Mike Forbes previews the latest in our archive series looking at the buses of the past, with a fantastic batch of 1950s and ‘60s archive images to delight PSV enthusiasts everywhere.
This latest offering in the popular On the Buses series features photographs from the Chris Hodge ‘Stilltime’ collection. We spotlight vehicles from a variety of operators across the country, offering public transport around cities and towns, as well as country areas.
The photographs here illustrate a wide range of different types of vehicle – old and not so old – that were in operation in various circumstances. These contrast with other new buses and coaches, including some on display at commercial vehicle shows, or being road-tested by technical journalists.
Most of these photographs were originally taken for possible use in magazines like Commercial Motor, which included passenger transport content for many years. The images would accompany articles resulting from journalists’ visits to an operator or, sometimes, more than one in a particular area, to talk to them about topical issues of the day.
Dating mainly from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s, the photographs here feature big company operators including Aldershot & District, Midland General, Notts & Derby, Llanelly & District, Thomas Bros and others, visited in 1952. Also municipals include Edinburgh, Aberdare and Southport from around 1960, while independents include Harper of Heath Hayes, Hants & Sussex, Premier Travel and Pennine Motor Services in the 1950s. There are also sections on London in wartime, Dublin in 1951, plus the 1962 Commercial Motor Show, buses seen out on road test, and some manufacturers’ brochures.
We’re fortunate that the interesting background to many of the images can still be found in the CM archives, which are now available online. However, many of the photographs taken weren’t used at the time, and it seems a shame for them never to be presented for enthusiasts to enjoy, hence their inclusion here. It should be noted that the number of photographs taken on individual visits did vary for different reasons, including the number of magazine pages being allotted to the different operators.
So, we must be grateful for our access to the ‘Stilltime’ image collection, as well as the information gleaned from the Commercial Motor archive and other sources on the internet, including Bus Lists on the Web, plus various period publications, like the Ian Allan ABC Bus Fleets books. All have been referred to in the captions here. Of course, I must accept responsibility for any mistakes, for which I apologise.
If you have local knowledge, any additional information or, indeed, corrections which would be of interest to other enthusiasts, please get in touch so that we can spread the word. A further point worth mentioning is that many of these pictures aren’t the classic, ‘front three-quarters’ shots which we, as enthusiasts, tend to prefer.
They were often taken with aspects of operation in mind, rather than the vehicles. But views including more background, rear ends and even those which are partially obscured by staff, passengers or passing pedestrians, can add to the overall atmosphere.
These images help to bring back memories of days gone by, and all the interesting bus and coach operations of the past. In many cases, they were very different from those of today, but some were often surprisingly similar, notably with respect to the problems which had to be overcome. There has been much rebuilding of towns and cities since these photographs were taken, with features like pedestrianised streets, but many landmarks can still be seen, so scenes can still be recognised, although the vehicles have certainly changed over the years!
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