To School by Bus - Part Two

To School by Bus - Part Two

Not read Part One Click here

In September 1958 the Manchester Corporation #40 from Parrs Wood to Albert Sq was entrusted to the Northern Counties bodied 1953/54 batch of Leyland PD2s (3300-3329) all of which were delivered to Parrs Wood where most stayed for the next 15 or so years until withdrawn - apart from one or two which had a time at Hyde Rd depot and a few finished their days at Northenden. The batch was originally delivered with semaphore arm traffic indicators and 3322 was one of the first buses in the UK to receive flashing indicators.

The early 1950s period was one of flux for MCTD in terms of body design. The last of the post war "standards" had been delivered and were both dated looking and heavy. One batch of standard Leyland bodied PD2s had been taken into stock but were not up to the usual Manchester levels of high quality. The MCW Phoenix bodied CVG6s were more than acceptable but MCW was changing to the Orion body which was certainly considered below par and the 1953 44xx batch of CVG6s, unique to Manchester, was definitely too heavy and too expensive to build as a standard.

Casting round for alternatives Mr Neal came up with the idea of splitting his order for bodies for the 1953/54 Leyland PD2 order between two of the tenders - one from Leyland (which resulted in the batch of Leyland bodies with the bulging indicator box) and Northern Counties, who also benefited from an order for rear, front and central entrance single deckers on Royal Tiger chassis.

Of course, being Manchester, the standard NCME product wouldn't do. The bulk of the body was to standard Northern Counties design, albeit to the rarer five bay, rather than four bay, design and, from the side and rear, the body maker could not be mistaken. From the front the aspect was altogether different. The expected sloping front profile was there but the subtly shaped windows were gone, replaced by two almost square (with rounded corners) solid pieces of glass separated by a thick pillar. The purpose of this pillar was partially revealed to travellers on the upper deck who bothered to read the small plaque attached to it.

Those who regularly travelled on the upper deck of buses at that time were well aware of the thick fug of smoke that would greet them, made worse in winter by condensation - this being long before heaters on the top deck were specified by a parsimonious MCTD. Apart from opening windows, always tightly closed in winter, the only ventilation was four or six holes in the roof with rain baffles and covered from the inside by ornate chrome or polished steel grills.

Like all Manchester buses of the time the 33xx batch were delivered with white ceilings, fawn window surrounds and green lower panels and seat frames - the white ceilings, beautiful polished wood window surrounds and dark red side panels of earlier deliveries having been removed from the standard specification from 1953 onwards on grounds of cost.

Unfortunately white ceilings on the upper deck lasted, on average, four months from new, even less from re-painting, and the ceilings soon approximated to the fawn of the window surrounds, albeit with flecks of a darker hue - being tobacco solids residue. In an effort to alleviate the problem MCTD and NCME came up with a novel idea.

The normal roof vents were omitted. Instead, anyone glancing at the ceiling would have noticed a series of small holes, about the width of a matchstick, in groups all along the centre of the ceiling. These let into a void between the ceiling and the roof which was, in effect, a pipe which led down into the pillar between the front windows and served as the air inlet for the engine.

The plaque proclaimed that the air in the upper saloon was changed 20 times per hour. No doubt the grateful travellers were relieved to know that their health was being looked after but the fact that the smoke laden air was drawn to the ceiling made the paint discolour even faster, there was little change in the level of condensation and there must have been some problems for the engine breathing little but tobacco fumes as, after the one batch, the experiment was not repeated.

The #40 was not a Limited Stop route and therefore stopped every 600 yards or so. On leaving Parrs Wood the bus would climb the slope to the crest of the railway bridge over the Midland line. A glance to the left would reveal Parrs Wood depot yard, at the time full of mainly withdrawn pre war and 1940 Mancunian style Leylands with a variety of body makes, indistinguishable one from another to all but the engineer and enthusiast.

Surprisingly a good number of pre war Leylands still in the fleet for rush hour use would have surrounded the 33xx PD2 at Parrs Wood terminus and would pass the bus during its journey as they sped into town on the express #130, #131, #133 which provided much needed capacity for those who wanted to travel with the minimum of stops.

The descent from the top of the railway bridge to the first stop, just on the Manchester side of School Lane was just about the fastest the PD2 would achieve on its tortoise like amble to Denison Rd and then Albert Sq.

Not long after my first trip to school on the #40 I noticed one of the 33xx class travelling in the opposite direction which was in a new colour scheme where the cream round the upper deck windows and the black wings and mudguards had been painted red. This was 3317 and, whilst Daimler 4429 had been so treated in February 1957, I hadn't seen it or any other vehicle so painted.

