It all started sometime in the nineties when my wife bought me a diecast model of a bus (see below). She had seen it in a jumble sale and realised it was in the livery of the company with whom I had taken my PSV driving test in 1961. As it happened, not only was she correct; but, the registration plate revealed that I had actually driven that very bus. Furthermore, it was identical to - and within four numbers of the one in which I passed the aforementioned test. Equally remarkable, was the fact that the destination and route number was for a service which terminated within yards of where we were living in 1961.
Subsequently, over the next few years, if I saw a model of a vehicle which I had either owned, driven, or with which I had a definite and significant connection of sorts, I would buy it; and, by the time I retired, I had collected a modest couple of dozen or so.
Not long after retiring, I got a part-time job delivering buses and coaches around the UK; which meant that several additional vehicles became eligible to be included in the collection; and, in time, it had grown to a point where a display cabinet seemed a sensible idea.
By the time I finally packed-up the delivery work (towards the end of 2008), I had been introduced to eBay and an additional cabinet was needed to house the collection; and over the eight years I had delivered buses, it had risen from a couple of dozen models to something approaching 200 - ranging from the first car my father owned through to one which inspired a song my son wrote and culminating with the last coach I delivered.
As it happened, one of the projects I had put aside to give me something to do in retirement was to catalogue the collection and it was pointed out to me that, in many ways, it would serve as a record of my life and, bearing that in mind, I thought it may be interesting to create the catalogue in the form of the journals I've produced in the past (USA & South America).
I decided to call it a Model Auto-biography.
So, here we go.................
One of the earliest vehicles in the collection is a London Transport trolley-bus. For those unfamiliar with the concept, these vehicles, like tram cars, are powered by electricity conducted from overhead cables (see video). However, instead of having iron wheels running on iron tracks, trolley-buses have pneumatic tyres and - so long as contact is maintained with the overhead cable - they can weave in and out of traffic in much the same way as a conventional bus.
Although I can recall riding in them whilst visiting London as a child, I never actually drove one because they were being withdrawn from service at around the time I passed my PSV test.
"So, why have one in the collection, then?" one might ask.
Well, apart from when he re-enlisted in The Royal Navy during WW1, my paternal grandfather, was an electrician with London Transport for the best part of forty years; and one of my most treasured possessions is a certificate which was presented to my grandmother after his passing.
Here is the certificate and the model....................l.
Almost as interesting as the certificate, is the letter which accompanied it - which read.....
It is my pleasant duty to enclose herewith an illuminated testimonial, as a token of the Board's appreciation of the many years' service rendered by your late husband.
The Board regret that owing to war conditions it is not now possible to frame the certificate, but after cessation of hostilities, it may be returned for this purpose.
A/CHIEF ENGINEER(TRAMS & TROLLEYBISES)
Somewhat mischievously, I admit, and notwithstanding the fact that I may have been sixty years late, when I delivered a new bus to the same depot a couple of years ago, I presented the letter and certificate to the current Chief Engineer. Sadly, however, he was somewhat lacking in humour and seemed unwilling to enter into the spirit of the occasion - suggesting, instead, that I contact The London Transport Museum in Covent Garden. Recently, I did as suggested, however, although intrigued by the letter, they wouldn't have any use for it and advised me to 'pass it on' to a family member.
I was born in Liverpool almost exactly a year before the start of WW2.
Started in 1865, the city's tramway system was an extremely efficient means of public transport and, during the war, a significant number of trams were 'camouflaged' in military colours. - as illustrated above.
Another city which had a tramway system was Southampton (see below) and, although I was too young to remember, we lived there for a short while during the first eighteen months of my life - as, indeed, we did in Southport (bus below).
When the war broke out, the company for whom my father worked was requisitioned by the War Department to manufacture parachutes and, for a year or so, he helped establish the working procedures; and, as such was classed as being in a Reserved Occupation and was exempted from military service.
During that time, the area of Liverpool in which we lived was subjected to frequent and quite irritating air-raids courtesy of Herr Goering's somewhat destructive airline; so, my mother and I evacuated to Snowdonia in north Wales (the place of her birth). In the meantime, my father visited us at weekends in an MG sports car which belonged to my godfather.
The cottage into which my mother and I moved was part of an estate administered by my godfather - who was the youngest brother of the man who owned the company for whom he and my father worked. He (my godfather) had two cars. One was the MG my father used to get to and from Liverpool and the other was a huge American Buick coupe which (if the truth was told) was entirely inappropriate for the narrow lanes in and around where we lived.
Bearing in mind I was only three at the time, it might seem rather fanciful to claim that the MG was the very first vehicle I ever drove. However; apparently, I climbed into it one day and managed to release the handbrake - causing it to roll forward for several yards before it's momentum, perhaps fortunately, was arrested by a stone wall which prevented it from hurtling down a very steep embankment.
After a year, or so, of commuting between Liverpool and north Wales, my father was conscripted into the army. Initially, reluctant to be burdened with the expenses associated with becoming an officer, he settled for being a driver in the Royal Army Service Corps and drove an assortment of military vehicles (below).
In time, however, he became concer ned that (should he survive the war) having remained 'in the ranks' might jeopardise his prospects for promotion in later life. So, he took a commission and was transferred to the Pioneer Corps and, having taken part in the D-day landings, he commanded a company of Spanish volunteers (photo) in various parts of Europe before moving on to north and west Africa - from where he was demobilised with the rank of Major.
It was quite unusual for ladies to drive in those days; so, after my father had left to 'do his bit' for king and country, if my mother needed to get anywhere further than she could walk, she would hire a taxi or, perhaps, my godfather would help out with his coupe. On the rare occasions she might need to travel further afield - to Liverpool, for example - she would use a local bus to get to the nearest main-line railway station and then travel by train. Here is a Llandudno Corporation, Guy bus and a London, Midland & Scottish railway company's Scammell truck - of a style known as 'a mechanical horse'.
If, for any reason, there was a problem with the railway system, she may have travelled in a Bedford Duple coach operated by Crosville, the local, rural, bus company and then a Birkenhead Corporation, Leyland bus such as this rather interesting (note the outside staircase) one shown below with the afprementioned Bedford coach.
