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  WEB NEWS 35  

In this issue of WHOTT Web News we take a brief look at Dunn's Services, Safeway Services and Penzance to Aberdeen Royal Blue run.


DUNN’S SERVICES – A Taunton operator with an interesting Welsh background.

In May 1932, just as Western National were transferring their head office from London to Exeter, there came a note of anxiety from Taunton depot. Local operator, Dunn’s Services, had put a double-deck bus on the road, not any old secondhand model, but a brand new gleaming Dennis Lance straight from the Duple factory. This vehicle joined another similar model that had arrived new in the previous October, again brand new from the Commercial Motor Show. The early years of the 1930 Road Traffic Act had witnessed many small operators falling foul of the stiffer regulations now imposed and many of them were only too pleased to surrender to the larger boys. In the case of Dunn’s Services, however, they were in the ascendancy and to introduce, within a few months, two new double-decks under the nose of Western National was something of an embarrassment to the larger operator. So what made Dunn’s Services a force to be reckoned with?

Eli James Dunn was born at Wellington, Somerset in 1895. His father, Frank, is recorded in the 1901 census as having an occupation as “carter” so already there is a transport connection that might have influenced Eli’s upbringing. Towards the end of WW1, when Eli was still in his ‘twenties, he had a call of help from a friend in Carmarthen. This is believed to have been William Petter of the Lark Inn, 32 Blue Street. Exactly how these two knew each other, what help was needed or what arrangement came of it is not known but it seems that within a very short period of time Dunn was running the Universal Garage at 24 Blue Street. The first vehicle recorded there in his name was a Studebaker 18/20hp registered in September 1918 as BX843. Dunn didn’t keep the vehicle and by the following January had sold it to Hodge of Ebbw Vale. In the meantime a Thornycroft lorry BX848 came and went rather quickly, so these movements might suggest that Dunn was a motor dealer rather than an operator. This trend was repeated in December 1919 when BX1064, a 20hp Maxwell lorry remained with Dunn until July 1920. There may well have been other vehicles, not locally registered, as the business could hardly have survived on just a few. About this time Eli met Maud Page and was married in Carmarthen towards the end of 1919.   

