge over the canal. These are both my photos. Incidentally, the swing bridge restricted the types of bus used on this route and the 7'6" LLs initially were the mainstay, with 8' wide ones appearing here and there.
Note JYG 742 hasn't even put the headlights on in the fog.

David Rhodes


06/06/13 - 09:56

David, the odd/even blind system was another Pilcher innovation but it had its down side when failure in service at key times led to no substitute vehicle with the requisite blind being available.
Manchester was not known for having stocks, or even use, of paper stickers in the nearside bulkhead window so, from time to time, a bus could be seen with the correct route number but no via or destination blind set defeating the object of what was, at face value, a comprehensive passenger information system.
Orla, I'm intrigued about the street sign. I lived in Heaton Mersey from 1956 to 1973, apart from a two year sojourn in Chorlton from 1968 to 1971, and both as a youngster on my bike and an adult in my car I regularly passed that bit of Fog Lane but can't bring the location of the street sign to mind.
Not only that but in summer coming from school, or later work, I would sometimes leave the 29 or 40 at that point and use that stretch to gain the monkey path alongside Hans Renolds to walk up the hill to eventually emerge on Priestnall Rd. Obviously I'm having an extended senior moment!!

Phil Blinkhorn


06/06/13 - 11:46

Leeds suffered with fog in the fifties and sixties but to a lesser extent than Manchester.
In the fog the trams came into their own as they tended to keep running longer than the buses that replaced them.
Leeds City Police did point duty in those days and I can remember as a child travelling through City Square in thick fog and seeing the PC stood in a white mac to reflect light with a naphtha fire on each side so drivers could see him although how he saw traffic is anybodies guess!

Chris Hough


06/06/13 - 11:48

Ah, the monkey path. That brings back memories. I was trying think of the name of the road onto which it emerged before it joined Mersey Rd but couldn't so I googled it only to find it is called 'Woodheys' now which may be a newish development as it doesn't ring a bell. Lo and behold, however, Google Maps still show the short stretch of road between Kingsway and Burnage Lane as Fog Lane!
I'm not sure that any passenger alighting at Fog Lane ever traversed the footpath; everyone crossed the car park of the Bull Inn to Burnage Lane as it offered a few steps shorter effort. No longer of course, as it's now a Shell Service Station and the bus stop is set a few yards back into a lay-by immediately after Lane End Rd. The plethora of routes that once passed there are no more with the sole survivors being the 50 and the 29 (now renumbered 130 just confuse people of an ancient vintage). And the monkey path? Well it's still there following much the original route as part of a network of paths on Heaton Mersey Common according to the 1:10000 map of the area (as is Fog Lane east of Kingsway

Orla Nutting


06/06/13 - 17:03

Orla, the monkey path finished on Hawthorn Rd which led to Mersey Rd and, if you turned left and then right, you were on Priestnall Rd within 50 yards or so.
Buses used to run along Priestnall Rd and Mersey Rd serving Fylde Lodge School when it moved from Mauldeth Rd. No fog problems but a number of bruised domes from overhanging trees and eventually a lay-by was made outside the old school on Mauldeth Rd and the girls had to walk around 200 yards.

Phil Blinkhorn


08/06/13 - 08:07

Of course it should be remembered that Manchester's vagueness in describing terminal points was not confined to what was displayed on the destination screen of the bus. The same name appeared in the timetable and fare tables. In addition to Albert Square and Stevenson Square there was "Piccadilly", which meant anywhere in the general vicinity of Piccadilly Gardens, but rarely if ever Piccadilly itself.
On the subject of blank destinations, the 60 normally showed Victoria Avenue outbound and Cannon Street inbound, but as it was a circular service, Victoria Avenue was not actually a terminus, unless the number was 60x (short working), in which case it might be. I once boarded a (clockwise) 60x with a blank destination at Heaton Park and asked the conductor how far he was going. He was very vague, but, after enquiring my destination, assured me he was going far enough for me. Later in the journey he confided that they didn't actually know where they were going until they received instructions from the inspector at Blackley Office. When they did, the display changed to 61x Stevenson Square!

Peter Williamson


08/06/13 - 14:09

Peter's mention, amplifying mine about MCTD's inspectors deciding on a service's final destination, highlights just how much these eminences were relied on to ensure the efficient running of the system.
Most passengers only came across them when their tickets were inspected or only felt their power if they had not paid or had stayed on past their stop or at least the following fare stage).
It would be interesting if anyone with experience as an inspector or with very close experience of the way they were organised and worked for any operator, could write an article for the forum.

Phil Blinkhorn


09/06/13 - 06:35

Splendidly atmospheric photos of the Bristol Ls in the fog. The Keighley 13 on the canal swing bridge looks to be approaching the bridge at an awkward angle. I don't know the bridge in question, but it appears to be off square with the bridge. I very much doubt that the bridge has started to swing with just the front axle on board !