Where we lived was almost exclusively a Welsh-speaking area. My mother was Welsh and after my father went away to war, we hardly ever spoke English and there was some concern that I might experience linguistic problems when we returned to Liverpool after hostilities ceased.
Some English schools in urban ares had been evacuated to the countryside to escape the bombing and, one September evening in 1943, not quite five years old, I found myself in an unfamiliar building being tucked into a unfamiliar bed by a strange lady who spoke English and was called, "Matron".
Had I known then what I know now, I may have enjoyed myself far more than I did - because it was a girl's school! However, I left after a year. Whether I showed too much interest in my class-mates or whether they were becoming too interested in me will remain a matter for speculation. What is certain, however, is that I found myself being transferred to another school (for English boys, this time) which had evacuated from south London to an hotel in nearby Betws-y-Coed.
For reasons which were never explained to me, after a few terms there, my mother and I left Snowdonia and went to live with my grandparent's in the Lleyn penninsula. Paradoxically, after so much effort to maintain my command of the English language, I spent the final year of the war attending a Welsh-speaking school and participating in local Celtic culture; taking part in eisteddfods, for example and, as consequence, I have spent the rest of my life feeling Welsh.
In those days of austerity and rationing - and especially in such a rural area - private cars were quite rare and agricultural or commercial vehicles were far more common. This may have contributed towards the fact that I've always been more attracted to large - rather than small vehicles - and it would probably be around the time in my life (I was about seven) when I first became interested in driving.
Little more than a hundred yards from my grandparent's small- holding, there was a farmers' co-operative dairy where most of the milk produced in the area was brought. One of my uncles worked there and, from time to time, I was allowed to accompany some of the drivers as they drove around the local farms collecting milk.
Almost without realising it, I was learning to drive just by watching them and my first experience of steering a moving vehicle (I wasn't steering the out-of-control MG, by the way) was on a tractor belonging to a neighbouring farmer. I was too short for my feet to be able to reach the pedals whilst seated. However, I could operate the footbrake by standing upright but I didn't do anything as complicated as changing gear.
It's intriguing that I should, in later life, become involved with buses because I can recall sitting on a lower branch of a tree outside my grandparents' house - pretending to be a bus driver whilst instructing my younger cousin to climb to the higher branches to 'collect the fares'.
Soon after returning from the war, my father was promoted and we moved from where I was born in the south of Liverpool, to a new house in the north. Like most people, I used buses rather a lot, in those days, and it would be at about that time that I realised there were different types of public transport operators. In the south of the city, for example, in addition to the tramway system, the municipally-owned, Liverpool Corporation Transport Department (green bus - above) provided a bus service. In the north, however, a privately-owned company, Ribble (red bus - above), were responsible. Privately-owned motor cars were still something of a luxury and, from a personal point of view, I knew of only one friend whose father owned one; a rather nice one too - a large, white, Jaguar Mk V11.
Not long after moving to Crosby, my father was given the extra responsibility of 'managing' The Littlewoods Girls' Choir. Those who recall those days might remember that they featured in several radio and television shows in the forties and fifties. An inspired piece of 'free' advertising - quickly copied by their rivals, Vernons Pools.
From time to time, my father took me with him to recordings of BBC radio programmes - such as Variety Bandbox and Workers' Playtime. I was only eight or nine, at the time, and was made a fuss of by many artists who became quite famous. I can remember, for example, meeting Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, Harry Seacombe, Michael Bentine, Morecambe & Wise, Tommy Handley, Ted Ray, Arthur Askey, Richard Murdoch, Kenneth Horne, Tommy Trinder, Eric Sykes, Ken Dodd, Sam Costa, Mike & Bernie Winters, Jack Warner, Elsie & Doris Waters, Peter Brough & Archie Andrews, Max Bygraves, Beryl Reid, Joyce Grenfell, Winifred Attwell, Rawitz & Landauer, Charlie Kunz, Anne Ziegler & Webster Booth, Petula Clarke, Julie Andrews, Billy Cotton, Mantovani, Ted Heath, Henry Hall, Joe Loss and Edmundo Ross. I'm sure there were many more - but my memory isn't what it used to be.
It was during one of these visits (they were in central Manchester) that, for the first time, I sat inside a 'London' taxi - or, black cabs as they seem to known as nowadays. I remember it, in particular, because of the open space for luggage in the place where a passenger's seat would have been. I now know that they were Austin FX3 models.
My father didn't buy a car for quite some time after the end of the war. If we needed one - for an annual holiday, for example, he would usually hire a car. However, I do remember travelling to a Butlin's holiday camp in one of Ribble's long-distance, Leyland coaches. (above)
Although, as a family, we took our summer holiday at Butlins quite often, I preferred to spend as much time as I could in north Wales - and, I don't just mean for a 'holiday'. As I mentioned earlier, my grandparents lived very close to a dairy - from where, early each morning, a Foden milk tanker would wend its weary way (almost 150 miles) to a large dairy in Liverpool where it's contents would be discharged.
On the return journey, as they approached the entrance to the Mersey tunnel, the drivers would keep an eye on a particular spot on the side of the road and, if they saw someone he recognised, they would stop and give the 'passenger' a lift to y ffatri- as the dairy was known locally.
I was well-known to the drivers and, on a Saturday morning, would think nothing of catching a bus into Liverpool and waiting at the 'tanker stop' in order to spend the weekend with my mother's family. On the following Monday morning, one of my aunts or uncles would wake me up at around 2.00 am. and, since there was no street-lighting in those days, we could see the headlights of the tanker driver's car ages before he reached the dairy and I would run down to join him for the journey back to Liverpool.
We usually arrived there sometime between seven and eight-o-clock in the morning and I would catch a bus home. Incredibly, I was only late for school once - coincidentally, on the only occasion I had taken a friend with me. Even more of a coincidence is the fact that he was the son of the owner of the dairy in Liverpool (the one who had the big, white, Jaguar).
Very occasionally if, for some reason or another, I failed to 'catch' the milk tanker, I would attempt to reach north Wales by a combination of local buses and hitch-hiking (I couldn't afford a train or a long-distance coach).
When my father did, eventually, buy a car it would prove to be one of the most significant vehicle in my motoring life and, almost certainly, the car for which I hold most affection. It was a beautiful, pre-war, Austin Six and, paradoxically, die-cast models of them are as rare as hen's teeth. Indeed, at the time I started this project, I hadn't been able to find one and the best I could do was to provide a link to a photograph of one identical to ours.
