I AM CHRISTOPHER LEACH THE ARTIST. I started this blog so that I can share with everyone my vast collection of transport photographs showing a personal and nostalgic view of the industry with images that span some 45 years taking in the U.K and some of Europe. I have no darkroom and so rather than being the perfectionist after tidying them up I upload the images warts and all, and even those that won't scan squarely or are scratched. In a way it adds age and character. You are all free to download these for your personal use but please remember I still own them and you are not just free to use them without prior permission for any knd of publishing. Click on images to enlarge them and if you want to see more leave your comments or visit my website for the mother-site with galleries including those Buses & Girls: PICTUREWORLD
Thursday, 31 January 2008
In the early Nineties the larger London Buses Routemaster type RML's were treated to in some cases a very quick repaint including the interior and some heart surgery to give them even more life, but like many heart attack victims they were never quite the same again having lost that AEC engine and bubbly transmission that gave them that unique haunting sound, so memorable either high revving or chuffing in low gear. After their revamp and new power units supplied by Cummins and Leyland of India many were no longer so smooth to ride on and there was so much vibration one might have thought they were going along cobbled roads. But RML 2579 of Metroline looked pretty damned good so I can't understand how I allowed these two attractive ladies spoil my shot. I never got around to making that New Year Resolution (As if I would!)
Wednesday, 30 January 2008
Luckily I made my last visit to Bern about one month before the last of a long line of my favourite make, the FBW motorbus was withdrawn from their hard working peak hour operations at the end of January in 2000. I even came back early from my daily travels late one afternoon so I could ride on them and make some recordings to enjoy back at home in glorious hi-fi sound. I rode them back and forth to the terminus sampling the meaty roar of Nos 277,282 and 283 as they still managed to romp up those hills with a full load.. Even though the FBW has obviously now long gone, I still half expect to see another favourite one of the then oldest traditional looking trams like No.621 still to be there repetative bell sounding, headlight blazing hurrying all the good Swiss obediently out of the way as it lurches away from a tram-stop or lights, the little steel wheels screeching on polished rails as it rounds yet another bend in this city of often chilly historic narrow streets. Even if this old tram friend is still there could I ever forgive this the most remarkable of conservative of Swiss cities for painting all those sober very businesslike machines a horrid pinkish-red like floats at some very latin Gay Pride Parade? In all fairness maybe I should come to Bern again to see what they've done with the red paint to the vehicles for myself and just maybe after a few beers and a nice meal any remaining older trolleybuses like once military green 1985 Volvo R&J No.62 might get the thumbs-up. Still they don't keep buses that long in Switzerland these days and that might be gone too.
Tuesday, 29 January 2008
Do you remember when on Sunday everything was closed and all the bus drivers left late because otherwise they would dawdle along dropping off to sleep. As you can judge there were not many intending passengers on the Royal Parade and a little Dennis Dart or a small minibus could have more than handled the non-existent load, but don't look at me I'm not complaining. The Plymouth fleet has seen a good few livery changes over the years mostly using various combination of reds creams white grey and black. But in the early Eighties before buses started to look jazzy the main colour reverted to a historic chocolate maroon hue used in the tramway days before the war and these attractive East-Lancs bodied Leyland Atlanteans like No.145 of 1980 were delivered looking just like this.
Monday, 28 January 2008
The only buses in the Liverpool Corporation fleet that I could call big favourites was the first generation of Leyland Atlanteans with Metro-Cammell particularly the first batch Nos L500-699 dating from 1963 and 1964. I guess the later buses were an improvement but they didn't quite have the same novelty value. Somehow even late in the day when they were being withdrawn in the Early-Eighties survivors like L525 at Green Lane having lost the characteristic protective brightwork trim from around it's skirt still managed to look better than many other Atlanteans like the much newer East Lancs bodied example behind it.
Sunday, 27 January 2008
With it's British Holidaymakers and very English looking buses like this RN Utic bodied AEC Regal this could almost be Britain but obviously double white lines had yet to arrive in the 1984. Monte Grodo was a fast growing resort and as well as boasting white sandy beaches and waving palm trees it could also enjoy the sophistication of a casino.
