Home Organisation Contact Us Shop Archives Vehicle Collection


Running Day

Whott's New Whott's Happened Become a Member Press Releases Web News Members' Area Links Events & Activities

.......preserving our commercial road transport history for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations..........
  WEB NEWS 59  

In this issue of WHOTT Web News we take a brief at The Challenge of Steam Propulsion - 2 and All change at Plymouth.

  The Challenge of Steam Propulsion - 2 - During February 1907, upon hearing of the withdrawal of the Torquay & District buses, Messrs Nash Brothers (of the Cirencester & District Motor Omnibus Company) wrote to Torquay Town Council asking whether licences could be granted to them to ply for hire over routes in Torquay which would not be served by the trams. The council agreed, subject to the buses being in good order, but pointed out that a local syndicate were already arranging a new service of buses to run in Torquay. Nash Bros withdrew their idea and instead decided to open a service from Paignton to Torquay, thus competing with the GWR road motor service established in 1904. It was arranged for Richard Coombes of 1 Torbay Terrace, Paignton to act as secretary. He was already a horse bus proprietor running between Paignton and Torquay and to Totnes, as well as being an auctioneer, estate agent, coal merchant and furniture remover. On 28th March 1907 Mr Coombes wrote to Paignton UDC asking for licences to run three noiseless steam motor buses between the three towns and the request was granted. Two of these vehicles were registered AD303 and AD304, being Clarkson steam buses delivered new to the Nash brothers at Lechlade in May 1904.
Six weeks after the Torquay & District Company withdrew their buses to Harrogate, the newly formed Torquay Road Car Company commenced their first route on Saturday 23rd March 1907 with one Clarkson steam bus registered CA151. It operated a half-hourly service between the Strand and Higher Chelston via Torquay railway station. Two days later two more steam buses arrived, these being sister vehicles registered CA150 and CA155 which enabled the company to extend the route to Babbacombe Downs at the same frequency. The three 17-seat vehicles had come from the Vale of Llangollen Engineering Bus and Garage Co Ltd. The Torquay Directory dated 27th March announced that a fourth steam bus had been acquired, this time from the Great Western Railway. Registered DA82, it enabled a new route from the Strand to Torre Station via Old Mill Road. Two days later the Torquay Times announced that the Torquay Road Car Company were now running between Strand and Chelston, and Strand to Babbacombe Downs on a half-hourly service serving both railway stations.
These hastily introduced steam bus services were an attempt to challenge the new tram system which had long been under construction and eventually commenced running just a matter of days later on 5th April 1907. The new Torquay company obtained a further Clarkson steam bus from the GWR in June, this carrying the registration number DA80.
Who was behind the new venture? On 12th April it was reported that a meeting of the shareholders of the former Torquay company had taken place the previous Thursday when the liquidator, Mr W Eliot Thomas, assured them that the capital had been returned and that a ‘substantial bonus’ would be due following income tax and insurance etc. It can be assumed, but not proven, that these shareholders were prepared to re-invest in the new Torquay company which was anxious to get off to a flying start. The Torquay Times of 5th May reported that it was a pity the buses of the Paignton company were also green like the Torquay ones! They also said that 1728 £1 shares were allotted and paid up, £1600 had been paid to the Vale of Llangollen company and the GWR on account in respect of four cars and £132 for the carriage of cars, renovation of bodies and overhaul of chassis etc, making a total of £1732. The company’s buses were not likely to be ousted by the trams and an advance from the company’s bankers would be obtained to pay for the extra car. Licences to drive the motor buses had been issued to two men bearing the ominous surname, Death. They are known to have come from Chelmsford and probably brought the vehicles from Clarkson’s works which had taken them back from the previous users.
In July 1907 the route to Torre was suspended, owing to competition from the trams but in October was resumed via Lower Chelston. In mid November the tram route was extended to Babbacombe and by the end of the month the Road Car service to Babbacombe and St Marychurch was suspended for the winter months. The Torquay Times dated 1st November 1907 stated that Torquay motor buses had resumed running from Torre railway station and had received a new bus body from the GWR and will put it on the road next week! Presumably after it had been fitted to a chassis. Research tells us that this body had been carried on the GWR’s Clarkson steam bus registered DA81. These three vehicles had started life with the GWR at Wolverhampton for a service to Bridgnorth but had later been moved to Highbridge for a service to Wedmore and Cheddar.
  If you want to read the full story, and see all the pictures, then become a member and  receive the quarterly newsletter.  
  All change at Plymouth -  Sunday 6th September marked an historic occasion in Plymouth when Stagecoach took over the assets of First Group. This was no ordinary change because it had not come out of competition, nor of succession, but virtually by invitation. Ever since bus services had been run in Plymouth, the local authority had provided about two thirds of the routes and these were eventually sold to the Go Ahead group in 2009. The other third had been developed from a handful of independent operators into two main providers, the Devon Motor Transport Company (DMT) and the road motors of the Great Western Railway. In 1928 the expanding National Omnibus &Transport Company took over DMT and in the following year the GWR buses merged with those of the National company to form the new Western National. This then left Western National and the Corporation as the two main providers. Over the years they maintained a 1/3rd and 2/3rd coverage respectively and only political changes influenced the ownership of these operations. Western National became part of the National Bus Company, though still retained its local name and later, upon privatisation, became part of the Badger Group before absorption by First. The Corporation, in 1986, divested its bus interest into a wholly owned subsidiary company called Citybus which eventually sold to Go Ahead. All these developments can be considered a logical and natural progression. However, the latest development, witnessing Stagecoach occupying fresh operating territory in Plymouth and the South Hams came as a surprise.  
Viewed from Exeter Street into Bretonside bus station on 5th September is a line-up of preserved buses waiting to begin the schedule of services. Nearest to furthest are Southern National SN Bristol VR 934, Western National Bristol VR 1121, Western National (Flags livery) Dennis Dart 401, Western National Bristol FLF 2019, Wesern National VR 1141, Western National/ First VR 38847 and Western National Bristol FLF 1969. In the distance is Western National Bristol SUL 420 preparing for its first duty. First Bus exited Devon for the last time by making a ceremonial journey from Royal Parade, Plymouth at 20.30pm. Here they are leaving the Torpoint ferry on the Cornwall side. They include, Torpoint branded mini Pointer Dart carrying the last fare paying passengers on service 81 in front of two of the specially purchased ferry Tridents 32756/7, with the other two Tridents behind them.


New Trustees

Glover & Uglow - Known lorries

What about our archive?

Ten years ago


Future Activities



Two comparative pictures taken by the picturesque circular bus shelter at Long Bredy.

Left: A period shot of Bere Regis SB1/Plaxton Consort MPR706 new in April 1959

Right: WHOTT's former Exeter Blue Midibus 1000 (L929CTT) which ran on several timings on route 9 through Litton Cheney and Little Bredy


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 58

Web News Index

Web News 60


© Copyright The West Country Historic Omnibus & Transport Trust
Registered in England Company No. 3780463. Registered Charity No. 1079795