In the meantime, however, I've managed to find one (see below).
When it was parked outside our house, I used to sit in the driver's seat for hours on end re-creating journeys as far as north Wales, for example, double declutching for every gear change, steering, and depressing the accelerator or brake pedal as appropriate in order to negotiate each imaginary junction, bend or hill on the way.
I became so confident that (fast-forward to 1956) on the first day of my driver training course in the army, when the instructor asked if anyone had driven previously, ignoring the fact that the nearest I had really come to driving was steering a tractor, I had no hesitation in raising my arm and getting into a three ton army truck and driving it. Ah, the confidence of youth!
Around 1952, my father was promoted again. He had bought some disused cotton mills which were ideal premises for a new enterprise he was managing for the mail-order company for whom he worked. The new venture needed a new name and those familiar with the catalogues of the day may recall one called Brian Mills (work the rest out for yourselves).
The new premises weren't in Liverpool, however, and for several weekends we would travel up and down The East Lancashire Road in the trusty old Austin as we searched for a new home nearer his offices. In time, my parents chose a house in a village called Grasscroft in the region of the West Riding of Yorkshire known as Saddleworth.
Three years previously - somewhat miraculously bearing in mind the hotchpotch of an education I had received up to that point - I had passed the aforementioned eleven-plus exam and was now attending a grant-maintained public school in Crosby. So, rather than disrupt my education, it was decided that I should be enrolled as a boarder and, for the second time in a relatively short time, the 'father-figure' in my life wasn't my father. My maternal grandfather was the first, by the way, and the latest was the housemaster of the boarding house.
As it happens, I already knew him quite well because he ran the school's scout troop to which I belonged. He drove an imposing Rover saloon car (shown below with a Southport Corporation bus). Southport and the town shown on the destination of the bus, Ainsdale, were sea-side towns which we, as a family, would visit at week-ends. They were ten or fifteen miles north of Liverpool and, occasionally, I went there on my own to visit the swimming baths. The bus, by the way, was especially interesting to me because is was manufactured by the Daimler motor company - who I had thought only made luxury cars. In fact, apart from during the war, I don't believe they made ordinary commercial vehicles of any sort.
After becoming a boarder (again), the first time I went home for a school holiday, I took a bus into Liverpool town centre, a train journey to Manchester and another bus to Grasscroft. It took nearly all day - or, so it seemed. Fortunately, I discovered that there was a limited-stop coach service directly back to Liverpool from the bus stop at the end of the road to which my parents had moved and, for the remainder of my time as a boarder, I used it to get to and from home.
Recently, I found (on the internet) a photograph of the actual bus stop and, by a remarkable coincidence, the bus shown is the very one depicted in the model which my wife bought for me and which started off the collection. Even more remarkably, it was at that exact location - and on the upper deck of a North Western bus - that she first set eyes on me. Evidently, I had been home from school and was taking my dog for a walk. I didn't seen her, however, and it would be more than a year before we were eventually introduced.
So far as I can recall, the service to and from Liverpool was operated by several companies and, although I can't remember where, I suspect that there would have been more than one destination - Barnsley or Sheffield, for example. Three of the companies I can remember are Ribble, North Western Road Car Company and Yorkshire Woolen District buses (below).
A little earlier than might have been expected, I left school at the end of 1954 and it was decided that my future lay in becoming self-employed. To that end, it was thought that I should learn the basics of book-keeping and my first job was in an accountant's office in central Manchester - for which I received the princely sum of two guineas a week.
Unfortunately, however, the daily bus fare - together with the cost of a lunch came to five shillings and, since I worked five and a half days each week, there wasn't a lot left over for 'pocket-money'. So, before very long, as it had by then been decided that investing in a grocery store was our aim, I found a job (much closer to home) with a small chain of grocers in Oldham.
To get to both places of employment, I had used a combination of North Western, Oldham Corporation and Manchester Corporation buses. I haven't been able to find a model of an Oldham Corporation bus (photo), yet - but a Manchester one is shown below.
The blue, Austin A40, van represents the next job I had - and that was with the grocer near where we lived. He had heard of my plans and offered what was, in effect, an apprenticeship. He had the good sense to realise that working for him would eliminate the travel expenses I had been incurring and the wage he paid me reflected that fact. Nonetheless, for the short time I was with him, I learnt a lot. The van was used for local house-to-house deliveries.
Nine months, or so, after leaving school, I became old enough to apply for a provisional license to ride a motor-cycle and (for my seventeenth birthday, I suspect) my father bought me an ex- WD, 350 cc, Royal Enfield. Naturally, I used it to get almost everywhere; however, very unusually for a young man in those days, a friend of a friend had a father who allowed him to borrow his very smart Ford Consul in which we used to travel to local pubs and pretend to be 'grown-up' on Sunday lunchtimes.
Two or three months after getting the motor-bike, I met my first girl-friend and, quite soon realised that she was 'the one'. In those days, however, when considering their future, young men had to take into account the prospect of being whisked away from friends and family for a couple of years to 'do' National Service. I reckoned, however, that the sooner one 'went in', the sooner one would 'come out'. So, I 'signed on' for three years; a year longer than National Service - but, since I enlisted as early as was possible, I could expect to be demobilised sooner than might have been the case had I waited for the call-up papers to arrive. What's more, as a 'regular soldier', there was an element of choice about where one was posted and the pay was much higher than a conscript could expect.
And, so it was - fewer than eighteen months after returning from boarding school, I left home again - on this occasion, to join the British Army and, in particular, the Royal Army Service Corps in Aldershot - where, instead of travelling to the training depot at Buller Barracks with the local bus company (van, above), I was met by a three-ton army truck (also above).
A more detailed account of my military service can be found in the MILTARY section of this web-site and, for the purposes of this journal, I shall only deal with events and places which involve motor vehicles relevant to the model collection.
After basic and NCO training I was transferred to Houndstone Camp, in Yeovil, for driver training and I took my driving test there in an Austin K9 three-ton truck (above, centre - along with an assortment of other vehicles available to us at the driver-training depot).
After completing driver training, I was posted to an RASC company in Chester - where I was selected to be an ambulance driver and, in that capacity, went on detachment to an assortment of military bases around the Western Command area. During that time, I drove a variety of ex-WW2, Austin, K2, ambulances (above) alongside a more modern Fordson one.