Saturday, 26 January 2008
Although the Municipal Sector liked the Dominator as it was their kind of bus giving them a much wider choice of engine and bodywork options than the megalith British Leyland which had become rather dictatorial it still did not sell in great numbers compared to the competition and that included the MCW Metrobus. The South Yorkshire PTE though was it's biggest customer by a large margin building up a huge fleet of Alexander R-Series bodied buses. However there were also some by East Lancs and a smaller batch of ten buses including No.2315 carrying Northern Counties bodied caught hurrying through Sheffield and carrying the code GR to show it was allocated to Greenland Garage in the city
Thursday, 24 January 2008
Wednesday, 23 January 2008
The bodywork built by Caetano on a number of Lancia trolleybuses delivered to Portuguese systems in the Eighties have such an unpretentious boxy appearance like a building and strangely enough they looked almost attractive.
Tuesday, 22 January 2008
In the good old days when one could spot the genuine Post Office owned post buses by their P-prefix registration numbers the fleet of about twenty articulated buses were numbered in a series starting at 27700. So at first glance in 2000 this Mercedes Citaro seen outside the Bahnhof in Saint Gallen might have quite easily been mistaken for one of those real post buses till they noticed it had a TG numberplate from the next door Swiss Canton of Thurgau. This was because it belonged to the contractor PAH Neff of Arbon, a town famed as the home of the main Swiss bus and truck manufacturer Adolph Saurer AG till it was bought out by Mercedes in 1982. From 2005 the law was changed and all post buses including the state owned fleet had to carry cantonal plates and pay taxes. So after this change no doubt the former Post Office indexed examples carried any random number allotted to it as so it was nice in a way that it was probably left to this PAH impostor to through mere coincidence continue this nice tradition on it's own. From an operational point of view it had made sense that the main Post Office owned buses should have carried a special number all of their own as now it is hard to trace their movement as they have to carry a new registration each time they are moved and reallocated to a new canton. Still the Post Office doesn't seem too concerned otherwise they could have continued to keep that lifetime single identity in the form of fleet numbers. Today there is no system at all and no doubt everything is understood by the computers but it doesn't make life easy for the bus enthusiasts trying to track their movements. I'm sure it's really because those Swiss are a secretive lot!
Sunday, 20 January 2008
Although this photo was taken in 1997 both FBW motor buses and trolleybuses were still hard at work in the town of La Chaux de Fonds in The Jura close to the French Border when I last visited Switzerland in 2000. With poles seemingly coming out of it's roof at first glance No.154 at first glance looks like a trolleybus but it's easy to spot the difference as Swiss electric vehicles do not carry Cantonal Registration Plates.
Actually it was the last day but one, but whose counting. I was about to do my fifty-mile afternoon school run picking up children on the Shropshire side of Wolverhampton and having not known about the firm going bust before Monday it was a traumatic week. Happily another small local coach operator has taken over the school contracts and nearly all the drivers and guides including myself are moving over. From now on we will be driving better buses, have smart company clothing to make us look more like the Proffesionals that we are wear plus more importantly much better wages. Still I will miss working for Top Travel because they always sailed a bit close to the wind, and on airport work every busy day was different and I loved driving those empty back roads late at night over Cannock Chase and through nice villages like Mobberley. We had mobile phones of course but most of the time especially out of hours we had to be able to think for ourselves to make it work.
It might not have been a star like Yelloway or Gliderways or even really on the map as far as most enthusiasts were concerned but Top Travel Transfers has been a familiar sight for over twenty-years picking up and taking people mostly to Manchester and Birmingham Airports from their homes in a twenty-five miles radius of Stafford taking in much of the County including the Industrial Areas areas of what is now the County of West Midlands. Top Travel started as a travel agent with a number of Travel Shops before it lost them but it had been a pioneer of the free Transfer with our Insurance concept. Even though it had become somewhat ' run-down and cheap and cheerful', right to the final week we still had an unrivalled reputation for reliability and we were still getting bookings from regulars in our area and as well as Stafford itself of course were particular hot spots like Rugeley and Wednesfield. However that side of the business had really suffered a decline over the last couple of years and especially so after the inheritor of Top Travel's Shops itself went bust meaning that our firm lost not only a large amount of money another problem was that Harveys, the new owners no long dealt with us after a disagreement. The bright areas of the business was some private hire work plus regular school contacts from the County Council. Most of the sixteen vehicle fleet were elderly Ford Transits and LDV's but we had a couple of midi-coaches too which worked out to Denstone College not far from Alton Towers on the other side of Uttoxeter. Painted in Top Travel's rather unusual dark red and silver colours was a Mercedes which came from Halls Taxis, whilst the neat looking Toyota came from Crystal Coaches of Penkridge. Shortly after I arrived they stopped using the easy to spot company livery and later arrivals were used in the various white colours in which they arrived as an economy measure.
