Halifax Passenger Transport in the Mid-1960's - Part One

Halifax Passenger Transport in the Mid-1960's - Part One

In late 1964 following a spell with London Transport, southern-born Roger Cox took up the position of Traffic Clerk with Halifax Passenger Transport - the combined name for the Halifax Corporation and Halifax Joint Omnibus Committee operations - and spent two years there before returning south to progress his career in the industry. A permanent situation of staff shortages meant that all 'inside' staff were encouraged to work 'on the road' for overtime and so Roger would soon have a more direct involvement with the actual vehicles, routes and local topography than perhaps he would have originally bargained for. There follows a selection of Roger's photographs - with a few additions to fill any gaps - illustrating the vehicles he encountered during his stay in the town.

At the outbreak of the Second World War Halifax Corporation & JOC had been expecting to take delivery of further AEC Regents, but in the event only one had materialised. No utility types were purchased at all during the war and the existing fleet had to soldier on - including many early 1930's AEC's which would otherwise have been withdrawn. By the end of the war a high proportion the fleet was well past its best and in urgent need of replacement. The Department placed orders for 90 Regent III double deck chassis with the 9.6 litre engine and preselector gearbox, and 24 of the equivalent Regal III single deck chassis for delivery in batches throughout the rest of the decade. 74 of the Regents were to be bodied by Park Royal, the remaining 16 by Roe. Also, following the loan of the demonstrator prototype, there were also to be nine of the newly introduced Leyland PD2 chassis fitted with Leyland's own design of bodywork.

105 (ACP 389) Leyland Titan PD2/1 / Leyland H33/26R new in 1947. (Photo - John Stringer)

The nine Leyland Titan PD2/1's with Leyland's own H30/26R bodywork looked oddly out of place in a fleet which had been predominantly AEC since 1930. Most of the Regents and Regals from the mid-thirties had been equipped with preselector gearboxes - though a few of the later deliveries had reverted to the crash variety - but all the early postwar AEC deliveries were to be of the latest air-operated preselector type. With no such gearbox available from Leyland at the time, the PD2's had manual gearboxes with a crash first gear, but the new-fangled synchromesh on 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Seven were delivered in as intended in 1947, but the last two were delayed until 1948 - arriving with a modified heating system which resulted in a slight difference to the shape of the panel under the front nearside canopy. Once on the go they were very good performers on the local hills, and were very characterful in the sound effects department, with the typical period Leyland combination of rhythmic, hunting tickover and asthmatic wheezing and whistling sounds from the pneumatic governor. Another feature seemingly unique to this type of body was the pair of heater dishes at the top of the lower saloon front bulkhead, which were made up of concentric copper discs. After the renumbering of the Corporation fleet in 1954 they had become 100-108 (ACP 384-392). Eight had been delivered with chrome-plated radiator shells, but one featured an orange painted shell, giving it a distinctive appearance - this being switched over the years from one PD2 to another, but spending most of its time on 101. 100 had been converted to Training Bus 411 as early as 1959, but been withdrawn in 1963. 107 had been involved in a low bridge accident in 1963, after which the conversion to open-top was completed officially and it became Training Bus and Tree Lopper 418 to replace 411. By 1968 it had been converted into mock-up of an 1898 tramcar for use in the forthcoming 70th Anniversary parade. In 1965 108 was been briefly transferred to the JOC as 308, but it and the others were withdrawn in 1965/66, four passing to Oldham Corporation to assist with a shortage there and lasting until 1969.
105 is pictured in Great Albion Street passing the town's original Crossfield Bus Station (opened in 1954) with the Odeon Cinema in the background. The Bus Station closed, and services transferred to the current Winding Road Bus Station in 1989.

215 (ACP 629) AEC Regent III 9612E / Roe H31/25R, new in 1948.
(Photo - Charles H. Roe, John Stringer Collection)

Delivery dates for AEC chassis were a problem though since the company had a full order book and was heavily committed to turning out the RT variant for London Transport. Park Royal had set up a special factory to build bodies for the RT but was having difficulty getting them into production, and in the end RT chassis were piling up everywhere and causing a problem. The decision was taken to offer some of these chassis to provincial operators, and as a result Halifax were offered eight in place of half of the sixteen standard models intended for bodying by Roe, which was gladly accepted in order to obtain an earlier delivery. Despite the superiority of their teak-framed bodies, surprisingly withdrawal of both versions commenced as early as 1958, and all were gone by 1963, except for conventional Regent 215 (ACP 629) which had become Training Bus 412 in 1959, lasting until 1966. A further pair of similar vehicles (73/74, BCP 536/537) - replacing a cancelled order for two Regals no longer required - was delivered in 1949, having subtle differences to the earlier ones such as slightly more rounded window corners and a one-piece rear emergency window instead of the previous two. This pair lasted until 1966.
In the absence of a useable 1960's period photo of any of these, here is the official Roe view of what was to become Training Bus 412, prior to delivery in 1948 as 215 - complete with the impressive JOC transfers and gold-shaded fleet numbers, and the additional black lining to the upper saloon waistrail band which was discontinued in the early 1950's.