Chester was a pleasant city with a frequent bus service from the RASC camp to the town centre. This bus (above) is a Guy from Chester Corporation. Alongside it is a Phase 111, Standard Vanguard, staff car - the significance of which is that, after six months, or so, I was promoted to Lance Corporal and went back to Yeovil for a course in advanced driving techniques.
At Yeovil, the Austin Devon car (above) was one of the staff cars we used for training. Coincidentally, in addition to Somerset, we used to drive as far as the counties of Devon and Cornwall. The Bristol coach alongside it is of the type we used to use to get into Yeovil for a night out.
On returning to Chester as a qualified staff-car driver, I drove a variety of staff cars (above) before being entrusted with a rather impressive Humber Super Snipe (the first vehicle in which I exceeded 100 mph). The Super Snipe model (shown in the foreground above) is one of the finest in the collection; hand-crafted to a very high standard.
After a few months driving staff-cars, I took part in a gruelling course with The Parachute Regiment and I went on to make one jump from a tethered balloon over an RAF base near Oxford. However, 'they' decided my aptitude wasn't really what they were looking for and I was sent back to Chester with my tail between my legs.
As it happened, the fact that the paras rejected me may not have been such a bad thing because, had I been accepted, I probably wouldn't have spent the final year of my military service on a desert island in the south Pacific as a coxswain of an amphibious DUKW during the British nuclear test programme at Christmas Island.
In the spring of 1958, after attending an amphibious training course at an RASC Water Transport Company in north Devon - followed by a week, or ten days, being kitted out and receiving an assortment of injections in various parts of the body at the RASC Depot Camp in Bordon, Hampshire, two mates and I hired a Ford Popular car (above) and spent the last weekend at home before flying out to The Pacific in a QANTAS, Lockheed Super Constellation aircraft (also above).
DUKW drivers' duties included ferrying provisions ashore from RFA supply ships and visiting neighbouring islands where only amphibious craft could negotiate the razor-sharp reefs which surround these coral atolls. As well as DUKWs, I drove the unit's Land Rover and (although unauthorised) an occasional RE bulldozer or dumper-truck. I didn't pilot the Avro Vulcan, however, that was one of the RAF V-bombers which 'dropped' the nuclear bombs.
For a few days on the way out to the south Pacific before the tests and during a brief period of leave afterwards, I spent some 'quality' time billeted at a US Air Force base in Honolulu. When necessary, we were driven around in US military vehicles and, for a couple of days, I toured around the island in a Vauxhall Victor hire-car (a British built car in Hawaii !!).
I landed back in the UK four days before I was due to be demobbed and, although I had been instructed to report back to the RASC Depot camp in Hampshire, a very nice (but rather ill-informed) RAF Flight Sergeant offered me a travel warrant to wheresoever I might wish to go and, reluctant to offend him, I accepted his kind offer and went home.
Whilst there, I hired another Ford Popular (a more modern one, this time) and drove down to the Depot camp on the evening before I was expecting to collect my discharge documents. Unfortunately, however, the powers-that-be didn't agree with my reasoning for accepting the travel warrant and invited me to spend a couple of days in their cells to atone for my sins. Later, re-united with my fiancee (as she had become), we spent a few days visiting friends and relatives around Britain in the hire-car.
I suspect it would have been around the time I was on leave in Hawaii that I started to think about what I would do after my demob and, since it was still my ambition to become a grocer, I applied to be part of a training scheme which Sainsburys, the largest chain of grocers in the UK at that time, were advertising in 'The Blighty' - a magazine popular amongst servicemen.
In those days, Sainsbury's business was confined to the south east of England and, to attract staff from outside the area, many of their stores provided accommodation on the premises. I took advantage of that facility and, after a few nights in a company-owned house in Maida Vale whilst attending product training and being kitted out with their 'uniform' at their HQ near the south bank, I was sent to their Watford High Street branch in Hertfordshire.
It was in Watford that I first came across Greenline. They were the 'rural' branch of London Transport who provided a limited-stop, bus and coach service between major towns in the southern counties and the capital. The double-decker bus in the photograph (above) was part of a service which stopped at Watford during a journey between London and Luton and the single-decker went from Hertfordshire to Kent. The Triumph Thunderbird motor-cycle and sidecar was bought with cash I received for my 21st. birthday and, although slightly chilly at times, it was an ideal form of transport for going home to Saddleworth....
.......and, home is where I ended up - much sooner, however, than had been expected because the smog, which was endemic in the London area in those days, affected me very badly and I woke up in hospital, one day, suffering from a severe case of pleurisy; sufficiently bad, it turned out, for me to have required a tracheotomy.
The upshot of these circumstances was that I was advised to move away from the London area and, since my parents had moved to The Peak District (which was a little too far away from Saddleworth to conduct a meaningful relationship with my fiancee) as soon as I was fit enough to work again, I moved into digs in Oldham and took a driving job with an egg-packing company with whom I had done occasional part-time work when on leave from the army.
The red Bedford van is one in which I delivered eggs to grocers, butchers and catering establishments and the bus shows the new colour scheme which was adopted when all the municipal authorities' transport departments in the Greater Manchester area were merged together to form a single operation.
In April, 1960, almost exactly a year after I came home from The Pacific, my fiancee and I were married and since one of the chaps who worked with me had just started his own taxi business, I asked him to supply the 'wedding car'. His 'best' car was a brand-new Vauxhall Velox - which was considered to be one of the most sophisticated saloon cars of the day - and I was rather impressed by it; however, I've recently discovered that my wife didn't care very much for the colour scheme. We hired an Austin Mini (which had been introduced a few months earlier) for our honeymoon (both cars are shown above).
Although I left Sainsburys for health reasons, I had already come to the conclusion that the introduction of 'supermarkets' would probably mean the end of small, independent, grocers and had decided that I would start a driving school. However, becoming a driving instructor wasn't quite as straightforward as I had imagined it would be. Despite the considerable experience I had gained in the army, I had no civilian qualifications - a point which one of the driving school proprietors emphasised with some conviction.