Saturday, 19 January 2008
There are many places in the UK which I haven't covered properly yet including Scotland and Wales but I'm slowly getting there. Edinburgh certainly deserves another inclusion because I loved these Volvo Ailsa's they had so much character and their inclusion in SBG Fleets reminds me of the days when they also had a strange mix of Alexander bodied Leylands and AEC etc, plus a similar number of Bristol /ECW products which looked most strange not in their usual BTC Tilling Red and Green. In 1997 SMT No.1042 was showing traces of First Group ownership but at this time First-Barbi was still to venture out on to the Scottish Capital's comparatively chilly streets.
Friday, 18 January 2008
Willowbrook of Loughborough had been an important supplier of single-deck bodywork for the BET Group but with the arrival of the complete Leyland National there was a dearth of life sustaining orders in the NBC Era. After taking bus-shell dual-purpose Leyland Leopards Midland Red turned to slightly more upmarket coach based dual-purpose buses and Willowbrook managed to win a decent sized order for eighteen vehicles Nos.789-806 in 1980. 792-796 were at Cannock Garage and No.795 pictured at Rugeley wears the Poppy-Red and white livery in which they were received.
Thursday, 17 January 2008
Wednesday, 16 January 2008
The strike of Summer of1982 wasn't very nice for rail travellers or the residents in London living close to Victoria Coach Station which was bursting at the seams with extra coaches which needed to queue up in nearby streets, but no doubt it was good news for British Rail's competitor National Express. At the front of the queue making it's way slowly passed parked vehicles and bemused anxious crowds was a large Trathens Skyliner Neoplan double-deck coach preparing to take some of the frustrated people at least towards Exeter and the West Country.
Tuesday, 15 January 2008
I love Switzerland, even a trolleybus route can be pleasing on the eye with attractive pastel walled apartments that don't just look thrown up in a hurry like upended grey shoe boxes. The scene of course is helped by 919 a spotlessly clean Basel FBW trolleybus and wiring you hardly notice..
Monday, 14 January 2008
The firm I drive a transit minibus for doing both a school run and the Airporter Service ceases to trade after Friday and I am being made redundant. This makes me very sad for I have done this job for over three years and I have enjoyed every moment. It also lets me enjoy two of my passions, photographing buses and girls. Here is one of them at least taken last year of No.628 a Travel West Midlands Volvo single-decker with Wright bodywork . This bus was regularly to be seen waiting at Birmingham Airport when I should have been at home having my tea!.
Sunday, 13 January 2008
I'm starting to get a lot more visits especially from enthusiasts in Switzerland and Portugal including Carlos who likes the orange and cream buses of the nationalised RN. Slowly I am downloading the images I hope you want to see including this fine UTIC bodied AEC Regal No.8989 photographed in Evora still wearing it's pre-RN colours. But take a good look at the crisp styling on this lovely old coach and you quickly realise that there's nothing terribly new about the striking angular lines of today on Britain's roads most emanated from European places like Portugal.
I see this is what someone came searching for this morning so here is a Southdown Leyland National No.115 pictured at Tunbridge Wells in about 1988. Of course it's a pity the photograph isn't in colour so we can enjoy the revived apple green and cream livery but on the other hand black and white brings out something of the winter evening rush hour gloom.
