Gibson Brothers of Barlestone (Comfort Buses) - 1922 to 1940

Gibson Brothers of Barlestone (Comfort Buses) - 1922 to 1940

Gibson's was the brainchild of two brothers, Walter & Edward Gibson. The two miners first came up with the idea of buying a bus in 1919. They used it to ferry themselves and work mates to and from the local coalfields, often parking it up and doing their shift before taking their colleagues home covering both the night and day shifts.
The first bus was nicknamed "Misery" because it didn't like to go up steep hills, which meant that the passengers had to get out and push, and also for it's lack of comfort. In time they purchased a newer, better second bus which became lovingly known as "Comfort" because it was more luxurious and comfortable than the first and hence the trademark of "Comfort Buses" was born.
In time the brothers decided to expand, and in 1922 they decided to run a bus service for the public. They purchased a brand new bus and began running a 3 day a week service to the "Blue Boar " public house in Southgate Street Leicester, picking up in Newbold Verdon and Desford along the way. Over the years the service became more popular and by 1928 the service had expanded to 3 more villages, Carlton, Bardon & Nailstone running every day of the week, buying more buses along the way to increase the fleet, and running their now small business from their house in New Street in Barlestone.

NR 2617 a G.M.C. K16 with a B20F Willowbrook body new in 03/23 withdrawn 01/26 with C W Bishop Ashford 02/26 and withdrawn 03/28

The above photograph has been very professionally coloured and is according to what appears to be a 'PSV Circle' fleet list 'Comforts' second vehicle whilst trading has a PSV operator. Their first vehicle being an Oldsmobile with a B14F unknown body registration NR 1732 bought new 12/22 withdrawn 08/24 with V R Smith Newbold Verdon 08/24 and to J C Wright Newbold Verdon 12/25. On the black and white version of the above shot the crest of nearby Loughborough, Leicestershire based body builder of Willowbrook can clearly be seen who in time as you will see turn out to be 'Comforts' choice of bodybuilder for the early years.

The above shot is thought to be NR 7819 which according to the fleet list was a Maudslay ML4 chassis number 3797 with a B26R Willowbrook body. But as you can see there is also a door at the front although there are no dual entrance vehicles listed. Yet again the Willowbrook crest can be seen just to the right of the front door, if this vehicle is in fact NR 7819 then it was new to 'Comfort' in January 1926 and disposed of in October 1929 to an unidentified owner in Southport Lancashire.

UE 5412 is just listed as a Reo with a Bracebridge B??F body, it is most likely a Reo Speedwagon with a 14 seater body. This photo was obviously taken by the bodybuilders 'Bracebridge Motor Body Works, Lincoln' as their board can be seen in front of the rear wheel. The vehicle was believed to have been new to 'Comfort' in January 1928 but they may have acquired it from an unidentified operator rather than direct from a dealer. There is no record of its date of withdrawal and like so many other vehicles no trace of it ever since.

Here we have a timetable dated January 1928 the telephone number is rather interesting 'Market Bosworth 27Y'

Looking at this it is fair to say that Wednesday was Market Day in Leicester

JU 1475 fleet number 11 an A.E.C Regal 4 with a Willowbrook B32F body new 12/32 withdrawn 01/52

This is a very early example of the much rarer A.E.C. Regal 4 with a chassis number of 642024, it had a four cylinder 51 litre petrol engine. As not many over 50 had been built since its introduction in June 1930 to March 1933 with the introduction of a four cylinder oil engine, number 24 is about right. She was the first vehicle in the 'Comfort' fleet to have a fleet number, it wasn't the eleventh vehicle they had owned it was actually their twenty first, there was no doubt some reason behind this. Yet again no trace of her after withdrawal but with just over nineteen years service, we can have a good guess.
During the mid thirties another service was provided for the villagers where two local men would ride into Leicester on the buses picking up supplies for the other locals and delivering it to them on their return.

JU 5650 fleet number 14 a Maudslay SF40 chassis 5206 with a Willowbrook DP40F body new 02/35 withdrawn no trace 01/58

Here we have an artists impression and very good one indeed, it was probably provided by the body builder Willowbrook as their logo appears in the windows of the vehicle. This was the eighth Maudslay in the fleet the first SF40 the others all being variants of the ML model. JU 5650 must of been one of the very first SFs as Maudslay introduced it to the market in 1935. The SF40 (Single-deck Fully-fronted 40-seater) was well ahead of its time through having its front axle far enough back to allow for a true forward entrance. The original power unit was a four cylinder 53 litre petrol engine and in 1937 became available with the Gardner 4LW or 5LW diesel engines, at the same time it was the third Maudslay model to hold the popular 'Magna' name.