Incredible though it might seem in this day and age, in those days, it was possible to go to a bus company (in your own time and at no expence to yourself) and receive instruction in one of their training vehicles. Since I was anxious to get a 'qualification', I presented myself at the HQ of The North Western Road Car Company, in Stockport, and less than a month later, having done my 'learning' in a Bristol single-decker bus (above), I took my Public Service Vehicle (PSV) driving test in a Leyland P2 double-decker bus (also above and the one which was responsible for starting this collection)). Having passed the test, I was offered a job as a bus driver - which I accepted and for the next six months, or so, I drove a variety of buses and coaches in and around the Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Cheshire and north Derbyshire region.
Although I didn't realise it at the time, the early sixties was a really interesting period during the development of passenger transport vehicles. For example, throughout the century, the engines of most buses and coaches were at the front (as illustrated by the buses shown above). Passenger entrances, however (apart from on long-distance coaches) were at the rear of the vehicle and, with some exceptions, were open to the elements.
Now, however, as illustrated by these examples (above) of North Western buses, entrances were being built at the front of the bus and doors were being introduced. The engines, though, remained at the front of the vehicle.
A further development in the design of the vehicles was the introduction of mid-engined vehicles. Instead of being at the front of the vehicle, the engines of the North Western coaches shown above were located under the passenger saloon and positioned around midway between the front and rear axles.
Until after WW2, under-floor engines had been confined mainly to coaches and the reason for this was the fact that the central aisle in the passenger saloon needed to be much higher than was the case in a front-engined bus and, as a consequence, several steps had to be climbed to gain access. Since this could be a time-consuming exercise, it wasn't entirely suitable for bus operators - who depended on a rapid turnover of passengers to maintain a reliable timetable.
There had, however, been an attempt to introduce a mid-engined double-decker in the thirties. The London General Omnibus Company experimented with the AEC Q-type - where the engine (see below) was located behind the driver and underneath the staircase.
The experiment proved to be unsuccessful, however, and the Q-type was withdrawn before the start of WW2. The picture above demonstrates the fact that, although the mid-engined design afforded a front entrance, the concept of a door hadn't yet been conceived.
At around the time I got my PSV license, bus and coach engines were becoming more powerful. At the same time, the UK road system was being improved and as longer, limited-stop, services were being introduced, a new breed of half-bus/half-coach vehicles became fashionable. Three examples of these dual-purpose vehicles (including a North Western one in the middle) are shown above.
Not long before becoming a bus driver (at about the time our first son, Lloyd, was born), I bought my first 'nearly-new' car - an Austin A35 (above). I forgot to mention earlier that, for a short time whilst stationed at Chester, I owned an old, 1933 vintage, Rover 10; however, apart from that and the motor-cycles, all my 'personal' transport had been provide by my employers - the red Bedford van, for example.
Bearing mind my reason for taking the PSV test, a few months after passing it, I re-visited the driving school proprietor who had (if the truth be told) used my lack qualifications as a gentle excuse for not taking on someone quite as young as I was at that time. Fortunately, having complimented me on my initiative, he offered me a position and, after a short period of training, I collected a brand new Morris Minor 1,000,000 (one of only a thousand built to mark the millionth Minor and shown below) and into which he showed me how to fit a set of dual-control pedals.
Not very long after I started with him, my boss hinted that he was considering retiring and, since my father remained interested in my becoming self-employed, the two of them met to discuss the possibility of me taking over the business. They couldn't agree terms, however, and it was sold to someone else. I remained with the new owner for a year, or so, before deciding the time had come to branch out on my own.
As I had been allowed to use the driving-school car for my personal use, I had sold the A35. So, in order to start out on my own, I needed a car of my own and, although my father had been willing to help me start a business, I felt more comfortable raising the money myself. At about the same time, we had bought a washing machine from the company owned by the Richard Branson of the day, John Bloom . He made his fortune from selling washing machines directly to the public - using vans similar to the Austin J2 (shown above) to carry the machines. I became one of his salesmen and without being unnecessarily boastful, I was rather good at it and, in little more than six months had earned enough to start my own driving-school.
During the following six or seven years, using a series of Triumph Herald and Hillman Minx saloon cars (above), I taught several hundred pupils in the south Manchester, east Cheshire and north Derbyshire region how to drive.
The RAC van (above) represents the fact that, soon after he engaged me, my first employer insisted that I took a series of examinations; after which, having passed, I become an RAC Registered Driving Instructor. Two or three years later, the Ministry of Transport introduced compulsory examinations for the profession and I was amongst the very first batch to be successful.
The little BMW three-wheeler is an example of one the more unusual vehicles in which I taught people to drive. Another interesting one was a Hillman Minx fitted with hand controls for a person who was severely disabled. I have to admit, I probably got almost as much satisfaction out of learning how to master the system as I did from teaching someone else.
In addition to the aforementioned professional qualifications I had set out to acquire, it was very much in my interest (from the point of view of making a saving on insurance costs) to become a member of The Institute of Advanced Motorists. So, to that end, I attended a course of instruction with the Cheshire Police Force - who were one of not too many in the UK to use Rover cars (above) for their traffic division.
I had always been interested in motor sport and the nearest circuit to where we lived was Oulton Park. Occasionally, I would take my wife and young sons to watch the stars of the day. Considering the security which surrounds the pits and the paddock of Formula One nowadays, it seems almost unbelievable that, in those days, we could go close enough to actually touch the cars. I have photos of my four-year-old son (well, he was then) standing next to Jack Brabham and Jim Clark (shown alongside his Lotus - above). Another section of motor sport which appealed to us was hill-climbing and off-road trialling - for both cars and motor-cycles.
Bearing in mind my profession, it was hardly surprising that my interest wasn't confined to watching others. When we moved to Chapel-en-le-Frith, in The Peak District, I joined The Ferodo Motor Club and, when I had the time, I took part in some of their over-night rallies. Few of us could afford specialised vehicles and we made minor and, some might say, trivial modifications to our cars. I, for example, would fill the boot of my car with old tyres - which provided extra downforce to the rear wheels, removing hub-caps created a sporty appearance, and drilling a small hole in an exhaust pipe gave a wonderfully throaty sound to the engine.
