Samuel Ledgards ex London Transport "Sutton Depot" Daimler CWA6s

Samuel Ledgards ex London Transport "Sutton Depot" Daimler CWA6s

Here are some happy reminiscences from personal experience on a class of Daimler vehicles which hold a very special place in Samuel Ledgard history. During 1953/4 no less than twenty four London Transport Daimler CWA6s were purchased. Two of these, GYL 291 and HGF 805, are not part of this account and so "may leave here and now."

The remaining twenty two Park Royal bodied "HGFs" were from the famous class of one hundred Daimler CWA6 buses which entered service between May and November 1946 and spent their entire London careers at Sutton Depot (A) in Surrey. The HGFs were wartime chassis and had Park Royal bodywork to what was known as "relaxed" utility specification incorporating many standard London Transport features, this being no small part of the fascination of the batch. They were very presentable looking vehicles indeed but poor unseasoned timber in the body framing often led to quite extensive repairs being necessary, particularly at their first major overhaul with Ledgard.

When first acquired they were pressed into service with the minimum of necessary attention and it is true to say that almost every one was prepared in a different way as early photographs clearly show, although on all twenty two the enormous three piece rear destination equipment was removed and neatly panelled. These clumsy displays had been so oversized as to necessitate a shallower top deck emergency door which remained an obvious identifying feature throughout their days.

Interior painting was initially in numerous varied patterns often involving "stippling" or pseudo graining to the window surrounds. Lower panels were generally in dark blue and ceilings would be white or cream. One startling exception was the first to enter service from Otley Depot, HGF 913. The panels were blue, the lower halves of the window frames (to the "London Transport" join) were a rich maroon, and the remainder was a startling white.

I shall never forget one very noisy and uncouth passenger boarding the nearly full bus as it left Ilkley. Looking around in amazement he bellowed "Huh, what's this then, red white and blue for the ruddy Coronation?"!! Well, the year was 1953 I suppose. Of course the first HGFs arrived shortly after Mr. Ledgard's demise and different experimental new liveries were appearing frequently. Sadly it was obvious that the traditional scheme of blue and white with green roof and dark blue bands was to be modified in varying degrees. Countless combinations of dark and light blue, black, green and white were tried on the HGFs and each was interesting and acceptable in its own right. The newly adopted lettering in "big company" style of block capitals, with large initial "S" and final "D" in the underlined fleetname, was applied to all the London Daimlers.

The first arrivals received an incredible variety of treatments to the front destination displays, practically every possible way of masking the three glasses being tried and old small rolls from many withdrawn buses being fitted. Most of these destination blinds were of the prewar pattern and occasionally one from an old coach would be used and in fact 897 had perhaps the weirdest of all, this being from a Willowbrook coach GUA 900 and being tailor made for that vehicle's shaped glass, involving the top edge of the lettering drooping away to the right a very odd sight indeed!! Soon, however, the larger standard display which was to survive until 1967 appeared, first editions having smaller lettering on three lines "via" taking up a third of the space but the printing size and layout was progressively improved on subsequent versions and ultimately looked very professional.

No HGF was ever fitted with a destination blind over the platform, but many had the large single glass occupied by various paper advertisements for the Company's excursion and private hire activities. I dare say a booklet could be written about all the multitude of individual body alterations which took place over the years but these cannot be detailed here. Initially all the half drop windows were retained, including those in the windscreens on both decks, but these were often subsequently removed as necessary, and those on the sides were frequently altered to sliders made "in house" to use that infuriating modern expression.

Not quite all of the buses were rushed into service with urgent haste and in fact four of them were treated first to what had the makings of a fair standardisation programme. These vehicles were 888/907/908/914. They were very competently fitted with excellent platform doors and rear emergency exits, and the front displays were properly re-panelled to show "LEDGARD" painted in the top London box and a new correctly sized glass in the centre beneath to accommodate the new larger destination blinds. 891 and 897 received similar treatment at their first overhaul.