Saturday, 12 January 2008
The driver of the two year old more luxurious Setra S315-UL of 1996 could not understand why I should want to forgo the speed and comfort of the best the PTT- Regie Garage at Brig could provide for an old Saurer of 1984 soon to be replaced by something better. To be honest he probably didn't realise I was a bus enthusiast otherwise he would have understood my passion for what many think was the best Post Auto of them all. As for myself I'm more of an FBW fan as I love those almost indecent powerful sounds but when it comes to choosing Saurer's for me the RH wins hands down, so much charm and character. At the time on my mission I was trying to see if I could on my annual Swiss holiday visits manage see every P-Regie bus and still proving it was not so easy I had to go to Saas Fee as there were about half a dozen older type Setra S213's outstationed by Brig there and I needed two of them Nos P25061-2. In actual fact I did take the Setra on the reasonably long journey but I still don't quite see why the driver was so insistent as faithful old P24400 arrived just a few minutes later. I would have liked to have seen Stalden on the way u[ there but I had to return on P26019 as well but this time it was going there too and I was pleased to pay my little homage to the location of what used to be another for me important PTT-Regie Bus Garage, now the location of the enlarged Post Office. The driver of P24400 left his bus at Saas Fee and returned with us, and also of interest being close to the Italian Border we were stopped on our ascent by the Swiss Police who searched the bus for illegal immigrants. As you see there is never a dull moment in the sleepy Valais of Switzerland.
Thursday, 10 January 2008
Looking more impressive than the smokey old Routemaster standing behind it on Route159 was the immaculate former Alder Valley Bristol VRTSL3-6LXB No.981 seen when in service with Brentwood Coaches at Trafalgar Square in the Nineties. However even though it might have looked slightly strange in the Capital garbed in brown and cream this vehicle was no stranger to routes into London as with it's dual-purpose coach seating in the NBC days it could be found working from the former BET-Group Aldershot Garage.
Wednesday, 9 January 2008
Manchester City Transport used to have a small trolleybus depot on the Rochdale Road but these had long gone by 1966. However in a corner the garage yard was another endangered beast a 1948 Crossley DD42/75 double-decker with distinctive 'Manchester Streamlined' bodywork by the same manufacturer. Even Manchester's horrible lack of discretion turning everything red when masking in the paint-shop did not quite spoil the splendid look of the characterful buses and even today we remember these simple but effective slogans for Heinz Baked Beans.
Tuesday, 8 January 2008
On a Winter Holiday one must expect cold weather but if I wanted to enjoy really miserable weather I could have stayed at home and just gone to town. I used to go to Switzerland regularly at the end of February and believe it or not sometimes I returned with hardly any pictures at all. Still it's better than coming back with a broken leg and modern easy-access low floor buses must be a godsend for unfortunate skiers and the elderly in Switzerland. Here in the early Nineties is a contrast between an elderly dull green painted Saurer Trolleybus complete with a trailer with tapered ends and a new NAW articulated bus in the latest livery. I'm glad I do take realistic atmospheric pictures like this but there's only one thing to do after this shot and that is try to get warm with a mug of Ovomaltine and think of smiling Swiss girls and sunshine on mountain-tops..
Monday, 7 January 2008
A contrast in styles at Colchester Bus Station with a secondhand purchase from Newcastle with lots of curved glass on the Alexander bodied bus passing the much more conservative looking Eastern Coach Works version that was new to the Corporation and built not too far away at Lowestoft. Although both Leyland Atlanteans were of a similar age dating from about 1976-7 Alexander had been building similar attractive modern panoramic looking buses since as far back as1963 but many enthusiasts still prefer the more solid and traditional looking Suffolk built bus which I must admit certainly looked good in Colchester's distinctive brown and cream colours.
Sunday, 6 January 2008
My Cosmos Coach Tour of Portugal in 1984 took us for one night's stay to the historic fortified town of Evora with it's striking white-washed buildings and narrow streets. It didn't look as though it had been very long since the local buses had become part of the Nationalised RN Concern and the orange and cream paint still looked fresh on the buses. Well either that or they kep't them a good deal smarter than in other parts. In front working a town service is a narrow looking AEC Regal being followed by a little Albion.
Saturday, 5 January 2008
Lothian was unique in ordering it's Leyland Lynx buses with a centre exit, but this didn't gaurantee them a long and eventful life at the Scottish Capital as they had barely reached mid-life before they were quickly sold some noteworthy examples finding their way to the rapidly expanding Rossendale Transport.
