Northern General Transport Percy Main Depot - Part One

Northern General Transport Percy Main Depot - Part One

The story of The Northern General Transport Company Ltd starts in 1913, but the history of some of its subsidiaries goes back even further. Two of them were Tynemouth and District Transport Co and Wakefields Motors Limited; this is a brief and by no means complete history of those two. It would take far too long to detail every type of vehicle ever used, and some Information about pre war vehicles, such as exact numbers, registrations and fleet numbers has in many cases proved impossible to obtain. I do not claim that the article is 100% accurate, and I apologise in advance for any errors, but please feel free to correct any inaccuracies. The Wakefields name ceased to be used in 1970, by which time they were both Companies were part of the National Bus Company, the Tynemouth name survived until 1975. Northern's original livery was BET red and white, but around 1931 this changed to red and cream. Pre NBC, the colours remained the same, and the pre war layout altered very little, but post war the black wings and mudguards became red, the lineout was discontinued and the fleet names became smaller, the amount of cream also diminished as you got towards the mid 60's, with many of the single deck, and a very small number of D/D vehicles all red, however, in 1966, Percy Main reverted to a simplified and modernised version of the original layout. Where possible, I have shown vehicles in their original livery, but in some cases, the only photos I have they are in what was the current version of the period.

Percy Main depot is located in what was until the early 70's the County Borough of Tynemouth; the majority of vehicles that came to the depot new were registered in the Borough and carried FT registrations. At its peak, the combined Tynemouth & Wakefields fleets numbered 105 vehicles, the majority of which were double deckers, but included in that number were 17 Coaches and dual-purpose vehicles. Between 1945/9 many pre war vehicles were rebodied, so some vehicles, or to be more precise, the chassis, crop up more than once. None of the rebodied vehicles were re-registered, however, many were redistributed to other depots throughout the NGT group and were renamed and numbered, the vehicles that returned to Percy Main retained their original fleet numbers.

The Tynemouth and District story has its origins in 1879, when work began on the construction of a 3ft gauge horse drawn tramway between North Shields and Tynemouth; it opened on 29th June 1880, but went bankrupt the following year. It reopened in 1882, as a 3ft 6" steam hauled system, but that too was doomed to failure, lasting only until 1886. The track was extended and reopened in 1890, under the name of North Shields & Tynemouth District Tramways Company; the livery was crimson lake and cream. The company became part of the British Electric Traction Company 'BET' in 1899; the following year the line closed for extension and conversion to electricity. In March 1901, the modernised line that now ran between the North Shields New Quay 'Cross Tyne Ferry Landing' and The Victoria Hotel in Whitley Bay, reopened under the new name of Tynemouth & District Electric Traction Company Ltd; in 1904, the line was further extended to Whitley Bay Bandstand making a total distance of just under 5 miles. On the 4th September 1902, Tyneside Tramways and Tramroads Co; opened a line from North Shields to Wallsend/Newcastle Boundary, where it joined the Newcastle Corporation Tramways system, this allowed Tyneside trams to run into the City Centre and terminate at the Central Station. Tyneside became part of the BET Group in 1913, unfortunately joining the two systems was not possible because Tyneside ran on standard gauge track, and relaying the T&D lines would have been too costly. However, to provide North Shields with a partial overlap of the two systems, a third rail was laid along the half-mile section between Borough Road and Northumberland Square, thus allowing passengers to change easily from one route to the other. The last Tyneside tram ran on 6th April 1930, T&D tram services ceased the following year on 4th August 1931: In 1934, 'Electric Traction' was removed from the name, and the company became Tynemouth and District Transport Company Ltd: The name survived until 1975, when all NGT subsidiaries became Northern.

Information sourced from North Tyneside Libraries.

North Tyneside MBC

I have no idea of the significance of the black dot along the line of the A191. The map is c1990, and shows part of the South East corner of the Metropolitan Brough of North Tyneside. Much of the area shown is within what was the County Borough of Tynemouth. The route of the Tynemouth and District tramway is highlighted in black and the two squares along the route show where the tram sheds were, the one at the bottom was in Suez Street North Shields, and the other was John Street Cullercoats. When the line closed, John Street became the NGT group vehicle paint shop and body repair works, the location of Percy Main Garage is shown as a red square. At the time the tramway was completed in 1904, the area would have looked very different, most of the roads in red or orange would have existed, as did the railway, which was the N.E.R 'later L.N.E.R' North Tyne loop: Much of the area encircled by the loop was farmland; however, it contained dozens of collieries 'none of which survive' and several pit villages which have for the most part have become part the suburbs. Every pit in the area had its own railhead that linked it to the loop. A passenger service has always operated on the loop itself, but the primary function of the railway was transport coal to the Northumberland Dock at Howdon where it was loaded onto ships. The part of the network that survives is now part of the Tyne and Wear Metro system. The area south of the A193 was densely populated and highly industrialised, with thousands employed in the shipbuilding and repair yards located along the Tyne. The A1058 'New Coast Road' was built in 1928; it ran from Newcastle to the junction of Billy Mill Avenue and Lynn Road, the blue square shows it's full extent at that time. The Coast Road extension 'Beach Road' was completed in the 1960's. The Tyne Tunnel, and the new roads linking it to Seaton Burn in the north and Birtley in the south opened in the 60's, they became the A1 Newcastle bypass, and the existing A1 became the A167, but when the Newcastle Western bypass opened it was a case of 'all change' the Western bypass became the A1, and the previous bypass through, and to the north of the Tyne Tunnel became the A19, with the southern section becoming the A194.