JU 8809 fleet number 15 a Maudslay SF40 with a Willowbrook DP36C body new 06/36 withdrawn no trace 12/56

AJU 680 fleet number 18 a Maudslay SF40 with a Willowbrook DP36C body new 06/37 withdrawn no trace 03/57

BNR 390 fleet number 20 a Maudslay SF40 with a Willowbrook DP36C body new 06/39 withdrawn no trace 11/53

BNR 779 fleet number 21 a Maudslay SF40 with a Willowbrook DP36C body new 07/39 withdrawn no trace 07/56

 

Darren/Wendy Prime
03/2013

 

Darren is the grandson of Edward Gibson and any information regarding 'Comfort Buses' would be most welcome.

 

Maudslay SF information taken from Buses & Trolleybuses by David Kaye

 

To view Comfort Buses 1941 to 1955 click here

04/03/13 - 15:28

If the Maudslay SF40 was 'well ahead of its time' why did they revert to the more conventional layout with the Marathon. Was it a case similar to the 'Q' of being too soon for the market.
Nice shots by the way, do like the hand coloured ones.

Spencer


05/03/13 - 10:19

What a fascinating fleet! NR 7819, the 1926 bonneted Maudslay is a real stunner. A few things strike me about the finely-proportioned Maudslay SF40s:
The rear hub looks like the semi-floating hubs of early Titans and Regents.
The front hub has a good heavyweight look about it.
Ten-stud wheels.
With a 5.3-litre petrol the weight over that set-back front axle can't have been excessive, but a Gardner 5LW would have been a different matter. I imagine the gearbox was set amidships to help with weight distribution.
Never having seen an SF40, I'd be very grateful for info from anyone who has any.
Am I right in thinking that none have survived? Hope I'm mistaken!
Individual vehicles apart, it's always good to have pictures of small, half-forgotten rural operators quietly catering to local needs.
Many thanks. Looking forward to 1941 to 1955.

Ian Thompson


05/03/13 - 13:52

I didn't get down to Leicestershire as often as I would have liked, but Gibson was always a very impressive operator for its size. I can't wait for the following parts to appear, but will have to!
I've never heard of any basic flaws with the SF40 from a mechanical viewpoint, and I suspect that it may have been a victim of the industry's innate conservatism and a (possibly unfounded) concern that the engine positioning might weaken the chassis structure as later happened with the Yeates Pegasus Bedford conversions. Another thought is that for many areas of the country the Gardner 5LW fitted to the diesel versions might not have provided enough power. Given the space available it was probably impractical to fit the vehicle with a larger diesel. Also, although I'm guessing here, was the SF40 more expensive to buy? Technically innovative vehicles usually are. We need a proper book on the SF40 - if anybody out there has the material to fill one I know at least one publisher who might be interested. Just don't expect a large fee!

Neville Mercer


05/03/13 - 14:44

You're right, Ian, about NR 7819, the 1926 bonneted Maudslay being impresive. I'm impressed about the amount of glass and lightness around the body. However, am I the only one who senses a touch of the hearse about it?
As for the Maudslay SF40 chassis, Burlingham did the chassis proud with its Airflow body, which seemed to chime with the mid to late 'thirties Art Deco style. Of all the photos I've seen, the only aspect which mars them is that damned starting handle, quite out of keeping. And Yes, Neville, we could do with a book on this interesting vehicle which seemed to sell in more than just penny numbers in its five-year availability.
I'm in the midst of writing some copy for another, obscure, 'penny-number' bus which I'll submit to Peter shortly. They were surely interesting times!

Chris Hebbron


07/01/15 - 09:00

I came across this article while wondering whether Stevenson's Maudslay SF40 (CRE 13) was the last survivor of the breed. Judging by the dates given in the Gibson's item it wasn't quite. However it might have lasted longer had it not received some serious damage to the front nearside corner in August 1957, which evidently precipitated its withdrawal. The damage is shown on a Tony Moyes photo published in a 2011 Classic Bus magazine (thanks to David Stanier for telling me about it). This photo from my collection shows the bus in pre-war days with conductor Sam Barlow on the platform.

Neville Mercer wondered whether the SF40 was more expensive than other models. I can't answer that question but I can tell you that on 1 July 1935 Stevenson's wrote out a cheque to H V Burlingham for 543, and the next day to Maudslay Motors for 675. So that's how much this one cost anyway.

Tim Jeffcoat

 


 

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