Only one of the batch suffered a really short career, succumbing very early to serious body deterioration, this being 940. As a young conductor I can clearly remember the alarming sideways movement in the entire framing as we travelled along and it was to serve Ledgard's for only four years. I look on it as the "Cinderella" of the Sutton Daimlers. Much has been written about the role that these buses played in helping the Company through a very worrying period, and there is no doubt at all that their perfectly adequate performance and almost total reliability on arduous, hilly and very long services were instrumental in enabling Ledgard's to recover to a splendid standard long before 1967.

Several special memories of the class occur to me just now. Firstly those wonderful full length bell cords in the lower saloons. Like many people I had always imagined that these had been a standard fitting in the Capital from very early days, but not so the HGFs were the first London Transport buses to be so fitted. Also while the lower saloon cord and buttons rang a tuneful bell in the cab, the sole button at the top of the staircase worked a powerful buzzer mounted beneath the top deck wooden floorboards a beautiful sound not to be forgotten!!

Then we had the single skin ceilings in the upper saloons - the top brackets for the vertical handrails were simply riveted into these, often leaking, and icy weather and almost universal smoking were very prevalent in those days. The sight of all the rusty condensation droplets, impregnated with pure nicotine extract, dripping on the passengers and me!! is something I'll ne'er forget. In the cab the starter switch was the familiar London Transport "coat hanger" above the nearside window and a solemn notice, in London's chosen Gill Sans lettering, warned DOUBLE DECK HEIGHT 14'6". The rear number plates were set rather nearer the centre than usual, which gave the buses an unmistakeable identification feature for those who had just missed them!!

They had just one occasional nasty habit though for the unwary, in common with all buses fitted with spring operated pre-selector gearboxes, and this was their "Achilles Heel" quite literally!! If any degree of play should develop in the linkages between the gearbox and the selector lever on the steering column then woe betide any driver who failed to position the lever correctly or to fully depress the gearchange pedal. He would suddenly experience the pedal flying out under full spring pressure far further than normal, often resulting in painful injuries as the ankle was rammed against the seat adjusters or other sharp objects.

Most of the batch had commendable but uneventful careers but perhaps a few notable exceptions are worth mentioning. The standard London overhaul practice was to separate chassis and bodies for refurbishment and the same two were rarely reunited. The one hundred HGFs were not treated in this way, however, normally being dealt with as complete vehicles. There was just one exception - that was 910 which had swapped bodies in London with 900 (not a Ledgard machine). Rather more dramatic was 948 which did not enter service complete with Ledgard. The Park Royal body was used to replace the Duple one on Ledgard's own JUB 649 creating a fascinating vehicle while the London chassis received the heavily rebuilt coach body from CUB 1 (a Maudslay SF40 of 1935!!). Another inexplicable little detail concerned 957 which, together with 955 also not Ledgard, had been built with deeper louvres over the top deck windows than the other 98 buses in the production run.

Sadly 949 was once the innocent party in a horrendous fatal crash on Otley bridge late one Saturday night when it was hit head on by an overloaded motor car. It was quickly repaired though and was always a good machine.

Just in closing these reminiscences, about every vehicle in a batch being an individual, I must mention the complete contrast with the next machines that we had from London in 1963/4/5/6. When the thirty four RTs and five RTLs arrived every one was prepared for service in an identical and smart manner, producing an incredible degree of standardisation. Wonderful machines they were without a doubt, and fondly respected and remembered, but for me they just hadn't the spirit and the magic of the HGFs I have a great and lasting admiration for "THE SUTTON DAIMLERS."

Chris Youhill

Here is a link to a very good shot of HGF 914 whilst in service with Samuel Leggard taken at Bradford bus station. "The newly adopted lettering in "big company" style of block capitals, with large initial "S" and final "D" in the underlined fleetname," can be seen quite clearly.

"Thanks to Chris for a superb piece on the Ledgard HGFs. Although I remember seeing and riding on them, the detail in Chris's article brings it all back.
My love for their fleet always raised eyebrows with my mates, who consider their buses to be "old cronks". Indeed, when we "played buses" - running routes to and from school - we took turns in who was going to be a "modern" West Yorkshire bus, or the "Cronky Bus Co. Ltd"! I had no problems being an old cronk, as I could make more interesting noises than them!"
Paul Haywood



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