From time to time, the fact that I was perceived to be a better-than-average driver gave me access to some quite exotic cars. The Austin Healy (above, left) belonged to a friend who allowed me to drive it, occasioanally. The VW Karmann Ghia (centre) had belonged to an elderly neighbour and, after he died, his widow liked me to drive her around the Derbyshire Dales in it. The Jaguar belonged to the man who owned the garage which serviced my driving-school cars and he let me use his car as a courtesy car.
Towards the late sixties, I had started to experience some problems with kidney stones. The medics blamed a combination of irregular eating-habits (I would often just grab a sandwich to eat whilst driving from one pupil to the next) and the fact that I was sitting in a semi-reclined position for much of my working day. One of the recommended remedies was exercise - so, I took up golf. The second suggestion had been to try to adopt a more upright sitting-position than that afforded by most saloon cars.
By a convenient coincidence, I had recently formed an association with a taxi co-operative and one of the directors pointed out that the seating position in a London taxi would be far better for me. As it happened, I had just employed an assistant to help cope with the increasing demand for driving instruction and, since this allowed me a little more free time, I combined my driving-school responsibilities with a little, part-time, taxi work for a while.
In time, I found that taxi work seemed to ease the problem with my back and I sold the driving-school and bought a taxi - paradoxically a saloon car. However, I have to say it was possible to adjust the backrest of the driving seat of the Morris Oxford (above, left) to an almost upright position and the recently introduced system of driver's seat-belts was very effective in keeping me in a stable position whilst driving..
In order to gain a greater income from the taxi, I employed a driver to work for me. He drove during the day and I did the night-shift and, since he lived in Stockport (where the taxi was licensed), I needed alternative transport to get home and two of the old bangers I bought for that purpose were a Ford Zephyr Zodiac and a Fiat 600.
The little Fiat soon became a particular favourite with my family. By then, our second son, Adam, had arrived and we had also acquired a Great Dane dog and the look of utter amazement on some people's faces when they saw two adults, two children, and a ten-and-a-half stone animal emerging from a tiny little car was priceless.
Having brought family into the equation, whilst I was a driving instructor, I taught my sister how to drive and, subsequent to that, helped her buy her first and second cars - a Ford Anglia and a Mini-Cooper (both above). She, later, went on to be a more than able driver and her driving experience has included Class 2 HGV vehicles.
My father, too, owned several vehicles in his time. The last one he owned before retirement was the Daimler Soveriegn in the centre of the group shown below.
In 1973, after five or six years of taxi work, the somewhat unsocial hours involved persuaded me to consider an alternative form of business and, having visited several licensed premises whilst collecting passengers, a public house seemed an attractive proposition. Unfortunately, however, it wasn't an ideal place to raise two young sons.
Once again, a fortunate coincidence presented itself. After taking up golf to address the earlier health problem, I had become friendly with the professional at the local nine-hole golf course. In addition to his golf duties, he and his wife provided the catering for the golfers. However, since the course was in the process of being increased to eighteen holes, the committee decided to employ a full-time steward and the professional confided in me that, from my point of view, the job would afford an inexpensive way to learn the licensed trade - whilst, at the same, providing an attractive environment for our boys.
We decided to apply for the position and, despite the fact that neither my wife nor I had very much experience of bar work, much to our own surprise, we were engaged to manage the bar and catering side of Chapel-en-le-Frith Golf Club.
We were, now, responsible for supplying food and beverages for anything up to three hundred golfers in a single day; so, to provide a little extra carrying space whilst collecting provisions, I bought a VW 1600 Variant estate car. However, it soon became clear that something even larger was needed and I invested in a VW camper van (both shown above).
Generally speaking, in the golf business, the only way an employee could be 'promoted' is to move to a larger club and, after two or three years at Chapel-en-le-Frith, we moved to Shaw Hill Golf Club near Chorley. Whilst there, we bought most of our catering supplies from a Cash & Carry operator in Bamber Bridge (as depicted by the Bamber Bridge Guy bus shown above).
I used the VW camper van for most of the time we were in Lancashire; however, after another couple of years, we moved to the extremely (founded in 1787) prestigious Glasgow Golf Club, in Scotland. By that time, however, I had acquired a Ford Granada estate car (shown above along with a Pickfords furniture van - who moved us).
The Glasgow Golf Club is unique in that it has two courses thirty or forty miles apart. One is on the Ayrshire coast and the other at Killermont in the Glasgow suburb of Bearsden. We were at the latter, their HQ (as it were). Technically, I had been engaged as the Clubhouse Manager; however, I was rather taken with the traditional Scottish title of Clubmaster - not least because, mischievously, I could refer to my wife as the Clubmistress (she, of course, was at pains to make it clear that Clubmistress was one word, not two).
Purists might argue that Glasgow trolley-buses (above) were withdrawn about ten years before we moved there - but it's too nice a model to leave out of any collection.
We stayed at Glasgow for eight years and, during that time, I changed vehicles more than once. After the Granada lost the will to live during a journey back from Edinburgh, I bought a Volvo 245, estate car (which turned out to be a slightly iffy import from The Republic of Ireland), followed by an especially nice Triumph 2500 S, estate car and another VW camper van (all shown above).
For those interested in trivia, the Volvo had a special significance - in that, whilst he was at Glasgow University, my elder son formed a pop-group and, since the scooter he used to have in those days (above) was hardly appropriate, I used the Volvo to carry their equipment to most of their concerts. When a publishing company offered them an advance, their first cheque was made out to me as a token of their gratitude.
During our time in Glasgow, my PSV license expired and, since I had always considered it to be a form of insurance (from an employment point of view), I took a short revision course with a local driver training company and re-took my test in a Leyland Titan double-decker (above).
We very much enjoyed our time at Killermont. However, it was an extremely busy clubhouse and when I was offered the less taxing position of Manager of The Western Gailes Golf Club (next door to the previously mentioned Glasgow club on the Ayrshire coast), we moved there and spent the final two years of our time north of the border enjoying superb views across The Firth of Clyde and the Isle of Arran. The nearest town was Irvine (the destination of the local Western Scottish bus shown above) and, just before we left, I invested in a brand-new, SWB, Mitsubishi Shogun (also above).
Paradoxically, the man who had been the first to employ us in golf (the Captain of our first club) was the one who was instrumental in us leaving the sport. His local pub in The Peak District was up for sale and he persuaded my wife and me that we were ideally suited to run it. So, we entered into a business partnership and, around Christmas, 1986, I became landlord of The Devonshire Arms in Peak Forest - a village in the heart of the quarrying industry in The Peak District (brewery wagon and cement mixer - above).
