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  WEB NEWS 53  

In this issue of WHOTT Web News we take a brief at Weymouth Legendary six-wheelers & Archive Discoveries.

  Weymouth's Legendary Six-Wheelers - Local transport historian, Brian Jackson, recalls the Leyland TS7Ds that spent their entire working lives at Weymouth depot.

In the early ‘fifties the new post war Bristol ‘K’ double-decks and the recently introduced ‘LS’ saloons were the latest in the Southern National fleet. The majority of the more exotic pre-war examples had been withdrawn but there still remained a number of interesting vehicles to excite the local bus enthusiasts in Weymouth, who could together be counted on one hand. They all agreed that the six-wheeled Leyland TS7D saloons were the most appealing, and to say that these vehicles were ‘unique’ would not be an understatement. Their appearance was very distinctive, a centre entrance, four destination boxes, one at the front and back, one over the centre entrance and, without reason, one in the centre on the offside! Additionally, with the odd exception, they were also the only buses to carry the winged wheel motif between the words ‘Southern’ and ‘National’, a practice reserved for the coach fleet. They were the only six-wheeled (or three-axle) buses in the entire company fleet and worked only in Weymouth and principally on one service.

In May 1936 Southern National acquired the Portland Express group of operators and this enabled the company to redesign its network of services branching out over the Isle of Portland. The increased passenger traffic would have justified double-decks but vehicles of that type were prohibited beyond Fortuneswell due to gusts of strong wind that could hit a double-deck side-on in the exposed areas of the island and cause instability. The standard size single-decks could carry up to 32 seated passengers but an extra twelve could be accommodated on the larger capacity single-decks being built at the time. These were built to the maximum length of 30 feet but regulation insisted they had to be of three-axle or 6-wheel configuration. The company turned to Leyland following successful trials with a Leyland TS7T borrowed from Southdown Motor Services. This vehicle had performed over similar terrain on the popular service between Eastbourne and Beachy Head. Six vehicles were ordered and were completed at the Leyland factory between 4th April and 7th May 1937 but the chassis, numbers 13900-5, had no engines! This was because Southern National’s Engineer and General Manager, B V Smith, had stipulated Gardner 5LW engines instead, something that Leyland were not prepared to install themselves. Smith had ordered six engines from Norris, Henty & Gardners of Eccles on 29th December 1936 and in readiness had them fitted up with Leyland clutches for a cost of £522-5-0d each. Where exactly these engines were fitted has not been discovered, but it wasn’t at Leyland or at Gardners, and was probably carried out by an agent somewhere between these two towns, 29 miles apart. The chassis price without engine was £748 but when the invoice for the first one arrived on 21st April 1937, an extra £3-15-3d had been added for towing expenses. B V Smith was furious and challenged this amount, and not before getting three reminders, did he settle payment for the remaining five chassis in July. After fitment of the first engine the chassis was returned to Leyland where they secretly photographed the installation to see how the bulky Gardner 5-cylinder engine of 7.0 litres could fit in the same space normally provided for the more slender Leyland 6-cylinder engine of 8.6 litres capacity. The chassis were then sent off to Dartford for J C Beadle Ltd to fit the special 44-seat bodies. All six were completed at the end of June, body numbers 614-619 matching chassis numbers consecutively, as was the fleet numbers 1000-1005 and registration numbers ETA233-8. Each body cost £552-15-0d (£552-75p) and were delivered to Weymouth in pairs, 1000/1 on 28th June, 1002/4 on 29th June and 1003/5 on 30th June. The bodies had been designed by Beadle’s chief draughtsman, George Boulding, and coincidentally the general arrangement drawing carried number 6666, be it out of devilment or emphasising the fact they were six-wheelers!
First of the batch, 1000 (ETA233) is seen in Edward Street, Weymouth, about to turn into the bus station on 9 August 1952. It has dropped its passenger at the nearby Kings Statue and is probably heading for a short layover.   This photo, taken on 20 August 1955, records the early arrival or 1003 on a local Kingsbridge farm. Still carrying its destination blinds, the vehicle was later repositioned, jacked up and wheels removed. Note the square registration number plate, the only one to receive this after rebuild.
  If you want to read the full story, and see all the pictures, then become a member and  receive the quarterly newsletter.  
  Archive Discoveries....No.1 - Rennies of Dunfermline -  When sorting out surplus items from the Archive for sale at future events, one never knows what will turn up next. Amongst a large pile of Commercial Motor magazines from the late 1960’s and early 1970’s was issue 3539 dated 22nd March 1974, endorsed as a special Passenger Transport number.