The overall effect was, to say the least, dull. Some of the class appeared later with their chrome radiator shells painted red - just about as unappealing as they could be - but one vehicle, 3314, after deletion of the cream around the top windows, was left with black mudguards and wings a la London Transport, and look very smart. Unfortunately the ease of using only two colours in the spray booth prevailed and 3314 eventually conformed with the rest of the fleet - although it took some years for the whole fleet to succumb to the all pervading red.

Also to be seen on Kingsway would be the immaculate green Daimler CVG6s with MCW's Phoenix body, suitably modified to the ideas of Charles Baroth, Salford's very demanding manager, on the joint #95 and #96 services from Whitefield, north of both Manchester and Salford. They would also succumb to the spray booth with the deletion of two of their three cream stripes though, to mark special events, the odd one would appear in a reversed colour scheme.

Eventually, after queuing for some minutes to negotiate the left and right turns from Kingsway into Moseley Rd, then Birchfields Rd, MCTD's Birchfields depot would be passed to the right. Now the site of a retail park, the depot was the spiritual home of Manchester's Crossley fleet, along with a growing horde of Daimlers. Almost deserted at that time of the morning, there was always the chance of seeing one of the 9 or 10 month old Burlingham bodied CVG6s. These sported another Manchester innovation.

From 1953 Daimler announced that it would no longer supply vehicles with exposed radiators encapsulated in a chrome or steel shell. Instead, a "tin front" concealed radiator with a wide bonnet and narrow wings would be the only design available. This design was a Birmingham innovation and they, like Manchester, had a standardised fleet and specified tin fronts for all their deliveries of Daimlers, Guys, and Crossleys.

Manchester was second to Birmingham in terms of Daimler orders and no other operator was big enough to make a stand with MCTD. No amount of pressure from 55 Piccadilly could change the corporate Daimler mind so the whole 44xx/45xx batch of MCW bodied Daimlers appeared with the new design as did the 45xx batch of Northern Counties CVG5s. This led to a minor colour scheme change in so far as all tin front Daimlers sported red front wings and black rear mudguards until the advent of the overall red scheme.

The engineers at Northenden, Princess Rd and Birchfields, used to the easy access to engine compartments over the nearside wing, found that even simple components were harder to replace. Drivers complained of reduced visibility and hands were thrown up in horror when Leyland announced a tin front at about the same time. Perhaps it was a Lancashire thing but Leyland was open to persuasion and continued to offer the traditional radiator shell which Manchester and many others continued to specify as long as they bought traditional front engined vehicles - Manchester  s always being chromed.

Whilst Manchester had lost the battle with Daimler, the war was far from over and the size of Manchester's order book was such that, when the Car Works at Hyde Rd produced a new narrower bonnet with a fibre glass shell and "tin front" looks it was accepted by Daimler and became their standard - perhaps because Birmingham had not ordered any new vehicles for 4 years and had announced it would not need to replace any of its fleet until 1960 or so.

The first vehicles to appear so equipped were the 1957 Burlingham bodied CVG6s. Looking for something better than the Orion, Manchester looked to the Blackpool body builder and took its standard body and gave it a work over which was most un-Burlingham like. Burlingham double deckers were renowned for their curves. The front of the bus was steeply raked - Manchester made it almost upright. The window glasses had exaggeratedly radiused corners - Manchester toned down the radius.

The reduction in the front rake gave room for a total capacity of 65 with 37 seat on the top deck and, as a final touch, the vehicles were delivered with a full set of front and rear wheel trims. The Daimlers looked very smart but were eclipsed by their Leyland counterparts, if only because the black wings and chrome radiator shell added an indefinable "something" - though not to all of them.

Burlingham delivered the Daimlers in 1957, with the last three arriving in January 1958 (believe me it doesn't seem like almost 55 years ago!). The first Leylands arrived in February 1958 and someone at Burlingham didn't differentiate. The first few - and the total has always been the topic of debate - were delivered with red instead of black wings.

A note was sent to Blackpool and the rest of the class arrived correctly finished. The red winged vehicles operated from Hyde Rd on the #57, #77 and #109 and were left as delivered, being some of the first of the class to receive the overall red scheme.

Having dropped the Manchester Grammar contingent at Old Hall Lane, the #40 proceeded across Dickenson Rd where just about anything Queens Rd, Princess Rd and Hyde Rd had to offer could be seen in profusion on the #53, before dropping the me at Denison Rd and heading to Albert Sq.

There was an alternative method of travel on this route - much faster and with a hint of risk! I've previously mentioned the pupils travelling from Macclesfield. Their method of reaching Rusholme was by way of North Western's #29 which ran a half hourly schedule through the day using single deckers and, for the rush hour, the service was augmented - not by extra scheduled slots, but by "duplicates" running nose to tail with the standard service, sometimes as many as three vehicles filling the one schedule.