Once these not too ugly shelters of concrete blocks and glass were fairly typical of early Post-War bus stations like Dudley or here at Loughborough in the East Midlands which was a 'Border Town' between Midland Red, Trent, Barton and the strange looking dark blue and red buses of South Notts of Gotham. By the Eighties with the coming of Deregulation new private bus operators would appear too to blur these old traditional bounderies like the green and cream County Travel who traded as County Link. Even though it was established as long ago as 1960 the concern grew after it aquired the licences of Tourmaster Coaches from local dealer Alf Moseley in 1987 which included the bus services of three local bus operators including the best known G Howlett of Quorn. County became a familiar sight around the Leicester area and had a penchant for Daimler Fleetlines but as can be seen here there were some even more interesting buses tried first like this MCW Metropolitian that used to be MD 3 with London Transport.
Friday, 4 January 2008
Thursday, 3 January 2008
Say Rochdale and many bus enthusiasts will immediately think of Yelloways with it's smart fleet of AEC Reliance coaches but this Lancashire town could boast a second much smaller quality Independent Coach Operator but this time with a strong bias towards Leyland in it's fleet of thirteen vehicles. Indeed not only did the coaches carry those gorgeous pressed-metal cat badges there was a painted leaping leopard on the sides too like this short example with the first version of the Plaxton Panorama Elite body. Unlike Yelloways the name Ellen Smith has survived as after the firm was taken over by them it became the coaching arm of Rossendale Transport, itself now one of the few remaining former Municipals not gobbled up by the big boys..
One of the nicest things about liking buses is that often despite being surrounded by beautiful countryside our hobby often takes one right off the tourist trail and to neat and tidy villages like Heiden in Switzerland which look always to be taking part in some Best-Kept-Village-Competition. Rather like our Forest of Dean in England the Appenzell has a nostalgic bypassed feel about it and looks very traditional Swiss and sleepy. Heiden is situated high up in these high rolling hills right off the beaten track and not being served by the railway supports quite a large Post Bus Garage with routes radiating off in all directions down towards the various main-line railway stations on the two nearby valley floors including the large town of St.Gallen. This view was taken at the end of February 1998 and the village was engulfed in low cloud casting a feeling of gloom over the vehicles to be found there. By this time the Saurer RH was getting thin on the ground and even P25647 was a recently displaced St.Gallen bus working out it's last duties here and although the batches of Setra S213 UL buses that had replaced most of them now dominated the twenty strong allocation they had recently been joined by five Neoplan double-deckers bought to avoid the need for duplications at busy times
Wednesday, 2 January 2008
Warstone's of Great Wyrley started as a country operator and as well as working a few more profitable bits around Cannock it's main function seemed to be providing services to small villages either side of the A5 right along to the Shropshire Border. During the Nineties with Deregulation it grew with importance around the Cannock Chase Coalfield Communities too taking on the likes of Midland Red Chaserider. But I cannot understand why it should have since forfeited these profitable urban routes to once more concentrate on the marginal stuff, maybe they sold their share of work around Cannock, Hednesford and Wolverhampton to the larger Concern. At one time it famously ran Leyland PD3 double-deckers long after they had disappeared elsewhere but now even it's equally famed former Municipal Leyland Leopards have all but gone too and the main fleet is of rather more mundane but still attractive Mercedes Minibuses. But before the Leopards came, a number of Leyland Tiger Cubs arrived including a nice pair from Burnley and Pendle dating from 1964. In the early days they were regularly to be seen in Stafford when they visited on Market Days on the back route to Penkridge via Acton Trusell.
Tuesday, 1 January 2008
Having not been back since I left school there in 1965 I was more than delighted to find that there was enough left of my magical little Switzerland of bus memories to make me want to see the rest so that I could fill in both the missing pieces and go to those places where I had once wanted to see those gleaming Haifisch Post Buses like St.Moritz. I was just in time for when I stopped my regular visits in 1998 that old Switzerland of unmistakable FBW and Saurer buses had all bus disappeared, and even what had been regarded as an almost sacred Swiss Institution like the Railway or the Swiss Army, the Post Office or PTT had become in the eyes of the taxpayer some fat inefficient bureaucratic sacred cow ready to be sold off. By the Seventies the smaller bus manufactures were finding it hard keeping up with technology and a number of European Concerns pooled their resources and even though the red bus No.201 with it's Saurer engine might have sounded like a DUK it still looked very much a Danish Leyland-DAB. Even after it bought out the ailing Saurer and FBW concerns Mercedes-Benz had to produce both buses and trolleybuses to Swiss Specifications under the banner of NAW and a typical examples is this R & J bodied trolleybus of 1987.