Eatonways (Hay Mills) circa 1961

Eatonways (Hay Mills) circa 1961

A few shots of this long gone, long established coach operator. A family run business headed by Fred Eaton, who together with his tyrannical workshop manager who’s name (at the time) I thought would live with me forever, and now after nearly 50 years escapes me, ran a tight ship and had a loyal customer base. Doing mainly day trips to seaside resorts from Birmingham, the business was – in 1968 – acquired by the Bowen’s who had, during the 60’s, bought a number of smaller operators in the Midlands to form the Bowen Coach Group. A very good source of reference is a book “Superior Coaches – The Bowen Story”.

My first coach was the oldest (then) the SB with Duple body UON 36,
I ‘graduated’ via the split screened Duple’s
The ‘Fleet’ shots were taken at “Billing Aquadrome” then a popular destination for ‘Brummies’, having lots of space, a lake, fresh air and attractions for the kids – near Northampton, only 50 miles or so from base.
XOX 45, with yours truly – sadly now devoid of THAT hair - became my regular steed which, incidentally, had it’s photo taken – before my time – in action rounding Hyde Park Corner complete with white coated driver!, I can’t recall the bus site which has the shot but it is for sale.
By 1967 I had left the coaching scene for a more mundane occupation, marriage and kids dictated a better income, however, I maintained my PSV by doing part time coach work. I was asked to be ‘second man’ on the recently new R226 taking some enthusiasts to the “Le Mans” 24 hour race. As I remember the R226 (GOP 632D) had an atrocious gear change and the chassis was very truck-like. In service it proved fairly unreliable.

Nigel Edwards

What a fascinating career story in pictures and I have to say that, tyrannical or not, the workshop manager appears to have been very successful in maintaining an immaculate fleet. My own experience of the Fords concurs with Nigel's. My vivid memories are of almost dislocating my left shoulder while chasing the floppy gear lever around the saloon, and of nasty sly cuts in the palm inflicted by the sharp "tin" ratchet on the handbrake. The initial "Thames" models were similarly distasteful and they all compared most unfavourably with the modest but likeable and civilised Bedfords.

Chris Youhill

05/04/12 - 07:00

As a teenager in 1956/7 I had a holiday job at Eatonways garage working on the petrol pumps. I remember Fred Eaton and his Mk VI Bentley. My girlfriend's father (Tom Keen) was the manager. I am not sure whether he was the "tyrannical workshop manager" referred to. We got a few free trips to the seaside including one to Porthcawl I remember. They had some modern looking coaches with petrol engines (Leyland Tigers?). I was interested in cars rather than buses at the time and was suprised they weren't diesels.

David Overton



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