Casual observation backed by information from the Macclesfield lads showed that these buses were happy to take passengers from Parrs Wood - room permitting - and, because the service from Parrs Wood to All Saints was run as a Limited Stop service, waiting until 08:45, or even 08:50 if they were running late, would still see an earlier arrival at Denison Rd, Victoria Park and less tedious journey than on the #40.

As I said, there was a risk element. Firstly it did happen that the two or three vehicles would appear round the corner from Cheadle by the Gateway Hotel and - all full to bursting - sail past the waiting intending passengers . This normally happened when there had been a problem with one of the MCTD #131 workings through Cheadle and passengers for All Saints and in towards town had used the alternative provided by North Western. That, of course, meant getting the next #40, late arrival at school and the inevitable detention.

The other risk was the use of the "Duplicate" destination blind. The North Western #30, also from Macclesfield used the same stop and generally came at around the same time but proceeded to Manchester via Slade Lane and Stockport Rd.

There was an eclectic mix of vehicles used, many without a number box and sometimes the conductor was nowhere near the door, the vehicle was not front entrance and intending passengers could only yell at the passenger nearest the door for information - which sometimes was wrong or not forthcoming. This meant either abandonment to the #40 or finding oneself in the unhappy position of being at WestPoint, late, sans bus fare and facing more than a 40 minute walk to school and the dreaded detention.

The vehicles allocated to the #29 in September 1958 were AEC Reliances with Weymann dual purpose 41 seat front entrance bodies. The design was an interim between the previous MCW, Weymann built Hermes single deck design for BET group companies dating from 1952 and based on the Olympic integral design and the 1958 new Willowbrook built BET standard that had been delivered earlier that year.

They were painted in North Western's stylish dual purpose scheme of black roof and window surround and red lower panels separated by a cream band, the North Western fleet name appearing on a wider part of the cream band, near the door, in a sloping script.

They were supplemented by red and cream Leyland PSU1 and PSUC/1 single deckers with the earlier Hermes body delivered between 1953 and 1957 and a mix from the coach fleet (most devoid of route numbers and carrying Manchester stickers and Duplicate destination blinds) including some of the superb 1952/53 all Leyland centre entrance coaches complete with high back seats, heaters(!), luxury trim and art deco lamp shades - a few of which were officially down graded to dual purposes and were painted in the black and red livery without the cream band - the original chrome beading being where the cream would be.

Sometimes the journey was uncomfortable as it was standing room only but the speed (for the same 3d half fare) and the novelty of coach travel or travel on an AEC in a Leyland and Daimler dominated South Manchester always seemed to make up for any discomfort.

Phil Blinkhorn

In the next part of 'To School by Bus' I'll look at the alternative route from Parrs Wood to school between 1958 and 1965.


Click here to read To School by Bus - Part Three

16/11/12 - 15:00

Very recognisable.
A couple of points. As a daily traveller on the #130 in those days I don't recall seeing prewar Leylands operating on that route (unless there had been a breakdown at Parrs Wood). It was very much the haunt of the post war Crossleys fielded by Birchfield Rd depot. I agree that the #131 and #133 (nee #88) were operated by Leyland of all ages.
Interesting to read about the prospect of walking to Xav's from West Point if one mistook a 'Duplicate' #30 for a #29 at Parrs Wood. Easily done though what would not be so easily done would be to convince the bus to stop at West Point as this was not a Bus Stage. Better to have stayed on to Hathersage Rd and walked from there, albeit only a little less taxing;-)

Orla Nutting

17/11/12 - 07:15

As one who went to that nearby Manchester Grammar School I can relate very well to the things you describe, although I was a few years later.
I travelled to that school from the City Centre, which had the advantage of going against the peak flow. You mentioned the empty Birchfields Road garage. This would fill up in the morning as, to save fuel, a lot of Parrs Wood garage vehicles would be parked up there during the day. This gave a good supply of 40x's for me and you could always tell which were the Parrs Wood buses going there as they would show Moseley Road as they didn't have the garage name on the blinds. I even caught the odd Royal Tiger on this run.
Going back to the City I always, like you, favoured North Western's 29 for the same reason and with the same risks. By this time it was usually a Loline (and they could shift) which would usually overtake all the dedicated school specials, formed of those buses parked for the day at Birchfields Road. The problem was you had to go to a different stop and occasionally the North Western crew would decide they weren't going to stop, which left you in the lurch - no detentions though, just getting home later!

