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  WEB NEWS 27  

In this issue of WHOTT Web News we continue our trip on an Summer Holiday and take a brief look at Western National's Camborne depot

  WESTERN NATIONAL'S CAMBORNE DEPOT IN THE EARLY 1950s - THE MEMORIES OF A SMALL BOY - 1 - This account of Western National’s activities in the Camborne and Redruth area during the 1950s has been produced by a Friend of WHOTT who was a small boy at the time.  Most of the information is from memory, and as the author acknowledges, it may not be completely accurate.  He has offered to take on board any additional information and corrections so that hopefully there can be a definitive and accurate record to provide a snapshot in time in the Trust's archive.  RSVP by hand or electronically to "Small Boy" at the editorial address. 

Between 1948 and 1961 and the ages of 5 and 18 I travelled to school on a bus every term-time day.  Not to the same school, nor on the same bus, but the bus was always a Western National.  This article is based entirely on my recollections of the events of that period, which commenced almost 60 years ago.

During those seemingly long hot unending summer holidays of the early years I, along with several other small boys, occasionally sat on the seat in the village square and on various scraps of paper jotted down the registration numbers of all the passing vehicles.  These included Milk Marketing Board, Corona, Home and Colonial, British Railways and Falmouth Transport, also Maddern’s, Tate and Lyle and Rowe of Redruth (the fruiterers') lorries.  There were the vans of Royal Mail, Post Office Telephone, Harris’s Bacon, South Western Gas Board, Eustace’s bakery and Kelly’s Ice Cream and the occasional sliding lid covered Karrier Bantam dust cart of Camborne Redruth Urban District Council.  There were also sundry cars - most of which were painted black - as well as the buses and coaches which went up and down the hill past my vantage point, but none of those records ever survived longer than about two days!  So what you are about to read is entirely from memory!

Without doubt my memory will prove faulty, and much of what I observed was through rose tinted spectacles.  In many cases I will have forgotten important things which would help to make this record more complete.  The article will, I hope, act as a “fishing expedition”, where YOU can add your knowledge and recollections of the events, the times and the places, as well as of the people and the vehicles to create a much more complete and accurate record.  Your editor has kindly agreed that all responses to WHOTT’S News! will be passed on to me and that I will be given an opportunity to correct my errors.  I shall, no doubt, have to grovellingly apologise for any which have slipped in unwittingly.  I have also offered to give a bottle of Champagne to the authors of both the most comprehensive and the most interesting of the responses received in the four week period from the publication of the second part of this article in WHOTT’S News! No. 28.  That should give sufficient time to stimulate the old grey matter.  Those who respond will also, of course, receive full literary credit for their contributions.

From the start of the Second World War, my family had lived in the small village of Lanner, about two miles outside Redruth, where everyone knew everyone.  In spite of the then thriving presence of the long since departed independent operator, Marigold Coaches, owned by Mr.  Newton Trewren, the vast majority of public services through the village were operated by the Western National Omnibus Company.  Between Redruth and Truro there was the 18A, and between Redruth and Falmouth, the 41.  During the late 'forties and the very early 'fifties both these services were operated almost exclusively from Camborne depot, some four miles or so west of Redruth.  One mid afternoon service on the 41 was operated by Falmouth depot, usually with a single-deck saloon, and Truro depot operated one evening “rush hour” service from Truro to Redruth on the 18A, with the bus returning to Truro later via the more direct route through Scorrier.

In many respects Camborne was probably one of Western National’s most boring depots insofar as its allocation of vehicles was concerned.  The vast majority of the buses were double-decks, which even before the commencement of deliveries of the post-war standard Bristol K5G / Eastern Coachworks TT lowbridge combination, were of only three relatively standardised types, Leyland TD1s, Bristol GO5Gs and pre-war Bristol Ks.  The few single-deck saloons were all of Bristol manufacture, and any coaches which may have been there prior to the 1949 Bedford OB / Duple coaches remained invisible to me.

Most of my memories of fleet and registration numbers for the first two years or so prior to 1950 are pretty hazy and have become even more so with the passage of time.  My earliest recollections of Camborne’s double-decks include some of the Leyland TD1s which had been rebodied by Beadle with six bay lowbridge 52 seat bodies between 1943 and 1947, and which had been re-engined with Gardner 5LW units, although not necessarily at the same time.  Other TD1s had been re-engined with the larger 6LW, which gave them a decidedly “snouty” appearance, and I seem to recall one of those operating into Redruth on the 38 service, presumably from either Perranporth or Newquay, but I do not recall any operating from Camborne.  All the rebodied TD1s were fitted with Covrad radiators replacing the original Leyland ones.  I cannot be absolutely sure, but I seem to recall that there were two or three with DR registrations and, I believe one with a Wiltshire MW registration.  If the latter supposition is correct, that could only have been 3130 as it was the only MW registered TD1 with a Gardner 5LW engine!  Was it ever a Camborne bus?  It is possible that I may have seen this bus somewhere else entirely!  A very early favourite of mine was 2585, (RL8267), a 1928 Leyland TD1 with a 1944 Beadle lowbridge body, probably because it had a Cornish registration and, in later years had a readily identifiable green painted (rather than polished aluminium) Covrad radiator shell.  It always appeared to be freshly painted and cleaned and seemed to outlast all the other TDs at Camborne by several years.  I believe it ended its already long life as a tree-lopper.  One of the older drivers told me once that it had originally been purchased as part of the scheme for replacing the trams that had operated between Camborne and Redruth. 