Andy Richings admits that whilst commercial vehicles, or lorries, don’t really interest him to a large extent, this issue was worth a second glance. On page one the busy readers’ guide to news stories and special features revealed a very interesting discovery. It proclaimed Luxury Leopard – a rare opportunity to try a coach in service, shows that a Leyland Leopard with an executive Van Hool body copes well with one of Britain’s longest regular routes – from Dunfermline to Plymouth. One is then drawn to page 33 where an article by Martin Hayes, suitably condensed for WHOTT’s News continues.

Until the Summer of 1973, Rennie’s Scotland – West Country service was the longest express service in Britain, by 1974 this honour had passed, by less than 50 miles, to the Scottish Bus Group’s 550 mile Aberdeen – London service.

The Dunfermline – Plymouth service had been operating weekly during the summer months for the past 16 years. Initially, it was established because of the traffic generated by the naval bases at Plymouth and Rosyth. Now passengers tend to be holidaymakers, with a strong proportion of regulars. The service is operating with continued popularity, and frequently during the summer of 1973 the full allocation of four vehicles was frequently taken up. From April 1974 the service will operate weekly throughout the year. During the off-peak periods it will be operated by two British Leyland EA Asco Clubman 19 seaters. Probably not the most ideal vehicle for such a long service. Does anyone have any views of these in Breton Side bus station?
For the purpose of the appraisal on a Friday in September 1973, Rennie’s provided VSP967L, a Leyland Leopard with Van Hool 42-seat executive bodywork which cost over £19,000. It would normally be found working continental tours using the Hull – Europort ferry crossing.

The service, scheduled to depart from Dunfermline at 16:30 on Friday evenings, picked up passengers in Edinburgh before making its way along the twisty and undulating A702 to Biggar for the first refreshment break. It then proceeded via the A74 to the M6 and another refreshment stop at Forton. The stops on the service were scheduled about every 2 ½ hours during the 14-hour journey, the single fare at the time being £4-50.

Perhaps surprisingly, for a ‘road test’ in a publication intended for professionals, not everything went to plan. Before leaving Dunfermline it was discovered that the no-charge warning light was on so a phone call was made to Butec’s service department at Leyland, from which the coach had only just returned! As the journey progressed and darkness fell, it became clear that there was indeed an electrical fault. With the ventilation fans going, lights on and the hot water heater in use, the system was overloaded. An unscheduled stop at Butec was made, where a skeleton squad was standing by and the canteen opened up for the passengers. The problem took some time to locate, and eventually proved to be an overloaded battery and not the alternator as originally suspected. New larger batteries were hurriedly installed in the luggage compartment and after two hours the journey resumed.

The incident highlighted the ‘grey’ area between chassis and body manufacturers. Van Hool had replaced the standard batteries with smaller ones so suit the body design, whereas Leyland had been unable to supply an alternator big enough to cope with the additional demands of an executive coach.

The author took the wheel for several legs of the journey, including the final section from Taunton to Plymouth, and was less than complimentary about the ‘awful instrument panel’ with which Leyland provides its coach models. Its square dials being reminiscent of vehicles from the 1930’s. Van Hool didn’t escape criticism either, with switches being ‘difficult to locate for an unfamiliar driver and further impeded by some quaint signs on some of the buttons’.
Dawn was just breaking on arrival at the outskirts of Plymouth where two passengers are dropped in what appears to be Embankment Road.  

Travelling the Westcountry by bus - Sixty years apart

A Moment in Time

Managing the Trust

Structure of WHOTT Management

Dates for your Diary

Collectors' Corner

Future Activities


Western National Ltd transferred Bristol RELH / Plaxton BDV400L to Red Bus in October 1989. It entered service with them in red and cream livery with Tiverton & District names on the rear. In December 1990 it transferred to Southern National Ltd, was loaned to Brutonian in March/April 1991 and was sold for scrap in November 1992.


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Web News 52

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Web News 54


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