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New in 1931 was this Dennis Lance YD3227 which had been on the Strachan stand at the Commercial Motor Show.  Dunn snapped it up to claim the first covered top double deck bus in Taunton!  It became 3441 in the Western National fleet and was to remain with them until February 1940. [Calton Phoenix Collection] Dennis Lance YD3862 was unusual in having a nearside straight staircase in its Duple body, a feature that was unpopular on safety grounds.  However, Western National took it over, gave it number 3440 and ran it until July 1940.  It saw further service with the Royal Navy at Portland.  [Calton Phoenix Collection] The service to Sidmouth was often worked by Morris Director YD4649, seen here with a rather smart looking Midland Counties body.  Western National had four years use from it as their 3442 before selling to Abbot of Exmouth in September 1937.  [C Klapper / Calton Phoenix Collection]
2008 witnessed the final demise of a well known and long established operator which over the years played a valuable part in the provision of public transport in the West Country.
Safeway Services of South Petherton was an early provider of bus services from that village (and also the Crewkerne area) to the principal local town of Yeovil. It had remained in the ownership of the Gunn family throughout, latterly with Vernon Gunn. But for much of its existence it was under the capable and highly respected control of Miss Veronica Gunn who was well known within the British bus and bus coach operators industry. In 1965 the fleet comprised 3 single deck buses and 7 coaches (6 Bedford OB/SB, 2 AEC Reliance 470, 1 Dennis Lancet and 1 Karrier) but the fleet subsequently grew principally with the acquisition of fellow South Petherton operator, Hutchings and Cornelius. in May 1979.
By 2000, the fleet comprised 7 single deck buses and 7 coaches, all on Leyland Leopard chassis and the ticket system had changed from Bell Punch to Setright and Almex. The smart and attractive red/maroon/cream livery remained unchanged. Following the death of Miss Gunn, in August 1999 at the age of 91, her successor, Vernon Gunn, continued running the business, initially at South Petherton but following sale of the site for housing in 2006, the operations transferred to an industrial unit at nearby Lopen.
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Safeway Services' rather stylish 1992 Willowbrook Warrior bodied 1977 Leopard GIB 5970 laying over in Yeovil Bus Station on 26 July 1993. The cove panel caption read "1928 - 64 years Public Service - 1992" to match other earlier vehicles in the fleet similarly adorned to celebrate the 60th Anniversary. [Colin Billington]
One of the undeniable highlights of the Summer of 2009, a year of many significant anniversaries, was the National Steam Car Company Centenary Run from Penzance to Aberdeen.
In addition to the commemoration of the centenary of the formation of the National Steam Company, the event also celebrated the 90th anniversary of the first Royal Blue express service, the 80th anniversary of the Western and Southern National companies and the 20th anniversary of First. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough room for all of these to be mentioned on the rear-window vinyls prepared for the event.
The run started on Wednesday 12th August with the short trip from the overnight accommodation to the First depot at Long Rock using 32716 (W716RHT), the First Devon and Cornwall Dennis Trident that had been specially repainted in traditional Tilling livery for the 80th anniversary of Western National before the rally on Plymouth Hoe in July. 32716 was to accompany the run all the way to Plymouth and, also, to make a ‘walk-on’ appearance at the Kingsbridge Running Day in September. First branded high-visibility vests were provided to all travellers at the depot, an appetizer of the very generous hospitality that was to be provided by First at depots along the route, more of this later. From the depot it was a short return westward to Penzance Bus Station for the official departure, with Chris Heaps (Friend 216) performing the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony. Strangely for 6:30 in the morning an open-top double-decker was strategically on the stand providing a grandstand vantage point of the proceedings.
Perhaps it was no surprise given the excitement of all the participants that there was small delay to the departure from a misty and damp Penzance. Chris Heaps enjoyed the run to Helston on 1250 before waving goodbye to those with a stronger constitution!
Good progress was made through Cornwall although one wonders what was recorded by those undertaking a traffic census at Carnon Downs, after all it’s not every day five Royal Blue coaches join the commuter traffic into Truro! The sun made a welcome appearance as the Tamar Bridge was crossed into England.
A short break, for a bacon sandwich and pictures, was taken at Bretonside Bus Station in Plymouth before setting off up the A38 to Exeter, traveling in the opposite direction was Nick Craig, driving a Routemaster bus on a positioning journey for the Buckfastleigh town service! Sensibly the congested centre of Exeter was bypassed and the route of the A38 was followed through the picturesque yellow rendered houses of the Killerton Estate in Broadclyst. Through this part of Devon the M5, A38, railway and River Exe all follow roughly parallel routes avoiding the hills! The A38 ‘Red Route’ is accompanied by numerous signs detailing grim and macabre accident statistics at virtually every junction and roundabout.
For the run into Taunton Bus Station, and on to Cheltenham, the Royal Blue coaches were joined by a contingent of five Bristol Greyhound coaches. On arrival at Taunton 1460 wasn't smelling too sweetly having driven through something rather unpleasant in the vicinity of Uffculme, although what they were doing there in the first place remains something of a mystery!
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VIP Chris Heaps, representing First, cuts the ribbon for the off.  The modern Trident in anniversary livery contrasts with the Royal Blues as do the modern and old hi vis. [Helen Billington] Creating a scene reminiscent of Saturdays in Taunton coach station, the Royal Blues were joined by the Bristol Greyhound fleet adding to the convoy spectacle. [Colin Billington] The Royal Blue visitors under the impressive railway backdrop at MOSI - note the tank to the right!  [Helen Billington]

1299 make an appearance in "The Thunder"; whilst 86 becomes a film star

Western National in Cornwall - pure nostalgia!

Stories of the Swan Hotel

Back of a bus - 3

Book review - The Leyland Buses of Plymouth City Transport

Future Activities

Bristol LS - OTT 98 - Royal Blue 1299

The destination on the front of this bus (left)  is Penzance, Cornwall, but in the year, 1962, in which this photograph was taken, with Britain’s high-speed road network still in its infancy, there is still some way to go as it passes through the village of Corfe Castle, Dorset. The ruined castle crowns the hill at the left of the picture.The exact same coach still exists, and was taken to Corfe Castle again on June 21 (right) for the purpose of recreating that particular view during the course of this year’s annual “Royal Blue Run”.


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Web News 34

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Web News 36


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