J 2551, was Tynemouths first bus. A Daimler 'B' type new to Northern in 1914 as D1: it was originally a Brush bodied double decker, of the open top and open cab variety we are all familiar with from that era. It was one of five rebodied by Birch in 1919, and is seen here in that form, they were all transferred to Tynemouth when bus services commenced in 1921, on their arrival they became T1/5. Initially bus services were feeders for the tram network. Unfortunately, records and photos of pre war vehicles has been difficult to come by, however, my research suggests that; 1926, 6/11 were Brush BMMO bodied Tilling Stevens, in the same year, eleven BMMO 37's arrived, they were numbered 12 and 14/23 '13' was not used, 1928 five BMMO SOS QL's similar to the beautifully restored example at Beamish Museum. The bus network continued to expand rapidly, and in 1928, a more direct service to Newcastle became possible with the opening of the 'New Coast Road', which ran from Newcastle to Billy Mill, and considerably shortened the journey time to the coast: Licences to operate a service to Tynemouth along the new road were granted to Newcastle Corporation, 'three vehicles' Tynemouth and District 'three vehicles' and Wakefields Motors Ltd 'two vehicles'. In addition, United and T&D were granted licences to operate a service to Whitley Bay and Blyth. Despite competition from United, NGT bought Wakefields from L.N.E.R in 1929, the purchase included six AEC and two Daimler vehicles, I do not have any details about them. In 1933, all Wakefields operations were placed under the control of T&D; and the vehicles were moved to Percy Main. However, Wakefields held some stage carriage, and a number of private hire, and excursion licences, so the name continued in use on some service vehicles and all Percy Main based coaches. Both companies ran in NGT livery, with fleet numbers in sequence.

The last tram ran in 1931, the tram depot in Suez Street North Shields closed, and the former tram sheds in Cullercoats became the NGT group paint shop and body repair works, where it remained until around the mid 50's, when the work was moved to NGT central works at Bensham, and the Cullercoats site was sold for development.

These handsome H26/24R Short Brothers bodied AEC Regent 1's, replaced the trams. There were sixteen in total, and I think they were FT 2516/23, 34/41 in 1931, and FT 2611/18, 42/49 in 1932, 42/5 carried the Wakefields name.

Northern Coachbuilders rebodied them in 1945 as seen here. Many of the newly rebodied vehicles were redistributed throughout the NGT group, but the vehicles that returned to Percy Main retained their original fleet number

These futuristic looking AEC Regent I's with Short Brothers forward entrance bodies arrived on the scene in 1934; I do not have any information as to how many there were in total, but Percy Main, SDO and Northern all had them

At some point during the war, eleven of these vehicles were transferred to Northern, six Tynemouth and five from SDO, most were converted to diesel engines. All of the Short Bros bodies had an inherent structural weakness, some were so bad that special permission was granted to have them rebodied as utilities 'as seen in this example from the Northern intake' the rest were rebodied after the war. All the work was carried out by Northern Coachbuilders

Between 1935/6 Percy Main took delivery of eight of these legendary NGT/SE6 'Side engine 6 wheel' vehicles, the one above was originally 82 in Tynemouth's fleet. The first five were FT 3478.82 - 82/6, and had Short Bros B44F bodies, the three from 1936 were FT 3903/5 - 90/2 with NGT/Weymann bodies. When new they had Hercules WXC3, petrol engines, although most were later changed to AEC diesel. All eight were transferred to Northern in 1946. The original of the type. CN 6100, still survives, and is currently being restored by the N.E.B.P.T. Ltd

More forward entrance D/D vehicles joined the fleet in 1937; this time around Weymann built the bodies. The first three were AEC Regent I, FT 4220/2 - 93/5.

All the Weymann bodied forward entrance vehicles were rebodied in 1949. The Regent's were done by Pickering.