David Beilby

17/11/12 - 07:17

Re Orla's comments:
My memory says there were pre-war Leylands on the #130 but I can't confirm that from sources and if Orla was using the service, he should know.
Re West Point and the #30 - I can say from hard experience that the #30 did stop there and you would be let off. Hathersage Rd would have been nearer but wasn't an option. The half fare to Hathersage Rd was a halfpenny dearer than to Denison Rd, so if you had booked as most people did by asking for a ticket of a monetary value rather than by stating a destination, the conductor would nobble you for certain for both the extra fare plus an excess.
A couple of friends who had actually thought out the Hathersage Rd possibility after accidentally boarding #30 at Parrs Wood, annoyed a conductor who took delight in extracting the extra money and then shooed them off the bus at Hathersage Rd telling them not to try to use the #29 in future.
This fell on deaf ears but, shortly afterwards and then from time to time in assembly, we were told that "boys not using Manchester Corporation buses from Parrs Wood along Kingsway are reminded that they would have no excuse if they got the wrong bus and were late for school. The school had been informed "by the authorities" (whoever they were)that if they didn't have the extra fare their names and addresses would be noted and further action would be taken".
In those days people in uniform and teachers were absolute in their authority and schoolboys' places of education were immediately identifiable by their blazers, ties and, for those who were well behaved enough to wear them, school caps - mine spent most of its life stuffed in my school bag.
I, for one, was extremely careful not to board a #30 after my long walk and, having been caught out once, to have enough money if I did to cover the extra cost.

Phil Blinkhorn

17/11/12 - 08:49

As I said, I was a student and then rookie teacher in Manchester and know all of these places. It does ring bells with me though, with my Sheffield childhood, going to our then opposite number to RGS - KES. Like Messers Blinkhorn and Bielby, I had to travel by service bus, changing at a "half-way" point to get from home to school. The valued "pass" proscribed a change at Broadfield Road onto the Inner Circle 8/9 - a grotty urban junction - where a change "in Town" would have been preferable. It gave no choice of route or vehicle, no shelter from inclement weather and the distinct possibility of buses (especially homeward bound) being full - often a succession of them. [Those were the days. Eight standing, chain across the platform and three bells!] Woe betide you if you tried to sneak on the 60 into Town - but after a late finish Choir or orchestral rehearsal it made more sense. As for my organ lessons at Ranmoor, forget it - so the older I got, the more expensive it became. Especially since the 6.30 curfew was often passed for the above reasons. [PS: One of my best and favourite Primary School teachers was a Miss Blinkhorn. Any relation, Phil?]

David Oldfield

17/11/12 - 08:50

I seem to remember that the Bus Stages along Kingsway, the only stops that the Limited Stop (as opposed to the Express) services could set down and pick up were Parrs Wood, Fog Lane, Briarfield Rd, Moseley Rd and then Hamilton Rd off Slade Lane. I'm puzzled that a #30 would stop at West Point but no matter as the whole tenet of my point of using Hathersage Rd was nonsense as my Carmenere warped grey cells actually meant to say Hamilton Rd, which with a brain refeshed by a Google map, is demonstrably further that the walk down Lytham Rd or Old Hall Lane to Birchfields Rd. Hathersage Rd's relevance, somewhere I visit at least monthly even nowadays, was a figment of knackered brain.

Orla Nutting

17/11/12 - 13:14

To David Oldfield: Miss Blinkhorn was no direct relation but, in the 1980s, I knew a senior civil servant in the Home Office who, as a Blinkhorn, had traced the family trees of every Blinkhorn he could find around the world - long before the days of personal computers. In almost 40 years he had proved everyone of us came from two families in Blencarn, in what is now Cumbria, in the late 10th century.
To David Beilby: I met my wife when she was 16. She and her sister were educated at Loreto Convent and lived off Kingsleigh Rd Heaton Mersey. To get home they would get bus to All Saints, walk down Grosvenor St and catch a bus at Upper Brook St to Fog Lane. If all worked out there would be a #29 within minutes of them reaching the stop. One night my now sister in law, then 13, got on the #29 and fell asleep. She was a deep sleeper and was lucky that the bus stopped sharply for the traffic lights at Parrs Wood as there was every likelihood she could have stayed asleep until Macclesfield.
In passing, both of them were into sport and would often not be leaving school until after 5 pm on some winters evenings and either one of them would travel home alone arriving at the stop after 5.30pm with many of the buses heading out of town already full. The stop at Upper Brook St was not, in the late 1960s, in the most salubrious area. How many of today's pampered little darlings' parents would countenance such a trip - even with mobile phones?
To Orla Nutting: When I had to walk from West Point I walked down Lytham Rd. You may have been thinking of Hamilton Rd which is a much longer walk, but your subconscious was pointing you in the right direction as Hathersage Rd to Xaverian is a much shorter walk via Anson Rd, Oxford Place and Lower Park Rd than from West Point.
You are correct about the stages along Kingsway and Slade Lane but I wasn't the only one to have to evacuate at West Point over the years - MGS and St Joseph's pupils had the same experience so it may have been the case of the crew getting rid of a problem as soon as it became apparent.

Phil Blinkhorn



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