Four or five months after we moved to Derbyshire, our younger son, Adam, who had remained in Scotland when we moved south and who had studied catering in Glasgow, decided to join us. When he arrived, he had a Triumph Dolomite; however, for some reason or another, he traded it in for a Ford Capri (both below).
Sadly, although we had more than trebled the previous turnover of the pub, the relationship (the one between myself and the ex-Captain - not my wife) didn't work out and we decided to part company about a year after the venture started.
A significant drawback about relinquishing a tenancy of a pub isn't just the question of losing a job - a more fundamental one is the issue of losing a home. So, when, a couple of weeks after leaving Derbyshire, we were invited to manage a pub near London, we were happy to accept. At the time, our elder son lived in the capital, so moving south seemed to make sense. Not long afterwards, he trotted off to live in New York - coincidentally, at about the same time as we were moved to a different pub in a quaint little village in the Surrey Hills. We were only there for a few months, though, because the owner sold the pub.
Once again, the prospect of having no roof over our heads loomed large. However, on this occasion, Lady Luck seemed to be a little more benevolent because the owner of a large house less than a mile from the pub had sampled my wife's cooking, liked it, heard we were leaving, and invited my wife to become her Housekeeper. So, as Christmas, 1988, approached, we moved into a newly prepared flat in an old stable block in a very desirable hillside location which enjoyed uninterrupted views across West Sussex and The South Downs.
A little while later, taking advantage of my good sense to have renewed my PSV license, I started working for a coach company in Guildford. It was an ideal environment in which to renew my acquaintance with buses and, amongst others, I drove the types of vehicle shown above (a Bedford coach and a Bristol bus). Most of the work was a little mundane and, when I was invited to become Secretary of a privately-owned local golf club, I accepted. But, sadly, my rather privileged golfing background meant that I wasn't entirely familiar - nor at ease - with the commercial aspects associated with the operation and, after three or four months, I saw an advert outside the London & Country Bus Company's garage in Dorking and decided to become a bus driver again (some of their buses are shown below).
Almost immediately, it was decided I was best suited to the Green Line long-distance, limited-stop, routes and most of the driving I did was in coaches (as illustrated below). The sort of journeys I undertook were London to Worthing or Brighton, for example, and tourist excursions from London Victoria to Stonehenge and Bath, Hastings or Salisbury.
A year, or so, after joining the company, the Dorking garage closed and I elected to move to the Guildford depot where I did similar limited-stop and tourist work - with rather more services in and out of London than had been the case at Dorking.
In 1989, shortly before Christmas, our elder son got married in Manhattan. As a special treat, he arranged for the rest of us (his mother, his brother & girlfriend, and me) to be met at JFK airport by a stretch limousine. Thereafter, if we needed to get anywhere, we would use a yellow cab (both above).
Other examples of transport I've experienced during holidays abroad are (L to R above) a Buenos Aires taxi, a hire-car from Marbella and a motorised-rickshaw in Delhi.
Whilst at Guildford, London & Country (1), who also operated under the Green Line (2) banner, merged with (took over) the Alder Valley Bus Company (3) - the three liveries are shown above and, shortly afterwards, a new position of Bus Station Manager was created. Probably because I could spell better than most of my colleagues, I was appointed to the post and, as a consequence, I wore a suit, was given a rather smart identity badge, and didn't do much driving for the following two, or three, years.
Around this time, the Shogun was starting to show signs of rust and, since my younger son was now a salesman at a Land Rpver distributor, I traded it in (the Shogun - not my son) for a red Land Rover Defender. Before the decade was out, he had persuaded his mother that a Land Rover Freelander would be a better proposition, so we acquired an ex-demonstration model. Both shown above.
A bit like I had been with the washing machines, it seems my son was a rather good salesman and, for my sixtieth birthday, he took me for a long-weekend to The Cote d' Azur to watch the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo (above). The other model represents a futuristic New York taxi (based on a Land Rover) for a Hollywood science-fiction movie - which can be seen (the taxi - not the film) at a Land Rover museum close to where we live.
By the mid-nineties, although I had only been with the company for five or six years, in that time, London & Country had three different owners - the last of whom were the Howie Group from the north east of England. Soon after they took over, they changed the name of the part of the operation with which I was involved to Guildford & West Surrey buses and, shortly afterwards, the parent company was re-named, Arriva. The photo above shows two identical buses with the old (green-ish) and new (turquoise and cream) colour schemes and a rather fetching little bus stop.
Soon after the new identity was introduced, there were signs that some of their operations were being merged and garages being closed and I realised that a lower-to-middle management position might be vulnerable; so, I elected to resign my current role of being nearly (but not quite) important and return to driving duties at the Cranleigh depot - driving all sorts of stuff (see above) including the vintage Guy bus.
In 1997, my elder son's mother-in-law, who lived in Washington DC, got a new car and she wanted to give her old one to one of her daughters who lived in Oregon. It was decide that I was just the man to deliver it and I flew over to the USA and, after a few days with my son's family in New York, I set off for the west coast. Eleven days and a little over four thousand miles later, I completed the journey. The picture (above) represents some of the vehicles I encountered en route.
Not long after returning from The USA, I started to become disenchanted with the passenger transport industry. When I started driving buses, in 1961, I got a PSV license. The letters stood for Public Service Vehicle and that's what it was - a public service. Nowadays, the equivalent license is a PCV (Passenger Carrying Vehicle) which reveals that the words, Public and Service have been taken out of the equation and, so far as I could see, it was no coincidence because those responsible for administering the industry were accountants who were more interested in collecting fares from the public than being fair to the public.
Anyway, if nothing else, this journal is a testament to the fact that I've never been afraid to move on to something else if I'm not content with my current lot. So, I left the bus company and maintained a reasonable income by taking on two part-time jobs. After a year, or so, it became clear that one of the jobs suited me better than the other and that job was delivering buses. I now had what, for me at any rate, was the ideal occupation. I could still drive buses but wasn't constrained by the petty rules and regulations which were being introduced to the industry - and I can't deny that the fact that I wasn't bothered by the whims of passengers was a bonus.