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An August 1952 view of 1320 (LTA765) Camborne's LWL6B Queen Mary coach in an early morning scene in Station Road, Redruth.  The staff at Pearce Jenkins, solicitors in Alma Place are waiting for the keyholder, probably Mr Pearce Jenkin himself to arrive. This road was still owned by the Railways Board and not by the local authority until relatively recent years.

Truro's 248, one of the 1937 batch of Bristol Ks rebodied by Beadle in 1950, stands in Station Road, Redruth prior to working a short working of the service 38 to Porthtowan, then it would return to Redruth and work the last service of the day to Perranporth. Bristol L6B 1212 (JUO944) which had originally been a Royal Blue coach, was stretched to the LL6B standard of thirty feet and fitted with a new ECW bus body in 1958.  It is seen here in a relatively newly opened Camborne bus station.
  THE SUMMER HOLIDAY CONTINUES….! - Last time Brian Thompson shared his summer holiday memories, and we can now continue these…

A long trip to Plymouth meant an early call on Wednesday 24th, and what better way to start the day than with a second ride on petrol-engined Regent 2905 at 7.45am, albeit only from Barnstaple’s High Street round to The Strand. Ten minutes later we were on our way to Bideford again, this time aboard Leyland Tiger 3097 (DR8589) which, three years later, would become the subject of an experimental one-man conversion.  Back on The Quay we left for Plymouth at 9am, travelling on Western National’s K6A 836 (JUO909) operating service 132.  Looking out from the top deck window we were able to spot several more discarded bus bodies littering the countryside.  If only we could ask the driver to stop and check out their numbers …but a brief sighting of Leyland Lion 2508 (DR3134) at Tavistock would have to suffice.  Arriving in Plymouth we could see it still bore the scars of the second world war, the city centre having been filled with temporary prefabricated shops.  Here buses green and red abounded as Western National and Plymouth Corporation maintained services across the city.  The purpose of this trip was to visit Western National’s depot at Laira Bridge Road and at 1pm Guy Arab 79 (GTA835) on service 75A would take us there.  A friendly member of staff took us on a conducted tour.  The sheer size of the place was overwhelming, the likes of which had never been seen before.  The depot fleet allocation told its own story – 9 Guy double-decks, 5 Bristol Hs, 4 JJWs, 3 Js, 31 Ks, 26 Ls, 11 Bedfords, 4 Dennis Maces, 14 Aces, 11 Leyland PD1s, 8 Tigers, 6 AEC Regals, one TSM and one Lion LT3 (3359) making a total of one hundred and thirty-four.  We’d hit the jackpot.  At 2.10pm we were riding back into the city centre on Bristol L 265 (ETT959) and at 5.15pm we began the long return journey to North Devon aboard Leyland PD1 2931 (JUO991).  Four hours later, tired but happy, we said goodbye to our beloved Bideford as Bristol K 873 (JUO977) took us back to Barnstaple for another 7/6d worth.

Thursday 25th would be our last day on the road.  Leaving The Strand at 9.30am aboard 3662 (AOD969), another Bedford WTB in Scarlet Pimpernel livery, we made for Lynton on service 110.  Here, to our great surprise, we unearthed something completely different and totally unexpected.  There, in storage under dust sheets in the Southern National garage, were two Windover-bodied Daimler taxis with fleet numbers 3776/7 (BXA203, JA5719).  Sadly, these fine vehicles, like the two Bedford WTBs 3754 (ALH975) and 3772 (JT882) in storage with them, belonged to a bygone age and would never see service again.  Excited by our discovery we took the cliff railway down to Lynmouth, there to catch Bedford 428 (DDV28) operating service 260 to Minehead at 12.10pm.  Again we were to be surprised, this time by the presence of Weymouth-based AEC Regal coach 2994 (TK4884) in the Somerset resort on an excursion.  The 1942 Willowbrook bodied Dennis Lancet 77 (GTA475), also attracted our attention, as did Dennis Mace 607 (BTA67), Ace 708 (OD7797), Bristol Hs 126 and 155 (FJ8956 and OD7840), Bedfords 411, 433/5 and 451 (ETT966, DOD531/3 and JTA202), the chassisless Beadle Bedfords 2008/9 (HOD59/60), AEC Regals 3034/5 (DG509/498) and sole Reliance 3613 (RU8803).


The last day on the road for Brian and David would commence with a trip on Bedford WTB 3662 (AOD869) in Scarlet Pimpernel livery.  Here we see it parked at Bideford with one of its sisters in August 1952, just a few months before Southern National scrapped some of these 1936 Duple bodied coaches that had also worked hard continually throughout the war on special works contracts.

In late 1947 a site at Tower Lane, Taunton that had been acquired for a new bus station in 1939, but not fully developed until 1952, started to be used for bus parking after the demolition of some cottages.  Here we see a mixture of vehicles on layover, the one on the extreme right being AEC Reliance 3239 (DR5623) dating from 1929 but now carrying a 1937 Bristol body.
















WHOTT's 5th Historic Vehicle Rally - Why not join us

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WHOTT's on eBay - 3; Postcards

WHOTT's Favourite Route updated

South Western Coachbuilders of Taunton

Royal Blue update

New Accessions

Future Activities

The postwar rebuilding of Plymouth forms the backdrop to this view of Guy Arab 79 (GTA835), one of the many types discovered by Brian and David on their trip to see the company's largest depot.  Carrying a Northern Counties body to standard utility specification, this 1942 vehicle with Gardner 5LW engine spent its entire life at Plymouth until disposal to a dealer in March 1957.


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Web News 26

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Web News 28


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