In 1957, they had a third bite at the cherry, they headed to the south coast and joined Provincial as replacements for vehicles destroyed in garage fire, they remained in service with them until 1963

Eight more Weymann's were delivered in 1938, FT 4596/4603 - 96/103, these were on Leyland TD5 chassis

The Leyland's were also rebodied, despite the similar appearance the new bodies are Northern Coachbuilders not ECW

Ronnie Hoye
09/2013

 


27/09/13 - 10:59

A very interesting article, and I look forward to the other parts.
However, I have a question: was there really a three-rail overlap between the Tyneside and Tynemouth tramway systems from Borough Road to Northumberland Square in North Shields? According to George Hearse's "The Tramways of Northumberland" (1961) the three-rail section was a 30 yard stretch in Prudhoe Street west of its junction with Borough Road and Saville Street. This had been the western terminus of the Tynemouth horse and steam trams, and remained as a siding of the Tynemouth system (3'6") when the newly-electrified route was built down the steep bank of Borough Road to the ferry landing in 1901. The Tyneside line (4'8.5") was built the following year and used one rail of this siding to reach the east end of Prudhoe Street. This was the eastern terminus of Tyneside trams. As far as I know, Tyneside trams never ran east of that point (and similarly the subsequent Tyneside bus service terminated in North Shields near there by looping round Coach Lane, Stanley Street West and the top part of Borough Road).

Paul Robson


27/09/13 - 18:16

Paul, as I said, the information came from an article in North Tyneside Libraries, as we know, they are not always 100% accurate and at times have to be taken with a pinch of salt. I suspect that neither of us is old enough to remember trams in North Shields, and I was a bit sceptical as to why an overlap would go that far. However, I have seen photos of an overlap going as far as The Sir Colin Campbell in Saville Street, that would be about a hundred yards to the East of the junction of Borough Road, which would make far more sense.

Ronnie Hoye


28/09/13 - 07:18

Hearse is quite clear about where he thought the dual-gauge track was, but he might have been wrong. It would be interesting to see the photo of Saville Street.
Hearse's book also has a photo of a Leyland Titan bus that replaced the Tyneside trams. The body is identical to the 1931 Short Bros. body on the AEC Regent in your article.

Paul Robson


28/09/13 - 11:34

Paul, I've dug out three photos taken from more or less the same spot.

in the first from Prudhoe St you can see the lines and overhead wires turn from Saville Street into Borough Road to go down to the New Quay.

In the second from Prudhoe St looking East they also come across the junction from Prudhoe Street.

The third Saville St looking West with a T&D tram turning into Saville Street, no third rail in that shot either, but it does have the Tyneside tracks on the other side of the junction.

Ronnie Hoye


04/10/13 - 15:11

Re the connection between the Tynemouth and Tyneside systems, Charles Reed in his reminiscences of the Tynemouth tramways in Tramway Review Vol 4 No 29 (1961) writes:-
"I can well remember the [Tynemouth] trams terminating at . . . Prudhoe Street on a short length of track mixed-gauge, end to end with the trams of the Tyneside . . . company".
I have an extensive collection of postcards showing Tynemouth trams in North Shields and have never seen evidence of the mixed gauge track continuing into Saville Street. For it to have done so would have been costly (involving crossing Tynemouth points) and would have meant cars of different gauges getting mixed up with and obstructing each other. It's also hard to imagine what the purpose of it would have been.
But I had another question. For how long did the replacement buses carry the "via tram route" signs I have seen in photographs? I can't remember them myself, but my late parents always spoke of the No 8 bus as 'the tram route'.

Percy Trimmer


04/10/13 - 17:18

Sorry, Percy, I don't have an answer to that. Has you probably know, the service 7 & 8 followed the old tram route from the New Quay to Whitley Bay Bandstand, at which point the 8 terminated and the 7 continued to Blyth. Several routes were known by nick names rather than numbers 'some are not fit for publication' but crews always referred to the 8 as 'the Track'

Ronnie Hoye


04/10/13 - 17:30

Somehow, Ronnie, your Part I passed me by. Northern General has always fascinated me, especially the NGT/SE vehicles, a brief DIY effort.
I had a definite deja vu moment when I saw the Regent I/Short Bros photo, identical to the sole Portsmouth Corporation one, which never reached a parlous body state, having been written off by enemy action in 1941. Even the paint style was identical, save for the autovac! And the Regent/Weymann ones, so much like my Cheltenham District posting, although the CD ones had the traditional rear platform. Those Weymann bodies were very handsome, I must say.

Chris Hebbron


10/10/13 - 17:53

The People's Collection on the Beamish website contains a view looking west from the Borough Road junction with double tram tracks leading into Prudhoe Street. It corresponds to two of the pics previously posted by Ronnie but looking in the opposite direction. Click on the thumbnails for bigger pictures although resolution is still low and hides much of the detail.
http://collections.beamish.org.uk
The OS 1:2500 map for 1918 confirms a two track junction at this crossroads with the tracks in Prudhoe Street converging to form a reversing stub which is continuous with the Tyneside stub. It seems likely that the mixed gauge arrangement (George Hearse states 30 yards long) would lie at this mutual reversing location and that the Tyneside trams never went further east than here.
Notes from Tyneside T&T board meetings state:
13th September 1910 - "Negotiations with Tynemouth DET to lay a third rail along Prudhoe Street, North Shields, still in progress".
12th June 1911 - "Laying of third rail in Prudhoe Street complete and cars running over same".

Tony Fox

 

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