One of the reasons my new employer had taken me on was that I lived quite close to Guildford - which is where one of their biggest customers were based and, to start off with, most of my work involved delivering London Transport buses (see above) to and from garages in and around the capital.
Gradually (I expect I was being assessed), my work extended beyond the capital into some of the home counties and I can quite clearly remember the first journey I undertook which went outside the region. It was to collect a coach from a company in Loughborough (above).
Over the next eight years, or so, I would collect or deliver several dozen (if not hundreds) of different types of buses and coaches. The ones above represent coaches used by operators in the touring and holiday section of the industry.
These, on the other hand, are a selection of the types of vehicles used by long- distance, scheduled, service operators. I would venture to suggest that I must have moved well over fifty National Express coaches and one of my favourites (to drive) was the six-wheeled verision of the coach on the right. Although longer than the one shown above, the fact that it had rear-wheel steering meant that it's turning circle was smaller than on the shorter coach.
It wasn't just coaches I would deliver outside the London area. Shown above are buses belonging to three different operators, based on chassis from three different manufactures (L to R - Volvo, Dennis and Scania) and assembled by three different coach-builders
Here's another example (above) of three different manufacturers; single-deckers on this occasion (L to R - Dennis, Scania and Optare). The Dennis is a interesting example of the increased use of what is known as plastic 'vehicle-wrapping' . Although the windows are covered, the passengers can still see through them.
This (above) is another example of the wrapping procedure. Based on a Dennis coach, it's dressed up to celebrate the centenary year of Plaxton, the coach-builders.
Alexander Dennis also use the wrapping - shown above on an Enviro 400 in the livery of the Plymouth's Park and Ride service. The demonstration vehicle on the right illustrates the fact that I did some test driving for the company's development department from time to time.
Having mentioned development vehicles, the bus at the right of these examples of mini and midi-buses (above) is an interesting example of that type of work. Although it looks like any other Optare Solo, it isn't conventionally driven. The normal diesel engine has been replaced by a smaller engine - which powers twenty-six batteries - which power an electric motor - which drives the bus. The company who developed it are located quite close to where I live and, as a consequence, I did an considerable amount of test driving for them.
Not all the vehicles we delivered were new. Sometimes, we would collect a bus at the end of it's time in regular service (like these above). They would often end their days ferrying school children or, perhaps, being converted to become something as varied as driver instruction buses, mobile cafes, hospitality units or mobile homes.
A significant part of the work involved collecting brand-new buses from the manufacturer's factory in Scotland. More often than not, they would be delivered to garages throughout the UK; however, occasionally - as with these Enviro 500s bound for Hong Kong, we would take them to a shipping company at Southampton docks. These particular buses (above) are right-hand-drive but we also collected left-hand-drive versions which were bound for the USA or Canada.
Often, when collecting new buses from Scotland, it was more economical for the company to fly drivers up to Edinburgh airport than it would have been to drive up in a hire-car. Shown above (right) is a RailAir coach - which I would, sometimes, use from Woking railway station to Heathrow airport - and a limited-stop bus from Edinburgh airport to the city centre.
Having mentioned the fact that buses from the UK went to the USA, it was intriguing to speculate that any one of the open-top tourist buses I saw during visits to Manhattan may well have been delivered to Southampton docks by myself. Often, when I visit my elder son (he has now moved from NYC to New England) I am allowed to drive his car - examples of two of them, a Saab and a Subaru, are shown (above). The 2CV represents a song he wrote.
Although at the time I compiled this journal, he worked in Bulgaria, not entirely surprising for someone previously associated with the motor trade, my younger son liked his cars. Following the previously mentioned Dolomite and Capri, he has owned (L to R - above) a Porsche, a Toyota and two BMWs.
Returning to my delivery work, some of the more unusual vehicles are shown above; two open-top, tourist buses and a vintage bus which is used for promotional work.
Other out-of-the-ordinary buses I collected and delivered were bendy-buses. Those shown above represent the fact that, from time to time, I would collect one from a London Transport garage (red bus) and deliver it to a garage in the provinces - where it would be re-painted in the appropriate colour scheme.
Although it was predominately buses and coaches which I collected and delivered, occasionally, I would drive something a little different; an assortment of emergency vehicles, for example, as shown (above).
The type of emergency vehicle which the company I worked for delivered most frequently was fire engines. Those shown (above) illustrate three different eras of the species. For my part, not having an HGV license, I only drove the smaller appliances.
Hardly surprisingly, bearing in mind the fact that most of the vehicles I delivered were either brand-new or quite old, they were liable to break down quite often. The picture (above) represents the frequent visits I received from HGV mechanics and/or break-down recovery trucks.
One of the last (if not the last) breakdowns I experienced was when collecting an American school bus from Southampton docks. Interestingly, I was due to drive it to Tilbury docks - from where I understand it was being shipped to Nigeria. Unfortunately the mechanic couldn't fix it and it completed the journey (to Tilbury - not Nigeria) on the back of a low-loader (above).
The Vauxhall Astra (above) represents the fact that the company I worked for, more often than not, provided hire-cars for drivers to get from job to job - or home.
To complete the collection, here (above) is my current vehicle, another Freelander. When I saw the model on eBay, what caught my attention was the fact that it is the same colour as mine - which, apparently, is quite rare. I had assumed it would be in the same scale as all the other models (see comparison in new display cabinet shown later). However, although it cost less than ten pounds (the model - not the cabinet), I was delighted to discover that it was in a much larger scale and in significantly greater detail than I had expected.
A short while before completing this catalogue, one of the delivery drivers who used to work with me gave me a rather nice dispaly cabinet - into which I've been able to transfer some of the more significant models in the collection. More astute observers might question the presence of a car-transporter - and, it's true I have never driven one; nor, am I licensed to do so. However, the reason it's there is that I have driven chassis/cab versions of that particular MAN truck prior to them being converted into fire appliances.
The final model in this catalogue (above) is the only one which doesn't actually conform to the conditions of belonging to the collection - in that I have never owned it, driven it - nor has it belonged to any of my close friends or family. However, reference back to my military career should go some way towards explaining it's inclusion. It's an amphibious car and, if I could choose a perfect vehicle for myself - it is probably what I would pick.
n.b. This page was compiled aroung 2005; so there have been additions. So, it may be updated at some time.