373 (BCP 667), AEC Regent III 9612E / Park Royal H33/26R new 1950 as 273.

Though Park Royal offered an excellent steel-framed body, in order to keep costs down a timber-framed composite version was specified. This was largely based on their wartime utility design with the more curved frontal profile of the metal version, but with a rear end that owed more to prewar practice. Though a price had been quoted by Park Royal for these bodies it was subject to a 'rise and fall' clause - and rise it did ! Before long the figure had increased considerably, so in order to keep to something near the original quote economies had to be made. Hence metal window pans were dispensed with and the glasses mounted directly into the now exposed, spindly wooden frames, being retained by wood fillets as one would with a garden shed ! This was to be their downfall, and deterioration set in rapidly, necessitating remedial strengthening after only a few years, and continual problems therafter. Sixteen of them (235-250) for the JOC fleet were built to eight feet width, taking advantage of the limited relaxation in the use of such vehicles on routes approved by the Traffic Commissioners - in Halifax's case these were those to Brighouse, Hebden Bridge, Huddersfield and Queensbury.
By the mid-1960's all of the earlier ones had gone, and just three of the eight-footers (originally 246-248, but by then 346-348, AJX 372-374) survived until 1965, along with the final 1950 batch (originally 270-283, now 370-383, BCP 664-677). Despite the fragility of their bodywork they were otherwise good, if creeky, performers and ideally suited to intensive stop-start work in the mountainous local terrain.
Here 373 rests in Elmwood Garage - the premises across the road from the Department's Skircoat Road Garage - opened in 1932 to specifically house the JOC fleet.

373 (BCP 667)

Another view of 373 returning from the appropriately named Steep Lane - out on the edge of the moors beyond the hilltop village of Sowerby. Having just passed through King Cross in the background, it is at the point where King Cross Road becomes King Cross Street for the last descent into town. It had not much longer to serve, being withdrawn and sold for scrap in 1966.

277 (BCP 671) AEC Regent III 9612E / Park Royal H33/26R new 1950 as 277.

The rest were withdrawn and scrapped during 1966/67, but 377 was given a reprieve and fared rather better. The Transport Department was due to reach its 75th Anniversary in 1973, but General Manager Geoff Hilditch, anticipating that changes were afoot and fearing that it might not last until then, decided instead to celebrate the 70th Anniversary in 1968. Arrangements were made with the local Charity Gala committee that their annual parade through the town should be substantially augmented with an impressive display of vintage transport. To that end he retained 377 and had it repainted, renumbered back to the original 277 using original gold shaded transfers, and had the last two remaining earlier-style JOC transfers applied featuring the LMS and LNER railway devices either side of the Corporation's coat-of-arms. Local enthusiasts had expected that the Department would then retain 277 in preservation, but Hilditch had no such intention and soon afterwards it was sold to Tony Blackman who at the present time has not only owned it for 47 years, but refurbished it yet again and returned it for occasional operation in service both with his former Halifax Joint Committee local service venture, and nowadays with his Yorkshire Heritage Buses private hire operation. Here it is seen shortly after repainting as 277, having passed Skircoat Garage (note the adjoining Manager's house) and turning towards Elmwood Garage.

258 (BCP 544) AEC Regal III 9621E / Roe B33F, new as 269 in 1949

There were 24 of these bonny Roe-bodied Regal III's ordered for delivery - five for the Corporation fleet and 19 for the JOC. In the event before their construction commenced two of the Corporation ones were deemed to be no longer required and they were cancelled and replaced by a pair of additional Regent III's with Roe bodies.
Following the successful operation of one-man-operated, full-sized single deckers in neighbouring Huddersfield and consequent changes in legislation, Halifax JOC had introduced a limited OMO operation on the Hebden Bridge-Cragg Vale or Hardcastle Crags, and Elland-Sowerby Bridge-Triangle services during 1953, and around the same time was reintroducing local Countryside Tours during the public holiday periods. Consequently they rebuilt 14 of the Regals to B33F layout for this purpose, and repainted them in a special livery of cream with a single orange band. Two of the Corporation Regals were withdrawn as early as 1958 and passed to McConnachie's of Campbelltown out on the Mull of Kintyre. The third survived as a spare - used often as a staff bus - until 1962, the unrebuilt JOC ones also going at the same time. The cream and orange-liveried converted ones in the meantime had reverted back to standard livery, and withdrawal came in 1963/64 - except for the one pictured which after a few months in the Corporation fleet as 99, returned to the JOC as 268 (269 having by then been used for a new Leopard), soon becoming 258 in order to allow for another new Leopard (268). A great favourite with local enthusiasts - almost regarded as a mascot - it finally passed for use by a local builder for staff transport in 1966, being scrapped by 1970. Here it is awaiting its next spell of duty parked in Bay 7 at Skircoat Garage.

