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  WEB NEWS 16  

In this issue of WHOTT Web News we take a brief look at the Memories of Western National & the all-British Coach


Those were the days- John Hobbs, Friend 78, shares his memories as a Western National conductor in August/September 1953

UNIFORM.  Mine was a two-tone green overall and a peak cap that had to be worn when on duty.  I worked out of the Dartmouth Depot and during my employment the fares were changed and new charts issued.  I decided to continue my study of those during a very short break in duties that gave me no time in which to go back to the garage.  I decided to sit in the office/waiting room on the South Embankment, and nearly caused an official incident which might well have involved Taff Sutton, the N.U.R. rep, for being ‘indoors’ and as a matter of etiquette, I took off that cap.  The Assistant Area Traffic Superintendent  from Plymouth (Mr Franks) happened to drop in at that time, saw me there improperly dressed - in his opinion – and ordered me out of the office in front of colleagues and a waiting passenger or two.  Although feeling uncomfortable (annoyed?), I declined to make an official complaint.

TERMINI.  In Dartmouth it was outside the railway station with no lines, we used the railway approach at Kingsbridge and the un-rebuilt North Road railway station in Plymouth.  At the time of the well-supported Dartmouth Regatta the terminus was relocated to the Market Square and the 93A service to Townstal was retimed to run as required with duplicates drafted in from Laira, Plymouth.

Other subjects covered are Food, Cash Differences, Ticket Machines, Vehicle Damage, Parcels, Sporting Activities, Inspectors & Passengers.

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Dartmouth garage in Mayor's Avenue as it would have looked when John was conducting.

A wartime picture of a bus fitted with a gas producer is shown emerging from Taunton Depot.  

Pangs of nostalgia...as Bert looks back - In WHOTT’s NEWS 13 Bert recalled the many and varied models of imported vehicles that were popular in the ’twenties and ’thirties.  A brief reference was made to Lancia and here Bert describes the models from that Italian maker and the impact they had on West Country operators in particular.

The evolution of a bespoke chassis design for passenger carrying was, in some ways, slow to catch on. Until the early ’twenties the commercial chassis most manufacturers offered was regarded adequate for both goods and passenger traffic.  As a consequence bus and coach passengers were forced to negotiate several steps to reach the main floor level when they wished to travel, the centre of gravity was thus higher and the stability and suspension of the vehicle compromised for the sake of a standard product.  That was all to change in June 1924 when Lancia announced an improved low-slung chassis specifically for passenger bodywork and also with right-hand drive for the UK market.  It appeared on the Curtis Automobile stand at the autumn Olympia Motor Show and quickly became talk of the town. Other manufacturers saw the immediate benefits of the design that Lancia had developed which boasted pneumatic tyres as standard and brakes on all four wheels!  The new Pentaioata model became the focus of attention and operators were quick to compare it with its smaller sister, the Tetraiota, which had also found keen buyers in the UK market.

If you think brake retarders are a fairly recent innovation, you are mistaken.  Lancia incorporated a transmission brake with 20” drum on the drive line.  It came into play slightly ahead of the four-wheel brakes that had 18” drums.  A comfortable driving position was obtained through an adjustable rake steering column and lubrication was by the Tecalemit grease gun system.  The wheelebase of the Pentaiota was 14’ 3½”, 18” longer than the Tetraiota, yet it had a smaller turning circle at 44’ 7” compared to its sister’s 47’ 0”, achieved by a standard track of 5’ 2” all round instead of the narrower front axle on the Tetraiota which had prevented the front wheels locking as far.  The improved chassis was mounted on longer half elliptic springs all round and six Michelin wheels.  Headlamps were of the Rushmore type and a 26-gallon petrol tank was mounted in the rear chassis frame incorporating a half-moon cut out to accommodate two spare wheels.  The chassis, suitable for 20 – 25 seat bodies, weighed in at just 1 ton 18 cwts 2 qrs (1855kgs).

The 4-cylinder, detachable head, 4.94 litre engine in the Pentaiota had first been developed in 1913 and since further improved and increased to 35hp (70bhp at 2200rpm), having a 110mm bore and 130mm stroke with cast iron pistons.  The lubrication system was full pressure to main, big end and gudgeon pins, controlled in accordance to engine speed by a link to the accelerator pedal.  It was fitted with a Marelli magneto, Zenith carburetter, twin water jacket drain cocks and a 2-bladed wooden cooling fan. At a time when many commercial engines had still to be swung started by handle, the Lancia came with a 2-stage electric starter at different voltages.  Another nicety was an electric Klaxon horn with press button in the centre of the steering wheel.


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Leyland Leopard PSU3E/1R with Plaxton Supreme IV bodywork. The only preserved example of more than 100 of the ubiquitous combination operated by Western National and associated companies.

  A earlier all-British coach, NFJ 622G was a Duple Commander IV bodied AEC Reliance seen at Exeter Coach Station in August 1973 shortly to depart on a Royal Blue service to Brighton.

Preparing for 2005

Just the Ticket - 3

Archive Update

Competition Time

Future Activities

New Accessions



Long distance visitors assembling at Westpoint the evening before the rally, Behind John Barley's VR from Sussex is Gerry Tormey's SUL arrived from Portsmouth, Martyn Stevens' LD from Sheffield and Colin & Helen Billington's FLF from Maidenhead and Leyland National.


Would you like to see the full magazine?  If so, please consider becoming a Member and we’ll send current year copies right away.  Alternatively individual back numbers can be purchased at £2 each by request.  Our Shop postal rates apply.


Web News 15

Web News Index

Web News 17


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