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  WEB NEWS 45  

In this issue of WHOTT Web News we take a brief at Pangs of nostalgia and North Devon in Pictures.


Pangs of nostalgia …as Bert looks back - Much has been written about the hardships experienced during times of war, when bus and coach operators struggled to keep services going under very gruelling conditions. In part one of this story Bert describes the start of experiments and implementation of gas propelled buses in a National attempt to save petrol. Every nation of the world has used the motor vehicle as a most convenient and useful way to transport goods and passengers. It is no surprise that in times of international crises and hostilities the easiest way to inflict inconvenience is to paralyse the supply of fuel (petrol or diesel) to the internal combustion engine. During World War One supplies of that precious commodity was under severe threat and although there was only a fraction of the vehicles on our roads in those days, it still nevertheless had an impact. Experiments were made to convert petrol engines to run on a form of town gas, some of which was carried in an inflatable bag on the roofs of vehicles, making them look hideous indeed, as well as reducing the seating capacity of open-top double-deck buses. Thomas Clarkson, who had done much to develop the steam bus, found that supplies of paraffin, his boiler fuel, was becoming very hard and expensive to obtain. Stretching his inventive mind he modified his buses, of which there were 150 on the streets of London, to run on coke instead. This involved the conversion of the boiler feed system and the provision of an automatic hopper to keep the vehicle in service with the minimum of disruption. When the war ended these ideas were not totally abandoned and although the supplies of traditional fuel began to improve, it was necessary to console oneself with a plan B if ever the same situation was ever to arise again. Of course, it did, and due to continued research and trials by several different manufacturers such as Gilford HSG, Britain was quite well prepared to introduce an alternative fuel to petrol or diesel in World War Two. In 1937 the Government set up a committee to explore the manufacture of a suitable producer gas plant for vehicles. Nine test vehicles were used, fitted with nine different types of producer units, between them testing 120 brands of fuel. The best outcome was a cross-flow type with air inlet tuyere and gas outlet opposite each other close to the base of the hopper. In the late ’thirties when the feeling of another conflict was brewing, some of the trials and experiments conducted in the past was put into practical application. The Ministry of Transport needed to be sure that the alternatives would work and if so, what extra training would be required to enable the system to perform effectively. By 1939 actual tests began taking place in England and Scotland, and although these were confined to less than 100 examples, far more was taking place in France with 10,000 units and 2000 in Italy. Not surprisingly some of the components in the gas production plants being tested were made in France. London Transport conducted its own experiments and in the provinces the Tilling Group was used as a testing ground with a bus each being converted in the Eastern Counties Company at Cromer, the North Western Road Car Company at Stockport, the Eastern National Company at Chelmsford, the Western National Company at Plymouth, the East Midland Motor Services at Chesterfield and with the Bristol Omnibus Company which trialled their bus along the Bristol – Bath corridor. North of the border the Scottish Motor Traction Company tested vehicles in their territory and the Highland Transport Co Ltd, an associate of the LMS railway, earned the distinction of being the first to run regular services on producer gas before the outbreak of war. Before long every major bus company in the country became involved. The railway companies also adapted a lot of their road delivery vehicles in the same way.

If you want to read the full story, and see all the pictures, then become a member and  receive the quarterly newsletter.

  North Devon Ltd, part of the Cawlett group, had operations that encompassed a large area of Devon using a variety of fleet names and liveries, including green buses proclaiming to be a Red Bus! That was until the sale to First in 1999 and the advent of First corporate livery  

850 (R850TDV) a 1997 Mercedes 0814D with Plaxton Beaver 2 B29F bodywork in ‘Tiverton & District’ livery at Dulverton operating service 398 to Tiverton.


50 (J610PTA) a 1992 Mercedes 811D with Carlyle B33F bodywork, completed by Marshall, in ‘South Western’ livery at Axminster operating service 380 to Exeter. Note the helpful number of temporary destination labels being displayed in the windscreen.

765 (M765FTT ) a 1994 Mercedes 811D with Marshall B33F bodywork in ‘Atlantic Blue’ livery seen in Bideford operating the Atlantic Coastlink service 2 through to Braunton, the location of a recent WHOTT presentation.



Just the Ticket - 18

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EFJ92, the Trust’s Bedford WTB is seen here in service with Vic’s Tours at Hughtown, St Marys, Isles of Scilly on 19th August 1971. A few months later she would cross to the mainland to begin a life in preservation.


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Web News 46


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