80 (CCP 612) AEC Regent III 9613E / Park Royal H30/26R new as 360 in 1951.

Six more Park Royal-bodied Regent III's entered the fleet in 1951, but these were different beasts altogether from the previous examples. Part of a later order placed by GM Freddie Cook, along with another for six rather exotic and sadly problematic Daimler CD650's with East Lancashire bodies which had gone by 1962. The Regents were to the revised dimensions of 27 feet by eight feet wide and their bodywork was to Park Royal's latest four-bay, metal-framed design, introduced at the 1950 Commercial Motor Show on an example for Morecambe & Heysham. The styling was closely inspired by that of the London RT, though in reality was very different under the skin. They were considerably heavier than their predecessors, weighing in at well over eight tons, and though extremely soundly constructed there was some reduction in performance - especially in their ability to move off up hills. These coincided with AEC's redesign of the exhaust system which resulted in them having a characteristic, raucous growl - 80 being acknowledged as the growliest ! Withdrawn in 1966, all six passed to Green Bus Service of Rugeley, and were scrapped in 1970.
Here 80 is pictured still looking in fine fettle not long before its withdrawal, growling up Gibbet Street from the Town Centre on the local route 13 to Highroad Well, following the original tram route of 1898, though it would terminate a couple of hundred yards beyond the old tram terminus by performing an awkward reverse into a narrow lane by the Brown Cow Inn. By this time the Highroad Well service was linked across town to the Mixenden circular routes 11 to 14.

90 (DCP 834) Daimler CVG6 / Roe H33/28R, new in 1954. (Photo - John Stringer)

Following the tragic sudden death at an early age of Manager Freddie Cooke, Scot Roddy MacKenzie took the helm and chose to purchase Daimlers. The Corporation received twelve CVG6's (87-98, DCP 831-842) fitted with fully teak-framed Roe bodies. With these, MacKenzie introduced a revised and simplified version of the livery more in the style of contemporary Glasgow buses, and also the 'Scottish' style of destination box aperture. The new livery was generally unpopular - especially when applied to older vehicles and as soon as MacKenzie departed during 1956 - but before his replacement arrived - the Assistant Engineer conspired with the paintshop foreman to have them all repainted quickly back into the traditional style ! Another feature introduced with these was a brighter interior, with a lighter and more modern fawn and green seating moquette in the lower saloon, and the interior woodwork having a varnished light oak finish. The latter proved popular and was quickly applied to the majority of the existing postwar vehicles by means of scumbling, whereby the existing dark woodwork was repainted in a white basecoat, then a coloured varnish-like substance was applied to which an imitation woodgrain effect was skilfully added with a special tool. In fact there was quite an enthusiastic frenzy of light oak scumbling, it being applied to much of the office interiors and furniture. Even in the early 2000's the writer had the use of an old metal filing cabinet in the Training School still finished in that way ! Weighing not far short of eight tons these buses were quickly found to be seriously underpowered with their Gardner 6LW engines, and with the arrival of new manager Dick Le Fevre and his Leyland-buying policy it was decided to re-engine them with Leyland O600's. This gave them a moderate boost, not to mention some very unusual sound effects - gone was the monotonous Gardner throb, replaced by a rather subdued huskyness. In 1961 93 was fitted with a supercharged Daimler CD6 engine, producing an even more unusual sound effect, and in 1964 95 was treated to a mighty Gardner 6LX - resulting in a most impressive performance. Daimler-engined 93 was the first to go in 1968, the rest following in 1970/71.

Here 90 returns along Orange Street on the short local service 17 from Ovenden Way, still showing the outbound destination. Behind is the former Brunswick Bowling Alley - opened by 'Coronation Street' actress Pat Phoenix in 1964, but closed in 1969 after which it became a Presto (later Netto) supermarket. Demolished in 2009 the site has recently been redeveloped as a leisure and restaurant complex.