Peter Murnaghan


09/06/13 - 11:33

Fog in Riddlesden: the wonders of Google Maps suggest that if this is Granby Lane, there was quite a curve leading to the bridge from the south side- perhaps worse with what was presumably an old bridge, now replaced....? The bus also had to avoid that wooden footpath whilst getting its length across the bridge. Looks easier now- and power steering.

Joe


13/06/13 - 07:10

This is in answer to two other submissions with regard to this bridge, but I realise that the fog connection has digressed.
This is indeed the bridge at Granby Lane in Riddlesden. Any vehicle wanting to get into the village from the main Bradford Road had to use one of two bridges, and the Granby Lane one was the strongest! Until the early 50s the bridge was of wooden construction and dictated lightweight buses be used. As Peter has observed, the later bridge (metal construction) was out of line with the road and approached from a steep upward slope. It was therefore important for the bus driver to line the vehicle up, otherwise the rear end could clip the rubbing strip of the bridge.
The photos below show the bridge at various stages.

The Leyland Cub was an early 30s one of two bought specifically for use on these bridges. The OBs were used from the late 40s to the early mid-50s, when the Bristol LLs took over. The photograph of the Bristol is one of my own. The photographer of the Bedford is unknown. The picture of the Cub I bought from someone in the WYIS.
As a little humorous aside, on approaching the bridge from the lower side it was possible for car drivers not to see a vehicle coming from the opposite direction onto the bridge, and stand-offs and confrontations were not infrequent. One particular cantankerous local businessman refused to back off the bridge and headed for the hostelry at the other side with the words “When you’ve made your mind up, I’ll be in there having a pint”. Happy days!

David Rhodes


29/09/13 - 09:49

You have photos of some very impressive buses on your site. Slightly off track I came across them looking for information on when coal fires were first banned in Manchester and enjoyed reading people's recollections of the pea soupers we used to have each winter. I remember finishing school early and having to walk home on many occasions in thick fog. And my father arriving home from work looking like one of the Black and White Minstrels having travelled through the smog on his moped.
I don't know if anyone would be able to help me with the information I'm looking for, I know it's not the purpose of your site, but if anyone can cast their mind back to the early sixties and come up with an answer I'd be very grateful.

Petrina


29/09/13 - 11:16

Petrina, Manchester City Council first proposed a smoke free city in 1938. WW2 delayed plans and it was 1952 before the commercial centre of Manchester became the first experimental zone where smoke emissions from buildings and bonfires were banned. The smoke control areas were gradually expanded, the biggest push being in the 1960s but it was the 1980s before the city as a whole came under smoke control orders.

Phil Blinkhorn


29/09/13 - 15:38

Phil is right in stating that Manchester started in 1952, after all the smogs of that year. Many other towns and citiews did, too. However, a reluctant government finally enacted legislation in the Clean Air Act 1956 - see this link.
The burning of smokeless fuel and other measures did not, however cover the whole country, only the smoky parts. Gloucestershire, being rural, with little industry, was exempt, for example.

Chris Hebbron


30/09/13 - 07:17

I hadn't realised that smokeless zones were still being rolled-out into the 1980s! - one would have thought that by then - with the shift away from domestic coal fires, and the decline in factories/mills (which must have largely happened in the early/mid-1970s) - the need for smokeless zones was past.
I remember the smokeless zone in Halifax affecting my grandfather: it must have been around 1971/2 (when my mother took delivery of a a Jensen Interceptor - now apparently James Bond's car of choice), when dual carriage-ways, fly-overs, colour TV, and impressive-looking Bradford City Transport dual-door Alexander-Fleetlines came to Halifax - I assumed that the hexagonal ("Coalite"?) blocks burning (well, just about smoldering) in my grandfather's grate were similarly a new form of "sexy 70's" coal. I recall reading that a lot of domestic customers turned away from coal as "cheap" North Sea gas came on-stream, and when coal was rationed for OAPs use during the 1972/74(?) miners' strike(s), which sort-of sorted the problem out for itself. With such a decline in domestic and industrial use of coal, and a reduction in inner-city housing density following the "clearances" of the late 60s/early 70s, are smokeless zones still relevant?
What might a similar destination display be now? "Generally Heavy Traffic"? "Some Twit Blocked Major Roundabout"? "Student Wanted to Explore All Ticket Options Before Proffering £20 Note for £2 Fare"? "FOG" - one of those little local definers, like ITV franchises, and . . . errm . . . the colour of the buses, that have been swept away in the last 40 years. Oh! in a world of dot-matrix/LED displays you can add "different destination displays" to that list.

Philip Rushworth


01/10/13 - 18:02

Phil Locally you could show the one in front was turned short or the one in front broke down to your list. Both are common occurrences locally.

Chris Hough

 


 

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