292 (DCP 845) Daimler CVG6 / Metro-Cammell H33/26R, new as 286 in 1954

The JOC received ten CVG6's (284-293, DCP 843-852), but unlike the Roe-bodied ones for the Corporation these featured Metro-Cammell (MCCW) bodies. These were of the Orion lightweight, metal-framed design introduced in 1952, but despite being more than half a ton lighter than their heavyweight Roe-bodied counterparts in the Corporation fleet, they were quoted at the time as being 'a more substantial version' of the super lightweight Orion then popular. 287 received an experimental supercharged Gardner 6LW for a while in 1958, but otherwise they retained the Gardner engines through out their lives. Renumbered 390-399 in 1962, they became (confusingly) 290-299 in 1964. Withdrawal took place in 1967/68, four passing to Derby Corporation and lasting until 1969. Here 292 is parked in the corner of Elmwood Garage alongside Regent III 375.

291 (DCP 844) Daimler CVG6 / Metro-Cammell H33/26R, new as 285 in 1954

Another of the 'Met-Cams' is pictured here returning from the Ovenden area passing through the extensive Dean Clough Mills complex of carpet manufacturer John Crossley & Sons - by far Halifax's largest employer of people within the town. It is ascending Corporation Street where it would within a few seconds pass the former Seedlings Mount Brewery of Richard Whittaker & Son - famous for its 'Cock O'the North' and 'Shire' Ales - before entering the town centre. The destination '6 West End' is inappropriate here, it being likely that the bus is returning 'private' from somewhere and the crew have already set the destination for the next journey. Shortly after Le Fevre replaced MacKenzie as GM in 1956, this particular vehicle - then 285 - was briefly turned out in an experimental 'upside down' livery with the areas of orange and green reversed. This did not meet the Committee's or the general public's approval and it quickly reverted to normal.

290 (DCP 843) Daimler CVG6 / Metro-Cammell H33/26R, new as 284 in 1954

Another of the 'Met Cams', passes through King Cross on its way to Tuel Lane, which is just beyond the Halifax boundary in the steeply graded upper reaches of Sowerby Bridge. Immediately after passing the cameraman the road forks - the left fork down into the Calder Valley bottom at Sowerby Bridge, the right a more level road along the side of the valley towards Hebden Bridge and Todmorden. 290 would take the left fork, but just beyond the borough boundary half way down the valley side would take a severe right turn along Park Road and Beech Road thorough the steeply graded streets of densely packed terraced houses to the north of Sowerby Bridge, then climb the upper section of the incredibly steep Tuel Lane, terminating in a back street near the top. This would be a particular challenge for a 6LW-engined Daimler, which did not quite have sufficient power for such terrain.

117 (GJX 329) Daimler CVG6 / Roe H37/28R, new as 17 in 1956.

The last vehicles ordered by Roddy MacKenzie before he moved on was for a further five Daimler CVG6's with Roe bodies for the Corporation fleet. Delivered shortly after Dick Le Fevre took over, and replacing the last of the prewar Regents, they featured the latest version of the Roe body, having a traditional teak-framed lower deck with an alloy-framed upper deck and weighing around six hundredweights less than their previous all-teak predecessors. The destination layout was revised to something similar to the 'pre-MacKenzie' deliveries, and they were in traditional livery. Delivered as 15-19 (GJX 327-331) they were soon renumbered 115-119. In 1971 they were transferred to the JOC to replace the short-lived and much later Dennis Lolines, and even taking their numbers as 300-304. 300 & 301 were withdrawn in 1972, but the others lasted a little longer to be renumbered yet again as 382-384 to make way for new Fleetlines. 382 & 383 departed in 1973, but 384 survived long enough to pass to to the West Yorkshire PTE in 1974, theoretically becoming their 3384, though it never carried that number. Soon afterwards it passed into preservation and was eventually recertified for PSV use, and is to be seen regularly at local rallies. Here it is seen parked on the steam-clean ramp behind Skircoat Garage, carrying what was then a recent innovation - advertising.

117 (GJX 329)

117 again on what must have been a hazy but warm summer's day judging by the wide open windscreen, turning left out of Hall Street on the fringe of the town centre into Gibbet Street heading for Highroad Well on the cross-town route 12 from Mixenden - closely followed by a Lambretta motor scooter. In the background, north of the town centre, is the mass of Beacon Hill which provides a towering backdrop to the town, with the prominent but isolated Beacon House on the top.

All photographs by Roger Cox unless otherwise stated.

Text by John Stringer.


Part Two, click here




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